Length is one way to measure the difference in Creighton's first two signees of the new Big East era.
At 6-foot-7, both Ronnie Harrell and Leon Gilmore give the Bluejays size on the perimeter that they sometimes lacked when the coaches were recruiting to the Missouri Valley.
“They're wing players that add some versatility,'' Creighton coach Greg McDermott said.
Harrell, from Denver, and Gilmore, from Missouri City, Texas, signed letters of intent that formalized the oral commitments they gave earlier this fall. Creighton still has one more scholarship to give for next season, but McDermott said he'll probably wait until the spring to sign another player.
The Bluejays reportedly are still in the running for Josh Cunningham, a 6-7 forward from Chicago. He visited campus in September, and recruiting services report that he also has made official visits to Iowa State, Oklahoma, Bradley and Northwestern. It's uncertain when Cunningham might make a decision.
In addition to providing Creighton with a different look defensively, Harrell and Gilmore bring varied offensive skills. Harrell is the kind of shooter the Bluejays will need with Doug McDermott, Ethan Wragge and Jahenns Manigat leaving after this season, while Gilmore is a slasher who can stretch the floor with his perimeter shooting skills.
Both players are listed as three-star prospects by the various recruiting services. In addition, Gilmore is ranked 121st on Rivals.com's list of the top 150 high school prospects.
Harrell shot 34 percent from 3-point range as a junior and 77 percent in 43 attempts as a sophomore. He averaged 16 points a game for a Denver East team that went 23-3 last season.
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“He's the best perimeter shooter I've had in 35 years of coaching,'' East coach Rudy Carey said when Harrell committed. “He has NBA range and he shoots it effortlessly.''
McDermott also likes Harrell's skills as a ball-handler. Harrell averaged four assists per game while earning all-conference honors as a junior.
“He was really a point guard growing up and then he has this growth spurt, so he has some ball skills to go along with his ability to shoot it,'' McDermott said. “He just needs to get stronger.''
Harrell, who has grown eight inches since his freshman year in high school, weighs about 170 pounds. Harrell likely will be a frequent visitor to the weight room once he gets on campus next June, and McDermott is confident that Dan Bailey, the Bluejays' strength and conditioning coach, will be able to bulk up Harrell just as he has Doug McDermott, Will Artino and Isaiah Zierden.
“Those guys were all thin and desperately needed to put on some bulk and were able to do it,'' Greg McDermott said. “Ronnie is thin but we'll lock him in the weight room with coach Bailey and we'll get some weight on him.''
Gilmore averaged 13.7 points, 6.6 rebounds and 4.2 assists as a junior at Manvel High School.
“He runs the lanes well and finishes, and he can really put on a show with his dunks,'' Manvel coach Greg Devers said when Gilmore announced his decision in September. “He's got a motor that goes all day. Because he plays with so much energy, he sometimes will make a mistake but he'll turn around and make five opportunities for us.''
When he watched Gilmore play this summer, McDermott liked his all-around skill-set.
“He was active,'' McDermott said. “He gets his hands on the basketball, whether that's defensively or on the glass. He's 6-7, and he can step out and shoot it.''
Something else impressed the coach as he watched Gilmore play a reserve role for Houston Hoops, one of the top AAU teams in the country.
“He came off the bench and I thought he made the most of his opportunities,'' McDermott said. “He accepted that role and didn't complain about it. Some kids turn sour in that situation because they're used to being the star.”
When Creighton joined its new league in March, there was speculation that the Bluejays might have to drastically alter their recruiting philosophy in order to attract more athletic players.
McDermott said he believes Harrell and Gilmore provide the team with an upgrade in athleticism, and it comes without sacrificing some of the core values he's tried to put in place in his four seasons at Creighton.
“Both are really good kids,'' McDermott said. “Their parents have done a great job with them, and they're both really excited about being a part of this program.”