Loyola athletic director confirms McDonald won't return to team Point guard had told coach on Christmas night

January 12, 1996|By Roch Eric Kubatko | Roch Eric Kubatko,SUN STAFF

If Loyola College is going to salvage its basketball season, which began with seven losses in its first eight games, it will do so without John McDonald.

Athletic director Joe Boylan confirmed Wednesday night that the sophomore point guard has decided not to return to school. McDonald, who is staying with his parents in Mount Vernon, N.Y., did not return phone calls, and his father declined to comment.

McDonald had told coach Brian Ellerbe on Christmas night that he was leaving for personal reasons. He met with Boylan for two hours in Mount Vernon last week but apparently hasn't changed his mind.

Boylan said he believes there are a variety of reasons why McDonald chose to leave Loyola, and many have nothing to do with basketball. But he wouldn't elaborate, saying he had promised McDonald to keep their conversation private.

"When I left, I thought he'd seriously consider coming back," Boylan said. "It's always disappointing when a young man decides to leave here. We wish him well in the future. He's a good person."

Unless McDonald is willing to talk, it appears his departure will remain a mystery. Few people at the school know why it happened, and no one is commenting on it. But it's becoming clear that he was unhappy even before returning from summer break and never felt totally comfortable at Loyola.

"It's more or less personal," Ellerbe said, adding that he wasn't given any reasons.

A member of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference's All-Rookie team as a freshman, McDonald was averaging 10.9 points, 3.1 rebounds and 2.4 assists this season. He also was playing about 30 minutes a game in his second season as a starter.

"I think it's just unfortunate to see a young man throw away an opportunity to better himself, and it goes farther than basketball," Ellerbe said.

McDonald's decision is a blow to a program looking for stability.

Last January, during Ellerbe's first season at Loyola, sophomore guard Darius Johnson left the team after his dedication was questioned by his coach. He kept his scholarship and remains at Loyola as a full-time student.

Ellerbe said there were no problems between McDonald and himself. And Boylan described the relationship between the two as typical player-coach.

"The kid was playing 30 minutes a game and has started every game he's ever suited up for us. I don't see where that could be a problem," Ellerbe said.

Sophomore Mike Powell has moved from shooting guard to McDonald's spot and continues to lead the team in scoring.

Ellerbe said Powell "is not a point guard and really never will be. But he's a team player and is doing whatever we ask of him."

Help is on the way next season. Loyola recently signed Jason Rowe of Buffalo, N.Y., rated one of the nation's best point guards.

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