Doug McDermott figures at some point he’ll hear from one of his new buddies about Monday’s selection to the Associated Press preseason All-America team.
Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart, whom McDermott met last summer at the USA Basketball mini-camp in Las Vegas, was a unanimous pick to the team. McDermott fell two votes shy as he was named on 63 of 65 ballots.
“He definitely deserved it,’’ McDermott said. “He could have been a top-five pick last year, so it was probably pretty easy to have him be unanimous.”
McDermott paused, chuckled and added, “He’ll probably give me a little guff about this someday, but we haven’t talked yet.”
Last fall, McDermott was the first Creighton player to be named to the AP’s preseason team. He ended last season by earning a spot on the All-America squad, just as he did in 2012 when he was the first Bluejay ever to land a spot on the first team.
Earning the preseason recognition again is nice, McDermott said, but it’s hardly something he spent much time thinking about in the past few weeks.
“It’s not something I’m into much at this point but it does provide me with some motivation,” McDermott said. “I feel like I can have another special year with this team.
“I think a lot of people are kind of doubting us a little bit so I’m going to continue to play with a little chip on my shoulder. It’s definitely something that will keep me motivated this year.”
The doubt comes from Creighton’s entry into the new Big East and the perceived step up in competition. His track record the past two seasons offers evidence that facing stronger competition only brings out the best in him.
The 6-foot-8 McDermott averaged 23.2 points last season after scoring 22.9 per game as a sophomore. Against top-50 RPI teams last season, McDermott averaged 25.7 points. He averaged 25.4 points in 11 games the past two seasons against teams from the so-called six power conferences.
Creighton is now considered one of those power-conference teams, joining seven schools from the old Big East, Butler and Xavier to form the remodeled Big East. In the process, McDermott has become the face of the new league and starts the season as the conference’s preseason player of the year.
Creighton coach Greg McDermott said that recognition, along with Monday’s AP honor, provides the CU program with some valuable national attention.
“Free exposure is hard to come by,” Greg McDermott said. “Doug’s success, along with our team’s success, has allowed us to become a little more of a household name in college basketball and in recruiting circles.
“I think a lot of people are watching our team because they want to watch Doug play. A byproduct of that is that they get to witness our arena and our fans and our style of play because they turn on the TV to check out Doug. It’s had a huge impact.”
That impact could extend to beyond this season. McDermott said his son’s accomplishments, along with those of former Creighton stars such as Kyle Korver and Anthony Tolliver, can have a positive effect on the recruiting trail.
“Those guys have all proven that you can accomplish a lot of great things at Creighton,” Greg McDermott said. “The resources are here and the facilities are here for you to become the best player you can possibly be.
“That’s only going to improve when the Championship Center opens later this spring.”
Creighton is building a new basketball practice facility that will also upgrade support for all of its student-athletes. The project was planned before the Bluejays made the move to the new conference.
Joining Smart and McDermott on the AP team were Michigan’s Mitch McGary, Louisville’s Russ Smith and Kansas’ Andrew Wiggins. Smart, McDermott and Smith all bypassed chances to turn professional in order to return to their schools for a final year.
Wiggins is one of the highly regarded freshmen entering college basketball. Kentucky’s freshman class has lifted the Wildcats to the preseason No. 1 ranking.
“Even a guy like Marcus is getting downplayed a little with the emergence of the freshmen,” Doug McDermott said. “It’s just the way it is with the media these days and Twitter and the (recruiting) rankings in high school.”
McDermott said watching his former high school teammate, Harrison Barnes, go through the same thing when he headed off to North Carolina heralded as one of the top freshmen in the country has impacted his opinion.
“I saw it happen with Harrison, and since then I haven’t been a big believer in all the hype on incoming guys,” McDermott said. “Wiggins and all those other guys are really good players and they deserve the hype.
“But they haven’t played a game yet. They have to approach this like any other kid, that it’s going to be a challenge.”