Summer hoops in the MVC

Indiana State guard Jake Odum

MVC men’s basketball coaches participated in a conference call on Wednesday to give fans a taste before the long summer. For some, the summer isn’t so long. Everybody is practicing. Several schools will take exhibition trips later this summer. Some highlights:

  • Bradley coach Geno Ford knows he has a lot of work to do to restore one of the Valley’s top programs. The Braves struggled last season and Ford knows his second season won’t be much easier. He talked about two priorities – improving his team’s shooting and its toughness. “I don’t know if we were the softest team in the league, but we weren’t the toughest,” he said. “We’re doing a lot of competitive stuff and trying to get guys used to winning again. We don’t really have guys in our locker room that have experienced winning. We need to hate losing a little bit more than we maybe have.”
  • The return of senior center Will Egolf will help Bradley. Egolf missed last season with a knee injury and received a sixth season of eligibility. “He certainly seems to have his explosiveness back,” Ford said. “The thing that he is lacking is that timing. When you sit out 12 months. . .that is going to take some time to come back.” Egolf, who missed a season earlier with  an injury to the same knee, is playing in all workouts, but skipping some pickup games.
  • Creighton forward Doug McDermott is trying to round out an already excellent offensive game. He will work on his ball-handling skills to he drive more and score more when facing the basket.
  • Coaches are allowed to text, call, friend recruits without limits today. Bluejays coach Greg McDermott, who has seen the recruiting biz from both sides, offers his perspective. “It can be a disruptive process if you allow it to become that,” he said. “Some will be intrigued by the fact coaches can call them every day and text them every day and they’re going to be into that.  There will be others that would prefer to have the recruitment take place on their schedule and in a way they feel isn’t disruptive to what they’re trying to do this summer.”
  • The big question at Creighton will be point guard, a spot vacated by three-year starter Antoine Young. Sophomore Austin Chatman gets the first shot. Greg McDermott also said forward Grant Gibbs, one of the MVC’s best passers, will help run the offense, as he did last season. Incoming freshmen Andre Yates and Isaiah Zierden are also options.
  • Drake suffered one of the biggest off-season blows when guard Rayvonte Rice transferred to Illinois. Coach Mark Phelps hopes Chris Hines, a transfer from Utah, can replace some of Rice’s scoring in his one season with the Bulldogs. “He brings a toughness,” Phelps said. “He helps us at the two-guard spot, being able to score. He’s going to be terrific for our locker room. He’s a terrific defender. He really enjoys defending, especially on the ball.” Hines averaged 9.6 points as a junior at Utah, but did not shoot well – 33 percent overall and 33.7 percent from three-point range.
  • Drake center Seth VanDeest is working out as he recovers from right shoulder surgery that cost him last season. He also had surgery on his left shoulder eight weeks ago. “His right shoulder is 100 percent,” Phelps said. “And the left one is on its way. He is looking really good. We do know he is going to be a bigger, stronger young man than he was two years ago.”
  • Evansville coach Marty Simmons desperately needs size. He would like to play sophomore Ryan Sawvell at the power forward spot, instead of center. Evansville has one scholarship and Simmons is confident he can find a big man. If Sawvell can play more at the “four,” Simmons believes he can be a mismatch with his shooting ability.
  • Illinois State needs a point guard after Nic Moore, one of the MVC’s top freshmen, left the team. New coach Dan Muller hopes he found a gem in the summer with Canadian Kaza Keane. Keane is playing with Canada’s under-18 national team this summer. “Kaza is a point guard with size,” Muller said. “He’s a different player than Nic. I do think he is very capable of coming in and playing right away. He is a really skilled, gifted passer.”
  • Indiana State guard Jake Odum struggled with a stress fracture and plantar fasciitis last season. Coach Greg Lansing gave him four weeks off after the season and the break helped. “He looks like the old Jake,” Lansing said. “He’s got his springs back. He’s got his quickness back. He can actually keep someone in front of him when’s he guarding somebody.”
  • Southern Illinois‘ new staff faces a big job reviving the Salukis. “The thing we’ve really been talking to our guys about is the culture change,” assistant coach Anthony Beane said. “We’re really just trying to build that foundation and get these guys to understand they’re our guys, even though we didn’t recruit any of them. They are our guys now, and there are certain ways Coach (Barry) Hinson and his staff like to do things.”
  • Northern Iowa center Seth Tuttle played well as a freshman and coach Ben Jacobson knows what needs to happen for Tuttle to take another step. “He’s got to get stronger,” Jacobson said. “Sometimes a guy’s body isn’t ready to keep weight on. If he doesn’t see the results from the gain-in-weight-standpoint, he’s got to be more concerned about getting stronger. We’re working with him on shooting the basketball and continuing to be able to drive the basketball.”
  • Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall said the Shockers are close to finishing their non-conference schedule. “We’ve got one contract we’re waiting on,” he said. “If we get it, we’ll be done. Maybe, these other coaches, doing their homework, realize we’ve lost nine scholarship seniors in the last two years, so it’s probably a good time to be playing the Shockers.”