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Basketball Preview 2006
10 November 2006
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Illustration by Chelsey Brown
After an injury-plagued year that ended with a heartbreaking NIT loss, the men’s team appears poised for a trip to the NCAA tournament — if its preseason hype is any indication. Turn to pages 4 and 5 for coverage.
After an 8-21 season and a last-place finish in the Missouri Valley Conference, a young women’s team has an opportunity for redemption. Turn to pages 6 and 7 for coverage.
Creightonian 2006 Creighton Basketball Preview - Cover Illustration by Chelsey Brown
THE CREIGHTONIAN 10 November 2006
Players in Focus
Photo by Colin Conces
Senior guard Nate Funk focuses on defending Shantay Legans during the Jays’ exhibition win over the EA Sports All-Stars. Funk missed most of last season with an injury.
Wounded Jays set to fly again Funk, Dotzler and Morrison work to overcome injury, illness.
By PAT DONOHUE Assistant Sports Editor November 30, 2005, and January 24, 2006, are two dates that Creighton basketball fans would like to erase from their memories. Those dates marked two of the most pivotal injuries for Creighton’s 2005-2006 season: Nate Funk and Josh Dotzler. Funk, a senior from Sioux City, Iowa, returns to Creighton for a fifth year. He gained another year of eligibility by taking a medical redshirt after he tore his labrum in the late November game against DePaul. The impact of his shoulder injury, only four games into the season, was huge. Prior to the injury, Funk was leading the team in scoring, averaging just over 19 points a game. After off-season surgery, Funk returns to the team with high expectations. Coach Dana Altman has assembled one of his best recruiting classes to date, and Funk will be looked to as a leader for such a talented and youthful squad. Although he is returning from injury, many recognize just how dynamic Funk’s play can be. Over the past few weeks, Funk has been named the Missouri Valley Conference’s preseason Player of the Year and an AP AllAmerican honorable mention. Last week, Funk put his injured shoulder to the test in a preseason contest against EA Sports. He played 40 minutes, netting 15 points, grabbing four rebounds and dishing out five assists.
Though the early numbers are solid, Funk said he knows that plenty of room remains for growth throughout the season. “I’m pretty critical of myself,” he said following the Jays’ 80-76 victory over EA Sports. “I’m going to look at the film and see what are the things I can do to take away from this game. “Personally, I haven’t played college basketball in a long time, so it’s good to play in front of those people again and get used to what it’s like playing for this kind of crowd.” Dotzler’s impact on the team was equal to that of Funk’s. The highly touted recruit from Bellevue West won the starting point guard spot only four games into the season. With the absence of Funk, Dotzler’s role increased significantly. As a true freshman, he was second on the team in minutes, averaging 32.7 per game. He was starting to emerge as a key leader for the Jays, but all that changed in a January home game against Southern Illinois. Dotzler banged his knee against the Qwest Center floor and had no idea how severe the injury would turn out to be. “I fell on it in the first half, and we went back [to the locker room] and the doctors checked it out, and they thought it was stable enough,” Dotzler said. “I got an MRI after that, and I found out that I had partially torn my PCL.” That ultimately ended Dotzler’s season. He said he attempted to get himself ready for
postseason play, but it just couldn’t happen. As it turned out, the Jays just missed the NCAA Tournament and lost to Miami in the National Invitational Tournament. Despite missing so much time, Dotzler said he did take something positive away from the injury. “I’ve been able to watch a few things,” Dotzler said. “I’ve been able to get a better understanding for things that go on on the court. I’ve also been able to be around the coaches a lot more during practices. “Off the court, it was a humbling experience. You realize how lucky you are to be able to play. I realize how blessed I am too, just to be able to have the opportunity to come back and play.” Another Creighton basketball player was missing in action before he even played a game. Ty Morrison, a highly touted junior college transfer from Redlands Community College in El Reno, Okla., has been slowed all preseason by Graves’ Disease, a rare thyroid condition. One of the effects of the disease is fatigue, and as the Jays prepare for the long season, Morrison needs to build as much stamina as possible. Morrison said the hardest part for him was that he really had no idea of the seriousness of the disease. “I started getting the symptoms towards the end of my junior college season,” Morrison said. “I was always cramping up, no energy,
and I just couldn’t sleep at all. “When I came [to Creighton] this summer, the symptoms just got worse. It got to the point where I would get out of bed and would just want to go to sleep. When I would get on the basketball court, I couldn’t dunk the ball, and I was dunking in the eighth grade.” The disease caused Morrison to lose roughly 40 pounds from his 220-pound frame. However, luckily for Creighton players and fans — and Morrison too — he seems to be back on track in terms of health and conditioning. That news should be music to Creighton fans’ ears, considering that just weeks ago it was reported that Morrison was considering a redshirt for the 2006-2007 season. “The possible redshirt came out of my mouth,” Morrison said. “I was real frustrated with myself. I wasn’t giving my teammates and coaches all I had in practice. “I’ve talked to all my coaches. I apologized to all them and my teammates for saying that.” Just last week, against EA Sports, Morrison contributed nicely, playing six minutes and adding two points and two rebounds. Strong stats for someone who felt it was a moral victory to get out of bed without wanting to go right back to sleep just a few weeks ago. “It felt great before the game even started, just walking into the locker room,” Morrison said. “It was a long road for me to get here — to Division I — and I just want to thank God that I’m here now.”
