Creighton star McDermott stakes claim as nation’s best walk-on

Posted Thursday, Mar. 20, 2014  comments  Print Reprints
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Creighton forward Doug McDermott leads the nation in scoring (26.9 avg.), looms as the prohibitive favorite for multiple national player of the year awards and has led the Bluejays to a No. 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament, the highest in school history.

But the 6-foot-8 senior no longer has a college scholarship.

He relinquished it in July, reverting to walk-on status for his senior season. That enabled point guard Grant Gibbs to accept McDermott’s scholarship when Gibbs was granted a rare sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA because of a medical redshirt. The scholarship shift was approved by Creighton coach Greg McDermott, Doug’s dad.

The inside/outside combo has been instrumental in leading Creighton (26-7) into Friday’s West Regional matchup against Louisiana-Lafayette (23-11) at the AT&T Center (2:05 p.m., truTV). A Bluejays’ victory would set up a Sunday game against Baylor (24-11) or Nebraska (19-12).

“When we applied for an extra year for me, our program was out of the allotted scholarships. So Doug knew that if I did get the extra year that he would become a walk-on and … Doug’s family, basically, would be paying for my school for a year,” Gibbs said. “So he reminds me of that. His mother reminds me of that daily that I owe her some money when this is all over. It as a tremendous gesture, obviously … I think Doug has kind of solidified his spot as probably the best walk-on in the nation with that.”

The younger McDermott said: “I knew it was definitely an option. My dad called me … and told me the news. I had never been more excited to be a walk-on, because that meant we had one of our best players back.”

Special meeting

Loretta Walthall, a teacher at Crawford Junior High, recalled a special meeting between members of her Dylslexia and Reading Extension classes and Baylor center Isaiah Austin, an Arlington Grace Prep graduate who is blind in one eye and enjoys counseling students with vision-related issues or other life challenges.

In a Thursday email, Walthall wrote that many in her class “struggle greatly with reading and with life. A lot of these kids don’t even care enough to bring a pencil to class.” But after being inspired by Austin’s story and attitude, her students wanted to meet him. So they attended the Bears’ game against Texas Tech on March 1, then huddled afterward with Austin and his mother, Lisa Green.

“My students, for the most part, were undeniably changed by meeting Isaiah [their hero] that day and spending time with him and his mother,” Walthall wrote. “He was so gracious and humble … a great guy.”

Streak breakers

Nebraska coach Tim Miles said he relishes the opportunity to lead the Cornhuskers (19-12) to the first NCAA Tournament triumph in school history in Friday’s matchup against Baylor (24-11). Nebraska is 0-6 in NCAA play. Miles said he discussed this opportunity with former Nebraska athletic director Tom Osborne when he interviewed for the job.

“I know it’s been a long drought for Nebraska,” Miles said. “When Tom hired me, I said this is what we want to do. We want to exceed expectations. We want to go to the NCAA Tournament and win. It’s never been done. It can be done.”

Hoiberg memories

Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg, who spent 10 seasons as an NBA player with three teams (Indiana, Chicago, Minnesota) from 1995-2005, said he is glad the Cyclones (26-7) will play Friday’s game against North Carolina Central (28-5) in the AT&T Center, the San Antonio Spurs’ home arena, rather than the cavernous Alamodome. Hoiberg said depth perception in the Alamodome can be thrown off for visiting teams because there is so much space behind each basket.

Asked about his NBA memories of playing in San Antonio, Hoiberg said: “I never did very well in that building. We always got our butts handed to us in that arena by the Spurs.”

Jimmy Burch, 817-390-7760 Twitter: @Jimmy_Burch

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