SAN ANTONIO — How much does Creighton University think of former Linn-Mar basketball player Grant Gibbs?
Enough to turn this season’s College Basketball Player of the Year into a walk-on. Enough for the school’s men’s basketball coach to shell out $44,000 without a squawk.
The back story: Gibbs’ college career was done last March when the Bluejays lost to Duke in the third-round of the NCAA tournament. He was a fifth-year senior, and that was that.
“I said I’d sit out and not do anything for two months and then figure out what I was going to do,” Gibbs said. “I did that, and after two months I still didn’t have anything figured out. I was going to try to play in Europe as a backup plan.”
But as time passed last spring, Creighton Coach Greg McDermott and Gibbs decided to apply to the NCAA for the player to get a sixth year of eligibility since he didn’t play in his first year at Gonzaga because of a torn labrum, and after transferring to Creighton, couldn’t practice in his first year there because of microfracture knee surgery.
So he only got three years of playing time in five years. The NCAA, in a move that surprised many, granted Gibbs a sixth season via a second medical red-shirt year.
But the Bluejays already had the maximum number of scholarship players (13) when the NCAA made the ruling last July, so McDermott took his superstar son, Doug, off scholarship and made him a walk-on for his senior season.
“It was a tremendous gesture, obviously, by Coach and Doug to do that for me to be able to come back one more year,” Gibbs said here Thursday. “I think he’s kind of solidified his spot as probably the best walk-on in the nation with that.”
“I was traveling with USA basketball, and we were still waiting on the NCAA decision on Gibbs, and my dad called me on the way to Russia,” Doug McDermott said. “I was in the airport, and he told me the news. I had never been more excited to be a walk-on, because that meant we have one of our best players back.”
The McDermotts got no tuition-reduction because Greg hadn’t been an employee of the school for five years. The price of tuition, room and board is about $44,000.
“He (Doug) reminds me of that,” Gibbs said. “His mother reminds me of that daily that I owe her some money when this is all over.”
The McDermotts won’t be seeking a refund from the player. While Doug has been nothing short of spectacular in his Creighton career, he can than Gibbs for helping him. Gibbs has 489 assists in 98 games as a Bluejay, and a big chunk of those went to the senior forward with 3,105 career points.
“He’s pretty much made my career,” said Gibbs. “I hope I made him a little bit better.”
Greg McDermott puts it in stronger terms.
“Grant’s leadership and impact on this program has been nothing short of incredible,” he said. “The 3-year run that we’ve been on (83 wins, just 21 losses), it’s not a coincidence that’s when he’s been eligible to play for us.
“He has great leadership and a tremendous basketball IQ, and he’s played through a fistful of injuries.”
Gibbs had to miss seven games during Creighton’s first Big East season because he dislocated a kneecap during a game against DePaul. He returned seven games later, with the opponent again DePaul. In his only Bluejay appearance as a non-starter, he had 8 assists, 7 points and 5 rebounds in 21 minutes.
Gibbs was the Missouri Valley Conference’s assists leader the previous two seasons. He is a career 52.7 percent field goal shooter as a Bluejay, 40.8 percent from 3-point range. And he’s a college graduate, having earned a degree in journalism last May.
He has blogged for USA TODAY this season, and says he’d like to go into broadcasting and writing if he doesn’t go into coaching instead.
And, Gibbs has another distinction. He was a neighbor of another point guard who has made an impression in college basketball after graduating from Linn-Mar, North Carolina sophomore Marcus Paige.
“He grew up right up the street from me,” Gibbs said. “Our age gap is actually pretty strange, playing college basketball together.”
Gibbs is 24. He is a month younger than Iowa State senior guard DeAndre Kane.
“Everybody lets him off the hook, man,” Gibbs said in mock outrage. “He’s the same age as me. Ride him about being old. I get enough of those comments.”