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The Times-Delphic

The Student News Site of Drake University

The Times-Delphic

Drake Men’s Basketball receives transfer players

Ben+McCollum+previously+head+coached+DII+mens+basketball.+Now%2C+three+of+his+former+DII+players+have+committed+to+play+at+Drake+next+season.+Photo+by+Sarah+Fey+%7C+Staff+Photographer
Ben McCollum previously head coached DII men’s basketball. Now, three of his former DII players have committed to play at Drake next season. Photo by Sarah Fey | Staff Photographer

SPORTS COMMENTARY

The departure of Drake University’s former men’s basketball head coach Darian DeVries led to a transfer portal-enabled mass exodus of Drake men’s basketball players. Eleven Bulldogs entered the transfer portal, and thus far, none have returned to Drake and seven have officially found new homes.

In April, less than a week after that mass exodus, Drake hired former Northwest Missouri State Bearcats men’s basketball head coach Ben McCollum to fill the hole left by DeVries’ departure. McCollum entered Drake with a decorated resume that included four Division II national titles and a 394-91 total record across 15 years, but he’s facing a new challenge at Drake.

McCollum will inherit a team with only four players from the 2023-2024 roster who didn’t graduate or enter the transfer portal, with senior Nate Ferguson being the only one of those four players who played consistent minutes last season. In short, McCollum enters Drake with a blank canvas. 

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Now, with an influx of recent transfer additions, fans are beginning to see the picture he’s painting for the next era of Bulldog hoops. So far, he’s pulled in five transfers, including three former Northwest Missouri State players who all committed on the same day.

The first addition to the Bulldog roster was rising junior Bennett Stirtz, who played under McCollum for two years at Northwest Missouri State. Stirtz was the second-leading scorer for the 2023-2024 Bearcats team that amassed a 29-5 record.

The 6-foot-4 guard averaged 15.2 points per game, led his team with 47 steals and had a 51% field goal percentage last season. His efforts earned him second-team All-Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics and three MIAA Player of the Week honors. Stirtz was also the MIAA Freshman of the Year for the 2022-23 season.

Stritz’s game features the capability to throw down highlight-reel-worthy dunks and a consistent 3-point shot. Stirtz had multiple highlight dunks at Northwest Missouri State, and he has the potential to galvanize a Knapp Center crowd with a vigorous transition slam. 

He also shot 43.8% from 3-point range in his freshman season, but that figure tapered to .327 in his sophomore year. He shot 21 more 3-pointers last season than he did in his freshman season, so there is concern that Stirtz’s 3-point efficiency will remain low with higher volume. Stirtz’s 3-point shooting will be a statistic to monitor in the 2024-2025 season for the Bulldogs.

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The second transfer that McCollum pulled in was another Northwest Missouri State product — rising senior Daniel Abreu. Abreu is a 6-foot-6 forward who started all 34 games for McCollum last season. He averaged 10.6 points per game and shot 54.6% from the field.

Abreu has one season of eligibility remaining, and he’ll bring valuable experience to a rebuilt Drake squad. Abreu was the MIAA Tournament’s Most Outstanding Player last season, averaging 17.3 points per game to lead the Bearcats to the conference title. With most of the players with significant playoff experience leaving Drake, Abreu will provide a much-needed playoff-veteran presence to lead in big moments.

To cement the team’s new culture, McCollum brought in rising senior Isaiah Jackson, his third transfer from Northwest Missouri State. He’s a defense-first 6-foot-2 guard who started in the majority of games he played for Northwest Missouri State. Jackson averaged seven points per game and 4.6 assists last season. The pesky defender was also named to the MIAA All-Defensive Team. Jackson may not profile as a starter for the Bulldogs, but he has the potential to come off the bench and spark defensive energy in spurts.

After the Bearcat trio committed on the same day, it took a week of silence before McCollum struck again. But, on April 24, the silence broke when rising sophomore Eli Shetlar — a former Indiana State player — committed to Drake.

Shetlar is a 6-foot-6 guard who appeared in 11 games for the star-studded Sycamores last season. Shetlar averaged 17.3 points per game in high school, shooting lights-out from 3-point range. Shetlar’s high school highlights are full of tough buckets and NBA-range 3-point makes. 

He was blocked behind five all-conference players at Indiana State last season, but the decimated Drake roster will likely lead to increased playing time for Shetlar where he has the chance to thrive.

McCollum’s fifth transfer, rising sophomore Cameron Manyawu, committed on Sunday, April 28. Manyawu is transferring from Wyoming, where he averaged 7.5 points per game and 6.7 rebounds. He’s a 6-foot-9 forward that dominates with his athleticism. After appearing in 32 games and starting in 10 for Wyoming last season, Manyawu is primed for an opportunity to start as the big man in McCollum’s rotation. 

McCollum still has many roster spots to fill, but it’s clear that he is looking to establish a culture. McCollum and the Northwest Missouri State players will set the tone, and McCollum will bring in more talent to deliver wins in the Knapp Center. Stirtz, Abreu, Jackson, Shetlar and Manyawu are a good start, but more work must be done if Drake wants a chance at competing for a Missouri Valley Conference three-peat. 

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  • T

    Tom DuncansonMay 3, 2024 at 4:55 pm

    There is no such thing as a “rising” anything at Drake or any other college or university. You are what you are by credit hour earned. Period. “Rising” is high school talk, and it is dumb athletic high school talk. These idiots do not set the norms for society. You say, well I read it in the DMR or the NYT. They are gullible too. Be a tough journalist, don’t be gulled.

    I love Drake sports, pay more attention to it than I should. But I am also 32 years of full time teaching in higher education, a fully tenured and promoted professor. There is a tension between the academic and the athletic side of the house. But the athletic side has many cheering meatball fans, and most academics are too busy to worry about sports. The sides are– asymmetrical. So, you journalists play a key role in communicating the truth about both. And the truth is, there is no such thing as an academic status of “rising,” and when you write or say it, you make confusion and to those in the know look like a dope. Please, have this conversation with your sportswriting friends and colleagues.

    Have you read Jon Ericson on athletics and academics? Possibly the greatest professor in the history of Drake University.

    Reply
    • A

      A SpenceMay 16, 2024 at 9:59 am

      I will tell you what is rising Tom, your blood pressure. Take a chill pill.

      Reply