When Baylor Schaerman played in the masses for the OSA Crusaders in Nebraska, he often looked in the stands and saw coach Creighton Greg McDermott watching him. Well, McDermott wasn’t watching him indeed. He was there to recruit Schaerman’s teammate Sheriff Mitchell, A 6-foot guard from Omaha. Although Mitchell eventually signed a contract with Creighton, Schaerman never had a real conversation with McDermott, much less offered him a scholarship. The only Division I school to offer Sherman was South Dakota, which Sherman devoted himself to after a junior season at Aurora High School. “They weren’t super wrong, ”he says of all the head coaches who have walked away from him. “It certainly didn’t shake my confidence, but it made me realize how hard I had to work to get to where I wanted to go.”
A completely different story was on April 25, when Schaerman, the junior guard 6-6, entered the transfer portal after a great season with Jackrabbits. He went from averaging 6.0 points with 24.7 percent 3-point shooting in freshman to 16.2 points at 46.9 percent as well as 4.5 assists. Shearman was named Summit League Player of the Year and led the Jackrabbits to a 30-5 record and reached the NCAA Tournament, where they lost 66-57 in the first round of Providence. His decision to visit the portal has already been reported by the media, so when he officially announced his name, the coaches were ready to attack. Chris Byrd, John Calipari, Eric Mosselman, John Scheer and Bill Self, and these are some of them, blew up his cell phone in the first hour.
McDermott was also one of the first to call. He also believes he was not super wrong not to recruit Sherman in high school, but he understood that Sherman was very right for Creighton’s quick system of the three lucky ones. “In high school, he filmed it well, but not great,” McDermott said. “He was very skinny and in defense he was without a position of our level. But to his credit, he accepted one scholarship offer he had in South Dakota and built himself an incredible career. ”
McDermott knew he was up against some big names when recruiting Schaerman, but he had some built-in advantages. The training at the school, which is a two-hour drive from Aurora, was the biggest. McDermott is also close to South Dakota coach Eric Henderson, who played for McDermott at Wayne, Division II School in Nebraska, and was an assistant to him in Iowa. McDermott and his wife are the godparents of Henderson’s eldest child. McDermott also coached SDSU assistant coach Brian Peterson in Iowa.
After several phone conversations with Sherman and his parents, McDermott and his staff flew to Atlanta to meet with Sherman and Austin Walton, an agent Schaerman had hired to guide him through the NBA draft process. Shearman entered the draft on March 24, and a month later decided to go to the portal to maximize their capabilities. Shearman and Walton withstood the initial bombardment of calls, inspected all possible directions and reduced the list to 10 schools, then to five. On Tuesday, Schaeerman’s basketball journey finally ended when he surrendered to Creighton.
“Creighton has a system in which I could thrive,” Schaerman said. “I feel like a lot has been achieved in South Dakota. I’m not sure I can do anything else that would help my professional promotions. If I don’t stay on the draft, people will want to see me play daily against a higher level of competition. And I really think we can win there. ”
It is not guaranteed that Schaerman will end up with the Bluejays, but this is the most likely scenario. He was not invited to the plant before the NBA Draft – this suggests that the league does not consider him a likely choice in the first round – but he will take part in the elite G-League camp in Chicago on May 16-17. From there, Schaerman will work for as many NBA teams as he can to increase his reserves. By June 1, he needs to decide what he wants to do. “If he feels he can get guaranteed money, he will stay on call,” McDermott said. “We realized we were in.”
Even before Shearman’s commitment, the Blue Jays headed for the season with unusually high expectations. Creighton was one of the youngest teams in the country last season – he ranked 310th in the KenPom.com rankings – and had a record of 13-8 (5-5 Big East) in early February. From there, the Bluejays went 10-4, losing to Vilanova in the final of the Big East tournament and the final champion of Kansas with a score of 79-72 in the second round of the NCAA tournament. The fact that the Bluejays were one point behind the Jayhawks in a minute of play was great considering they lacked two important starting points: a 6-foot quarterback Ryan Nembhardthe freshman of the year Big East, who broke his right wrist on February 23, and the 7-foot center of the sophomore Ryan Kalkbrennerwho partially tore the posterior cruciate ligament of his left knee at the end of the first round in overtime victory over San Diego.
