Published Saturday, July 13, 2013 at 8:04 pm / Updated at 9:14 pm
Fred Ware Award: Before NBA, McDermott plans one more year in fantastic voyage
Ware Award Candidates
Mary Weatherholt, Nebraska tennis: The greatest women's tennis player in school history capped her career by advancing to the NCAA singles championship match, finishing with a 30-2 record. The senior from Prairie Village, Kan., also was a doubles All-American and helped the Huskers win the Big Ten regular-season title, their first league championship in women's tennis since 1978. Winner of the Big Ten Medal of Honor and named NU's female student-athlete of the year.

Megan Bober, Creighton volleyball: Most decorated volleyball player in Bluejay history finished her career as the Missouri Valley player of the year in 2012. The 6-foot setter from Murdock, Neb., made a school-record 128 starts and is the only player in MVC history with at least 800 kills, 4,000 assists, 1,000 digs and 400 blocks. Two-time MVC scholar-athlete helped Creighton advance to the second round of the NCAA tournament last fall.

Lindsey Moore, Nebraska basketball: The four-year starter from Covington, Wash., ranks as perhaps the best point guard in Nebraska women's basketball history. Led the Huskers to the NCAA Sweet 16 as a senior — when she was second-team All-Big Ten for the second straight season — and was a first-round WNBA draft pick. Finished her career with more assists (699), starts (132), wins (94) and minutes played (4,360) than any other player in Husker history.

Ryan Walters, UNO hockey: The hockey All-American from Rosemount, Minn., was an All-WCHA pick and among 10 finalists for the Hobey Baker Award. The forward scored 52 points (22 goals, 30 assists) during his junior season, and was the WCHA scoring champ with 40 points in 28 league games (16 goals, 24 assists). Also named to the All-WCHA academic team. Walters has played in 114 consecutive games and is one of 13 Mavs with 100 career points.

Sami Spenner, UNO track and field: Stood out during both track and field seasons, setting two school records during the indoor portion and then three outdoors. Spenner was named the Summit League's Field Athlete of the Year after the indoor season, accounting for 40 points at the conference meet. Came back and scored 49 at the outdoor meet, winning the heptathlon, long jump and triple jump, and finishing second in the 100- and 200-meter dashes. Spenner, from Columbus, Neb., was named UNO's female athlete of the year as a junior.

Ware Award winners

2012: Ethan Finlay, Creighton soccer
2011: Jordan Burroughs, Nebraska wrestling
2010: Ndamukong Suh, Nebraska football
2009: Jordan Larson, Nebraska volleyball
2008: Dusty Jonas, Nebraska track and field
2007: Zac Taylor, Nebraska football
2006: Les Sigman, UNO wrestling
2005: Alex Gordon, Nebraska baseball
2004: Peaches James, Nebraska softball
2003: Kyle Korver, Creighton basketball
2002: Eric Crouch, Nebraska football
2001: Greichaly Cepero, Nebraska volleyball
2000: Heather Brink, Nebraska gymnastics
1999: Ed Thompson, UNO football
1998: Grant Wistrom, Nebraska football
1997: Johnny Torres, Creighton soccer
1996: Tommie Frazier, Nebraska football
1995: Darin Erstad, Nebraska baseball, football
1994: Trev Alberts, Nebraska football; Keith DeFini, Creighton soccer
1993: Karen Jennings, Nebraska basketball
1992: Janet Kruse, Nebraska volleyball
1991: Pat Tyrance, Nebraska football
1990: Gerry Gdowski, Nebraska football; Sammie Resh Gdowski, Nebraska track
1989: Lori Endicott, Nebraska volleyball
1988: Tom Schlesinger, Nebraska gymnastics
1987: Karen Dahlgren, Nebraska volleyball
1986: Dave Hoppen, Nebraska basketball
1985: Mark Traynowicz, Nebraska football
1984: Turner Gill, Nebraska football
1983: Merlene Ottey, Nebraska track
1982: Dave Rimington, Nebraska football
1981: Jim Hartung, Nebraska gymnastics

Doug McDermott watched intently as the NBA draft unfolded last month.

Some of the players selected were guys the Creighton forward knew or had played against — and, in some cases, even schooled on the basketball court.

When it was over, McDermott sent text messages to his mom and dad.

“I just wanted them to know I had no regrets about my decision,” McDermott said. “In fact, I never felt so refreshed.”

McDermott could have heard his name called on draft night. Instead, he had announced in late April that he would return for his senior season at Creighton and continue building a collegiate career that has earned him more awards than he can keep track of.

He adds another Sunday as the 33rd winner of The World-Herald's Fred Ware Award.

The Ware Award is given annually to the four-year college athlete in Nebraska who, in the judgment of the newspaper's editors, made the most significant achievement in sports while representing the best traditions of his or her institution.

The late Fred Ware organized The World-Herald's sports department and served as sports editor from 1924 to '42. He later was the newspaper's managing editor and a member of The World-Herald's board of directors.

McDermott received consideration for the Ware Award in 2012 after setting a school single-season scoring record, leading the Bluejays to the NCAA tournament and earning consensus first-team All-America honors.

