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.

4 thoughts on “Denver Men’s Hoops’ departures mirror other Summit League foes”

  1. Transfers are a big reality in today’s game, especially for the mid-majors of the Summit League.

    The loss of Krafka hurts, as he was a pretty experienced upperclassman. But you can never blame a guy who has already earned his DU degree for leaving school with eligibility remaining. The fact that’s he’s going to play D-II ball next year is a nice end to his career, and he has a chance to be an impact player at that level. He’s paid his dues.

    That said, both Carlisle and E-Rod leave here with a grade of “incomplete.” Both have solid D-I potential, but neither of them would qualify as “impact” players given the limited roles they played in their first two seasons of college basketball. It’s too bad they aren’t committed enough to DU to develop their games here, but that’s a part of life when your team goes 8-22 – as some players lose trust in the coaching staff.

    With only six veteran players total returning to the team next year, DU needs at least seven new bodies on campus by next fall to get to the 13 scholarship players, plus any more walk-ons they may wish to roster. Having only one upperclassman instead of four is a major experience gap. After last year’s fiasco of a season, I’m sure Billups is feeling some heat from above, and that means DU may not wait for a one upperclassman team to make more progress. I think Rodney is going to have to bring in some Jucos this year, even though the upperclassmen transfers last year didn’t work out quite as well as hoped. I just can’t see DU winning more than 10 games with only one upperclassman…

    I’ve also noticed that assistant coach Steve Snell is no longer on DU’s coaching staff, so perhaps DU will bring at least one new coaching face to help Rodney turn this thing around.

  2. Denver just announced the addition of 6’9″ Tristan Green from Ranger College. According to Verbal Commits, Green is a 3-star recruit. Green led his team to a 31-4 record this past season. Green will add size and experience to a young Pioneer squad.

    1. To say that he “led” his team and adds “experience” is somewhat comical to say. If you take a look at his statistics, he played in only 23 of the 35 games averaging 1.8 minutes per game. Also, he somehow managed to have 18 turnovers in those 23 games. He will fit right in with the turnovers and the free throw shooting barely being over 50%. Model Pioneer at this point. How do you not take care of the ball for 1.8 minutes?

      1. Great question and a very astute observation, CaptHugemeat. Green was a three-star (or even four star in some services) recruit who ESPN ranked among the top 50 power forwards in the nation when he was in high school in 2018, garnering interest from good D-I schools like Houston and Texas A&M (to name a few). He has certainly fallen a long way since then. All the big schools have lost interest and something doesn’t add up here, and there is nothing I could find on the Internet to explain the fall-off in Green’s play at the Juco level….Injury? Off-court stuff? Psychological? I have no idea what went wrong with him, but it’s clear he was a bust at the Juco level and that his career at Denver will be a reclamation project of one kind or another, with success anything but guaranteed. I certainly wish him every success here.

        I think Rodney is going to need to get a few more new faces on this roster over the summer, and I hope he knows what he’s doing to fill it. Year three will need to be better than 8-22 last year, at least in my mind to see if he (and his players) can cut it at the D-I level. What we’ve seen is a three year progression from mediocre to poor.

        I can’t get into specifics, but believe DU is going to have some transformational opportunities that will have the potential to change the athletic department quite radically in the coming years, and I hope Rodney can win enough this year so that he can be part of it.

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