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Even in front of NBA scouts, Creighton basketball's focus is on 'getting better'
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Even in front of NBA scouts, Creighton basketball's focus is on 'getting better'

Creighton’s student managers had just finished picking up the extra folding chairs that lined the sidelines of the practice court when senior forward Ryan Hawkins was asked about the day’s atmosphere.

Did Tuesday feel any different to Hawkins?

The Jays are just over a week into their preseason — but they had NBA scouts on hand for Tuesday’s session. A pro day. The first one CU’s ever hosted.

Hawkins shrugged as a few of the Creighton freshmen traded post-practice jumpers.

In Hawkins’ mind, he and his teammates will have plenty of chances to prove themselves this year. But there’s so much to do before then, to get ready for their Nov. 9 regular-season opener.

So he tried not to make a big deal out of Tuesday.

“You’re going to get noticed one way or the other,” Hawkins said. “(Tuesday) needed to be more about focusing on us, getting better.”

So even though this young CU squad had an audience Tuesday — there were 16 NBA teams represented and two independent evaluators on hand — its end goal remained the same as it’s been lately.

Capitalize on every moment together because a team with eight newcomers has plenty of room to grow.

That was evident Tuesday, when coach Greg McDermott said the Jays committed more turnovers in their 5-on-5 portion of practice than they normally do. But he had a feeling there’d be some miscues by his players with a few more evaluating eyeballs in the gym.

“There’s a little pressure because there’s people watching,” McDermott said. “For me to figure out which guys can handle that is an important part of this process.”

The Jays are replacing all five starters from last year’s squad.

They’re not close to sorting out lineups or substitution patterns, according to McDermott. But assessments and projections are being made daily by the Creighton coaching staff.

Even Tuesday.

McDermott said Nebraska coach Fred Hoiberg was the one who initially reached out with the idea of hosting a joint pro day — the Huskers had their event Tuesday morning and the Jays opened their doors to the same scouts for an afternoon practice.

The CU coaches did tweak the structure of their workout a little bit, starting the day with more skill work and shooting drills. The players’ shouts of encouragement echoed off the gym walls early on as they sprinted through their exercises to begin the practice.

By the end of it, seemingly every guy had at least one standout moment — whether it was Arthur Kaluma triggering a fast break with a steal and a lunging save out of bounds, or Trey Alexander driving in for a tough layup, or Alex O’Connell grabbing an offensive rebound and guiding in a put-back layup, or Rati Andronikashvili nailing 3-pointers, or Shereef Mitchell setting up teammates for buckets or Ryan Nembhard hitting the floor for a loose ball.

Creighton brought in a top-10 recruiting class last offseason. And it has several veterans with pro hoops aspirations.

So as the Jays worked to improve Tuesday, perhaps they managed to leave some positive impressions on NBA representatives along the way.

“You get a bunch (of scouts) in the gym,” McDermott said, “hopefully they get curious and that brings them back.”


Omaha World-Herald: Local Sports

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