With Watson out, Creighton calls on freshman to play point

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) Creighton recruited Davion Mintz to be the point guard of the future. The freshman's time has come sooner than expected.

After playing him sparingly in the first 19 games, the 16th-ranked Bluejays (18-2, 5-2 Big East) hope Mintz eventually can take most of the minutes that have become available with the loss of Maurice Watson Jr. to a major knee injury last week.

''I don't feel pressure,'' Mintz said before practice Monday. ''I try to have fun doing what you're supposed to do. That's the best part about it. I don't try to stress myself.''

Mintz looked comfortable running the point in a 102-94 loss to Marquette on Saturday. He scored 17 points and had eight assists against just two turnovers in 26 minutes. Senior Isaiah Zierden started, but Mintz subbed in about three minutes into the game.

Coach Greg McDermott said he hadn't decided whether to give Mintz his first start when the Bluejays visit Georgetown (10-10, 1-6) on Wednesday.

''He was really good coming off the bench,'' McDermott said. ''Sometimes if it's not broke, you don't try to fix it. I liked the way he played. He was aggressive and made good decisions with the basketball and didn't play like a freshman, which was good to see.''

The 6-foot-3 Mintz came to Creighton from Huntersville, North Carolina, where he was a first-team all-state selection for North Mecklenberg High. He played the point in high school but was asked to take on a scorer's role as a junior and senior. He averaged 20.7 points and 6.9 assists his last season and picked the Bluejays over Tulsa, Miami and Kansas State.

''Watching Creighton play, I knew immediately this would be a good system for me,'' Mintz said. ''Coach Mac likes scoring point guards, guys who get the ball moving fast. It's worked out the best for me.''

For the Bluejays, the best scenario would be for Mintz to take ownership of the point guard job. That would allow Zierden to move back to his natural shooting guard spot. Mintz would be backed up by walk-on Tyler Clement.

Mintz said he was pleased with how he played offensively against Marquette. He said he needs to polish his defense, especially guarding man-to-man. Watson told him after the game that he also needs to do a better job communicating and, even though he's a first-year player, to not be afraid to call out teammates who need to step up their play.

Ideally, McDermott said, Mintz would have gotten more minutes in nonconference play. He played no more than 12 minutes - and never got off the bench in six games - before getting 16 minutes against Division II Truman State on Jan. 14.

''When you're in the middle of those games, you try to make sure you win them,'' McDermott said. ''But I think he's made progress, he's continued to work and he's prepared himself for this opportunity. It's unfortunate the way it presented itself to him, but I think he's ready.''

Marcus Foster, the Bluejays' leading scorer, said he's confident Mintz can run the team in Watson's absence.

''You can tell he's hungry now,'' Foster said. ''He knows this is his time to shine.''

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