As practice begins, Greg McDermott talks new additions, expectations for Creighton men’s basketball

Creighton head coach Greg McDermott runs drills at the Bluejays first practice on Tuesday.(WOWT)
Published: Sep. 27, 2023 at 12:36 AM CDT

OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - For an experienced team like Creighton, rudimentary drills on the first day of preseason practice can be tedious. For Greg McDermott, it’s his favorite time of the year.

“Watching some of the things we practice on a daily basis become habits—that’s what takes place in the first month,” he said. “That’s why I got into coaching to begin with.”

Ahead of their first practice Tuesday, McDermott challenged his upperclassmen to help bring the newcomers up to speed in order to move the preseason process forward.

That shouldn’t take long. After all, the Bluejays return 74.9% of their scoring from last year’s Elite Eight squad, including all three All-Big East honorees in Ryan Kalkbrenner, Trey Alexander and Baylor Scheierman. While they lost two starters to the transfer portal in Ryan Nembhard (Gonzaga) and Arthur Kaluma (Kansas State), McDermott found formidable replacements to fill the void.

Creighton landed Utah State transfer Steven Ashworth in April. The senior takes over at point guard after leading the Aggies in points (16.2), assists (4.5) and three-point percentage (43.4%) last season.

“Steven’s really easy to play with,” McDermott said. “He makes good decisions, he doesn’t need to dominate the basketball, he shoots the basketball at a high level and he’s a great teammate. You put that together and that’s allowed him to fit in extremely well and at a faster pace than I probably anticipated.”

“It’s a natural, seamless connection there,” Kalkbrenner said, noting that Ashworth’s play differs slightly from Nembhard’s. “Obviously with any new player it might take a second, but it’s going to be really good going into the season with him.”

Expect sophomore Mason Miller and Virginia transfer Isaac Traudt to split time at the power forward position. While Miller played limited minutes last year (9.1), the redshirt sophomore showed his ability to stretch the floor, hitting 37% (20-54) from beyond the arc. Traudt, originally a four-star prospect at Grand Island High School, redshirted for the Cavaliers last season.

“Obviously I didn’t see Isaac all last year, but he’s come in and impressed,” Kalkbrenner said. “Knowing Mason the last few years, he looks like he’s ready to take a jump this year and become a really, really good player. I’m excited for them.”

After falling a controversial hand-check call short of the program’s first Final Four last season, expectations are sky-high for 2023-24. McDermott stressed, if his team can find success in the rigors of conference play, they can find success in March again.

“We always want to compete for championships in the Big East,” he said. “If you can do that, then everything else has a way of working itself out. I think we have some experience, and certainly we have to integrate some of the new guys into what we’re doing. But I love their work ethic, I love their approach. We’ll see what happens.”