Published Wednesday, October 2, 2013 at 12:01 am / Updated at 1:13 am
BASKETBALL
Raftery impressed by first look at new Big East

Creighton closed Wednesday's third preseason practice with a Kodak moment.

Veteran broadcaster Bill Raftery, who will serve as the lead analyst on Fox Sports 1's coverage of the new Big East this season, was in Omaha to check out the Bluejays. He posed for pictures with the team and then with coach Greg McDermott after the 2–hour workout at the Vinardi Center.

Raftery had been in Chicago on Monday to watch DePaul and in Milwaukee on Tuesday to take in Marquette's practice. He said he'll get a chance to look in on all 10 teams before the regular season begins early next month.

Raftery said he's intrigued by the prospects for the new league. Some preseason prognosticators have listed the league among the top three or four in the nation, with four to seven of the 10 teams considered preseason contenders.

“They've lost some great teams, but the replacements are obviously programs that people respect,” Raftery said. “They've had great consistency over the years. What they have been able to do here has been pretty impressive.”

Creighton, Xavier and Butler joined the seven schools that broke away from the old Big East to form the next conference. The 70-year-old Raftery was the head coach at Seton Hall from 1970 to 1981.

“This reminds of 1979,” said Raftery, referring to the old Big East's inaugural season. “I just think it's neat that with football taking over that they've been able to attract some of these new clubs and gain some degree of national respect that had been established prior with UConn, Syracuse, etc, etc.

“These are good programs with good players, good coaches and good reputations.”

As a player at LaSalle, Raftery twice played against Creighton. The Bluejays scored a 91-72 road win in 1962 when Raftery was a junior and a 77-62 win at home in 1963.

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He remembers facing Creighton All-American Paul Silas both seasons.

“I just looked it up in the book (media guide). I held Silas to 30 rebounds,” said Raftery, smiling. “We still laugh about it when we see one another. I really got to know him when he came to the Nets as an assistant. He's a great guy.”

During practice, Creighton continued to install different aspects of its offensive and defensive schemes.

“It's been a typical first week,” McDermott said. “We're still trying to get guys in the right spots at the right time. When you're new to all of this, when you're trying to play and think at the same time, sometimes that doesn't work so well.

“We're moving forward, though, and we're still 10 days away from when we usually start. We have a lot of stuff in.”

Freshman forward Toby Hegner missed his second straight workout after taking an elbow to the head in the opening workout. McDermott said he hopes Hegner can return when the Bluejays resume practicing Monday.

Contact the writer: Steven Pivovar

stevepivovar@hotmail.com    |   402-679-2298    |  

Steven Pivovar is a staff writer for The Omaha World-Herald and primarily covers Creighton athletics and the College World Series.

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