Published Saturday, October 26, 2013 at 10:55 pm / Updated at 9:31 pm
Basketball
It can get old, but Creighton veterans handle routine, youngsters

Grant Gibbs has had to deal with aches and pains and cranky coaches during his college career.

In his final season at Creighton, the 24-year-old has a different challenge: keeping up with the young guys.

How's this for a generation gap: Gibbs' freshman teammates were starting eighth grade when he was attending his first college practice.

“Those are the kind of things I don't like to think about,” Gibbs said, laughing, as he pointed out a burgeoning language barrier with the young whippersnappers. “I texted one of our younger guys the other day. When I got his response, I was like, 'What the hell are you talking about?' ”

Creighton forward Ethan Wragge, 23, can relate.

“There are things Grant and I talk about that some of our freshmen have absolutely no idea what we're saying. It makes you feel old.”

An injury in his second year at Creighton forced Wragge into a medical redshirt, making him a fifth-year senior.

Gibbs sat out two seasons — his first year at Gonzaga because of a shoulder injury and his third year when he transferred to Creighton. Since a knee injury would have prevented him from playing that season had he remained at Gonzaga, the NCAA granted Gibbs a sixth season of eligibility.

So, at a time when many former classmates are juggling first jobs and mortgage payments, Gibbs is trying to stay enthused about running a perfectly executed practice drill — for seemingly the millionth time.

“I know I could be doing a lot of other things than four-on-four closeouts,” Gibbs said. “But this is better than having some other job.”

Bluejay coach Greg McDermott knows the repetition of preseason practice is a grind for Gibbs, Wragge and the team's four-year seniors — Doug McDermott and Jahenns Manigat. Still, they need to stay engaged.

“It's hard on them, it's really hard,” Greg McDermott said. “The reality of it is that the new guys need it. The returners probably need it for four or five days to sharpen up their skills and they'd be good. It's certainly overkill for them, but it's a necessary evil to make sure the newcomers figure it out.”

Gibbs and Wragge understand that it's about leadership.

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“We know we've run these drills a hundred thousand times, but if we don't set good examples for the young guys, they won't know how to do it correctly,” Wragge said. “It's a real tedious mental thing, but you just have to try to get through it. And not just get through it. You have to get better.”

After all, Gibbs said, he remembers when he was a newcomer.

“When you're a freshman, you just feel so overwhelmed with so many people telling you different things,” he said. “I think back to when I was a younger player and the struggles I had, and the way I might have handled them didn't always work to my benefit.”

His advice: Slow down and listen to the coaches rather than overanalyzing and feeling like the world is going to fall in on you.

“I think that's where my elder statesman role kicks in to help the younger guys,” Gibbs said.

Gibbs is the first sixth-year player McDermott has coached. He's had plenty of fifth-year seniors, and he has seen some get worn down.

Circumstances are different this time. With Creighton about to embark on its first season in the Big East, McDermott figures his veterans will not lack for zest.

“With every team we play being new,” McDermott said, “it's going to be easy to keep their attention and their interest.”

Wragge said that holds true off the court, as well.

“We're so used to certain hotels and certain places we go to eat on the road,” he said. “Now, everything we do is going to be new, and it's going to be a whole new adjustment for everyone. We're kind of the test dummies this year.”

Test dummies?

Put it on the list of phrases that he and Gibbs might have to explain to the freshmen.

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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