A quick glance at Marcus Zegarowski's bio on the Creighton University's men's basketball web page will tell you just how big of an impact he had in his first collegiate campaign.
A true freshman last winter, the Hamilton-raised guard averaged 10.4 points, 3.4 assists and 3.2 rebounds in over 28 minutes per game on his way to becoming a nightly starter. More importantly, the Bluejays went 20-12 when Zegarowski played and 0-3 when he didn't. By season's end, he was unanimously named to the Big East All-Freshman Team.
After battling an offseason hip injury and, in turn, missing his team's summer exhibition tour in Australia, Zegarowski was officially cleared to resume all basketball activities late last month. As Creighton gears up for another competitive year in the Big East, they'll need their young playmaker at his best — and at this point and time, all signs point to that coming to fruition.
"It feels great coming back from injury. I don't remember the last time I played where I didn't feel pain in the back/hip area," admitted Zegarowski, who is likely locked into a starting role for the Bluejays entering the season.
"Even when I played at Hamilton-Wenham, I felt it a little bit," Zegarowski admitted. "Now that I got that fixed, it feels great and I'm ready to build on it."
Despite not feeling 100 percent last season — he also battled through a broken hand that forced him to miss three games — Zegarowski found a way to get it done on both ends of the floor.
He reached double digits in the scoring column for Creighton in 17 games, drilled 60 3-pointers (fourth-best mark by a freshman in program history) and shot better than 45 percent from the field and 42 percent from deep. The 21-year-old also proved himself as a reliable defender, snatching 30 steals in 32 games.
This year, he's eager to increase that production as a "veteran" on a team bustling with potential.
"I feel a lot more comfortable, especially now that I have a year under my belt. I'm going into the season healthy and have had a pretty productive summer with getting back," said Zegarowski. "I hope to improve on my leadership qualities, being a coach on the floor and someone my coach (Greg McDermott) can trust in any moment of the game."
After finishing fourth in the Big East standings behind Villanova, Marquette and Georgetown and missing out on the NCAA Tournament a year ago, Zegarowski and Co. hope to make a leap this coming winter. Most college hoops experts have the Bluejays finishing somewhere in the conference's top five (out of 10 teams); Zegarowski believes they can outperform those expectations.
With a backcourt of himself and junior Ty-Shon Alexander — a slippery 6-foot-4 guard who averaged nearly 16 points, four rebounds, three assists and a steal a year ago — it's easy to see why Zegarowski is so confident. They also have senior Davion Mitz, another talented and experienced guard, as well as sharpshooter Mitch Ballock (11 points on 42 percent shooting from deep per game last year) to help fill the scoresheet. Six-foot-7 swingman Christian Bishop could also prove a reliable asset after averaging 15.7 points and five rebounds in the team's three-game stint in Australia back in August.
"I just want us to improve each game and hopefully win us a Big East title and make a push in the NCAA Tournament," said Zegarowski. "I'm looking forward to every game I step on the floor with my teammates, but especially Villanova and Seton Hall because they're preseason favorites and have great teams. I look forward to the challenge."
Creighton opens exhibition play Friday, Nov. 1 against McKendree; the real fun begins Tuesday, Nov. 12 when the 'Jays head to Michigan for a marquee matchup as part of the Gavitt Tipoff Games.