JR Blount was promoted to assistant coach on May 6, 2016 after serving two seasons as the Bulldogs' director of basketball operations.
“JR is a guy that has recruiting experience and tremendous energy,” Giacoletti said. "We’re thrilled to give him this opportunity and get him back on the road recruiting with a greater role in our program. We’re fortunate to have someone who knows the program inside and out, can jump right in and knows what we’re looking for on the court and in recruiting.”
Blount joined head coach Ray Giacoletti’s staff in 2014 following three successful seasons at Saint Leo University in Lakeland, Fla., where he was elevated to associate head coach for the 2013-14 season after two years as an assistant. As a student-athlete, Blount was a team captain and MVP at current Missouri Valley Conference member Loyola.
The Lions advanced to the NCAA Division II Tournament in each of his three seasons on staff and won the program’s first conference championship in 2012-13. He was also part of a NCAA Division III National Championship in 2009-10 as an assistant coach at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point.
“JR has great Midwest ties and tremendous coaching experience that includes winning a national championship at UW-Stevens Point,” Giacoletti said of his newest staff member. “It’s very important for us to have a staff that understands the Midwest and I think he can help us in so many different ways. He has a very bright future in coaching and we feel fortunate that he wanted to join our family.”
In addition to his on-court duties at Saint Leo, Blount oversaw the program’s scheduling, recruiting, summer camps and individual player development. One of his pupils, guard Jerrell Harris, earned Division II All-America honors in 2013-14, while the Lions led the Sunshine State Conference in team defense thanks in part to conference Defensive Player of the Year Shaun Adams. In 2012-13, the program won its first NCAA Tournament game and earned a top-10 national ranking for the first time.
Prior to joining the staff at Saint Leo, Blount played professionally for a season with the Leicester Riders of the British Basketball League. He led the team to the semifinals of the league championship, was ranked fourth in scoring and second in assists to earn All-Star and team MVP honors before returning to the sidelines.
Collegiately, Blount had a tremendous career at Loyola from 2005-09. He was the Ramblers team captain during his final three seasons and the squad’s MVP in 2008 and 2009. He finished his career ranked ninth in points and 10th in assists at Loyola and was the school’s Male Athlete of the Year in 2008 and 2009.
Upon graduating from Loyola with a degree in sociology and psychology Blount began his coaching career during the 2009-10 season at UW-Stevens Point. That season saw the program win a Division III national title while ranking in the top 10 nationally in both team offense and defense.
A native of Milwaukee, Wis., Blount was a standout high school player at Dominican High School where he earned all-state honors in 2004 and 2005 and was named the Wisconsin Sports Player of the Year in 2005.
“Coach Giacoletti has a great vision for the program and I’ve known Coach [Jeff] Rutter and [Dave Buchanan] Buchanan since I was in high school,” Blount said. “I have great relationships with those guys and their vision of doing things the right way is what I believe in. I want to thank them for this opportunity to be part of such a great program that is ready to excel.”
Dave Thorson joined the Bulldogs' coaching staff on April 14, 2017, after 23 wildly successful years as the head coach at DeLaSalle High School in Minneapolis, Minn.
At DeLaSalle, Thorson won nine state championships, including the program’s sixth-straight title in 2017, and amassed a 527-130 record in his 23 seasons. The nine state championships are the most by a coach in state history while the six-year championship streak is also a state record. His teams also finished as state runners-up twice, third once and fourth once.
“Adding a coach of Dave’s caliber is tremendous for Drake basketball,” said Drake head coach Niko Medved. “Dave is the entire package. He’s one of the best coaches in the history of Minnesota and one of the best coaches I know. He’s a tremendous leader and communicator who develops players in all areas of their lives. His vision is in direct alignment with my vision and the mission of Drake University.”
Thorson’s teams captured 20 Tri-Metro Conference championships and won a conference record 72-straight games from 1998-02. He was named the Minnesota Class 3A Coach of the Year in 2005, 2006, 2016 and 2017 and was a 12-time Minnesota Basketball Coaches Association Region Coach of the Year.
“I am totally committed to Niko’s vision and I think Drake basketball has the potential to be extremely successful,” Thorson said. “Having the opportunity to work with Niko is a total win-win for me. He’s a great friend, but more than that he is a great leader and his vision is something that I believe in. It is a great opportunity to come to a university like Drake and to work with a leader like him.”
He began his coaching career as an assistant at South Dakota in 1989 and Minnesota from 1990-94. In addition to his legendary career at DeLaSalle, he also served as the Islanders’ Vice President of Development and secured more than $29 million in funds for DeLaSalle including the largest single and planned gifts in school history.