Kenny Lawson considers being selected the Missouri Valley’s preseason player of the year a nice honor.
But Lawson has been around long enough to realize that preseason honors usually are based on an individual’s past performance. To be considered for player of the year at the end of the season, Lawson knows that his own production will be just part of the equation.
“The player of the year usually comes from the top two teams,’’ he said. “Nobody on this team is going to get any accolades unless we win.
“If we can go through the season and exceed expectations, those accolades are going to come, not only to myself but to everyone else on the team.’’
Lawson’s team is expected to finish fourth according to the Valley’s preseason poll, released Tuesday at the league’s media day in St. Louis. Creighton received 282 points — 100 fewer than first-place Wichita State — in the balloting by league coaches, sports information directors, radio broadcasters and newspaper reporters.
The Shockers, who return all key contributors except point guard Clevin Hannah, received 33 of the 39 first-place votes. Missouri State was picked second with 313 points, while Northern Iowa, which loses three key players off last season’s NCAA Sweet 16 team, received three first-place votes and 289 points.
“Generally, preseason predictions are based on what you did last year and who you return,’’ first-year Creighton coach Greg McDermott said. “Based on those factors, that (fourth) is about right for us. I’ll be disappointed if that’s where we are at the end.
“Potentially, we’re better than that, but there is also a wide gap of where we perform. If we don’t figure some stuff out at the defensive end, we’ll struggle to finish fourth. If we buy into each other defensively, we have a chance to do some special things.’’
McDermott, Lawson and Kaleb Korver represented the Bluejays in St. Louis. They returned to Omaha around 5 p.m., then were on the practice court an hour later.
Asked afterward if Lawson had a preseason-player-of-the-year-type practice, McDermott chuckled. “I wouldn’t say that,’’ he said.
“But I’m asking him to do things in a different way and comprehend some offensive concepts that he hasn’t been asked to comprehend before,’’ McDermott said. “And I’m pretty much on him every possession defensively.’’
Lawson often finds himself guarding powerful Gregory Echenique in practice. The 6-foot-9 Echenique is a transfer from Rutgers who will become eligible Dec. 17.
“If he can guard Gregory every day and get better at it,’’ McDermott said, “he’s going to be able to guard just about anyone he plays.’’
The 6-9 Lawson has been a starter since midway through his freshman season. Last season, he earned second-team All-Valley honors while ranking among the league leaders in scoring (eighth, 13.1 points per game), rebounding (sixth, 6.8 per game), field-goal percentage (second, .538), free-throw percentage (11th, .819) and blocked shots (first, 1.5 per game).
But Creighton struggled through an 18-16 season, victimizing itself with the inability to come up with key stops at the end of games.
Creighton returns three other end-of-the-season starters in Antoine Young, Josh Jones and Ethan Wragge as well as four other key contributors. Echenique and some talented freshmen provide promise.
Being picked fourth, Lawson said, could be a good thing for this group.
“It could motivate us,’’ he said. “We didn’t have a very good season last year, so I don’t think too many guys are surprised about the pick.
“We can use that pick to motivate ourselves to prove people wrong.’’
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