Creighton Takeaways: Bluejays Fly Away From Foes In The Bahamas
Creighton Takeaways: Bluejays Fly Away From Foes In The Bahamas
Here’s a look at the three games that Creighton won in the Caribbean, part of the numerous college basketball foreign tours on FloHoops.
How do you follow your first appearance in the Elite Eight in 82 years?
Do it again — and then some.
Creighton, returning multiple big-time players who helped it get within one game of the first Final Four in program history a season ago, is going to have extremely high expectations placed on it after arguably the school’s best stretch of men’s hoops seasons - ever.
Even after losing two starters to the transfer portal, the Bluejays have replenished well and kept multiple pro prospects in college for at least another year, and the potential for what they can achieve in the 2023-2024 season was on full display during the team’s three-game stint in the Bahamas for an exhibition trip.
There was a player’s homecoming, good vibes and plenty of sunshine for Creighton in the islands — and plenty of things to like from the on-court tape, too.
Here’s a look at the three games Creighton won in the Caribbean, part of the numerous college basketball summer tours that are being streamed live on FloHoops this month:
Fittingly on Paradise Island near the Bahamian capital of Nassau, Creighton played a lot of pretty, picturesque hoops over its trip to the tropics.
The opener against Raw Talent Elite — a club team from the Bahamas — in which the Bluejays smashed their opponents 108-55 — largely set the tone for what was about to come.
Seven Creighton players reached double figures in that game, as center Ryan Kalkbrenner, the two-time reigning BIG EAST Defensive Player of the Year, led the way with 13 points across 18 minutes, but perhaps the most impressive part of the Bluejays’ blowout was how much they owned the 3-point line on both ends of the floor.
Creighton knocked down 16 treys (two more than Raw Talent Elite even attempted), as it held its opponent without a 3-point make for the entire game, locking down the wings and holding RTE to just a 22-for-70 (31.4%) mark from the field.
The second game against a youth team from Lithuania’s BC Kaunas Zalgiris — one of Europe’s most successful and storied club teams — was a bit tougher. Creighton was playing from behind for much of the first half, before pulling away for a 76-62 victory.
Heavily thanks to Trey Alexander (who declared for the NBA Draft in the offseason but eventually opted to return to school) looking in midseason form with a game-high 29 points to go with eight rebounds and five assists, the Bluejays averted disaster and skated away off the back of a strong 19-8 third quarter (with the game being played under FIBA rules) out of the locker room.
The finale against Argentina’s Club Obras saw Creighton share the wealth in a 111-89 win to complete the sweep, with all 15 Bluejays who suited up for the game scoring. Mason Miller (16 points, all in the first half) led his team in scoring, while Argentina native Francisco Farabello added 11 points, seven boards and five assists.
Big 3 Still In Sync
There was a clearly defined core in Omaha last year that led the charge toward getting the Bluejays all the way to the Elite Eight: Kalkbrenner, Alexander and Baylor Scheierman.
All three, after being the team’s leading scorers in that order a season ago, are back, and they didn’t disappoint in the Bahamas in their first competitive games together of the 2023-2024 campaign.
Unsurprisingly, the trio led the team 1-2-3 in scoring during the three-game trip, though they only were together for two games, as Alexander left before the Club Obras game to attend the Nike Skills Academy camp.
Still, Alexander made sure his presence was felt, scoring more points (40) than any other player on the roster (including those who played in all three matchups), while doing an effective job creating contact, getting to the foul line and converting his chances there, shooting 13-for-14 (92.9%) from the charity stripe and averaging 20 points per game.
Meanwhile, Kalkbrenner — a Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Award finalist last season (given to the nation’s best center) — looked like he hadn’t missed a step since his season ended in Louisville back in March.
The holder of the country’s third-highest field-goal percentage last year was efficient in the Bahamas (14-of-22 shooting, 63.6%, over three games) and kept up his reputation for being a force on the defensive end, too, with the 7-foot-1 incoming senior swatting 10 shots on the islands.
And, finally, Scheierman rounded out the group by doing what he did best last season in his first year in Omaha after transferring from South Dakota State — make 3s (7-for-17, 41.2% over three games) and rebound the rock, with his 15 defensive boards on the tour being the most of any Bluejay.
King Shows Out Back Home
Creighton coach Greg McDermott stuck to almost exclusively the same starting lineup last season, starting four players for all 37 games, while backup center Fredrick King only started three in place of Kalkbrenner when the All-BIG EAST first-team big man was forced to miss time during a bout of mononucleosis.
Ashworth ➡️ King— Creighton Men’s Basketball (@BluejayMBB) August 8, 2023
You lob to see it. pic.twitter.com/C1VTyiHWfk
But with the other two starters, guard Ryan Nembhard and forward Arthur Kaluma, having transferred to Gonzaga and Kansas State, respectively, there is playing time available with the bonus of a possibly rock-solid starting spot, judging by McDermott’s recent history.
The coach toyed with different starting fives in each game in the trip, but King — a native of the Bahamas back for a homecoming — showed out in a return to where his hoops career started.
He had a 12-point, 13-rebound double-double in the opener against Raw Talent Elite, reached double figures in scoring again (10 points) against BC Kaunas Zalgiris and just missed a trifecta with eight points against Club Obras, but King definitely had made a statement, being the only Creighton player outside of the Kalkbrenner-Alexander-Scheierman trio to average double-digit scoring numbers (10 points per game) for the tour.
Trey's got 21 points as the Bluejays have taken control. pic.twitter.com/rEpRq3eJ64— Creighton Men’s Basketball (@BluejayMBB) August 6, 2023
He also was remarkably efficient on the offensive end. Among the Bluejays who took at least 15 shots in the Bahamas, only Kalkbrenner shot a better percentage from the field than King’s 63.2% (12-for-19), despite the latter only playing 36 minutes in total, the lowest among the four Creighton players who averaged at least 10 points.
Part of that was due to the fact that King could find himself racking up the whistles (team-high eight personal fouls on the trip), but for a player who only averaged 3.4 points and 2.5 rebounds per game last season, it’s hard to complain with what the 6-foot-10 incoming sophomore brought to the floor in front of a homeland crowd.
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