McDermott's return a marquee attraction

April, 25, 2013
4/25/13
4:52
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1. The preseason Big East Player of the Year has never played a minute of basketball in the Big East.
2. His dad can breathe a sigh of relief.
3. Dude. Awesome.

Those were the first reactions, precisely ordered, that fired through my synapses Thursday afternoon when Creighton forward Doug McDermott unveiled his decision to forgo the NBA draft and play one more college season.
McDermott told CBS' Jeff Goodman that the further he delved into the process, the more he spoke with NBA people, and after an important conversation with former Creighton star and NBA veteran Kyle Korver, the more he realized staying posed no threat to his long-term viability in the NBA. "If I'm going to play in the NBA, I'm going to play this year or next year," he told Goodman. He also rebutted the notion that players needed to leap at this year's draft to avoid getting left behind in a more crowded 2014 landscape, particularly at his position.

"[The 2014 draft] looks stronger at the top 15 to 18 picks, but after that it's about the same," McDermott said. "But that's probably not going to be my range this year or next year, anyway. That helped me."

It's all immensely reasonable stuff. At this point, it seems, McDermott apparently isn't going to wow NBA scouts so much that he'll be a lottery pick. In any case if he is going to do so, he hasn't gotten there yet. At that point, aside from the ever-present injury risk all athletes face, the question changes from "why stay" to "well, why not?"

[+] EnlargeDoug McDermott
Eric Francis/Getty ImagesDoug McDermott will forgo the NBA draft and return to Creighton for his senior season.
The decision to return really does set up McDermott to be the Big East preseason player of the year. That's a real and remarkable thing. Preseason awards are meaningless, of course. In this case the notion is still instructive, because it says just as much about McDermott's game as the fluctuations of the sport writ large. According to ESPN Stats & Information, McDermott could become the first player since Patrick Ewing and Wayman Tisdale (1983-85) to be a three-time, first-team All-American. His return also reveals how important McDermott will be to Creighton as the Bluejays transition to a league accustomed to the elevated trappings of the Big East.

Creighton coach Greg McDermott is already losing senior point guard Grant Gibbs and senior center Gregory Echenique, without question the two most important non-McDermott players on the floor. Doing so in the Missouri Valley would have been difficult enough; doing so against Georgetown, Marquette, Villanova, Butler and Xavier and the rest would have been a hard task. Creighton still has some talent -- point guard Jahenns Manigat, sharpshooting forward Ethan Wragge, et al. -- but without McDermott, Gibbs and Echenique it could very well have been a down season. Maybe Creighton fans would have started getting anxious, all murmurs and hushed message board "I'm not saying, I'm just saying" tones: What if this league was a bad idea? What if the father cannot win without his son?

On Thursday, McDermott ended all of that loose talk before it could even begin. Even viewed through the prism of pure selfishness, McDermott likewise gave himself a new and unique chance -- a chance to take his game into a league that can't be so easily discounted on a nightly basis as the Missouri Valley too often is. Anyone who said McDermott needs lowly competition to get his gaudy efficiency stats should set their dial for this fall. I have a feeling he will have a message for you.

Which brings us to the awesomeness factor. This is universal and no Creighton fan club membership is required: McDermott is an awesome college basketball player. I can tell you the tale in numbers, if you'd prefer. Over the past two seasons, McDermott's 2/3/FT shooting splits read 60.2/48.9/83.6. In 2012-13, McDermott posted a 121.3 offensive rating and a 67.2 percent true shooting mark while taking 34.8 percent of his team's shots. He stretches the floor and posts up; he fades over defenders or draws contact; he works methodically and quickly, sometimes all at once.

But even those insane efficiency numbers are to McDermott's game roughly what a Metacritic score is to playing "Bioshock: Infinite." It's pure, and not in "purity of amateurism" way. It's pure in a purely basketball sense, the way the mid-aughts Phoenix Suns were pure. In a landscape where slow, unskilled and physical usually wins the race, McDermott's game is not only effective but aesthetically brilliant, too. He's a joy to watch.

I'm not sure that will be the case in the NBA -- whether he'll even get that chance, and if he does, whether he'll shave parts of his game off to become a marketable (to GMs) spot-shooter with size.

But it is the case in the college game, for one more season. McDermott gets a chance to show what he can do against different nightly competition in a different league with different teammates. His father doesn't have to take the program on this trek in a quasi-rebuilding season. And we get to watch.

Like I said: awesome.

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