Andy Sneddon, CMUChippewas.com
MOUNT PLEASANT, Mich. – John McCarty wasn’t chasing the athletic-scholarship carrot or the professional-basketball pipe dream.
To the Central Michigan senior, basketball was a pursuit, something he loved, and not a means to an end. His eggs were in another basket.
Last week, McCarty’s three-plus years as a walk-on on the Chippewa men’s team came to an end when coach Keno Davis granted a scholarship to the Lake Orion native.
“It feels like a lot of hard work has paid off -- it feels great,” said McCarty, whose parents both earned degrees from CMU. “I’m very thankful for everything the Central Michigan coaches have provided for me and I’m very happy that I have been able to work for them these past four years.”
McCarty’s story is a familiar one in the walk-on world: He has played sparingly (17 games) in his career, quietly goes about his business fulfilling whatever role is asked of him, doesn’t make waves, and is well-liked by the coaching staff and teammates.
Where his story veers from that of the typical walk-on, or typical college student, for that matter: He has a 4.0 grade point average majoring in biology/biomedical sciences and, after graduating in May, is headed to Yale where he will enroll in the School of Medicine as part of the physician associate program.
“He’s very deserving to be on scholarship,” sixth-year CMU coach Keno Davis said. “He’s a young man who has been very beneficial to our program on the court while being exceptional academically. He’s got a bright future ahead of him and it will be very enjoyable to watch his success as he continues his pursuits academically and professionally.”
McCarty has ingratiated himself with his CMU teammates over his years on several fronts, first and foremost on the court. His job? Push and prod – be his best to bring out the best in teammates.
At 6-foot-5 and 205 pounds, McCarty is perfect for the scout team – a good-sized body with the intelligence and basketball acumen to quickly adapt to concepts and schemes presented by the Chippewas’ opponents.
He also possesses a skill set, something that is often overlooked by outsiders when talk turns to the scout team. He was a very good player at Lake Orion High School north of Detroit, starring in the very competitive Oakland Activities Association against some of top-notch competition. He, like most walk-ons, could be an IAC hero in the intramural leagues, if he had chosen that route.
“He takes a beating day in and day out,” says fellow senior Josh Kozinski, one of McCarty’s best friends. “We use him almost like a football dummy. I know how much hard work he puts in and that’s (scholarship) great for him. He’s a great guy on and off the floor. I’m really happy for him.”
On game days, the likes of Kozinski and David DiLeo – another teammate who frequently squares off with McCarty in practice – are the stars, cheered on by McCarty from the end of the bench.
Off the court, the roles can often be reversed.
“Smartest guy I know,” says Kozinski, the program’s all-time leader in 3-pointers. “I learn things from John, whether it’s basketball-wise or just asking him, ‘What does this word even mean?’
“Coming to him for help on homework, he’s obviously the doctor, he knows a lot about science. I’m a finance major; he’s helped me in a lot when it came to academics … I took a couple of bio classes and he definitely helped me out with a couple of those. He knew his stuff; I didn’t.”
Good teammate, on the court and off. It’s a two-way street and soon, McCarty will be gone, off to Yale hitting the midway point of what is unfolding as a hall-of-fame academic career. He’ll be a pro, someday, but not on the basketball court.
Still, scholarship or not, McCarty is the same student, athlete and man he was before coach Keno Davis called him into his office last week and delivered the news of the scholarship award. McCarty didn’t need the validation that it brings, but it’s an accomplishment nonetheless, one which the senior relishes.
Just as he has relished his time in the program.
“You’re treated just like all the other guys and down in the locker room, scholarship or no scholarship, everyone’s got each other’s backs and I’ve loved that since day one,” he said. “Being able to play the game that I’ve been playing since I was a little kid has been the world to me too.”