What key question must be answered by each of Creighton basketball's top returners?

What key question must be answered by each of Creighton basketball’s top returners?

Here is the Creighton men’s basketball schedule for the 2022-23 season.

Creighton’s men’s basketball is swimming in hype and speculation at this point. Why not add to it?

Here’s one important question each of the Jays top returners stand to answer this season:

Ryan Kalkbrenner

How much can his jumpshot move the meter?

The junior big man already stands to be a Player of the Year candidate if he enjoys similar numbers to those he accomplished this past year. Now plenty of the talk from this summer centers around the possibility of him adding a legitimate jumper.

Not at high volume, but enough to affect stretches of a game. One or two attempts each game as he told the media Monday, which by the end of the year would certainly be enough to eclipse the 12 attempts he had last season.

The question itself will grow annoying by the time the season swings around if it hasn’t already: Just how dependent will Kalkbrenner’s shot be from deep?

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Enough to allow him to pop to the 3-point line in CU’s actions? Enough to punish teams that sink deep into the paint as soon as he catches it outside? Enough to draw his defender even a step closer to him and away from the rim?

Even on low volume, the sheer gravity that could stem from the possibility of Kalkbrenner knocking down a couple 3s each game would be meaningful. But it would be a big leap for a player who took just 14 3-pointers through his first two seasons.

Arthur Kaluma

Where will he see his biggest leap?

Without having played a single game as a sophomore, Kaluma’s already seen his NBA draft stock skyrocket. How he fares in the draft revolves a lot on projection — some as soon as this season — which makes for more speculation than normal with a prospect.

Kaluma isn’t seen by many as the best college player on his team, which is unusual for a first-round prospect that isn’t at a program like Duke, Kentucky or Gonzaga. Creighton will field an unfamiliar level of talent, which explains some of that. With that talent comes the same fluctuation of production that you’d see among the aforementioned programs.

The 6-foot-7 forward finds himself in a rare situation. Perhaps his numbers won’t pop out on the national scale with such a loaded starting lineup. But the flashes he demonstrates will mean everything, and Kaluma has the opportunity to sprout in several different ways.

He might emerge as a really promising scorer, showing off some handle along the way. He could put his frame to work and display some elite versatility on the defensive end. He could make coach Greg McDermott’s talks of Kaluma’s shooting look prophetic and leap forward as a jumpshooter.

There are seemingly far too many directions that Kaluma can take to improve this season. While he might not be able to show off everything that has NBA scouts all over him, the potential flashes could translate to a different ceiling for the program.

Trey Alexander

How much of what he did to close last season will carry over to this year?

Alexander became a necessary beacon of hope. His run at PG1 was a pleasant surprise for fans, averaging 11.6 points, 4.3 assists and four rebounds in the eight games after Ryan Nembhard’s season ended.

A small sample size, sure. One that has Alexander stans praying for more.

The stretch showed that he could be a legitimate option to run the offense if times call for it. The Jays could see times like those through the course of any game or even in times when they just want to be less predictable.

The level of improvement he shows in his 3-point shot will alter the height of his on-ball dependability. No one is exactly fighting over a screen on a 28.1% shooter from deep. If he becomes even an average shooter, it provides Creighton even more versatility, and will allow Alexander to get to his spots more often.

All of it spells easy offense for the Jays. They were good when Alexander had the ball in his hands. There aren’t any signs that they’ll deter from that, or that Alexander provided them reasons not to look to him since.

Ryan Nembhard

How much better can he make the players around him?

Nembhard is just months removed from a season in which he was asked to score more than ever. The 6-foot guard has always had talent around him. It’s always been his job to elevate them.

Learning when to call his own number was a necessary skill for him to add. There will still be times when CU elects him to put the ball in the basket. But he can let out a sigh of relief as a creator now. He has other guys who can get buckets off the bounce.

Perhaps now he’ll shave down the 3.1 turnovers he averaged last year. Facilitating has just come easier to him throughout his career, and this might be the easiest group he’ll have to work with in his college career.

With a healthy level of self-creation, several of his teammates can look good all by themselves. But how much better will they be with Nembhard transitioning more into a general floor? How good will Nembhard be away from the ball when his teammates are creating? Will the best looks come from his hands?

Shereef Mitchell

Should we expect anything more than what he’s already offered in past seasons?

If all else fails, Creighton knows it can expect one thing from Mitchell: defense.

The hard-nosed junior guard’s intensity and knack for digging into players will prove vital for a team that’s been vocal about establishing itself as a defense.

It’s been more than enough to earn Mitchell minutes in past years. He stands to further build upon the 16.5 minutes he averaged before going down last season. While he’ll be surrounded by several players who can get their own shot at any time, it’d be an interesting wrinkle for CU’s offense to see him improve his scoring.

Mitchell shot 36.4% on 1.1 attempts from deep in his sophomore season. Will we see him shoot similarly at a higher volume this year?

Mason Miller

How soon can he establish his role?

Life is good for Miller. Among all the talk of on-ball creation, Miller won’t have to do a ton of that.

Spot-up. Play above the rim. Rebound. Repeat.

It’s a simple cycle for Miller, who Baylor Scheierman called a top-three shooter on the team earlier this week. If anyone should be looking to be a good off-ball player, it’s Miller. He’ll have the pieces around him to feed him his sneakers.

He just has to live up to Scheierman’s praise and put himself in the right spots at the right time.

John Christofilis

What can he show from this point on in order to crack the rotation?

Christofilis is in a tough spot. Creighton’s backcourt depth is loaded to the point where he’s found himself fighting for one of the reserve spots.

The additions of Francisco Farabello and Ben Shtolzberg didn’t make things any easier.

He’s been mentioned among CU’s best shooters. But it seems Creighton might not need another shooter at this rather.

His name has been mentioned a couple times over the summer, so seeing some time down the stretch isn’t impossible. But he feels like he’d have to add a dimension to his game that would make it difficult to keep him off the floor.


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