Doug McDermott might be “the man” for Creighton's basketball team, but Ethan Wragge is the Bluejays' sixth man.
And now he has the award to prove it.
The Missouri Valley honored the two Creighton players on Tuesday, naming McDermott its player of the year for the second straight season while selecting Wragge as the winner of the Sixth Man Award.
“Ethan is very deserving of the award,” Creighton coach Greg McDermott said. “It's one thing to do what he does for us. It's another thing to embrace the role that we've asked him to play.
“I can't remember one time since I've coached Ethan that he's questioned anything we're doing. He's trying to find a way to impact our team.”
Doug McDermott also earned All-Valley first-team recognition for the third straight season, while teammates Grant Gibbs and Gregory Echenique were honorable mention. Echenique earned a spot on the league's all-defense team for the third straight season.
Wragge's primary impact on the Bluejays has come with his 3-point shooting — his 68 baskets from beyond the arc rank fourth in the league. The 6-foot-7 junior from Eden Prairie, Minn., is shooting 43 percent from 3-point range — 46 percent in conference play. He ranks fourth on the team in scoring with a 7.8 average.
Wragge started seven games at the end of his freshman season in 2009-10 but has played a reserve role in Greg McDermott's three seasons as Creighton's coach. After missing most of the 2010-11 season with a foot injury, Wragge averaged 6.6 points a game last season and earned a spot on the league's all-bench team.
“I wanted to build on that from last year,” Wragge said. “It was pretty clear to me what my role was coming in and it's something you just have to embrace. I don't need to hear my name called with the starting lineup.
“It's nice to know that the coaches know what they can expect out of me.”
Wragge is the fourth Creighton player to receive the Sixth Man Award and the first since Booker Woodfox won it in 2008.
Doug McDermott became the eighth player in Valley history to win the player of the year award in back-to-back seasons since the league inaugurated the honor in 1969. Former Bluejay Kyle Korver also was a two-time winner, as was hall of famer Larry Bird, for whom the award is now named.
McDermott received 35 of the 36 first-place votes he was eligible to receive in the balloting by the league coaches, sports information directors and a media panel. The four voters per school could not vote for an athlete from the school with which they're associated.
Evansville's Colt Ryan received four first-place votes and finished second, while Illinois State's Jackie Carmichael received the other first-place vote and finished third.
“I'm excited that I was able to have another good year this year on another winning team,” McDermott said. “It's been tough because teams put a lot of attention on me.
“My teammates did a great job all season of finding me in the right spots. It's been a great season, but there is still a lot of basketball to be played.”
McDermott led the league in scoring for the second straight season. He is the first Valley player since Bradley's Hersey Hawkins, another two-time player of the year, to have two consecutive 700-point seasons. Hawkins did it in 1987 and '88.
“It's a great honor for Doug, and it's even better that he was able to do it with a team that won a conference championship,” Greg McDermott said. “Sometimes in sports the hardest thing to do is what you're supposed to do.
“In our case, it was our team being expected to win a championship and then finding a way to do it and Doug being named preseason player of the year and finding a way do to that, too. It's harder to do when everyone expects you to do it.”
Ryan, Carmichael, Indiana State's Jake Odum and Wichita State's Cleanthony Early joined McDermott as first-team selections. Early was named the league's newcomer of the year, while Missouri State's Marcus Mashall was the freshman of the year.
Bradley's Dyricus Simms-Edwards was selected the defensive player of the year, while Wichita State was selected the defensive team of the year.
The league will announce its most-improved team and its all-bench team Wednesday. The winner of the coach of the year award will be announced Thursday at a luncheon that kicks off the Valley tournament in St. Louis.
As the coach of the championship team, Greg McDermott is a leading candidate for the award. His son said it would be neat if the McDermotts could walk off with the conference's two major awards.
“It really makes no difference to me,” Greg McDermott said. “I'd rather be the coach of the team that won the league than the coach of the year any time. The fact that he was the player of the year on the team that I coached is plenty for me.”
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