Josh Jones, a shooter without a conscience and a source of instant offense off the bench for the Bluejays, is out indefinitely. Jones was averaging 7 points and 2.4 rebounds in 19.6 minutes per game off the bench, and was also one of the many threats from downtown on the Jays' roster.
The highlight of Jones' season came in the Jays come-from-behind win against UAB, when Jones rattled off a 10-0 run by himself to get the Jays back into the game. Jones was also a solid defender and one of the guys head coach Greg McDermott turned to when he needed someone to slow down the opposition's best perimeter scorer. Creighton is going to be without all that for the foreseeable future.
As much as this hurts, it is not a crippling blow the Jays' MVC and NCAA tournament goals. If there is one thing Creighton has, it's depth (and shooters; they have lots and lots of shooters).
"I think Josh put it best in practice the other day," McDermott said. "He's been taken out of the equation, and nobody knows the reason for sure, but that creates an opportunity for someone else, and other guys have to step up and I'm confident that they will."
Junior Jahenns Manigat, sophomore Avery Dingman and redshirt freshman Nevin Johnson will all be asked to fill the void left by Jones, and all three should be up to the task.
Manigat starts at the two, but he saw almost an even split in playing time with Jones. He will not only be asked to play more minutes, but he will have to increase his production as well. Manigat - dubbed by former Bluejay guard and current color commentator Nick Bahe as the Canadian Red Bull - led the MVC in 3-point shooting in conference play last year, but has gotten off to a slow start after suffering a thigh contusion shortly before the season began.
He is only averaging four points per game on 27.6 percent shooting from deep, but his minutes are up from 21.6 to 28.5 per game in the last two contests without Jones, and if he is going to continue to see that many minutes he needs to rediscover his stroke and start knocking down some shots.
Dingman should also see an increased role. The 6-foot-6 Dingman was primarily Grant Gibbs' backup at the three, but McDermott has also used them together, which is something we should be prepared to see more of. Dingman is a knock-down 3-point shooter (46.2 percent this year) but is also an excellent athlete and is showing that a this year by attacking the basket more.
McDermott called Dingman one of the most improved players on the team before the season started and pointed specifically to his strides on defense, going so far as to call Dingman the Jays' best wing defender. Dingman is only averaging 13 minutes per game on the season, but he played 22 minutes in the matchup against Akron last weekend; expect that to continue.
The last player who may get a shot is Johnson, who joined the program last year but sat out while working on his body and game. Johnson has good size at 6-foot-5 and is in the running for best athlete on the team. His season got off to a rough start as he sustained a high-ankle sprain before the season began and had to sit out the first couple games while recovering.
Since then, it has been hard for Johnson to crack the rotation with Manigat, Gibbs, Jones and Dingman already having established their roles. He has only played 14 minutes all year, but he's a perfect 3-3 from the field in those minutes. If Johnson is able to earn his way into the rotation, he'll be able to give the Jays a boost in athleticism and might even be able to replace Jones' mid-range game, something neither Manigat nor Dingman have shown.
Josh Jones will continue to be present on the sidelines and on the bench, and will serve as an emotional leader and cheerleader for the team. But Manigat, Dingman and Johnson are going to have to pick it up on the court in his absence.