Shatel: These Jays are a complete team — by any name

“Doug is a fabulous player,” said his dad, coach Greg McDermott. “But we are not a one-man show. Ethan Wragge could start for anybody at our level and a lot of teams above our level.”


Let's see. Mac and the Miracles?

No. That's no good.

Doug and the Wing Men?

Better. But not really.

OK, how about this? Doug and the Other Guys Who Like Winning.

Call them the Creighton Bluejays. And call them a team that looks deep enough, and tough enough, to finish a basketball season like no other Creighton team.

From a marketing standpoint, you could put a catchy nickname on this team. The Jays don't need it. They're on everyone's radar, Valley dartboard, Bracketology chart and top 20 rankings.

Of course, the national rep starts with Doug McDermott. Another national college hoops writer was at the CenturyLink Center on Saturday, following the local national player of the year candidate.

But what the scribe saw (if he didn't already know) in a Missouri Valley win over Indiana State is that the Jays don't live on Doug and Doug alone.

The latest exhibit came in the second half, when the Jays' depth washed over ISU. The Sycamores weren't intimidated by Creighton or its crowd. They were hitting tough shots and taking it to the Jays.

Indiana State was up 44-41 with 14:09 left when Doug picked up his third foul and headed for the bench. The Jays had been a bit sluggish. The crowd groaned. It was nervous time.

But Ethan Wragge was just getting warmed up. So, too, was center Gregory Echenique. They combined for 15 points to right the ship and give CU a 56-52 lead when McDermott came back with 8:36 left.

Echenique had nine points in the run. The big man was fed by guards Austin Chatman and Grant Gibbs. They had nine and eight assists, respectively. Wragge lit up a trio of 3-pointers.

The Creighton options started flying at Indiana State coach Greg Lansing and his tough Sycamores. This team is too much.

“Doug is a fabulous player,” said his father, coach Greg McDermott. “But we are not a one-man show. Ethan Wragge could start for anybody at our level and a lot of teams above our level.

“We have a lot of guys who can play, who check their egos at the door and embrace their role.”

That's the beauty of a great team. That's the definition of beautiful basketball, not the alley-oop from Gibbs to Echenique or the inside passing or fast breaks.

It's the chemistry you get from players who know and enjoy their roles, who don't mind stepping behind the spotlight. It can be a rare thing. And maybe the lack of egos is a product of Missouri Valley kids, guys who were overlooked in recruiting, guys who don't hear people talk about their NBA prospects.

Maybe it's the chemistry you get from winning.

“When I started as a freshman, we didn't even win 20 games,” Wragge said of the 2009-10 season (18-16 record). “It feels good having your name called and you're 14-1. I would much rather be part of something like this. Nothing brings you together more than winning.”

There are so many roles, so many options on this team, even without a key role player in senior Josh Jones. Wragge and Avery Dingman are being asked to replace Jones' instant offense. They combined for five 3s.

Then there's Chatman. The sophomore point guard had the most pressure on him this season, being asked to take over a veteran team poised to make a title run. Chatman has had to grow and learn on the run, and he's done it. He's been a better scorer than some expected (13 points Saturday), but his value comes from that nine assist-to-two turnover ratio. He's becoming the reliable quarterback his team needs.

Gibbs is kind of the ultimate role player, the definitive wingman not just for McDermott, but everyone. He gets lauded for his basketball IQ. He's the team's handyman, who's liable to make the big pass, take the charge or make basketball plays that win games. Like this: finding ways to feed McDermott and Echenique when the opponent seemingly has the door locked and the inside smothered.

“I have to assume that Doug and Echenique take care of him at Christmas,” Lansing said. “He spoon feeds them. He's a winning player.”

Lansing's team made a great run at CU. Veteran guard Jake Odum and the Sycamores were fearless, making plays on defense and hitting big shots. They had a 10-0 run early in the second half and went up seven.

That's what you expect in this league. Greg McDermott said his players knew ISU's plays when they were called out and vice versa. Moreover, familiarity means not being intimidated. The Jays can expect this kind of thing every game.

That's why league titles are hard to win, and so meaningful. It takes toughness. The Jays have chemistry and roles. But they also seem tougher, more resilient this year. When Doug went out, they didn't panic. The role players, or whatever they want to call themselves, made plays.

“They are an unbelievably talented team,” Lansing said. “I can't see them losing too many.”

The blue bus rolls on. Doug McDermott is driving the bus. But, make no mistake, the bus is full.

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