Creighton's ability to handle a coming season filled with great expectations starts right at the top.
Doug McDermott's teammates take their cue from the junior All-American when it comes to dealing with the mountain of hype that might bury other players.
“He's the kind of kid that it's just an afterthought,” senior guard Grant Gibbs said. “I think just never being in the limelight (growing up) and not having that entitlement that ‘I'm this' or ‘I'm that' ... anything that's thrown at him, he's humble and doesn't think much of it.
“If Doug doesn't care about any of that stuff, why should we?”
The Bluejays' ability to deal with the heavy load of outside expectations was a hot topic Wednesday as they held their basketball media day at the CenturyLink Center. The event came on the same day the Bluejays learned they will start the season next month ranked 15th in the USA Today-ESPN coaches poll.
The Bluejays have landed in most other preseason ratings released to date. They should be included in the Associated Press poll when it is released Tuesday, and it would be the shocker of the preseason if McDermott doesn't make the AP's preseason All-America team that comes out Oct. 29.
McDermott is the only returning consensus first-team All-American back for the 2012-13 season. The others either used up their eligibility or exited early for professional basketball.
McDermott said he never considered leaving early after a sophomore season in which he finished third in the country in scoring (22.9 points per game) and led the nation in field goals.
“Right after the season, I met with my dad the next day and I wanted to come back,” McDermott said. “I know this season we can go even further and we can have an even better year. I'm really excited about it.”
But what about pro basketball after this season? Would McDermott consider bypassing his senior season to head to the pros if the situation were right?
“That's obviously out there,” said McDermott, whose name shows up mostly in the second round of the meaningless NBA mock drafts that can be found with an Internet search. “I'm not thinking about it too much.
“Any basketball player dreams of playing in the NBA, and it's hard not to think about it. But right now I'm here and everything is going well. I love it here, the fans are great, the coaches are great, everything is good. I can't see myself having it any better.”
These are heady times for the Bluejays, whose coach already has set the bar high by proclaiming the team's goal is reaching the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament.
|BLUEJAYS TAKING FLIGHT|
|How can Creighton men's basketball join the mid-major elite? Click the image above to see the web project.|
How do Greg McDermott's players feel about their coach's bold proclamation?
“I like it,” guard Jahenns Manigat said. “Obviously, coach Mac understands how good this team can be, and he's not going to let things slide. He's going to challenge us, and saying something like that really just helps us think about how good we can be and how we possibly could go further than the Sweet 16.
“Our mind-set is that once it becomes tournament time, it's all about matchups and how well you play. Obviously, we don't want to look too far ahead right now, but it's exciting to think that we have a chance to be one of those teams.”
Doug McDermott, Gibbs, Manigat and Gregory Echenique are starters back from the team that reached the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2007 and won a game there for the first time since 2002.
Five other players from the regular rotation also return. Redshirt freshmen Geoffrey Groselle and Nevin Johnson hope to work their way into the mix, and true freshmen Andre Yates and Isaiah Zierden could contribute.
The biggest concern is replacing three-year starter Antoine Young at the point. Sophomore Austin Chatman backed up Young last season and is set to take over as the starter.
“It's difficult to replace Antoine's experience,” Greg McDermott said. “Part of that is that you only learn it by being out there under the lights and doing it when the pressure is on. We don't have anyone that has experienced that before.
“Austin got a taste of that last year, and that's helped him. But it's definitely an area of concern, because at the other positions we have a fairly good idea of what we're going to get. There are going to be some peaks and valleys at the point guard position, especially early in the season.”
One thing McDermott is not concerned about is how his players will handle the high expectations. Creighton dealt with being a ranked team most of last season and still won 29 games.
The coach's son also believes this team has the makeup to handle distractions.
“The sky's the limit for this team, and we know we can go far,” Doug McDermott said. “We have a lot of mature guys, we have good leadership and our coaches keep us grounded.
“I don't see us having any issues with that.”
Contact the writer:
402-679-2298, email@example.com; twitter.com/PivOWH