It goes without saying that the success of the Creighton Bluejays this season has been primarily because of the extraordinary play of Doug McDermott. Perhaps the best player in the nation, and the current leader in the race for the National Player of the Year Award, the Ames native has saved his best for his final hurrah in Omaha this season, currently averaging 25.0 points per game on an even 50.0 percent shooting.
What has been flying under the radar this season, and mostly in BIG EAST Conference play, has been the recent improvements in the backcourt. The Bluejays have recently been driven by the progression of the backcourt, which night by night only seems to be getting better. One name seems to truly be standing out amongst the rest, and he, like McDermott, will also be bowing out once this season culminates.
His name is Jahenns Manigat.
A native of Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, Manigat has seen his play take a leap from where he started this season. In the month of November, Manigat merely averaged 6.33 PPG and and 2.67 APG. Leading up to a matchup with Chicago St., Manigat's December numbers were right around the same. 6.4 PPG and 2.2 APG were his averages through the final month of December, but once the Chicago St. Cougars came to town, Manigat's play shot up. He has since averaged 10.7 points per game and 4.2 APG, giving Creighton an extra factor to account for on the floor.
As discussed in this week's Weekly Progress Report, Manigat's rim-attacking on offense has been a big reason that he has seen his points per game totals increase. Unlike a season ago, the Ottawa guard is not taking as many 2PT jumpers in the 2013-14 campaign, with 4.9 percent of his attempts this season coming in that category. For reference, in the 2012-13 season, that number was at an even 10.0 percent, while his percentage of shots at the rim was 18.3 percent.
This season, 23.8 percent of Manigat's FGA are at the rim, and he is converting 65.5 percent of those opportunities.
The improved play of the senior guard has been a welcoming sight to behold for the Bluejays. But, much like McDermott, they will be looking for someone to step in his shoes and give Creighton a boost like he has recently given this team.
Who might be the man to take on this opportunity? We may not know for certain for the moment, but there are certainly many contenders.
Is it Austin Chatman? Above all the contenders, Chatman will have the sense of continuity in this lineup going forward. As the lineup is currently constructed, he and junior forward Avery Dingman are the likeliest to return to their places in the starting lineup this season. The Texas native has seen his play strongly improve recently too, and that may not be so coincidental, either. With that said, Chatman fits the point guard role really well, as Manigat primarily plays out of the shooting guard role. But, one should expect Chatman's veteran presence next season being a big factor going forward in this backcourt.
Is it Devin Brooks? The Harlem native has given Creighton a lot of excitement this season. The playmaking flashes that he has shown this season look like they could provide for an exciting 2014 season. His play has tapered off slightly from how he was doing in the beginning of the season, as he has been somewhat inconsistent through the trials and tribulations in BIG EAST play.
One statistic that might be giving Creighton fans a scare has been Brooks' turnover rate. Throughout the season, only once has the JUCO transfer not committed at least one turnover, and is averaging 2.19 TPG in the 2013-14 campaign.
With that said, with proper coaching Brooks could work on this. Furthermore, Brooks is one of two Bluejays with >28% of possessions used this season. There clearly is a sense of trust in him to have the ball in his hands still. If saying that is not enough, the only other Bluejay with >28% of possessions used in the 2013-14 season? That would be Doug McDermott.
If it is not Brooks or Chatman to take the reigns in the absence of Manigat, and step up in the way of scoring, will the Bluejays look further down their bench? Freshman Isaiah Zierden has been on the floor in place of Manigat, although in shorts sprits, but he like Brooks has flashed potential. Albeit not as dynamic, there is plenty of time for the St. Louis Park, Minn. native to get it going in 2014 and beyond. Avery Dingman also could be slotted into the role, if Greg McDermott does not choose to have him play the "3."
After all, Dingman was recruited and is listed as a guard per the Bluejays' official roster. And with forwards Leon Gilmore III and Ronnie Harrell committed to the program for next season, it might be a very seamless transition for Dingman, most of all.
Whatever the end result will be, the Bluejay backcourt could end up as the emphasis as the future looms. And if everything comes around as it has lately, and that turns over well for 2014 and beyond, the Bluejays are in good hands with the relatively untapped potential that still remains.