Though Creighton's starters won't see much action, trip to Australia will give others playing time

Guard Ty-Shon Alexander, currently playing for the U.S. team at the Pan American Games, isn’t likely to log many minutes when the Bluejays visit Australia. Two other potential starters won’t be playing at all.

Just before his team’s final summer practice on campus last week, coach Greg McDermott paused to think about lineup combinations for his team’s three exhibition games in Australia.

He glanced across the court and couldn’t help but chuckle.

Center Jacob Epperson and point guard Marcus Zegarowski — two potential starters — were getting loose, but they weren’t doing so with the intention of participating in any of the full-contact drills. They won’t play in Australia.

Last season’s leading scorer, Ty-Shon Alexander, wasn’t even there that day — he’ll miss Creighton’s first game in Australia on Monday, and likely will be limited in the other two after logging significant minutes with the U.S. Pan American team.

And new big man Kelvin Jones, the 6-foot-11 grad transfer who recently joined the program to help add depth on the interior, was standing on the sideline with a cast on his right hand (broken finger). He won’t suit up in Australia, either.

“We’re rolling with a little different team out there,” McDermott said with a smile.

The good news, though?

Said McDermott: “I was going to try to play everybody anyway, to give them a taste of it. But we’re going to throw some new guys to the fire against some pretty good competition.”

That’s essentially been the theme of July.

Freshmen Shereef Mitchell, Jalen Windham and Nic Zeil have logged a considerable amount of reps. Same goes for transfer Antwann Jones, who’ll sit out next season but is cleared to play in Australia.

The Bluejays held 10 practices this past month, each designed to instill the fundamentals of their offense and defense. They worked on the basics but in a high-intensity setting that’s typically reserved for October’s preseason.

It was their chance to establish their absolutes.

How hard you need to sprint in transition. How committed you have to be to communicating defensively. How you move off the ball to keep the floor properly spaced offensively. How you work.

Practice nearly stopped Wednesday when junior Damien Jefferson launched toward a loose ball and slid across the court as his arms wrapped around the ball — players shouted, cheered and stormed the floor to celebrate it.

“If you drill it in early and make it a point of emphasis early, then that’s stuff you don’t have to worry about in February,” junior Mitch Ballock said. “It should just be a habit. From that standpoint, I think we’re getting there. The 10 practices, that’s a good start.”

So even though it won’t be at full strength in Australia — CU may roll with a five-guard lineup at times — this team will get a chance to test its progress.

Creighton is set to play the Australia Centre of Excellence at 3 a.m. (Central) on Monday. It’ll face Cairns Taipans at 5:30 a.m. Thursday. The trip will conclude with a 4 a.m. game against Bullets Invitational on Aug. 12.

Whatever the game results are, senior Davion Mintz is convinced that he and his teammates have already taken positive steps. But they can’t backslide between now and the official start of preseason practice in September.

“It felt like we were already starting practice. Like, real practices,” Mintz said. “And now, we don’t have to come in teaching (in September). The coaches will be expecting — they’ll have expectations that we will pick up the things that we’ve learned. This can give us a head start.”

Get the headlines from Creighton, Nebraska, UNO, high schools and other area teams.

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Commenting is limited to Omaha World-Herald subscribers. To sign up, click here.

If you're already a subscriber and need to activate your access or log in, click here.

Recommended for you

Load comments

You must be a full digital subscriber to read this article You must be a digital subscriber to view this article.