Denver Men’s Hoops’ departures mirror other Summit League foes

Photo: Denver Athletics. Elvin Rodriguez announced his intention to transfer out of the Denver basketball program.

As some of you may know, Denver basketball recently lost three players who have decided to leave the hoops program early – sophomores’ Donoven Carlisle and Elvin Rodriquez along with red-shirt senior Jake Krafka. All three players are transferring to other programs. Add the graduation of Ronnie Harrell, Jr. and Joe Rosga and DU is left with no juniors and only one senior on the roster – Ade Murkey.

In total, when looking at DU’s top five scorers from this past season, Denver is left with 19.4 points per game (Murkey 11.3 ppg. & David Nzekwesi 8.1 ppg.) of 52.5 points from last season’s ‘top five’ team scorers.

The balance of DU’s roster next season will include this season’s five freshmen who will begin their sophomore season along with incoming freshmen or transfers. Denver is even considering qualified JUCO transfers to add experience.

Denver has booked commitments from incoming freshmen Owen McGlashan, Robert Jones, and Jaire Eastmond. And, Minneapolis power forward Jovonni Bickham, recovering from knee surgery which delayed his start at Denver, appears to be joining the Pioneers as well.

Other Summit League teams are facing similar scoring losses with league regular season champion South Dakota State returning only 6.2 points per game from their top five scorers with the graduation of Mike Daum (25.3 ppg.) and the transfer of David Jenkins (19.7 ppg.) accounting for most of the loss. IUPUI joins the Jackrabbits by returning only one of their top five scorers, Jaylen Minnett (12.0 ppg.) while losing their top scorer, Cameron Justice (18.6 ppg.), who is seeking a transfer.

Maybe it is the ‘Mooney effect’ – South Dakota’s Matt Mooney left South Dakota for Texas Tech and made a magical run to the national championship game this past season? Or perhaps, student-athletes are just seeking a better fit or a change of scenery.

Western Illinois Isaac Johnson (11.1 ppg.) and North Dakota State’s Deng Geu (9.6 ppg.) have joined the exodus with over 700 players nationwide entering the transfer portal. Based on graduations and transfers, only 24 of the 45 top-five Summit League scorers from last season will be playing in the conference next season. South Dakota’s leading scorer Stanley Umude (14.4 ppg.) entered the transfer portal as well, receiving offers from Arizona and California, but decided yesterday to stay with the Yotes after consulting with his coaches, teammates and even God.

And the ‘winners’ in the Summit league with the most returning offensive firepower?

North Dakota State is returning four of their top five scorers or 67.1 ppg. out of last season’s 76.7 ppg. Under-performing Oral Roberts is returning their top four scorers with 49.3 ppg. from their last season’s top point scorers. And, South Dakota will return 49.1 ppg, with four of their top five players returning to the floor in Vermillion, S.D..

And scoring will not be the only challenge facing the Pioneers next season. They will battle inexperience and look to improve on shaky defensive play which was their greatest weakness last season. But several other Summit League programs will be in the same predicament. The programs that can recruit solid players and integrate them quickly into a productive unit will be the beneficiaries of a conference in transition.