Creighton Basketball 2017-2018 Preview
2016-17 Record: 25-10
Key Losses: Justin Patton, Cole Huff, Zach Hanson, Kobe Paras, Isaiah Zierden, Maurice Watson Jr.
Key Additions: Manny Suarez, Jacob Epperson, Mitchell Ballock, Tyshon Alexander
Creighton had a solid season that resulted in a first round tournament departure at the hands of URI, but the first first-round NBA draft pick out of Omaha since Doug McDermott in 2014 with Justin Patton (Timberwolves via Bulls).
Patton, who was the star freshman center for the Bluejays, lead the team in Blocks, Rebounds, and was second in scoring for Creighton. His length and athleticism, as well as his outside stroke made him a coveted NBA prospect and he was drafted number 16 in the 2017 NBA Draft. Patton will be replaced by another lanky big man, 6’11” Australian Jacob Epperson.
Epperson went to highschool at the prestigious basketball player factory La Lumiere in Indiana, and played alongside other top 2017 recruits Brian Bowen, Jordan Poole and Jeremiah Tilmon. Epperson received offers from schools like Illinois, Purdue and Utah before settling on Creighton. A soft inside touch and catching lobs around the basket are his specialty offensively, and he is a dominant shot blocker on the defensive end. The skinny big man was ranked 64 in the 247sports top 100.
Creighton’s other two Freshmen, guards Ballock and Alexander, are ranked 83 and 119 respectively. Ballock was highly recruited by Kansas but after sitting out the end of his junior season after undergoing shoulder surgery, he decided on the Bluejays. Alexander was recruited heavily by Virginia Tech, but also ended up choosing Creighton. Both Freshmen are knock down outside shooters, and should fit nicely into Creighton’s offensive scheme.
Creighton’s final addition is big man Manny Suarez, who will be a graduate transfer after playing Division II basketball at Adelphi University. He is 6’10, averaged 17 points and nine rebounds last year, and made a good amount of three pointers to get there. He should complement Epperson’s inside game nicely as Creighton’s stretch big.
Returning for the Bluejays are last season’s leading scorer Marcus Foster, and do-it-all guard Khyri Thomas. The backcourt duo averaged over 30 points per game last season, and should carry a lot of the load offensively for Creighton. Forward Toby Hegner will also be returning to Omaha, and should see an increased role this season with the absence of Patton and senior Cole Huff.
With their backcourt returning, and strong prospects at the forward position, Creighton will be looking to return to the big dance this upcoming March, and make it to the second round for the first time since the 90’s.
Prospective starting lineup:
- Khyri Thomas
- Marcus Foster
- Toby Hegner
- Manny Suarez
- Jacob Epperson
Photo credit: Omaha.com