Published Monday, July 1, 2013 at 8:16 pm / Updated at 9:48 pm
BASKETBALL
With U.S. team, Doug McDermott warms up to new conference
Book coming this fall
Creighton’s entry into the Big East is the culmination of nearly a century of Bluejay basketball ambitions.

From the start, the school’s coaches, players and fans had the idea that their basketball program was destined to break through to the “big time.”

The World-Herald’s Steven Pivovar, in a book to be available this fall, will tell the story of how Creighton’s hoop dreams — from Bob Gibson and Paul Silas to Kyle Korver and Doug McDermott — finally came true with the move to the Big East.

On a big day in the history of Creighton athletics, Doug McDermott was getting a haircut in Washington, D.C., and jetting off to Russia.

McDermott and his 11 teammates on the United States team that will participate in the World University Games left Monday for Kazan, Russia, for the July 7-16 competition.

The haircut?

“We've been so busy here that I haven't had time to get one,'' McDermott said Sunday from the U.S. team's training camp in Colorado Springs, Colo. “We have a four-hour layover in Washington, so I'm hoping to get one then.''

As he headed for Russia, McDermott said he would be thinking about what was happening in Omaha. Monday was the day Creighton officially became a member of the new Big East, where McDermott will play his final season after competing in the Missouri Valley for his first three seasons.

“It's definitely exciting,'' McDermott said. “I'm the lone Big East player on the team. We were taking photos for the team, and they had one of all the Big Ten guys and all the guys from the new ACC.

“I said, 'Where's the photo for the new Big East guys?' I'm the lone guy from the league to make the team, and it felt kind of cool to be the initial guy representing the conference on the team.''

During training camp, McDermott had a chance to pick the brains of a couple of guys — roommate Luke Hancock of Louisville, Cincinnati's Sean Kilpatrick and Marquette's Davante Gardner — on the lay of the land in the new league. Kilpatrick and Hancock won't be playing in the new Big East but Marquette figures to be one of Creighton's biggest rivals in the new conference.

One of the questions McDermott asked the players was which venue was the most difficult to play at in the new league.

“They said Louisville, which we obviously are not going to play at,'' McDermott said. “But they said Georgetown and Marquette are really tough places. Both of those teams are really physical, and they'll be up in your grill the entire game.

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“I kind of expected to hear that, but it's always nice to get a little familiar with what we're going to be facing.''

McDermott was excited about the makeup of the team that will represent the U.S. at the World University Games. He is the lone player among the 12 who has any previous international experience.

He made the U.S. under-19 team that played in the world championships in 2011.

“This is a lot different than the team I played on two years ago,'' McDermott said. “I was one of the main 3-point threats on that team, but we have a lot of guys on this team that are good shooters. And, we've clicked off the court. Even though we've only been together for about a week, this is a tight group.''

One of McDermott's goals when he left for Colorado Springs was to cultivate leadership skills that he believes he'll need this season as one of Creighton's seniors.

“I've always had guys that were older than me that could take on that responsibility,'' McDermott said. “I know that's going to be up to me this year. The coaches here are demanding a lot of me in that area, which is good.

“I think this is going to be a good adjustment for me, and everything we're doing here is going to help us next season. It's not just all about going over there and winning a gold medal. It's about improving our games in order to get ready for next year.''

Given his international experience, McDermott was asked to address the others about what they might expect while in Russia.

“I told them about four or five days from now, they're going to hit a wall,'' he said. “That's when they're really going to be homesick and tired from all the travel and the two-a-days and training camp.

“I told them that's when they're going to want to throw in the towel but that all of the important stuff would still be in front of them. They'll have to fight through things and get ready to play.''

McDermott said the instruction he's receiving from the U.S. coaches — Bob McKillop of Davidson and assistants John Beilein of Michigan and Frank Martin of South Carolina — has been invaluable.

Each coach has his own way of teaching many of the aspects of the game McDermott has been exposed to over the years but it helps hearing things from fresh voices.

“It can be a simple thing, like using slightly different footwork on a free-throw box-out or in crashing the boards,'' McDermott said. “They each have different spins on things, and it's been helpful that Coach McKillop uses an offense similar to what we do at Creighton.

“I'm doing a lot of trailing the court and shooting the 3. He's been teaching me some different reads that are really going to be helpful next year. I've been like a sponge around all three of them, trying to soak up anything I can.''

Creighton coach Greg McDermott got to spend the past weekend with his son.

“My dad met with the coaches,'' Doug said, “and we picked up a lot of stuff.''

Once in Russia, the U.S. team will be housed in an Olympic-style village with athletes from the 18 sports that will be contested at the Games. When he played for the under-19 team two years ago, the team was housed at various hotels in Latvia, the site of the championships.

McDermott had difficulty developing a taste for some of the Latvian food during that trip. He and teammates ate a lot of peanut butter sandwiches during the competition.

“They've told us the Russians have spent millions of dollars on the village, and they are bringing in chefs from around the world,'' McDermott said. “Still, I'm going into this expecting it to be terrible rather than getting my hopes up.

“The good thing is that they told us there's a McDonald's right down the street, so if we have a taste for a Big Mac, we'll be able to get one.''

Contact the writer: Steven Pivovar

stevepivovar@hotmail.com    |   402-679-2298    |  

Steven Pivovar is a staff writer for The Omaha World-Herald and primarily covers Creighton athletics and the College World Series.

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