For some college sports, bringing in one talented, program-changing recruit can translate to newfound television ratings and a full trophy case.
Take basketball for example. In 2003, freshman Carmelo Anthony took Syracuse to its first Elite Eight in seven years. While they were there, Anthony carried the team all the way to the national championship game … where the Orangemen won. Anthony took home the MOP (most outstanding player) for the entire Big Dance that year. Joining Anthony in New Orleans for that Final Four was his future Olympic teammate Dwayne Wade, who played just two full seasons at Marquette but still took the Golden Eagles to their highest season-ending ranking since the late 70s (when they won a national championship).
These two superstars are obviously exceptions to the rule, but their efforts while in college were herculean, their impact on their programs incalculable.
Creighton seems to have welcomed a similar blue chip performer to campus recently. Except in the Bluejays’ case, their newcomer has a chance to change the landscape of the entire athletic department, not just one team like Carmelo and D-Wade.
Meet Zach Duval. The name might sound familiar; he’s received almost as many media mentions in the local newspaper in the past week as the King of Pop. But if you don’t know him now, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll be singing his praises as the fall sports season rolls around on the Hilltop.
Duval is the Director of Athletic Performance and the Head Strength and Conditioning Coach at Creighton. So far, he’s got one of the best college soccer teams in the nation continuing their spring training program into the offseason, one of that team’s most highly touted recruits is already excited to work with him, and the entire men’s basketball team – from head coach to players – is singing his praise.
If he is successful in his role at CU, Duval is the type of teacher and expert that can make every athlete on campus stronger, faster, healthier, and better prepared for the wear and tear of their respective seasons. I mean, he learned from the master himself (Boyd Epley, while at Nebraska).
Whether his efforts and relationships with the student-athletes translates to more rebounds at the Qwest Center or stronger midfield play at Morrison Stadium remains to be seen. But by all early accounts, each of the athletic department’s teams found themselves a difference-maker, without having to give up a scholarship.