Is this a rivalry?
Is this an exhibition to raise money for hurricane relief?
Do we still care?
I mean, a little bit.
On one side, donned in black jerseys, the Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks, formally dubbed, “Omaha’s Team,” traveled roughly 5 miles to CenturyLink Omaha to face the sorta new-look Bluejays of Creighton.
The Mavs lost a lot of production from last year, retaining the talents of one Mitchell Hahn, while filling out the rest of the roster with the Norls and Wofford-Humphs of the world.
Creighton, losing some kid named Justin Patton, 30-year old Isaiah Zierden, mid-range jumper model Cole Huff, round mound Zach Hanson, and Filipino Dream Kobe Paras. What they gained in return showed a little bit of what they’re worth, both as humans and as basketball players, on this fateful Thursday night.
Greg McDermott sprinkled the court with an array of experimental lineups in an effort to see what worked and what didn’t. He stayed with his steadiest hands in Marcus Foster, Khyri Thomas, and TOBY! Hegner for a majority of the affair.
Davion Mintz started at point guard. He shared duties with Kaleb Joseph. Tyler Clement came in for a quick spell as point guard. Occasionally Khyri Thomas played point guard. This led to empty possessions and an offense that resembled more of a semi truck rolling freely down a steep incline, engulfed in flames, hurtling towards a commuter school full of students. It also led to some fantastic fast breaks, pinpoint pick and rolls, and a dynamic offense that’d make a McDermott weep. To have success with this rag tag group of point guards would be to find that happy medium, that delicious pink in your medium rare steak. That’s going to take time and discipline.
Everything else seemed to pan out exactly as we expected, except for one small bug: Manny Suarez completely took over for a small period of time. It’s hard to define when exactly this happened, for I’d completely plummeted into a euphoric daze as he grabbed rebound after rebound, made poignant post moves to position himself to score with ease, and slashed by the quicker guards to receive a pass for an easy score. In just 11 minutes of work he worked, tirelessly, scoring 14 points and grabbing 8 (!!!) rebounds.
Ronnie Harrell Jr., who was tabbed as arguably the best rebounder on the Bluejay squad for the past three seasons, was finally released from his confines and ejected into the wild, showing his rebounding prowess early and allowing all observers to realize that the hyped up talents weren’t just hot air but a reality that’s been lying dormant for nearly 1,000 days. In 21 minutes of action he nabbed 13 rebounds, scored 9 points, and picked up two well-earned assists. Finally, Spaceman Slim has come within our peripherals and it’s breathtaking.
The two newbies in Ty-Shon Alexander and Mitchell Ballock were impressive to say the least. Ballock nailed a couple of in-rhythm threes and plays the game with a tenacity much like that of Xavier’s JP Macura. He was seemingly in every play in his 23 minutes on the court, assisting on defense with two block attempts (neither successful but both much needed as the defense in the middle is... porous), putting an irritating pressure on ballhandlers, all the while maintaining a poise like he’s been there before. Alexander played with similar poise, utilizing what appears to be above-average ballhandling ability, with a sweet jumper and good court vision. He ended with 5 points on 2-5 shooting.
Martin Krampelj had an... interesting night. He’s been tabbed as the started in the middle for the Jays as of now, yet finished the night with 16 minutes played, 5 fouls, 5 points, and 5 rebounds. It’s going to be hell for the Jays if Krampelj can’t adjust to game speed and keep his fouls down, but his ability to work the interior and be physical with other bigs has its promise. Jacob Epperson has some work to do, his defense wasn’t up to par, though he did throw down an impressive alley-oop off a feed from Mitchell Ballock. When he’s compared to Justin Patton that’s no joke; he’ll just need a year to bulk up and figure out how to defend the post.
Other than that, it was a romp pretty much from tip to finish. The Jays offense is fast. Their offensive rebounding is bad. These are things we already knew. This contest just re-affirmed it.
Oh, and Jordan Scurry nailed a three in garbage time. Welcome back, basketball. How we missed thee.