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Time stood still for the Bluejays during the second week of practice. Trying to split a pair of trapping defenders, senior guard Nate Funk (left) fell squarely on his left shoulder--the one that had undergone season-ending surgery last January. "I waited for a second, but it didn't hurt," Funk says. "That's when I realized I didn't have to worry about it."
Funk's recovery has everyone at Creighton breathing more easily. Last fall, the 6'3" sharpshooter was named the Missouri Valley Conference's preseason player of the year, but he dislocated his shoulder in the fourth game. After successfully petitioning the NCAA to grant him a fifth year of eligibility, Funk, who led the Bluejays in scoring (17.0 points per game) and rebounding (5.1) in 2004--05, rejoins a team that went 20--10 last season and has four starters back.
Funk will handle most of the playmaking, while sophomore point guard Josh Dotzler recovers from a knee injury. (Dotzler is likely to return in late December.) The biggest difference between this team and the one Funk played on two years ago is the emergence of 6'9" senior center Anthony Tolliver, who was named the MVC's most improved player in '05--06 after tripling his points per game (to 13.2) and leading the team in boards (6.7) and blocks (1.6).
For Funk, the only thing harder than sitting out last season was seeing the Bluejays barely miss an NCAA bid, then watching two of the team's conference rivals reach the Sweet 16. "In the past Creighton set the bar for the Valley," Funk says, "but Wichita State and Bradley set it last year. Now it's up to us to meet it."
RETURNING STARTER *2004--05 STATS
Nov. 13 Mississippi Valley State
Nov. 18 at Nebraska
Nov. 25 George Mason