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home : sports : sports   April 29, 2016

8/1/2014 10:43:00 AM
Where Are They Now? Craig McCormick

Ottawa graduate Craig McCormick and his father, Don, at a Western Kentucky University basketball game in February. After leading Ottawa to state, McCormick played at WKU before being drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers. He never played with the Lakers and after a two-year stint overseas, McCormick returned to Bowling Green, Ky. where he lives with his wife, Debbie, and works at a bank.Submitted photo
+ click to enlarge
Ottawa graduate Craig McCormick and his father, Don, at a Western Kentucky University basketball game in February. After leading Ottawa to state, McCormick played at WKU before being drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers. He never played with the Lakers and after a two-year stint overseas, McCormick returned to Bowling Green, Ky. where he lives with his wife, Debbie, and works at a bank.
Submitted photo
Brandon LaChance
NewsTribune Sports Writer

Craig McCormick was at Ottawa for only three years after moving from Oakland, Calif., but what a three years it was for Pirate basketball.

The 6 foot, 10 inch center came to Ottawa for his sophomore season in 1975-76 and graduated in 1978 as the school’s career scoring leader with 1,681 points — which is still tops in boys basketball.

With his soft touch around the basket, his passing and shooting ability and defensive prowess, Ottawa knew it had something special.

“I don’t think there is any doubt, McCormick was the best basketball player Ottawa ever had,” said Danny Eilts, who has only missed Ottawa games for a year and a half stretch from 1969 to now as a reporter, statistician or color commentator. “He could shoot really well and he could get down the court rather fast.

“He was just a really good athlete. He could have played other sports but he was hooked on basketball. What I remember was, in those days is people were allowed in practice. I would go to watch and there would be coaches like Kentucky’s Joe B. Hall in the stands watching a practice. That was pretty neat.”

McCormick helped Ottawa to a 69-13 record in his three seasons, including a trip to super-sectional his junior season and a trip to state to end his senior campaign, which earned the 1977-78 team a place in the Ottawa Hall of Fame.

After his stellar career at Ottawa, McCormick knew he wanted to go to the next level to play.

With many schools pursuing him, he chose the program he felt he belonged in the most.

“I could have went to quite a few different schools — Kentucky, Duke, Wake Forrest and a lot of Big Ten schools — but at the time I listened to a story from a guy named Gene Keady, who had just become the head coach at Western Kentucky (University),” McCormick said. “I didn’t know a whole lot about Western until I came on my visit.

“The tradition and heritage were so strong over the past and then they had had six or seven down years. Keady wanted to recharge the program. I felt like I wanted to be part of that.”

Keady only stayed for two seasons before taking over at Purdue for the next 25 years, but McCormick was already knee-deep in a great college career and his surroundings in Bowling Green, Ky. that he decided to stay instead of transferring with his coach.

McCormick did have an opportunity to beat a Keady-coached team, but  the Hilltoppers lost to Purdue by seven points in the first round of the 1982 NIT.
“It was kind of neat to play against coach Keady in my last game and try to beat him,” McCormick said.

At WKU, McCormick was All-American honorable mention his senior season, three-time All-Ohio Valley Conference, 1982 WKU Male Athlete of the Year, and more often than not the team’s leading scorer and rebounder. He still holds the school single-game record for shooting percentage at 92.3 (12-of-13).

McCormick was drafted to the Los Angeles Lakers in the fourth round (90th overall pick) of the NBA Draft and played in the Lakers summer league and veteran league with such players as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, Jamaal Wilkes, Michael Cooper and Kurt Rambis.

However, McCormick was cut before his rookie season started.

“We got to about the last week before the season started and there were two spots still open on the team and there was three of us there — myself, Willie “Hutch” Jones out of Vanderbilt and Joe Cooper,” McCormick said. “Willie and I got cut right before the start of the season because they signed Bob McAdoo and re-signed Mark Landsberger, who went to Italy, didn’t like it and came back.
“There went the two spots.”

After two seasons overseas in Israel and Spain, McCormick decided to go back to Bowling Green.

Since his parents Don and Betty had moved to the city after his sophomore year at WKU and he had job connections there, it seemed like the right place.

McCormick has lived there ever since and has been married to his wife Debbie for 12 years. They share a house with two black labs named Maddie and Maxx.

“I was always good with numbers. It was easy for me. I either wanted to get into engineering or finance — those were the two ideas I wanted to pursue,” said McCormick, who finished the nine credits remaining to receive his Bachelors degree in finance from WKU in 1985. “With working at the bank during the summer (during his college years), it gave me hands-on experience of what banking was like at that time.

“After I stopped playing basketball, I came back to the bank and it started a management training program. I was one of two people who were the first people in the program. That’s what catapulted me into the banking side. I went through a structured program for about 18-24 months in different areas of the bank and then ended up in the lending side of the bank.”

In March, McCormick celebrated his 30th year with the bank.

Even through being named to three hall of fames — Ottawa as individual and team, WKU and the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association — his time at WKU, pro summer leagues, basketball overseas and a six-year stint on Big Red Radio covering Hilltoppers’ games while maintaining his banking job, McCormick is still the same guy he was at Ottawa.

“He was the best man in my wedding and I was the best man in his wedding,” said Kevin Kimes, who started on the Pirate teams with McCormick and talks with him regularly. “We have a lot of things in common. We’re both family oriented and we love to fish and hunt. We’ve just stayed in contact because we’ve had a great friendship.

“I was also good friends with his parents and got to know them real well. I felt like we had a good bond on both sides because he had a good relationship with mine. He was part of our family and I was part of his family.”

Brandon LaChance can be reached at 220-6995, or Follow him on Twitter @NT_LaChance.

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