Diminutive point guard produces big results ■
Jays will look to Thrall for leadership this season.
By KEVIN KLAMAN Sports Reporter At 5-foot-6 inches, Ally Thrall doesn’t tower over the basketball court. Her size may not be intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be — she lets her skills on the floor do all of the talking. This year, she will step into a new role as the sole returning starter on a team with only two upperclassmen — neither of whom are seniors. A young team will look to her as an experienced leader. “She’s got approach,” Flanery said.
Worst women’s MVC road teams over the last four years
“Approach includes work ethic, but it also includes motivating the people around you, being an example. It’s how you conduct yourself. Ally has work ethic and personality.” Thrall inherits a team that went 8-21 last year, snapping a streak of four straight postseason appearances. But she doesn’t dwell on that bad memory. “We don’t want to think about it,” Thrall said. “We have to learn from it and use it as motivation.” She said she actually sees potential from the disappointment. “There’s no target on our backs. We’re not that team to beat. Hopefully we’ll be that team that sneaks up on everyone.” As the team prepares for a season that it hopes better reflects the Creighton women’s basketball tradition, Thrall is well on her way to becoming the leader
that the team needs. Just as her playing ability continues to grow, so do her leadership skills. “I’ve learned that it’s important to be vocal,” Thrall said. “A leader has to be that encouraging voice.” However, she said she is also learning that being a leader is not all fun and games. “Sometimes you have to say the things that someone might not want to hear. That’s something outside of my box, but I’m learning.” Her strengths are rubbing off on her teammates as she maintains the positive attitude necessary for success in a long, grueling season. Her drive continues to motivate everyone around her. “Everyone’s really excited to get this season going,” she said. “We just need to carry that excitement onto the floor.”
1. Southern Illinois MVC road record: 5 - 40 Overall road record: 11 - 62
Photo by Colin Conces
Junior point guard Ally Thrall brings the ball up during the Jays’ 83-74 exhibition win over South Dakota Sunday.
2. Wichita State MVC road record: 11 - 34 Overall road record: 17 - 52
3. Illinois St. MVC road record: 13 - 32 Overall road record: 24 - 49
Creightonian 2006 Creighton Basketball Preview - Inside Page
1 December 2006
Basketball Brains Almost as a general leading his men into battle, Altman’s game plans and in-game changes help his teams overcome any potential shortcomings. “I think one thing that he possesses more than anything is he’s almost like a tactitionist. He can break down things, pinpoint things that maybe as a player you wouldn’t see, and it’s kind of like — oh, ok,” Jimmy Motz said.
What makes coach Dana Altman the Dean of the Missouri Valley Conference?
Blue Collar Even though his typical courtside attire is a white collared shirt, Altman is true blue collar. “I just think that it’s a real blue collar work environment here — it’s a lot of hard work, and you don’t get anything easy. They don’t give you anything,” junior Dane Watts said. “You’ve got to work for everything you get. So I just think that develops a hard work ethic. And players are able to make themselves better players if they have a good work ethic.”
Hard-Nosed Altman makes the style of play that he prefers perfectly clear to his players. Jimmy Motz recalled the sort of pre-game objectives Altman typically established. “We’ve got to play harder than teams. We’ve got to be the aggressor. We’ve got to dive on loose balls and take charges,” Motz said.
Elbow Grease Especially in a year with high expectations it’s the hard work that drives Altman. “I think he’s working us as hard or harder than any year I’ve been here — probably a little bit harder because he doesn’t want to make the mistake of letting us off the hook ... he just doesn’t want to have this year go to waste just because of him, he couldn’t handle that,” said senior Anthony Tolliver.
