Jays get jitters out in first practice, take aim at a better season

“We just need to slow down, talk, and let the game come to us,” Creighton's Ty-Shon Alexander said. “The first day is over now. Make sure all the nervousness is out. Now it’s time to get back to what we do.”

Junior guard Ty-Shon Alexander was already looking ahead to the next day when he sat down on the sideline moments after completing Creighton’s first practice of the preseason Tuesday afternoon.

On the whole, the two-hour session felt productive, Alexander said — but he was having trouble shaking those inevitable moments of first-day awkwardness, when a drill hit a snag, or when coaches had to remind players to communicate, or when guys tried too hard to make the perfect play.

And Alexander gets it. He, like everyone else, wanted to make a good impression on Day 1. Maybe they wanted it too much.

“We just need to slow down, talk, and let the game come to us,” Alexander said. “The first day is over now. Make sure all the nervousness is out. Now it’s time to get back to what we do.”

The regular season is six weeks away. But this CU team, which returns six of its top seven scorers, certainly seems to understand that the year-to-year improvement it hopes to make isn’t guaranteed.

The Jays missed the NCAA tournament last season. They didn’t find their defensive identity until February, they often lacked versatility within their offensive attack and they made crucial mistakes at the end of games.

Players envision themselves making a jump this winter. But they know corrections need to be made — and that’s what preseason ball is for.

They’d prefer to set a standard now. That’ll be the goal when they return to the court on Wednesday.

“We’ve just got to bring the energy, and luckily we have another day (Wednesday),” senior guard Davion Mintz said. “We want to take advantage of every day.”

A few notes from Creighton’s first practice:

  • Assistant Preston Murphy, who remains on administrative leave, was not present for the practice on Tuesday. He’s been away from the program since he was suspended in March after a federal indictment linked him to the college basketball bribery scandal.

Steve Merfeld has taken an assistant coaching role for Creighton in Murphy’s absence.

CU officials have declined to comment on Murphy’s status as the school presumably awaits a ruling from the NCAA’s enforcement staff. The NCAA intends to investigate the basketball programs implicated in the scandal, according to multiple public statements by its top decision-makers.

North Carolina State received a notice of allegations in July. Kansas got its notice Monday.

  • Sophomore center Jacob Epperson, who spent the summer rehabbing from knee and back surgeries, warmed up with the team and ran through the noncontact drills at the start of practice. He looked good, but coaches plan to take it slowly with Epperson, according to coach Greg McDermott.

“It was great to see him out there,” McDermott said. “He probably moved better than I anticipated for the 45 minutes or so that he was on the floor.”

Graduate transfer center Kelvin Jones and point guard Marcus Zegarowski, who did not play during CU’s Australia trip in August, were full participants in Tuesday’s practice.

  • Creighton will conduct a closed scrimmage at Missouri on Oct. 26. Its lone exhibition is set for Nov. 1 against D-II McKendree.

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