(Courtesy Creighton Athletics)
Creighton’s Basketball’s 2020-21 hopes received two big boosts on Saturday as Denzel Mahoney and Damien Jefferson each announced they were withdrawing from the NBA Draft and returning for their senior seasons.
“Both Damien and Denzel went through the draft process, evaluated the info they received, and felt like it was in their best interest to return,” said Creighton head coach Greg McDermott. “It goes without saying that we’re thrilled to have them back. Experience is key in college basketball and we return some guys that played significant roles a season ago. I’m sure they’re hungry to get back on the playing floor.”
A native of Oviedo, Fla., Mahoney averaged 12.0 points and 3.1 rebounds per game for Creighton after gaining eligibility on December 17. Mahoney scored in double-figures in 14 of 21 appearances, helping CU win 16 of those games. In BIG EAST play, Mahoney shot a league-leading 89.8 percent (53-59) at the charity stripe. He excelled in three games against top-10 competition, averaging 18.3 points per game while helping CU win all three contests. He scored a season-high 21 points in Creighton’s victory at Villanova, and contributed 16 and 18 points in triumphs over Seton Hall and took home the BIG EAST’s Sixth Man Award.
A native of East Chicago, Ind., Jefferson averaged 9.4 points and 5.5 rebounds per game while starting 29-of-30 appearances in 2019-20. Jefferson’s 165 overall rebounds tied for the Creighton lead, and he ranked second on the team with 50 offensive rebounds. The versatile forward ranked seventh in the BIG EAST in field goal percentage and was 15th in the league in rebounds per game. In conference action Jefferson shot 59.9 percent from the floor to rank fourth in the BIG EAST, including 66.1 percent from two-point range. Jefferson had a pair of SportsCenter Top 10 plays — both vs. Seton Hall — to help the Bluejays sweep the league’s preseason favorite.
“I felt like it was the best thing to do, especially with all that is going on with the coronavirus,” said Jefferson on his return. “I think it’s the best decision to withdraw my name and keep my eligibility safe.”
Five former Creighton student-athletes have spent time in the NBA each of the past two seasons – Kyle Korver, Anthony Tolliver, Doug McDermott, Justin Patton and Khyri Thomas.
Creighton finished the 2019-20 season with a 24-7 record, winning a share of its first BIG EAST title. The Bluejays were ranked seventh in the year-end Associated Press poll.