Doug McDermott is not, by any means, the biggest player in the NCAA. He also is not even close to the quickest. Some basketball analysts, however, are considering McDermott to be the best college basketball player in the country heading into this summer’s NBA draft. Though he may not have elite size and speed, what the 6’8″ senior forward from Creighton does have is the ability to score, and along with it, a proven track record of winning. Depending on how deep into the NCAA tournament he can carry his thirteenth-ranked Blue Jays, he might even break into the top three for most points scored in NCAA history. Currently, McDermott is ninth in total points, sandwiched between Danny Manning and Oscar Robertson.
Creighton’s all-time leading scorer did not take the traditional route to college prominence. In fact, he was not even a starter on his Ames, IA high school team until his junior year. Also, when he decided to play college ball, his own father, Greg, who was the coach at Iowa State, said that it would not be for him with the Cyclones. Eventually the father and son duo decided to both go to Creighton as a package deal in 2010 with Greg assuming the role of head coach. The younger McDermott says that after he leaves school he will have a better understanding of how unique it was to play for his dad and compete at such a high level.
“I’m just living in the moment right now,” he said. “…Everything is a bonus from here on out.”
The knock on McDermott is that he does not have the athleticism or toughness that is needed for a rigorous NBA campaign. Some cynics did not even think that he was strong enough to handle Creighton’s move from the Missouri Valley Conference to the revamped Big East. With career highs in both minutes and points per game, however, the 225-pound forward has gone a long way to prove his critics wrong.
As a two-time All-American, McDermott was projected as a late first round pick following his junior season. He says himself that if Creighton had not moved to the Big East this year he probably would have declared for the draft, because there was nothing more he could prove in the Missouri Valley Conference. Instead, he currently leads the nation in scoring and finds himself as one of the front runners for the Wooden Award, which is given to the country’s top player.
Analysts that consider McDermott as the nation’s top college player point to the seemingly effortless way that he scores the basketball. The senior forward has averaged 26 points per game this season on 51 percent shooting and just under 44 percent three-point shooting. He also is shooting 88 percent from the free throw line to make himself that much more threatening to opposing defenses.
With career highs in points and field goal percentage against the elite competition of the Big East, there is little doubt that McDermott has improved his NBA draft stock. The question is by how much. It may be possible that the best player in college basketball could be held out of the lottery. According to the rankings of NBA Draft Express and NBAdraft.net it could be close. Draft express currently ranks McDermott at thirteenth and NBAdraft.net has him sitting at 15.
The knock on the All-American is that he could be a detriment on defense due to his lack of size and quickness. Villanova coach Jay Wright does not see it that way. His team is currently battling Creighton for the top spot in the Big East and he endured watching McDermott drop 39 points on his club in one of the two losses that he suffered against the Blue Jays. He also witnessed the forward hold his own against NBA talent at a USA Basketball camp this past summer.
“He’s a complete player…There’s nothing he can’t do,” Wright said. “He’s the best post player that we’ve played against and he’s the best perimeter player.”
Wright considers Doug McDermott the best college player. He concedes that phenoms such as Jabari Parker and Andrew Wiggins may become better players some time down the road, but in terms of college performance the Creighton forward is in a class by himself.
Commentary by Jeremy Mika