He repeated each feat last season. The 6-foot-8 McDermott scored 834 points to break his school record of 801. In the process, he set the career scoring record after just three seasons and heads into his senior season with an outside chance of becoming just the eighth player in NCAA Division I history to score 3,000 career points.

McDermott helped Creighton win an NCAA tournament game in back-to-back seasons for the first time in school history.

He repeated as a first-team All-American as well as the Missouri Valley player of the year. McDermott was a finalist for the Naismith, Wooden and Robertson national player of the year awards.

His decision to return to school came after more than a month of deliberation. That period left many a Creighton fan anxious, especially with the Bluejays' move from the Missouri Valley to the Big East next season.

The 10-team basketball-centric conference formed when seven members of the old Big East joined with Creighton, Xavier and Butler.

Having McDermott around next season means his coach will sleep a little easier as he ponders the transition.

“We have one of the elite players in the country as we head into somewhat uncharted territory,” Creighton coach Greg McDermott said. “I also think it's good for the Big East. This league is starting anew in some ways.

“To have a player that has accomplished what Doug has in three years is a positive for the conference as well.”

The new Big East has a couple of marquee names in Georgetown and Marquette and a lucrative television contract with Fox.

What it doesn't have is Louisville, Connecticut, Pitt, Notre Dame and Syracuse — programs that formed the power base of the old league. A player of McDermott's stature will provide the league with a face that the casual college basketball fan can associate with this new amalgamation.

The league, in turn, will give McDermott a more stringent test of his game-in, game-out skills from January to March. He's performed well in previous meetings with top-flight opposition. As a junior, he averaged almost 26 points per game in nine contests against top-50 RPI opponents.

“The way I look at it, playing in the Big East will be like playing in an NCAA tournament game every single night,” he said. “We're not going to be familiar with each other. I'm going to go into this thing with the same mindset — to play as hard as I can and not really try to do anything different.

“I'm not going to try to do things I can't. I know it's going to be tougher, that the guys we'll be facing are going to be more physical and more athletic. At the same time, I think I've proven I can play against those kind of guys.”

Staying grounded has always been one of McDermott's strengths. Despite the tidal wave of attention he's received the past three seasons, he still is as humble as the day he walked on campus.

“He has a kind heart, almost to a fault,” said Jeff Vanderloo, Creighton's director of basketball operations.

A year ago, on the way back from watching the Final Four, McDermott befriended a handicapped youngster he happened to meet in the St. Louis airport.

Join the conversation on the Bluejays Today Facebook page.

“He ended up talking to him for an hour,” Vanderloo said. “Finally, I said, 'Doug, we have to go.' But that is just who he is. He is a good dude.”

Outside of McDermott's parents, Vanderloo might know Doug as well as anyone at Creighton knows him. They met when Doug was a toddler. Vanderloo coached against him in high school, when Doug played for Ames High School and Vanderloo led Sioux City East.

For the past two years, Vanderloo has served as McDermott's adviser. Each basketball assistant coach and Vanderloo have three or four players to keep track of during the school year.

It's rare when McDermott doesn't swing by Vanderloo's office for a daily chat. Sometimes the conversations are serious, dealing with academic issues or basketball problems. Other times, the conversations are a bit more trivial, about sports or other things that occupy the mind of a typical 21-year-old.

“And if he doesn't stop by, I know I'll get a couple of texts from him,” Vanderloo said.

One time, Vanderloo said, Greg McDermott asked what they spent so much time talking about.

“I said, 'You.'”

Doug spent a lot of hours in Vanderloo's office in April as he tried to sort through a life-changing decision about turning pro. Vanderloo would listen and offer advice here and there.

While many associated with the Creighton program fretted that Doug would leave, Vanderloo stayed calm. His gut told him which way McDermott was leaning, maybe even before Doug did.

Doug popped into Vanderloo's office shortly after telling his dad he would return to Creighton. He told Vanderloo that he had made his decision. Vanderloo replied that he already knew what it was.

McDermott looked puzzled. He had not yet told anyone else, including his mom.

“He wanted to know how I knew,” Vanderloo said. “I said, 'When you sit in that chair for two hours a day, I shut my mouth and I listen. I've known for three weeks that you weren't going to the NBA.'

“He's very smart and he knows what he wants. Some guys his age, you have to kind of steer in the right direction. Doug has a good head on his shoulders, and he has a great feel for people.”

A business major, McDermott has flirted with making the dean's list at Creighton.

“He's a good student,” Vanderloo said, “but not a great one.”

McDermott is a great college basketball player. Whether his talents transfer to the professional game is a question he decided he could wait to answer.

He said as he watched the NBA draft, he became even more convinced that he had made the right call. There was maybe an instant or two when he wondered if he might have been the guy drafted rather that the player actually picked.

“It was cool seeing guys I knew and guys that are my friends get drafted,” McDermott said. “And instead of thinking 'that could have been me,' I just thought 'that's going to be me next year.'

“I just knew at this time that I wasn't ready to go, so I'm going to come back and improve as much as I can. There is still so much more that I can do.”

Contact the writer: Steven Pivovar    |   402-679-2298    |  

Steven Pivovar is a staff writer for The Omaha World-Herald and primarily covers Creighton athletics and the College World Series.

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