Casey Harriman walked off the Qwest Center Omaha court one last time late Monday afternoon, his shoulders aching but his head held high.
The senior forward has decided it’s time to hang up his jersey. He’ll undergo surgery on his left shoulder Wednesday to repair a torn labrum. He’ll need an operation on his right shoulder to repair similar damage in the future.
The 6-foot-5 Harriman injured his right shoulder at the end of his sophomore season but played his entire junior season with the injury, starting 15 of 31 games. He injured the left shoulder while lifting weights last summer.
“I tried to do everything I could to play through it, but it’s getting worse,’’ Harriman said. “I was going to wait until after the end of the season to have surgery just so I could continue to practice. I knew I couldn’t play, and that was fine with me because you can’t play a guy with one arm.
“But I had to think long-term and what’s going to be in my best interest.’’
If Harriman had waited until after the season, it could have hindered his ability to get a job after graduation in May. As it stands, he’ll have his left arm in a sling for several months and face nine to 12 months of rehabilitation.
After talking with some prospective employers in recent weeks, Harriman decided it was time to get the shoulder repaired.
He’ll remain with the team through the season. Coach Greg McDermott has jokingly told Harriman that he’s going to make him the team’s assistant conditioning coach.
“I think Casey would find a little pleasure watching his teammates run,’’ McDermott said.
The sight of Harriman running sprints after practice, holding one arm with the other to try to alleviate the pain, showed McDermott how much the player wanted to be a part of the team his senior season.
“He practiced every day even when he couldn’t lift his arm above his head,’’ McDermott said. “He’s given enough to this place. It’s time for him to make a decision that is going to be in his best interest.’’
Harriman did play in five games this season, logging 13 minutes and scoring two points. He played in 103 games in his career, with 16 starts, and averaged 3.4 points and 2.4 rebounds.
He said he appreciates the support he’s received from his coaches and teammates. In turn, they respect the dogged determination he showed in trying to prolong his career.
“He’s been tremendous for us, and I loved playing with him,’’ junior guard Antoine Young said. “I respect all the sacrifices he’s made just to be a part of this team. It’s going to be sad not to see him out there.”
Harriman joined Creighton as a recruited walk-on out of Battle Creek-Ida Grove High School, where he was one of Iowa’s most prolific scorers. He led the state in scoring as a junior and senior, finishing his career with 2,243 points.
After redshirting his first season at Creighton, Harriman became known for his toughness as a rebounder and defender. He took 44 charges. He never backed down, which ultimately took a toll on his body. In addition to the shoulder injuries, Harriman had to have surgery on his knee. He also went through serious illnesses that cost him games at the start of his junior and senior seasons.
“You see him out there wanting to practice and never asking for any special treatment,’’ McDermott said. “You don’t see that kind of dedication.’’
Monday afternoon, basketball became part of his past.
“It hasn’t set in; I’ve done this every day of my life,’’ Harriman said. “It doesn’t seem like it should be over. It just feels so weird. I wish so much that I could still be a part of this.’’
He will, McDermott said.
“His teammates obviously have a great deal of respect for him,’’ the coach said, “and I think he’ll continue to be a leader for our team even though he won’t be in uniform.’’
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