Avery Dingman gets a chance Friday to show the folks back home just how far he's come in a year.
Dingman and his Creighton teammates play at Missouri State, which is located about 50 miles north of his hometown of Branson. The sophomore guard expects a good number of family and friends to show up at JQH Arena in Springfield to watch him play.
“It's going to be a lot of fun to go back and play there,” Dingman said.
Chances are the 6-foot-6 Dingman will play a more prominent role this time than he did when Creighton visited Springfield last January. He saw 11 minutes of action and made one basket in the Bluejays' 66-65 victory.
Dingman started this season as a member of Creighton's regular rotation, and his role has grown since early December when Josh Jones was forced to the sidelines by a heart issue.
Dingman, now Creighton's first guard off the bench, is averaging 5.9 points while playing almost 16 minutes a game. He's averaged 18 minutes in the eight games the Bluejays have played without Jones.
“I'm playing more significant minutes this year, and I have a chance to impact the game more than I did last year,” Dingman said. “I went from playing 8 to 10 minutes a game last year to where I'm playing almost 20 now.
“The more you play, the more exciting it is. I'm excited to go back home and hopefully have a good game.”
Creighton coach Greg McDermott has continually praised the progress Dingman has made this season, particularly the growth he's shown on the defensive end. Dingman's offensive skills helped him avoid a redshirt season as a true freshman but he spent much of last season trying to make up for some defensive deficiencies.
“He didn't start to emerge as someone I trusted defensively until late last year,” McDermott said. “I have complete trust in him now. He's become a much better defender.”
Creighton won a recruiting battle with Missouri State for Dingman's services. He said there were a lot of Bear fans that were disappointed when he decided to commit to Creighton.
Before last season's trip to Springfield, McDermott chatted with Dingman about keeping the game in perspective.
“I tried not to make too big of a deal out of it but it's exciting for him to play in front of a lot of family and friends,” McDermott said. “There's also a little bit of pressure in that it came down to Creighton and Missouri State with him.
“He wants to go home and do well. Avery just needs to continue to keep playing like he's playing because he's doing a lot of things well.”
Shooting the basketball is one of them. Dingman is shooting 48 percent from 3-point range, and his 24 baskets from beyond the arc rank third behind Ethan Wragge (43) and Doug McDermott (34).
Dingman made 41.9 percent of his 3-point attempts as a freshman. Next to Wragge, Dingman might have the sweetest stroke on the team.
Asked who he would take in a 3-point shooting contest between Dingman and Wragge, McDermott smiled, then replied, “I'd have to take Ethan against just about anyone in the country. Avery's a great shooter; Ethan is at another level.”
Even Dingman acknowledges that, sort of. He said the smart money would be on Wragge if the pair matched up in a shooting contest.
“Ask me in a few days and we'll see,” Dingman said, chuckling. “He's shooting it really well right now.”
Wragge has made 15 of 21 3-point attempts in Creighton's last three games and is shooting 46.2 percent from beyond the arc this season. Dingman had made 11 of 17 in the four games prior to Tuesday's 91-61 win over Drake.
Dingman went 1 of 4 from beyond the arc against the Bulldogs.
“I got robbed on a couple that were in and out,” Dingman said.
Getting a chance to play alongside Wragge has been beneficial to Dingman.
“He's the best 3-point shooter I've ever played with,” Dingman said. “He is so consistent. When you watch him, it's the same thing every single time. His shot never looks different, whether he's shooting it from the corner or coming off a down screen.
“That's one thing I've taken from Ethan. He never changes his footwork or his follow-through. And he never shoots off-balance. He's always square and has perfect balance.”
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