As he was checking into a hotel last summer, he dropped his suitcase and 40 points fell out.
He's a one-name guy. As in, Oscar, Bird and Doug. As in, Oscar Robertson, Larry Bird and Doug McDermott, the only sophomores in Missouri Valley Conference history to score 800 points in a season.
He's cool enough that he belongs in the same sentence with Pete Maravich, the only other first-team Associated Press All-American to play for his father.
He's a Valley star, a Creighton man, on the preseason All-America teams and player of the year watch lists. And nobody argues.
Bluejay fans want to ban NBA scouts from the CenturyLink Center because they're afraid Doug's junior year might be his senior year.
He's so big Creighton just opened a Twitter account — @McDermottALERT — to post his latest exploits.
The national media do not need directions to the Hilltop. McDermott talked to ESPN The Magazine on Sunday. On Monday, he did a podcast with Andy Katz of ESPN.com.
All that aside, what's the best thing McDermott has going for him as this anticipated season begins?
He's not afraid of heights.
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McDermott has entered rarefied air. The view is spectacular. So are the expectations.
Doug makes everything look so easy. But this figures to be the hardest season of his young life.
He's going to get smothered — on the court by creative defenses that will gladly let some other Bluejay beat them, off the court by media requests at every stop, everyone wanting to ask about playing for his old man. That will get old, if it hasn't already.
Then there are the expectations. McDermott will be a prisoner to them, and he's got his own brilliance to blame.
If he doesn't average at least 22.9 points, or better it, people will want to know what's wrong. If he shoots less than 60 percent from the field, he's in a slump.
If he's not knocking out a 30-point game once in a while, or even a 40-pointer, something's amiss.
It's hard to win league player of the year. It's harder still for a mid-major player to be a first-team All-American. But if McDermott doesn't reach those goals, some will say he was a letdown.
Good thing McDermott has a different standard for success this year.
“I just want to win, man,” McDermott said Wednesday.
What does a young icon do for an encore? McDermott wants a Valley regular-season championship. He wants a deep run in the NCAA tournament, at least two wins or more. CU hasn't done that since the days the tournament had consolation games.
Those team goals seem like a great place for McDermott to lose himself. He's a team-first guy. And winning takes care of everything: awards, honors, legacies and, mostly, stress.
“I was talking to Kyle Korver this summer at his golf outing in Omaha,” McDermott said. “He gave me some advice on how to handle this stuff. He said to forget about the expectations. That will just bring stress. He said to focus on getting this team to go as far as it can go — that's what people are going to remember.”
He's looking to improve his game to help that cause. When you're Doug McDermott, how do you get better?
“I want to expand my game,” he said. “I've worked on my ball-handling. I can do a better job of getting my teammates the ball, especially because teams will be guarding me tougher.
“I do a lot of back-to-the-basket stuff. I feel like my face-up game has come a long ways. Last year, I wasn't quite comfortable with it. I have to do a better job facing the basket, seeing the floor so when the double-team comes, you can read quick when you recognize it.”
Grant Gibbs said his teammate can improve his ball-handling, putting the ball on the floor. Greg McDermott said his son needs to step up his defense. Not exactly transformational stuff. But that's where he is.
The NBA scouts, who will be on hand for Friday night's opener against North Texas (and Mean Green star Tony Mitchell), will no doubt take extensive notes. But, as Doug said, “they already know what I can do offensively. They're looking at my defense.”
This will be a storyline that pops up now and then. But those worried about an early exit to the NBA after this season should take note: There are some things Doug can improve and some he can't change.
NBA scouts typically don't talk about underclassmen. But in McDermott's profile on draftexpress.com (take it for what it's worth), the author notes all of Doug's offensive prowess, but said his “physical limitations” on defense are an issue:
“He doesn't have the size or strength to deny position in the post, and he doesn't have the length or quickness off the floor to provide much if any weak-side help. On the perimeter, which is where he's most likely to play at the next level, his lateral quickness is a huge concern.”
|To read more from our 2012-13 college basketball preview, click here.|
I don't know where McDermott fits on an NBA court, whether he's a Korver or an Eric Piatkowski shooter or if he can make a living inside. I don't know if he'd get drafted after this season or next.
What I do know is that how and where he plays for CU this year will have nothing to do with the NBA scouts and everything to do with winning the Valley and beyond.
Which means he will likely be fed inside until somebody proves they can stop him. And nobody did last season.
“My job is to win games,” Greg McDermott said. “They (NBA) saw him last year and this summer. They know what he can do, they understand his skill set. He just has to play within himself. That's what makes him a special player. He shot high percentages because he made such good decisions. If he stops making good decisions, I'll be the first to let him know.
“My goal for him is that he plays on another winning team.”
The other day, a Creighton fan asked me if Doug could be Creighton's Larry Bird and take the Bluejays to the Final Four as Bird did with Indiana State in 1979. The Jays' supporting cast is much better, much deeper.
When I told Doug about that question, the icon-next-door gave his patented shrug and smile.
“You want that extra added on you,” he said. “That's what makes it fun.”
Have fun this year, Doug. And don't look down.
Contact the writer:
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