Photo: Courtesy of Denver Athletics
With the newly announced departure of assistant coach Dan Ficke to assume head coaching duties at Belmont Abbey College, Rodney Billups is now surrounded by staff and players he has selected. In Addition to Ficke, also gone are senior assistants Ricardo Patton and Steve Snell who left earlier this year.
Dan Ficke’s landing spot, Belmont Abbey College, is located just 10 miles west of Charlotte, NC.. Ficke’s father, Bill, played for the Crusaders under legendary head coach Al McGuire. Dan Ficke was always a good friend to LetsGoDU and wish him, his wife Jordan and twins the very best.
The departure of Ficke was the final coaching connection to the past regime of Joe Scott, Billups predecessor. And the same goes for the players – all Rodney Billups picks.
So, Billups will be surrounded by staff he hand picked and the players he wanted to play in his system. The two most challenging issues facing Billups will be integrating new players into his system and managing an inexperienced squad with only one senior and no juniors. By nearly any measure, this will be a challenging season but Billups should be able to operate comfortably with his hand selected staff and senior coaches Bacari Alexander and Roman Sposato.
Since recruiting is largely over for now, our guess would be that either Dwight Thorne II (Director of Player Development) or Zach Ruebesam (Director of Basketball Operations) will absorb the open duties or one of them will be elevated to replace Ficke, probably Thorne.
Since our last hoops update, it looks like the roster is set with six new faces.
Early in the recruiting process, Denver booked commitments from incoming freshmen Owen McGlashan, Robert Jones, and Jaire (Roscoe) Eastmond. The mystery of prized recruit Javonni Bickham was solved when he was finally placed on the Denver roster earlier this summer. A 6’6″ power forward out of Minnehaha Academy in St. Paul, Minnesota, Bickham was recruited by Memphis and other high level hoops programs but selected Denver before his injuries his senior year in high school. He missed last season in recovery. We wrote about two recent junior college recruits, 6’9″ Tristan Greene and 6’3″ guard Khalil Johnson who will need to be ‘coached up’ in order to play meaningful roles at the D-1 level. So, this staff will be tested to quickly develop players – several without high level CV’s.
While it may be easy for some to be cynical when viewing the teams inexperience and talent level, it should be remembered that mid-majors rarely get gems. They find diamonds in the rough and try to polish them. South Dakota’s Mike Daum and John Konchar from Fort Wayne were two such stars that blossomed in the Summit League.
In year four, it will be up to Rodney Billups and his hand-picked staff to polish those gems.