McVeigh Accepting Of Supporting Role
So the shooting guard from Australia set a personal goal. He wanted to earn the Big Ten Conference’s Sixth Man of the Year Award as the league’s top player off the bench.
Entering Nebraska’s regular-season finale Sunday against Penn State, McVeigh has played in a grand total of three Big Ten games, and only one since Jan. 12, the last time the Huskers played Penn State.
McVeigh played 21 minutes in that game, helping Nebraska rally from a large deficit before it lost in overtime. Aside from a brief appearance against Rutgers two weeks ago, he’s not played since.
Suffice it to say this isn’t how McVeigh envisioned his third season in a Nebraska uniform.
“I had no idea. It just happened. Just one of those things. It can happen like that,” McVeigh said, snapping his fingers.
“You have to adjust. Everything happens for a reason, so you have to make the most of your opportunities.”
That’s the word McVeigh kept using to describe this season, which came after he played in 30 games and started 11 as a sophomore, averaging 23 minutes a game.
He understands, though. Last season, coaches needed a shooter to accompany ball-handlers in Tai Webster, now departed, and Glynn Watson Jr. This season, Nebraska had more shooters, like Isaac Copeland Jr., join the fray. Defensively, McVeigh is honest in admitting that while he has the length, he probably lacks the athleticism coaches want.
“They talked to me a little bit, saying, ‘Keep working, keep your head up,’ ” McVeigh said. “Coach Mo (Jim Molinari) has been really great. We talk all the time. He’s been incredible. I sent him a text the other day, just saying thanks for this whole …”
“It’s hard. Anyone who says otherwise is lying.”
On the other hand, McVeigh realizes he can’t let a game that he loves negatively impact his outlook.
“If you sit there and think about it too much, you’ll go crazy,” McVeigh said. “I know I can play well. I know I’m a Big Ten player. It’s just one of those things. It’s no hard feelings on me or on them. We’re winning, and that’s the most important thing.”
Anybody who’s met or knows McVeigh understands his lack of playing time cannot and will not crush his spirit. His smile, laugh and overall attitude have all long been infectious for Nebraska players, coaches and team personnel.
“It’s approaching every day with the right mindset and being, ‘How can I help us win?’ kind of attitude,” he said.
“It’s been tough. It was really hard, and I was kind of struggling for a while. Then Johnny came up to me and said, ‘You’re good, the real show is on the sideline.’ ”
McVeigh is referring to walk-on Johnny Trueblood, who, along with senior walk-on Malcolm Laws, had begun some sideline celebrations during games as ways to stay involved, to support the team while not playing.
They told McVeigh to sit back with them, have a good time, enjoy cheering the team.
“I was like, ‘You know what? You’re right,’ ” McVeigh said.
What’s evolved since has been labeled the “Bench Mob,” with bench players orchestrating and choreographing various celebrations. Television cameras have zoomed in, and social media has taken notice.
Hey, there could be worse attention for a team on the NCAA Tournament bubble, right?
“We work hard. We go out there and enjoy the games and cheer everybody on,” said McVeigh, noting he added his “artistic flair” to some of the celebrations.
“It’s fun, yeah. I love it. Especially in home games, when the crowd gets into it, that’s the best, when we stand up on defense, because that’s genuinely helping.”
McVeigh, a fan of comedian Joe Rogan, has long wanted to conduct and circulate podcasts. With his “mental fatigue” not as bad, he decided to take on the challenge this season. His podcasts, mostly 20 minutes long, are interviews with current team members.
“I did a podcast with Johnny, and I said if anybody had any ideas, throw ‘em at us, and I had like 100 people message me,” he said of the sideline celebrations. “I was like, ‘Wow, people really like this.’ That kind of took it to the next level.”
McVeigh is hoping to expand guests soon to include former players, including Shavon Shields and Webster. Links to his podcast can be found on his Twitter account.
Of course, McVeigh is accepting his role in an easier fashion largely in part because of Nebraska’s winning ways. The Huskers, 21-9 overall, and 12-5 in the Big Ten, can secure a No. 4 seed in the Big Ten Tournament by defeating Penn State on Sunday. A victory would also set a school record for conference wins in a regular season.
“We’re two or three games away from doing something real special, and that’s the bigger picture,” McVeigh said of Nebraska’s goal of winning the program’s first NCAA Tournament game.
“That’s what the focus is going to be on. Let’s get a 'dub in the NCAA tournament. That’s the plan. It’s crazy to say, but we’re 80 minutes away from doing that. But it’s a big 80 minutes.”
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