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Pioneers Embark on New Era

Nov. 10, 2016

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DENVER
– Looking to build off a successful season last year while ushering in a new era can be tricky, but that is exactly what the University of Denver men’s basketball team is planning on doing in 2016-17.

The Pioneers are coming off a 16-win campaign last season which featured one of the youngest rosters around in all of the NCAA. This year, however, the youth movement is on the sidelines as Denver’s own Rodney Billups steps in as the new head coach for DU. Billups, 33, has spent the past six years prepping for this moment at the University of Colorado under the watchful eye of Tad Boyle, doing various duties as director of basketball operations to becoming a full-on assistant coach on the bench. During that time, Billups methodically studied his mentor: everything from how to watch film and proper practice habits.

The former Denver standout has basketball in his blood and been drawn to the game since childhood, since tearing up the blacktops and rec centers in Park Hill as a youth to starring at George Washington on a team that made numerous deep runs in the 5A State Tournament in high school to showcasing his playmaking and leadership abilities as a guard for the Pioneers from 2002-05. Wherever Billups has gone, success and improvement have been quick to follow.

The Denver native always points to a family atmosphere that has allowed teams he has been on, whether coaching or playing, to have the type of success he expects.

To get to that level of success, though, the team is going to have to embrace change. Gone now is the Princeton offense in favor of a new, faster style of play with much more opportunities for creativity for the Pioneers when they have the ball. Also gone is the zone-based defense that DU played last season in favor of a much more physical and gritty man-to-man approach.


 

 

DU will open up the season at home against Jacksonville on Nov. 12. The Pioneers then kick off a long stretch on the road which consists of eight out of the next nine on other courts besides Magness.  The long stretch consists of games against regional foes Wyoming (Nov. 30) and Air Force (Dec. 10). Denver will also make an appearance in College Station to take on Texas A&M (Dec. 7), who made the Sweet 16 last year in the NCAA Tournament.

After the long run on the road, Denver returns home to launch an all-important homestand, consisting of seven out of the next eight in Magness Arena. The Pioneers open Summit League play with Oral Roberts (Dec. 28) during the home stretch.

The long-awaited rematch against South Dakota State is slated for Jan. 25. as the Jackrabbits head to Magness Arena for the first of the two-game regular-season series. The second meeting also doubles as the regular-season finale on Feb. 25 in Brookings, S.D.

Late January to mid-February means more time on the road in the Summit League with DU playing four out of five games in the opposition’s arena.

Denver wraps up the home portion of its schedule on Feb. 22 with a game against Omaha at 7 p.m. on Altitude.

The Pioneers bring back several key pieces from last year’s squad, which mostly was made up of underclassmen. Denver is highlighted with the return of sophomore Joe Rosga.

Rosga looks to build on his success from his freshman year, which saw the St. Paul, Minn. native be named to the all-newcomer team by the league. He was also named second-team All-Summit League in the preseason release earlier this year.

Rosga led the team in scoring last season at 12.7 points per night. Besides being the leading scorer, the sophomore was asked to be a floor general for a very young team. This season, the returning starter has been tasked by Coach Billups to increase his role as a leader on the team.

Looking to breakout this year is junior Daniel Amigo. The El Paso, Texas native has seized the opportunity of getting on the floor more than the previous two years with the arrival of the new coaching staff. The 6-foot-10 big man on the block looks to provide DU with some good rim protection on defense and low-post scoring on the offensive end.

Denver added three new players during the summer in Jake Krafka, Ade Murkey and Luke Neff. Krafka joins the team by way of Austin, Texas. The 6-foot-7 forward led his team to a 21-9 record in 6A basketball as a junior and brings some sneaky-good athleticism to the front court. Murkey, Billups’ first recruit, hails from Minneapolis, Minn. where he averaged 22 points and 9.9 rebounds last year. The explosive guard will look to make an immediate impact this year. Neff, brother of fellow Pioneer Thomas, brings his sweet-shooting stroke from right down the road at Arvada West High School in Colorado. Neff helped get the Wildcats on a deep run in the 5A state tournament last year.

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