Chris Crutchfield met with his new team as soon as he got to Omaha. From Crutchfield’s standpoint, he truly believes the Omaha program has the potential to become something special. He’s ready to get to work and has wasted no time doing so.
The Mavericks have already hit the court for practice and Crutchfield has hit the ground running.
“I’m highly impressed with what has been done to change the campus,” said Crutchfield, a UNO alum. “Baxter Arena is one of the top facilities in our conference. First-class athletic director, who has an unbelievable vision of what he wants this basketball program to be, and I want us to get to a point where we’re competing for Summit League championships.
“We want to be one of those teams that year in and year out, we want to be competing for the NCAA Tournament being from the Summit League. I think it’s possible.”
However, the Mavericks’ new boss will have his work cut out for him. When Crutchfield looks at his new roster, he’ll have to replace a pair of guards right away. Junior Felix Lemetti and senior Nick Ferrarini each entered their names in the transfer portal just days after Crutchfield was named head coach.
But Crutchfield brings a reputation as a well-respected recruiter with him to his alma mater. Whether it’s for this season or beyond, “Crutch” is ready for the challenge and wants to build the best roster he can.
“I’m gonna go after the best players that we can get,” Crutchfield said. “Whether that kid’s labeled as a high-major or a mid-major, it doesn’t matter. I’m gonna give it my best shot — I think we can sell a kid on this facility and my ability to develop and our staff’s ability to develop. That’s going to be the (recruiting) philosophy.”
As for what he’ll have to replace, Ferrarini and Lemetti each had prominent roles this season. Lemetti came to Omaha from Salt Lake Community College not expecting to play a major role right away. But after a preseason injury to La’mel Robinson, Lemetti was thrust into the starting lineup and started all 30 games for the Mavericks this season.
Without a true point guard in the starting lineup, Lemetti was elevated to the Mavericks’ main ball-handler role. The Swede averaged 10.5 points and 3.8 assists per game. Lemetti also shined from behind the arc, as he shot 36.4% from long range, which ranked near the top of the Omaha roster.
As for Ferrarini, the Millard North product has spent the past two seasons with the Mavericks. He appeared in 38 games over the past two years and started six. After a slow start to this season, Ferrarini exploded onto the scene. He scored 23 points in a home loss to Eastern Washington, which is still a career-high, and earned his first start of the season a week later against Texas A&M Corpus-Christi.
The Omaha native averaged 9.9 points per game this past season and shot 37.3% from the field and 29.4% from three-point range. As it currently stands, Omaha only returns one guard who started double-digit games this season: Marco Smith.
While in Norman, Crutchfield was able to recruit the likes of Trae Young and Buddy Hield. Crutchfield will need to apply what he learned at Oklahoma, especially since he’ll need to replace a hole in the Omaha lineup without two of the Mavericks’ top guards.