Now in his third season as head coach at his alma mater, Valparaiso’s Bryce Drew has led the Crusaders to 55 wins and two consecutive Horizon League regular season titles. The next step for Valparaiso would be to win the conference’s tournament title and thereby earn an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. Valparaiso was picked to finish sixth in the preseason poll, and a group led by guard LaVonte Dority and forward Alec Peters will look to exceed those expectations.
Thus far it’s clear that they’ve got a coach capable of leading them in that quest, and on Wednesday the school announced its commitment to Drew in the form of a 10-year contract extension.
“Bryce Drew has shown himself to be one of the exceptional young coaches in college basketball,” Valparaiso AD Mark LaBarbera said in the release. “His outstanding record clearly shows his ability to recruit and lead talented student-athletes. We are grateful for Coach Drew’s dedication to Valparaiso University and excited that he will continue in a leadership role here for the foreseeable future.”
Valparaiso’s off to a 7-5 start and they’ve won three of their last four games, with the lone defeat being a two-point loss to Saint Louis as time expired on December 7. Green Bay, which beat Virginia last month, and Youngstown State are off to good starts as is Milwaukee, which was picked to finish last in the preseason coaches poll. Add in preseason favorite Wright State and a solid Cleveland State squad, and the Horizon League race will be a competitive one.
Much may not have been expected of Valparaiso, especially when considering the loss of Ryan Broekhoff, but with Drew at the helm the Crusaders are more than capable of factoring into the race.
Sunday evening Creighton got on the board in the Class of 2016, as 6-foor-4 combo guard Davion Mintz made his pledge to Greg McDermott’s program. Mintz made the decision on the tail end of his official visit to Creighton, picking the Bluejays over Georgia Tech, Kansas State, Tulsa and Wichita State.
News of Mintz’s commitment was first reported by Rick Lewis of the Phenom Hoop Report, with Mintz confirming the news via Twitter shortly thereafter.
Creighton has just two seniors on its current roster in guard Jams Milliken and forward Geoffrey Groselle, but that doesn’t mean they lack for experience. Among the guards on the roster who will be around when Mintz arrives on campus are redshirt juniors Maurice Watson Jr., Malik Albert, and Isaiah Zierden, and Kansas State transfer Marcus Foster will be eligible in 2016-17.
Mintz, who attends North Mecklenberg HS just outside of Charlotte, can play either on or off the basketball. Creighton’s veteran guards should help Mintz with his transition to the college game when he arrives in Omaha in 2016. Mintz played for the Charlotte Nets grassroots program this summer.
Three days after landing one power forward in Sagaba Konate, West Virginia received a verbal commitment from another big man Sunday evening.
6-foot-11 Mountain Mission School (Gurndy, Virginia) power forward Maciej Bender became the Mountaineers’ fourth commitment in the Class of 2016 on Sunday, with the Mountain Mission program announcing the news via Twitter. Bender is a native of Poland, and in addition to Konate he joins guards Brandon Knapper and Chase Harler in West Virginia’s 2016 recruiting class.
West Virginia will lose two forwards in TyQuane Goard and Jonathan Holton at the end of the 2015-16 season, and the additions of Konate and Bender will help the Mountaineers account for those departures from a depth standpoint. Bender can score around the basket, but he’s also capable of facing up and scoring in pick-and-pop situations out beyond the three-point line.
Bender officially visited West Virginia last weekend, and he was a player the WVU coaching staff wanted to get in the fold. Other programs to offer Bender included Arizona State (teammate Jethro Tshisumpa is an ASU commit), Georgia, Georgia Tech, Ole Miss and Providence. Bender played his grassroots basketball for the West Virginia Wildcats program this summer.