We continue our brief profiles of each member of the 2010-11 Creighton men’s basketball team. Join us each weekday from now until the men’s exhibition game against Northern State for an introduction to this year’s Bluejays, from freshmen to seniors.
Sometimes, it’s the most unfamiliar situations in which one learns the most. Just ask Wayne Runnels, Creighton’s 6-6 senior who played almost all of last season as a backup center to Kenny Lawson.
“In basketball, you’ve got be comfortable on the court,” said Runnels. “I feel like at times last year, I wasn’t comfortable playing out of position.
“It definitely helped me, though, especially from a defensive standpoint. It made me tougher, night in and night out going against those guys, and especially in practice battling against Kenny. It definitely made me tougher.”
Runnels, who played wing in junior college, averaged 4.4 points and 3.3 rebounds per game as a junior, his first year as a Bluejay. And now, after not only adopting a new position, but also learning a different system than the one he’d been used to at Northern Oklahoma College, he’ll have to start over once again.
New Jays coach Greg McDermott is now head of the Hilltop, and he’s got his own ideas, techniques and methods. And one of those ideas might be letting Runnels go back to his roots. With big man transfer Gregory Echenique eligible on Dec. 17, Runnels could see a lot of time on the wing during Missouri Valley Conference play. Another year for Runnels, another host of changes.
But Runnels, like many of his teammates, is embracing the new way of doing things and, especially, the new approachability of his new coach.
“My relationship with coach Altman wasn’t the best,” said Runnels. “I think if I had point out one difference [between Altman and McDermott], it’s probably the way (McDermott) talks to us, the way he approaches us. He’s more approachable. You can’t take anything away from Altman – he was a great coach – but I think our relationships are closer.”
And that’s something that has trickled all the way down the ladder.
“I think our team chemistry is by far the greatest it has been,” continued Runnels. “Recently, we were out to eat, and we noticed that it’s the most diverse that it’s ever been. At times last year, there was a group here and a group there. Honestly, our team chemistry is through the roof.”
Those relationships could be a big step if the Jays are to rebound from their first less-than-twenty-win season. Another possible factor: the program’s improved (again) offseason strength and conditioning program.
“It was a big difference,” said Runnels. “Last summer, it was more of a football workout I think. This year, it was way more upper-body, core strength – drills that help on the basketball court. Our explosion is better; guys are guarding better; we’ve got quicker feet.”
Like any team coming off a disappointing season, Runnels and the Jays are using their shortcomings as motivation.
“It’s very motivating,” he said. “We’ve got a new system, new guys, basically a whole new style. Everyone just wants to get it going back in the direction that we know it should be.”