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Kalkbrenner Hopes to Follow Scheierman’s Example with Return to Creighton

by May 9, 2024Creighton Mens Basketball

Kalkbrenner Hopes to Follow Scheierman’s Example with Return to Creighton
Photo Credit: Camren Clouthier

When Ryan Kalkbrenner declared for the NBA Draft a year ago, he took his final decision right up to the deadline before ultimately opting to return to Creighton for his fourth season — a decision that proved prudent.

Following the best year of his prolific Creighton career — one that is already in line to have his jersey hung in the rafters at some point in the future — Kalkbrenner again contemplated going pro. He declared for the draft again and initially planned to take his time with his decision. However, as he went about discussing the pros and cons with Coach Greg McDermott, his agent and his family, his mindset shifted.

Kalkbrenner is certainly on the NBA’s radar. He attended the Combine last year and received an invitation again this year, showing teams’ interest in seeing what he’s capable of. However, that doesn’t mean he was a surefire bet to receive a guaranteed contract.

With an extra season in Omaha available to him, Kalkbrenner decided he’d be better served improving his game than seeking feedback, and he didn’t want to waste any time.

“I haven’t had a summer in my college career where I’ve actually had the whole summer to work and get better,” Kalkbrenner said. “So we were like unless we’re very, 100% sure we can get a really, really great and the perfect opportunity and fit in the NBA, we’re just going to not go through the whole draft process and waste a month because that’s a month I could be spending getting better at transforming my body and all that.

“My freshman year, I had USA Basketball; sophomore year, rehabbing; junior year, NBA stuff. So I’ve only had like half a summer every summer. The idea was how much better can I get if I have three full months to where all I’m doing is spending as much time in the weight room as I can, as much time on court as I can?”

The answer to that question for Kalkbrenner’s teammate, Baylor Scheierman, was “a lot.” The sharp shooter from Aurora opted against entering the draft last season and instead spent that time in the gym with Creighton’s head coach of athletic performance, Jeremy Anderson. Scheierman’s offseason efforts resulted in a third-team All-America season and a significant boost to his draft stock. Now out of eligibility, Scheierman is preparing for the draft and received an invitation to the Combine.

Kalkbrenner, his agent (who he shares with Scheierman) and his head coach all saw how much Scheierman benefitted from taking that route a year ago, and that played heavily into the decision.

“They all just saw his transformation, his body, how he moves, all that,” Kalkbrenner said. “Just spending time with Jeremy, having the whole summer to just work on that stuff. We were like, if I can have the same sort of transformation, I go from being a second-round pick to a first-round pick.”

Kalkbrenner has tested the NBA waters twice now, and at no point during those periods did McDermott try to convince him to stay, despite what his return would mean for the Creighton program. Their conversations always focused on what would be best for Kalkbrenner and his future, something he appreciates.

“We were just talking about the pros and cons of coming back, if I come back what are some things you need to work on, looking at more than last year,” Kalkbrenner said. “It was all good stuff. Mac has always had players’ best interest in mind. Obviously his first job is to help the team win games, but he’s also always trying to work in what he can we do to help individuals and what they need to try to get to the next step in their career.”

It wasn’t until the last couple weeks of the process that the scales truly started to shift in favor of returning, and he didn’t make his final decision until the week of his announcement. In an effort to keep his options open, he quietly submitted the paperwork to declare for the draft, which fans only learned when the NBA released its list two days after the deadline had passed and his name appeared on it.

They didn’t have long to worry, however. Two days after that, he shared his announcement on Twitter — with a little help from his coach, his cousin, and his fiancée, Rachael Saunders.

Taking a cue from Kansas’ Bill Self and Hunter Dickinson, McDermott broached the subject of Kalkbrenner’s future with a tweet of his own, sparking a humorous response from Kalkbrenner, or at least from his account.

“That was all Mac’s idea,” Kalkbrenner said. “I’m not a social media guy. It was actually funny, when we got to doing that, I had to re-download Twitter, I had to ask my cousin for the password, and as soon as I got logged in, I handed my phone off to Rachael and I was like, ‘I have no idea how to tweet, so you guys got this.’”

With the decision made, Kalkbrenner said he’s excited for one more year in Omaha.

“I love this place,” he said. “I’m never going to complain about one more year here … The support [the people of Omaha] give our program and Rachael and me all the time is absolutely incredible … Looking back and knowing where I’m at and where I started, I’m really just grateful to have all the support that we get.”

Among the things Kalkbrenner hopes to work on during his final offseason as a Bluejay are continuing to refine his 3-point shot and physically transforming his body to allow for more quickness and better movement, much like what Scheierman did.

With its anchor back in the lineup and a couple of key additions made via the transfer portal to supplement a highly-touted incoming freshman class, Creighton appears poised to make another run in 2024-25. Kalkbrenner has yet to meet Texas Tech transfer commit Pop Isaacs, but he was on campus when Arizona State transfer commit Jamiya Neal made his visit.

“I think he’s really excited about coming here and playing in the system,” Kalkbrenner said of Neal. “From what I heard he’s really excited about how we play and wants to fit right into that, and same deal with Pop. So I’m really excited to get all these guys in here and get to know them, get to know how they play and all that.”

Kalkbrenner’s decision is out of the way, but the work has just begun as he gears up for his fifth and final season on the Hilltop.

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