In addition to being a two-time All-American and his school's all-time leading scorer, Creighton senior Doug McDermott now can boast one more honor.
He is undoubtedly college basketball's most decorated walk-on.
When guard Grant Gibbs unexpectedly received a sixth year of eligibility from the NCAA on Tuesday morning, it pushed Creighton over NCAA's scholarship limit of 13. Rather than jettisoning one of the players already on his roster, Creighton coach Greg McDermott will pay Doug's tuition instead.
The financial sacrifice the elder McDermott will make is a significant one, according to Creighton sports information director Rob Anderson. Since NCAA rules require a coach to have spent five years at his school for his child to qualify for financial aid, McDermott will pay Creighton's full $30,000 to $40,000 in tuition and housing costs for Doug to play his senior season.
"It's a small investment to make to make room for a guy who has meant a lot to our program," McDermott said Tuesday night. "We had some guys ready to fill Grant's spot, but to have his leadership at a time when we're transitioning to a new league is huge for our program."
Cynics among us will probably scoff that Creighton will probably add a $40,000 bonus to McDermott's contract to cover the costs, but regardless, this is a really great gesture by the coach and his family. Many others in McDermott's shoes would have made room for Gibbs by telling a seldom-used scholarship player on the roster his services were no longer required.
"That never crossed my mind," McDermott said. "We have got great chemistry on our team. I wasn't going to upset the apple cart."
That the McDermotts are doing this for Gibbs is fitting because the playmaking guard has spent most of his Creighton career setting up Doug for easy buckets. Gibbs thrived from long range and creating off the dribble this past season, averaging 8.5 points and 5.8 assists and shooting nearly 40 percent from behind the arc.
The NCAA granted Gibbs the chance to play a sixth season because he didn't play in two of his first five, one as a result of a shoulder injury as a true freshman at Gonzaga and the other when he sat out after transferring to Creighton in 2010. His return means Creighton has four starters back from a 28-win team, meaning the Bluejays should contend right away in their first season in the new Big East.
"To be honest, I wasn't optimistic Grant would get another year," McDermott said. "There was nowhere to look to see any precedent for his case. When the NCAA called and started asking questions, it gave me a glimmer of hope but I was still relatively surprised to get the call this morning. I thought it was a real long shot."
There was nobody happier than Doug to learn his teammate and roommate would be back for one more year.
Tweeted Doug on Tuesday, "Treating myself to a little Turkish ice cream to celebrate the big news."
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