Change is the name of the game in college basketball these days especially at the mid major level. So let’s dive in to our first look at some of the newcomers and what they might bring to the table this season in the Summit League. Will share the losses for each team (graduating players not included in the losses) and then the additions. This first look will take place one team at a time.
G Tevin Smith to Cleveland State
G Justin Mullins to Northwestern
G James Sanders to Multnomah University
F Javonni Bickham
G Korey Hess
Smith and Mullins are big and one would assume unexpected losses. Mullins had a good freshman year but as with most freshman was up and down. No doubt the Big 10 potential that Northwestern saw comes from his size (6’6) and high major athleticism. Smith had a down year last season that could mostly be attributed to an early season knee injury that he never seemed to completely regain his explosiveness shown in his freshman year. Bickham, Sanders and Hess didn’t seem likely to receive major minutes coming into this season. Smith and Mullins were two pieces that Denver was hoping to count on as big contributors this season and their production will be tough to replace.
G R-Fr Devin Carney 6’1 Duquesne
G FR De’Andre Craig 6’0 Chicago Illinois
G FR Keean Lloyd 6’4 Aurora Colorado
G SO Josh Lee 6’3 Josh Lee Itawamba CC
G SO Tyson Garff 6’6 Salt Lake CC
G GR Jaxon Brenchley 6’5 Utah
F SO Isaiah Carr 7’0 Grand Canyon
G SR Isaiah Addo-Ankrah 6’7 UTSA
Freshmen Carney and Craig will likely compete for backup lead guard minutes behind Tommy Bruner. This is a critical role, as we saw last year, in spite of great production from Bruner he seemed to run out of gas at the end of the season. A big part of this was there really was no other guards who could consistently run the show for Denver. While I have no great insight into who has the inside track on those minutes the betting money would be on Carney as he spent a season at Duquesne as a redshirt last year. Craig joins the team after choosing Denver over Illinois State and Radford. Denver’s coaching staff gave a lot of minutes to true freshmen in Smith and Mullens in back to back seasons so not out of the question to see something similar for Craig.
Grad transfer Jaxon Brenchley is an intriguing Summit League prospect. His playing time was limited at Utah, especially after his freshmen season, but at 6’5 he replaces some of the wing size lost in the offseason. In his freshmen season he started 7 games at Utah averaging 4 points per game and 36% from 3. Two guards coming from the JUCO ranks will likely be competing with Brenchley. Garff has the size at 6’6 that Denver has liked in their wings in the past and Lee put up all region numbers in his one year at the JUCO ranks. it will be fun to watch the competition for minutes play out. Yet the incoming guard that may get the most minutes of all, may be Addo-Ankrah. Last season in conference USA he started 10 games, averaged 7pts and 3 rebounds and shot 34% from 3. The year before he shot 43% from behind the arc.
Although they brought in 3 guards 6’5 or taller, the lone big man newcomer is Carr. Carr a transfer from Grand Canyon, he brings in size vacated by the graduation of Lukas Kisunas. Adds the latest 7 footer to the Denver lineup. At Grand Canyon he did start 6 games but only played in 9 and averaged 8 minutes a game. He joins Denver as a wait and see prospect.
Todd’s first thought
After high expectations, Denver fell flat last year. This was especially true in conference play. Year 3 for Jeff Wulbrun is a critical one as the program had some of the most excitement surrounding it going into last year. Denver finished a disappointing 6-12 and 8th place in the league. Many had them picked top half of the league coming in. With several graduations and the stinging losses of Smith and Mullens, one could logically think Denver is destined to finish as low as last year. Count me as one person who doesn’t think it is that simple. Much like Western Illinois two years ago, something seemed off with the on court culture in Denver once the losing started to happen. It’s the tricky part of adding several new additions. Sometimes it gels, sometimes it doesn’t. Now this year there are even more new additions for Denver. However, I am encouraged by the focus on versatile wings and a couple of potential options to be able to run the show along with Bruner. That combined with similar issues on other Summit League teams, Denver might surprise a few people. Although a lot of that will come down to whether Denver defends better than last year.