Altman was good enough to play college basketball but is quick to point out the flaws in his game. “I was an awful player,” Altman said. “But I just really loved to play.” According to his dad, Dana wasn’t the top choice for a basketball future in the Altman family. “Dirk [Dana’s brother] was always a little better of an athlete than Dana was,” Lyle said.
A regular among the crowd of candidates to fill high-profile coaching jobs whenever they open, Altman said he’s not in any hurry to leave Creighton. “I know how fortunate I am,” Altman said of his situation here. “I’ve got a great job. I work for great people. We’re at a great school, and we’re in a wonderful community.” But having said all that, Altman paused. “But you never say never.”
Graphics by Teddy Ogilvie and Chelsey Brown Photo by Courtney Wittmann
Dana Altman by the Numbers 13,901 2,792 241 9 8 2 24
Average home attendance for Creighton in 2005-06. Average home attendance for Creighton in 1993-94, the year before Altman arrived. Wins at Creighton, compared with 131 losses, good for a .647 winning percentage. Consecutive postseason appearances (6 NCAA, 3 NIT). Consecutive 20-win seasons. MVC Coach of the Year awards (2001 and ‘02). Wins for Creighton in three seasons prior to Altman’s arrival. He has twice eclipsed 24 wins in a single year.
Creightonian 2006 Dana Altman feature
26 January 2007
Photo by Courtney Wittmann
en v O n ndia ard St.
Patrons enjoy their meals at the Indian Oven, located downtown in the Old Market.
56 How 2-48 0 1 10 2) 34 (40 Driving down the streets of the Old Market, it’s easy to overlook some of the historic restaurants that are tucked away in old brick buildings. Right next to the Old Market Passageway is the Indian Oven, which prides itself on its northern Indian cuisine. The most important part of Indian cooking is the tandoor oven. This large clay oven is used in slowroasting meat and baking the traditional bread, which is called naan. Indian Oven has been open for 22 years and over time it has developed its own style for traditional recipes. For someone who has never tried Indian food before, the waiters will help pick something enjoyable. Diners who want to taste a little bit of everything should try the Thali. Although Indian Oven is a little on the expensive side, it’s perfect for an enjoyable evening out.
Diversity at your doorstep From the Desk of...
Mac and cheese, soup from a can and cereal are staples of any college student’s diet. They’re fast, semi-nutritious and, of course, easy. But there is a world of culinary delights beyond these basics. The Classy Gourmet offers hands-on cooking classes. The classrooms are well-lit and furnished with long stainless steel tables. Chefs teach basic classes such as “Culinary Boot Camp,” which teaches techniques such as sautéing, knife work and grilling. On Feb. 1, the school will offer a sushi and Asian favorites class. For $30, class members can learn to make sushi rice and roll sushi, grill fish and make an Asian barbecue sauce. The wine sampling class, offered on Saturdays, teaches how to pair wines with specific entrées. For information on classes, visit: www.theclassygourmet.com.
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The Classy Gourmet 721 N. 98th St. (402) 955-2665
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Photo by Miguel Cedillo
The kitchen classroom of The Classy Gourmet.
El Museo Latino
423 S. 11th St (402) 342-8878
Thai Spice 2933 N. 108
4701 S. 25th St. (402) 731-1137
th St. (402) 492-8808 555 N. 155th St. (402) 493-9944
About nine percent of the Omaha population is Hispanic, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. El Museo Latino focuses on the achievements and the successes of local Latinos, featuring different success stories, as well as many different artifacts that represent the Latino culture. The museum concentrates on 24 individuals who have persevered through struggles such as coming to America. The interviews and biographies exhibited show why Omaha became their home and gives insight into the social, political and economic standings of the Latino community in Omaha during the 20th century. For more information visit www. elmuseolatino.org.
Looking for a change from typical fast food chinese? Thai Spice offers authentic Thai food from popular pad thai, coconut chicken soup and curry. Menus offer ingredients in each dish and helpful pictures to make it easier to order for those unfamiliar with the cuisine. It is aptly named Thai Spice because the waiter will ask how hot to make the dish on a scale of one to 10. The portions are tasty, plentiful and affordable. A nice compliment to your meal is earthy Thai tea. Pick up lunch from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday, and dinner 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
The back portion of the Red Square store, known for its unique Eastern European knickknacks.
Creightonian 2007 Diversity at your doorstep
Photo by Armand Koentjoro