Creighton begins rebuild, season vs. Arkansas-Pine Bluff

The Creighton Bluejays will tip off the 2021-22 season against Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Tuesday night in Omaha, Neb. Both sides will feel as if they are starting over.

Coach Greg McDermott will be looking to rebuild his Creighton squad after saying goodbye to 10 lettermen and 84 percent of the scoring from last season’s team that advanced to the NCAA Tournament’s Sweet 16.

Fifth-year seniors Alex O’Connell and KeyShawn Feazell join sixth-year senior Ryan Hawkins in key roles. O’Connell transferred from Duke prior to last season, and he played in 24 of Creighton’s final 25 games.

Hawkins won three national titles in five seasons at Division II Northwest Missouri State, contributing 2,098 points, 948 rebounds and 225 steals in becoming one of the most sought-after recruits in the region before signing with Creighton.

Feazell nearly averaged a double-double with 13.1 points and a Southland Conference-leading 9.9 rebounds per game for McNeese State last season.

Center Ryan Kalkbrenner is Creighton’s leading returning scorer at 5.9 points per game. He led the Bluejays with 38 blocked shots a season ago.

“We’re really young,” McDermott said after his team’s first practice. “When you consider the five true freshmen and Rati (Andronikashvili) and Modestas (Kancleris) tore their ACL a couple weeks into practice, so they really missed a lot last year, too, essentially we have seven freshmen and the two new guys. So there’s a lot of stopping and talking and learning going on.”

Arkansas-Pine Bluff will be starting over after a 4-21 season cost head coach George Ivory his job. Solomon Bozeman takes over after spending the last three seasons as an assistant at Oral Roberts, a team that reached last season’s Sweet 16. Bozeman played at Arkansas-Little Rock and later served as an assistant coach there before heading to Oral Roberts.

Bozeman also will be looking to rebuild with six of last season’s top seven scorers gone. The only returning player who averaged more than two points per game is Dequan Morris, who averaged 8.8 points and 4.3 rebounds per game.

Bozeman promised one thing in his introductory press conference: “Our basketball team at Pine Bluff will do things the right way with character and passion.”

–Field Level Media