Doug McDermott has experienced his share of firsts in his freshman and sophomore seasons at Creighton.
Monday, the junior forward added another to his résumé as he became the first Missouri Valley player to earn a spot on the Associated Press preseason All-America team.
McDermott’s selection hardly was unexpected as he is the lone returning consensus first-team All-American from a season ago. He was named on 62 of the 66 ballots cast by writers and broadcasters who participate in the AP’s basketball poll.
McDermott also learned Monday that he had been selected the Valley’s preseason player of the year, while he and his teammates were selected as the team to beat the league’s preseason poll.
“There obviously are a lot of expectations in our community about this team,’’ coach Greg McDermott said. “We have to deal with those expectations and make sure they don’t impact our preparations for the coming season. To this point, I don’t feel they have.’’
No Bluejay shoulders more of those expectations than McDermott’s son. Doug McDermott is coming off a sophomore season in which he averaged 22.9 points and 8.2 rebounds. Only two other Valley players — Hall of Famers Oscar Robertson and Larry Bird — scored more points than the 801 that McDermott amassed last season.
His sophomore season encored a debut campaign in which he became only the second freshman in Valley history to earn first-team all-league honors. Doug McDermott said his accomplishments in his first two seasons are a bit overwhelming since he was considered a redshirt candidate when Creighton began preseason practice two years ago.
“I came out of high school under the radar, and things have worked out well for me,’’ he said. “I’ve made the most of all the opportunities I’ve been given, and now year three is here. We’re all working hard to put together another good season.
“I know I can have a huge impact on this team but I also know I have a lot of great players around me.’’
Only one player received more votes for the AP All-America team than did McDermott. Indiana’s Cody Zeller was named on 65 of the 66 ballots and was named the preseason player of the year.
Three of the six players named to the team — McDermott, Murray State’s Isaiah Canaan and Lehigh’s C.J. McCollum — play for teams from outside the six power conferences. Greg McDermott said that shouldn’t be considered unusual, given the changing landscape of college basketball.
“I think you’ve seen more parity in college basketball in the last decade than at any time in our history,’’ he said. “Look at the number of mid-majors that have made the Final Four in the last 10 years compared to maybe the 25 years before that. I think it’s a little more of a level playing field.
“AAU and high school basketball continue to be more popular in this country, and there are more and more players while there are only 13 scholarships at each one of those BCS schools. I think you’re going to continue seeing guys pop up at different places around the country that are exceptional players.’’
He said his son fits into that category, as well as Canaan and McCollum. Technology has assisted in providing those players with a stage on which to showcase their talents, the Creighton coach said.
“Fifteen years ago, a mid-major school might be on television only three or four times,’’ he said. “Games weren’t being streamed live onto the internet. Now, a person can watch every Murray State game or every Creighton game. If they want to find it, they can probably find it.
“And you can do it at your leisure. The ability for people to get their eyes on these exceptional guys at mid-major schools is a change for the better. The more people can get their eyes on these players, they can tell there are special players regardless of where they’re playing.’’
Doug McDermott is the reigning Valley player of the year. If things work out right, he knows he has a chance not only to contend for that honor at the end of the season but also for national player of the year awards.
“I think that is definitely doable but it’s not my main concern,’’ he said. “My main concern is winning games but it’s been shown in the past that guys like Jimmer Fredette and Adam Morrison can play at mid-major schools and still be considered for those awards.
“My main goal is to try to put Creighton on the map and represent the Missouri Valley. This is a great mid-major conference and I think it’s going to have a great year this year.’’
Creighton received 38 of the 40 votes in the Valley poll. The league’s coaches, sports information directors, radio play-by-play announcers and newspaper beat writers participated in the voting.
Doug McDermott was joined on the preseason All-Valley team by Indiana State’s Jake Odum, Illinois State’s Jackie Carmichael, Evansville’s Colt Ryan and Drake’s Ben Simons. Creighton center Gregory Echenique earned honorable mention.
Like most coaches, Greg McDermott downplayed the significance of being picked as the team to beat in the Valley.
“I understand you have to do it and it generates some interest and gives people something to talk about,’’ he said.
“We have high expectations here, and we like that and we enjoy that. We hope that it becomes the norm but it is what it is. We can’t allow anything, whether it’s a national ranking or a conference poll, to impact our preparation. We have to stay focused on the task at hand.’’
Contact the writer:
402-679-2298, firstname.lastname@example.org, twitter.com/PivOWH