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Quinn McDowell will be missed, and not just by William & Mary

March 3, 2012 Columns No Comments

RICHMOND, Va. – Quinn McDowell didn’t want this to end. It’s only natural for any competitor to not want a career to end, but McDowell isn’t just any athlete. And as he was asked about his college career coming to an end, as happened Friday night, he fought back the tears and was at a loss for words.

“It’s difficult to believe it’s over,” said the senior, pausing at times. “In terms of wins and losses, my career has not gone exactly as I envisioned it, especially this season. As I told the guys, there’s not a group of guys that I would rather have gone through this year with, and that’s what’s made the last four years special.”

McDowell never really got untracked in William & Mary’s loss against Northeastern, as he had six points on 3-10 shooting, missing all four of his shots from long range. But like his team, and as is his nature, he tried to find ways to get going. He even posted up to try to score, something you would rarely see him do – anything to get a basket and help his team as they played from behind all night.

It was a sharp contrast to 52 weeks ago in the same building. That night, McDowell was scintillating, scoring a career-high 35 points in an upset win over James Madison. That set a CAA tournament scoring record and brought some attention to a young man who has been nothing if not a hidden gem.

Head coach Tony Shaver describes McDowell, who is quite baby-faced for a college senior, as a natural-born leader. He didn’t start saying that about him this year; it was something that was apparent all along. William & Mary is the toughest place to win in the CAA, a school that wouldn’t be misplaced in the Ivy or Patriot League academically yet competes in one of the best mid-major conferences in the country. Because of that, and the relative lack of success (although the team two years ago did reach the NIT), the best players there tend to be hidden away. McDowell is a good example, and not just because of the team’s wins and losses.

One thing McDowell was never going to do was put up eye-popping numbers. He’s simply not the kind of player who’s going to score 25 points per game or lead the nation in any other statistical category. That was something they had to guard against the last couple of years as he was the clear best player on the team, although that was mainly in the sense of others’ expectations. Shaver warned that while they needed him to be the kind of player his first two seasons indicated he could be, that didn’t mean a big jump in statistical categories. He would surely be better, but looking at his numbers wouldn’t tell you that.

McDowell, whose father graduated from William & Mary in 1985 and played football at the school, made an impact right away upon coming to Williamsburg. He continued it throughout his career, even through tough junior and senior seasons after the Tribe reached the CAA championship game in his sophomore season. The senior season was a little tougher, as he missed practice time early with a knee injury, and while he didn’t miss a game you had to wonder if he was ever close to 100 percent during the season.

At the end of the day, McDowell is a player who will be missed because he represents what’s great about college basketball. We hear all the stories about players who get in trouble with the law or get kicked off a team for violating team or school policy. But there are many quality young men out there, not unlike Quinn McDowell, although not many are in his class as well.

“Quinn is one of the more special people I’ve been around in my life,” said Shaver. “He’s made a significant impact not only in our program, but to the College of William & Mary and in the community, as great of an impact as anybody I’ve coached in 35 years of coaching. He stands for a lot of good things.”

It’s not an accident that McDowell, who was also a good soccer player in high school, is the first two-time winner of the CAA’s Dean Ehlers Leadership Award, which he received again on Thursday night. He’s also one of ten finalists for the Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award. He served as a President’s aide as a member of the William & Mary President’s Council and served three years on the school’s Student Athlete Advisory Committee. This year, he is President of the Tribe Fellowship student organization, and he has helped lead the basketball program’s involvement in the community.

On top of all that, McDowell helped organize an initiative that raised between $30,000 and $35,000 to help endow the First Lieutenant Todd W. Weaver Memorial Scholarship. Lt. Weaver graduated from the college Phi Beta Kappa in 2008 and subsequently enlisted in the Army, and he was killed in Afghanistan in September of 2010. Along with other initiatives, about $50,000 was raised for the endowment, which will provide study-abroad opportunities for students at the college interested in government and international relations.

As one CAA assistant summed up when McDowell’s name was mentioned, “he has a very bright future.”

McDowell’s career is unfortunately over, and it’s obvious that he’ll be missed by William & Mary. But he’ll also be missed by anyone who is a fan of college basketball, because Quinn McDowell is the kind of young man that a fan of the game can root for.

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