Pieces Coming Together For Pioneer Hoops

With the final touches completed on the Pioneer roster thanks to the addition of incoming freshman Ade Murkey out of Minnesota, it’s time to take a look at how the 2016-2017 squad might look when they hit the floor next season.

If DU runs a 2-guard lineup, there will be a three-way battle between Thomas Neff (6’5″), Jake Pemberton (6’3″), and Joe Rosga (6’3″). Rosga will be a starter so it will be a coach’s call between Pemberton and Thomas Neff for the second starting spot. Based on experience and defense, the best guess would be Pemberton. However, if Billups decides to go small, all three will be in the starting lineup with sophomore Jake Holtzman and freshman Luke Neff (6’0″) coming off the bench.

In the game substitution rotation, expect Holtzman to cover for Jake Pemberton and Thomas Neff and Luke Neff to spell Rosga in relief. Luke Neff has some of the same characteristics of recently graduated Nate Engesser with a smooth outside shot. He can also drive and dish, too, so he can add some flexibility off the bench.

The real battle for playing time is going to be at forward. The athletic C.J. Bobbitt (6’7″) will likely start at either the forward position or,  if they go small – at center. Jake Krafka (6’6″) and Murkey (6’5″) will battle for the other forward slot or they will both play if the team goes small. Murkey is a slashing forward while Krafka is a bit less athletic with a more polished perimeter game, reminiscent of Marcus Byrd. Duke Douglas (6’4″) will be the undersized high-energy forward off the bench to fill-in at forward and provide a spark and rebounding.

The wild card is Abiola Akintola (6’6″) who missed his freshman year with a knee injury. He could be a combo player at forward and center but he is likely best-suited for the crowded forward position. It’s hard to place Akintola until he starts to receive playing time.

Expect one new starter on the floor this next season – either Krafka or Murkey. They need to have one or both step up to fill the shoes of the graduated Marcus Byrd.

If DU goes big, the battle for playing time is between the vastly improved wide-body Christian Mackey (6’6″) and DU’s tallest player, Daniel Amigo (6’10”). Whoever earns the nod from head coach Rodney Billups and his staff will have to prove themselves on the defensive end. Ultimately, conditioning and the ability to play fast, defending the opposing bigs, and rebounding win games. At this point, the advantage goes to Mackey. Still, the new coaching regime may give Daniel Amigo more playing time as he gets more comfortable with the new system.

Coaches are looking at different combinations during the condensed spring practices. According to off-season NCAA guidelines, the new staff currently has up to 8 hours per week of strength and conditioning activities and individualized skill instruction but no more than 2 hours of the permissible 8 can consist of individualized skill instruction.

On other hoops news, we will provide an update on the basketball team’s non-conference schedule as soon as it is formally announced. Unconfirmed rumors are hinting that the Pios have some high-profile programs on their schedule, including one that very recently went to the Final Four.