Friday, May 01, 2009

McDermott Weighing Future Options

May 1, 2009

By Zach Smart

Tim Welsh recalls hounding down Geoff McDermott when the 6-foot-7 forward mounted his Divison-I stock at New Rochelle High School. McDermott was evolving into a highly sought after product on the recruiting market, and everyone from Fred Hill to Mike Krzyzewski was checking out the versatile kid from Westchester County, N.Y.

The Section I/Westchester County hoops culture was buzzing. College coaches had one on eye on McDermott, one eye on the game. They kept tabs on his well-rounded numbers and watched him make his teammates better.

McDermott's cat-quick evolution, one that pan out and receive plenty of major D-I love his senior year, was intriguing.

McDermott's game took off mid-way through his junior year at New Rochelle. He ran the show and played off the ball for the Huguenots, garnering respect from cats like Keith Benjamin (Pitt), Dexter Gray (St. John's/Iona), Jonathon Mitchell (Florida/Rutgers), Mike Coburn (Rutgers), and Chris Lowe (UMass) at Mount Vernon.

One of the most storied rivalries in Section I was heated back then, and McDermott had officially evolved into the new block during the 2003-04 season.

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He played sparingly as a rail-skinny sophomore.

After getting into a fight with the weight room, filling out, and smoothing over gaps in his game that summer (he developed into a presence in the running and passing game), McDermott began to flower.

He led the New Rochelle Huguenots to multiple marquee victories and made it an interesting game against Mount Vernon.

His fundamentally sound approach, coupled with rarified versatility garnered the attention of then-Providence coach Tim Welsh.

Welsh felt that McDermott's balanced game would be a glove-fit at Providence, a burgeoning Big East school that raised eyebrows during the Donnie McGrath/Ryan Gomes phenomenon.

For Welsh, however, there was one problem which surfaced.

Providence was lacking a considerable recruiting tool. Other potential major Division-I suitors such as Syracuse, Arizona State, Rutgers, Pittsburgh, and Wisconsin (where he took an official visit) were utilizing this tool to lure the 6-foot-6 235-pound forward into an early commitment.

The Badgers had another Westchester County player in former Edgemont HS fullback Matt Bernstein, who could have lured the kid to take the snaps in football-crazed Madison, Wisc.

Providence, of course, didn't have a football team.

McDermott, an all-state quarterback who led New Rochelle to the 2004 Class AA championship, wanted to pursue both sports.

McDermott was the highly-touted signal caller for a memorable team (arguably the best in school history) that featured former Rutgers running back Ray Rice, who now plays in the NFL.

Rice and McDermott are tight, they've known each other since they were elementary schoolers, and it was McDermott who convinced the blink-quick 5-foot-9, muscle-bound Rice to play basketball for New Rochelle his senior year. But the tandem wouldn't continue their success on the gridiron in college.

Then, McDermott made a gut decision. He decided his athletic future would center around basketball, and narrowed his choices down to Duke, Providence, and Boston College.

McDermott's uncle, Keith, said that academics played a role in his nephew's decision. All three schools were known as prestigious academic institutions.

Keith McDermott, who says his missed maybe three of Goeff's games in his four-year career at Providence, said he knew his nephew would be able to master the transition to point-forward.

It was after his freshman year--when McDermott averaged 8.9 points and 9.0 boards--that McDermott was asked to shoulder the role of playmaker. He morphed into Mr. Versatility, averaging five dimes his junior and senior year.

"From my standpoint, I think hes always been a good rebounder and a good passer. I know everyone harps on his quarterback days." said Keith McDermott, who lives in nearby Milton, Mass. and was raised in Money Earnin' Mount Vernon.

"He's an unselfish person, he's always looking to get everyone involved. That, more than anyhing else. Being an unselfish person, being a quarterback, he was sort of forced to play the point. That kind of reinforced his passing more than anything else."

Donnie McGrath was there to mentor him his freshman season. McGrath, another Section I kid who re-wrote the record book at Kennedy HS (Somers, N.Y.) passed the pigment out of the basketball before passing the baton to Geoff Mac. McGrath had tryouts with the Knicks in 2006. His current whereabouts are unknown.

McDermott's collegiate career ended in March. Unfortunately, the Friars' folded under an avalanche of Jack McClinton 3-pointers. The Friars fell to Miami, 78-66, in the NIT. McClinton was the catalyst, dialing in for seven treys. McClinton broke his own school record for most three-pointers in a season.

If there were changes other than McDermott's enhanced leadership role and increased presence in the passing lanes, they were subtle.

"G-MAC" averaged 9 points, 9 boards, and five assists his sophomore year. As a junior, he posted a similar line with 10 points, eight boards, and five dimes. As a senior, McDermott averaged 8 points, 8 caroms, and three dimes.

No question, McDermott will be sorely missed in Providence next year.

Not to worry.

One player who will likely cushion the rangy playmaker's loss is Providence-bound point guard Johnnie Lacy, who operates the high-tempo offense at Notre Dame Prep.

While McDermott's career in the Big East may be finished, I'll bet dollars to donuts he's not hanging the kicks up.

A peacock-proud uncle says his nephew is most focused on graduating with a
degree in business. He only has about a month left, so I won't give a "congrats Geoff" shoutout just yet.

After a solid four-year stay with the Friars, G-MAC will most likely take his game over the pond, for a career in Europe or elsewhere.



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