Creighton will plunge into new conference territory with an old, familiar face leading the way.
Iconic Blue Jays forward Doug McDermott has opted to return to Omaha for his senior campaign — the school’s inaugural season in the newfangled Big East. The two-time All-American announced his decision at a press conference on Thursday, then reinforced the seismic news on Twitter.
McDermott was the second-leading scorer (23.2 points per game) in Division I last season and has guided Creighton to successive Missouri Valley Conference Tournament titles. Under the headship of head couch Gregg McDermott, Doug’s father, the Blue Jays reached the NCAA tournament round of 32 in successive seasons (2012, 2013) for the first time in program history.
As a junior, McDermott became the first player since 1991 to score 40 points in a game without missing a 2-point shot or a free throw. He notched a season-high 41 on 15-of-18 shooting (5-of-8 3FG) in the team’s season finale against Wichita State, lifting Creighton to its first outright conference regular-season title in 12 years.
A throwback player with parcels of Matt Harpring, Wall Szczerbiak and Ryan Gomes packaged into college’s most diverse offensive skill set, the 6-foot-8 McDermott has operated as a combo-forward in college but lacks a clearly-defined position in the NBA. He’s neither tall nor rangy enough to defend pro power forwards and does not possess the requisite lateral mobility to stay in front of small forwards. As such, McDermott figured to be a late first, early second-round pick in June’s draft. Only first-rounders receive guaranteed contracts in the NBA.
McDermott can become the first three-time All-American since Chris Mullins (St. John’s) in 1983-85. The once-unheralded Ames, Iowa native, who came off the bench in high school in back of former North Carolina hotshot Harrison Barnes, is already Creighton’s all-time leading scorer. He’ll too have the opportunity to track Oscar Robertson and Larry Bird on the MVC career scoring list.
Creighton will join the Catholic-based, basketball-geared conference — reestablished as the new Big East during the winter — without two senior starters from last year’s 28-win team: point guard Grant Gibbs and physical center Greg Echenique.