Creighton forward Doug McDermott has blossomed into one of the nation’s top players since being an under-the-radar recruit out of high school. (Credit: Eric Francis)
So much has changed for Creighton’s Doug McDermott since he graduated from Ames (Iowa) High School in 2010 after playing in the shadow of prep teammate Harrison Barnes.
A redshirt candidate going into his first college season, McDermott became the first freshman to make the All-Missouri Valley Conference first team since 1952 while averaging 14.9 points per game for his father, Greg McDermott.
Last season the 6-foot-8 forward was a first-team Associated Press All-American and a finalist for the Wooden and Naismith awards after ranking third nationally in scoring at 22.9 points per game for the NCAA tournament-bound Bluejays.
Earlier this week McDermott made history again by becoming the first MVC player to be named a preseason first-team AP All-American. That was little surprise as he was the only returning first-team All-American from last season.
“It’s worked out great, and it’s all come so fast,” said McDermott, who originally signed with Northern Iowa before joining his dad at Creighton after he left Iowa State to replace Dana Altman. “When I came out of high school I was kind of under the radar and could have redshirted my freshman year, but everything has really worked out well for me. I just made the most of all the opportunities I’ve been given.
“Now year three is here, and we’re all working hard to put together another good season.”
Last season McDermott was the catalyst for Creighton, which tied a school record with 29 wins, advanced to the NCAA tournament for the first time in five years and was in both of the final top-25 polls. He led the country with 307 made field goals, was seventh in field-goal percentage (.601) and shot 48.6 percent from 3-point range. In addition to scoring a school-record 801 points, he also averaged 8.2 rebounds per game and logged 11 double-doubles.
McDermott led Creighton to its first NCAA tournament win in 10 years by beating Alabama before falling to Barnes-led North Carolina in the third round. Instead of leaving school early for the NBA, McDermott quickly announced he’d return for his junior year.
According to McDermott, the timing wasn’t right for him to go pro. There was still room for him to improve, plus he had some unfinished business. Creighton won the MVC tournament last season but finished second in the league during the regular season to Wichita State.
“I had my mind made up right after the season,” McDermott said. “I knew I wasn’t ready for that quite yet. There’s still a lot of stuff that I want to accomplish here at Creighton. We made it to the second round of the NCAA, but we did not win the Missouri Valley regular-season title, and I’d like to take this program where it’s never been before. It’s hard not to think about the next level, but for now I’m still in college, and I’m going to make the most of it.”
McDermott’s decision to stay in college was no surprise to his father and coach.
“He likes his teammates, he likes Creighton and he’s enjoyed Omaha,” said the elder McDermott. “I think he’s been around this business long enough growing up in a coach’s house that he understands once college basketball is over it’s going to change and it becomes more of a job. These years could very well be the best years of his life, so he’s enjoying every second of it.
“Secondly, Doug doesn’t have any bills to pay so he doesn’t have to be in a hurry to chase something if he’s not totally ready in his mind.”
Coach McDermott added he and his son will evaluate his basketball future again at the end of this upcoming season.
More individual honors will come his way with another strong season, but McDermott is more focused on leading Creighton to its first outright MVC regular-season championship since 2001. Wichita State must replace all five of its starters. The Bluejays are ranked in both preseason top-25 polls with the return of four starters, including McDermott and two seniors in center Gregory Echenique (9.7 ppg, 7.3 rpg) and guard Grant Gibbs (7.0 ppg, 5.0 apg).
Over the summer McDermott worked hard to become a better all-around player going into his junior season.
“My ball-handling did get a lot better, and I got stronger, too,” McDermott said. “As a team our defense has improved quite a bit. We’ve been working on that quite a lot. I know that starts with me and the other leaders on the team. I definitely had to pick up my game defensively, and hopefully that can carry over this season.”
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