Creighton guard Avery Dingman is the first to admit that the games he plays within his mind sometimes take away from the one on the court.
“I tend to overthink things,” Dingman said.
Being overly cerebral probably isn’t the best of things for a shooter locked in a slump like the one the junior from Branson, Mo., has experienced most of this season. A 40-percent shooter from 3-point range his first two seasons in the program, Dingman had made just 28.6 percent from beyond the arc heading into Tuesday’s game against DePaul.
Dingman hit his first 3-point shot against the Blue Demons. He would hit his last one, finishing 2 of 3 from beyond the arc. He also had four other baskets, including a couple on hard drives to the basket, in finishing the 81-62 victory with a season-high 16 points.
“Avery has been known to be a little mental,” Creighton forward Doug McDermott said. “But I’ve been telling people that I just need to see one shot go for Avery. He got that one in the first half, and it was over.
“I knew he’d be a completely different player. I heard him talking to himself after he hit that first shot, and I knew he was going to be a difference in that game. Little did we know Grant would go down, but Avery really stepped up when his name was called.”
Dingman’s performance was magnified since the Bluejays played the final 25 minutes without senior guard Grant Gibbs, who dislocated his right kneecap when he was injured in a battle for a rebound.
Gibbs will be sidelined for the next four weeks, which means the 6-foot-6 Dingman will make his first career start in Sunday’s home game against Xavier.
His teammates and coaches say Dingman is capable of lessening the impact of Gibbs’ absence.
“I fully expect Avery will take full advantage of the opportunity that has presented itself because of Grant’s injury,” coach Greg McDermott said. “If you have to lose a guy like Grant, there’s no better way to go into that than with a guy like Avery, coming off his best game of the season.
“That’s going to add some fuel to the fire as he prepares on the practice floor this week.”
As Greg McDermott is quick to point out, Dingman likely would have been starting and seeing more playing time had Gibbs not received a sixth season of eligibility. Even though Dingman has struggled to make shots this season, he’s found other ways to contribute and build a trust factor with his teammates.
“Avery takes a lot of pride in being able to stop a guy one on one,” Doug McDermott said. “He’s one of our best defenders, if not our best defender, on the ball. We just got to get him talking more out there.
“With Grant not with us, we need Avery to be that guy that’s talking all the time on defense. I think he’s going to be great from here on out.”
Dingman finished the DePaul game 6 of 8 from the field, raising his season’s field-goal percentage to .415. A 2-for-3 night from beyond the arc hiked his 3-point percentage to .333.
The shooting struggles have been perplexing, given that the first mark Dingman made when he joined the program was as a shooter.
“When a shooter goes through a slump like this, the worst thing he can do is to start thinking about it,” Dingman said. “I think I’ve been guilty of that a little bit. The big thing is not to worry about it and keep getting up shots after practice.
“If I do that, good things will happen.”
His coach agrees.
“This is one of the poorer stretches that he’s had, but to his credit, he’s stayed in the gym and he’s tried to work through it,” Greg McDermott said. “And to his credit, he’s going to continue to work.”
McDermott said the growth in other areas of Dingman’s game has increased his value to the Bluejays. Dingman has blocked four shots and registered four steals this season, which put him on pace for career highs in both categories. He’s also averaged 1.8 rebounds.
“Avery has played good defense all through this season,” Greg McDermott said. “He just hasn’t shot the ball well.”
Dingman hasn’t been surprised by his ability to help his team in a variety of ways.
“I haven’t been a shooter my whole life,” Dingman said. “The last few years, I haven’t really needed to do other things other than bring positive energy on the defensive end and hit open shots.
“I definitely think it’s more important for this team that I can do more than just hit some shots on the offensive end.”
Having grown comfortable with his role as a reserve, Dingman is excited about getting his first start on Sunday.
“Coming off the bench, it’s 75 percent mental keeping yourself ready to play,” Dingman said. “A lot of it is staying positive and working hard on your own time. I’ve tried to keep working on my shot and my ball-handling.
“It’s just having the mindset of staying ready.”
Injured duo watches practice
Doug McDermott and Grant Gibbs were spectators Thursday as Creighton went through a two-hour practice at D.J. Sokol Arena.
McDermott sprained the AC joint in his left shoulder in Tuesday’s win over DePaul. The two-time All-American might practice Friday and is expected to play in Sunday’s 2 p.m. game against Xavier.
Gibbs suffered a dislocated right kneecap against the Blue Demons and will be out for at least four weeks. His right leg is in an immobilizer.
Creighton spent most of Thursday’s practice working on preparations for Butler, which visits CenturyLink Center on Tuesday. The focus will shift Friday to preparing for Sunday’s game against Xavier.