Mitchell, who averaged 3.5 points in 16.5 minutes from the bench, also played just six games before taking off the medical red shirt due to various injuries. McDermott calls last season “one of the most rewarding seasons of my 33 years in this business” because of the struggle his young guys have shown through all these adversities. “We had a lot of built-in excuses, but we never gave up on that,” he said. “We were very connected as a group and it allowed us to grow very fast.”
Creighton is releasing two of the top three scorers, but is set to return three starting and five of last season’s top eight players – six out of nine if Mitchell, who is due to undergo medical treatment in June, is included. In a pre-season AP poll, the top 25 Blue Jays were included only four times in their history, and their high ranking was №11 in 2020. Next fall, they may exceed this figure by a significant margin. Creighton has already occupied a prominent place in almost every pre-season ranking. (It was № 11th century Athletic‘s too early top 25 April 5.) If Schaerman finds himself in Omaha, the Blues are likely to be in the top five pre-season teams and could get a serious opinion for No. 1.
“I think we all believed we had everything we needed for the deep race,” Kalkbrenner said. “Now you are attracting a player like Baylor – it only adds to our thoughts. Our job is to show everyone what we are capable of. “
Kalkbrenner will also have a major impact on whether the Blue Jay meets the hype. He’s one of those rare rim defenders who can block a bunch of throws (2.6 per game) without committing a mass of fouls (1.4 per game, and only once has he committed more than three). Calckbrenner was named the defending player of the year in the Greater East, and his combination of size and cunning allowed McDermott to deploy the best defensive team Creighton had in a long time. According to KenPom.com, Bluejays ranked eighth in the country in defense with 2 points (43.6 percent) and 19th in defense effectiveness. This is Creighton’s highest rating in this category since KenPom.com began tracking performance statistics in 1997.
Meanwhile, the Bluejays continued to lift a mass of 3 in the offensive (19.7 attempts per game, the second largest in the Greater East), but missed much more than usual (31.3 percent, which was their worst percentage in McDermott’s 12 seasons) there). The arrival of Schaerman will change the game, but it will not be the only significant addition. McDermott snatched another veteran from the portal Francisco Farabellawho scored 40.2 percent of 3 in three seasons in reserve at TCU, and the coach calls the redhead a freshman Mason MillerTennessee striker 6-8, son of NBA veteran Mike Miller, “the best scorer on our team.”
Last year’s greenhorns are expected to improve further. Together with Nembhard 6-7 ahead Arthur Callum (10.4 points, 5.4 rebounds) and 6-4 guard Trey Alexander (7.4 points, 2.5 assists) joined the team of freshmen of the Greater East. Their numbers were impressive, but their maturity and perseverance proved even more valuable over the course of the season. “I pay a lot of respect to these freshmen because they were extremely hardworking,” Kalkbrenner said. “We never gave up in games. That’s the big reason we’ve gotten so close. We all wanted to win for each other. Everything came together, and by the end of the year we were really cooking. “
All this heat is a problem of a very high class. Schaerman might have refused to play in his home state such as Kansas, Kentucky and Duke, but these programs are accustomed to high expectations. McDermott knows his players will have to adjust to the new temperature. “I was on both sides of this game,” he said, smiling. “Usually, if you are elected eighth or ninth, there is a reason, so I would be better off in this situation. This will be part of the maturation process for this group in understanding how you should be on point when you get a target on your back. That will be something we need to learn to adapt to. “
The latest Bluejays fixation was also on both sides of the game’s expectations. Four years ago, almost everyone missed it. Two weeks ago, almost everyone cared for him. Whatever happens from here, he believes he is ready for his big plan. “This is the situation I’ve always dreamed of,” Schaerman said. “Ultimately, the goal for me is the NBA. If that doesn’t happen this year, then I’m thrilled with the opportunity to return home and end up fighting for the national title in Creighton. I wouldn’t be there if I didn’t think we had a good chance of winning. “
(Top photo: Gregory Fisher / USA Today)