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OMAHA, Neb. -- Moments removed from the best game of his All-American career, Creighton's Doug McDermott clutched a pair of scissors as he ascended to the top of a ladder at the CenturyLink Center Saturday.
"One more year!" a cluster of Bluejays fans chanted. "One more year!"
McDermott, a junior forward, had just scored 41 points in Creighton's 91-79 victory over Wichita State -- a win that gave the program its first outright MVC title since 2001. Even more impressive than McDermott's tally was that it was achieved on a 15-of-18 shooting effort against the league's top defensive team.
As he stood atop that ladder, taking celebratory snips of the net in front of 18,613 fans, McDermott admitted he got goose bumps, wondering if he'd just played his final home game.
|Doug McDermott's 41 points led Creighton to a 91-79 victory over Wichita State -- a win that gave Creighton its first outright MVC title since 2001.|
"One more year! One more year!"
I'll be honest.
I wanted to stand up and join in the cheer, too.
McDermott has indicated he's considering leaving school a year early and entering this summer's NBA draft. For selfish reasons, I'm hoping he decides against it, and if you truly love the college game, you likely agree. Or at least you should.
Doug McDermott may not need college basketball.
But college basketball needs Doug McDermott.
"He's a different breed of superstar," teammate Grant Gibbs said, "compared to most of the other guys you see out there today."
There is something incredibly wholesome and likable about McDermott, who now ranks third in the nation in scoring with 23.4 points per contest.
He could star in an instructional video about basketball fundamentals, which makes him a hit with old-school purists. His willingness to embrace the team concept instead of trying to win a game on his own -- McDermott hardly ever forces a bad shot -- is something rarely seen from a player of McDermott's ilk. And he takes pride in the other things, too. Scoring, rebounds, assists, steals, hustle points.
"Seriously," Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall said. "What's not to like about the way he plays the game? He's special."
Because of skills, yes.
But also because of his story.
Unlike so many other players in today's one-and-done culture, McDermott wasn't tagged as an NBA superstar by the time he was 14. He was the sixth man on his high school squad and wasn't even deemed good enough to play for Iowa State by his own father, Greg, who spent four seasons as the Cyclones head coach.
McDermott planned to attend Northern Iowa, but when his father left Iowa State for Creighton after McDermott's senior year of high school, he changed his plans and became a Bluejay.
Three years later, McDermott has become one of the most recognizable names in college basketball, which has done wonders for Creighton's image.
"He's the figurehead of our program and, really, of Omaha," Gibbs said, "People love him here. That's why it's going to be really hard for him to make this decision, just because of who he is here and how people have embraced him."
McDermott will do more than remain the face of Creighton if he returns for his senior season. He'll be the face of college basketball, the type of ambassador the NCAA yearns for but rarely ever receives.
Hardly ever are seniors the top players in the college game. Just look at this season. Along with McDermott, the leading candidates for the Wooden Award are players such as Indiana's Victor Oladipo, Michigan's Trey Burke and Georgetown's Otto Porter -- all underclassmen.
McDermott is currently projected as a late first-round (which means guaranteed money) or early second-round pick. Barring a major injury or meltdown, it's doubtful his status would be any different next year -- although it's only fair to point out that this year's draft won't be nearly as deep as 2014's.
|Creighton coach Greg McDermott would love to have his son back for another season, but the decision will be Doug's.|
Still, scouts have seen enough of McDermott to know what they'd be drafting: an elite scorer and an ultimate team player who may be a step too slow defensively and an inch too short at 6-foot-7. McDermott's family isn't financially strapped. He doesn't need money immediately. But thoughts of playing in the NBA definitely creep into his mind from time to time.
"I know he's seen some guys in NBA camps and thought, 'I could score on those guys,'" Gibbs said.
The positive news for McDermott is that he can't make a wrong decision. If he returns, he'll be celebrated. If he leaves, people will understand. Creighton fans won't criticize or jeer McDermott if he turns pro. They'll thank him. There is no other way to react.
Still, deep down, I'm hoping my gut instinct is correct. I'm hoping I'm right when I tell people that Doug McDermott is different. Playing in the NBA is important to him. It's probably his dream. But he's also smart enough to know that he's going to have that opportunity whether he leaves school after this season or stays for his senior campaign, when he'd have a chance to cap a career that would go down as one of the greatest in college basketball history.
McDermott currently has 2,107 career points. The NCAA record of 3,667 was set by LSU's Pete Maravich from 1967-70. McDermott likely won't be able to top that mark, but propelling into second place behind Portland State's Freeman WIlliams (3,249) seems doable.
There's also the chance McDermott would have the opportunity to shine on a bigger stage if Creighton receives -- and accepts -- an invitation to the Big East. Lastly, the opportunity to play a final season under his father is something he'd remember forever. Those things mean something to McDermott, I'm sure of it. But do they mean enough to lure him back to Creighton for another season?
McDermott was asked Saturday if he'd played his final game at CenturyLink Center.
"I can't really comment on that," he said. "I'm just excited we're champions. That's all my mind is focused on."
A few moments later, after his son had left the room, Greg McDermott acknowledged hearing the "One More Year!" chants during the Bluejays' net-cutting ceremony.
"It'd be fine with me," Greg chuckled. "I don't think it's any secret that he makes me a better coach. At the end of the day, that decision will be Doug's, and it will be based on a lot of information and a lot of research.
"That's the farthest thing from our mind right now."
Maybe in the McDermott household.
But throughout Omaha and the world of college basketball, people will continue to speculate about McDermott's future.
With their fingers crossed.