OMAHA, Neb. — Last week, Doug McDermott had two photo shoots for Sports Illustrated and the Omaha World-Herald. Almost every national publication and radio show this year has wanted a piece of McDermott.
Chris Newhouse, who works for Creighton's marketing department, was filming video of the shoot and had turned his camera off between sessions. As McDermott was waiting for the World-Herald photographer to set up, he took a shot from half court and made it.
"Hold on," Newhouse said. "We weren't shooting. Can you do it again?"
"Sure," McDermott said.
Camera rolling, McDermott made the next two and then missed on his fourth attempt.
"And he was pissed," Creighton Sports Information Director Rob Anderson says.
On Friday at practice, McDermott is raining in corner threes. He makes the first, second, third... Every shot looks the same. McDermott catches and quickly releases, fluid yet also mechanical. He holds his follow-through for a second and then is catching another. All net. All net. All net.
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"No matter what position he's in, whether his feet are messed or he's off balance, everything from the shoulders up is exactly the same," teammate Grant Gibbs says. "It's just a flick of the wrist."
On the seventh shot, midway through the air McDermott opens his mouth for the first time.
"Oh God, that's a bad one," he says.
The ball rattles back and forth off the rim three times before falling through the net.
The next three swish through. Ten straight makes. One "bad one."
Later on at practice, Creighton is running offense against the scout team. McDermott pulls up at the elbow and misses.
His dad, head coach Greg McDermott, blows the whistle. Doug quickly calls for the ball and goes to the same spot. "That's kind of his MO," Gibbs says. "He has to have the ball back and shoot again."
"I try and perfect every shot," McDermott says.
McDermott is already a legend, and somehow he keeps adding to the tale. One night later a record-setting crowd will pack into Creighton's arena to watch history.
McDermott needed 34 points on Saturday to become the eighth player in NCAA history to score 3,000 points. He gave us a career-high 45, passing Oscar Robertson and Hersey Hawkins to move into seventh place on the NCAA all-time scoring list.
College basketball may never see a scorer like McDermott again because of the one-and-done rule, and we're cherishing every last shot he makes as a collegian. He has stayed long enough to tear through the record books, and, to date, nothing has been able to slow him down.
Earlier this season, an opposing coach complained that McDermott was shooting after the whistle.
"He can't get extra shots like that because it's getting him in a rhythm," the coach pleaded to the official.
Big East officials have tried to put a stop to that practice. It has really worked. McDermott is averaging 30.9 points over Creighton's last 10 games.
Getting up extra shots is just a habit. All great shooters love to shoot. But Doug McDermott's understanding of how to get buckets goes well beyond a maniacal obsession with seeing the ball go perfectly through the basket.
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On Jan. 28, Creighton was tied with St. John's with 11.1 seconds left. The Bluejays had the ball under the St. John's basket. Everyone knew the ball was going to McDermott. It was up to his dad to figure out how to get him that shot.
Greg McDermott diagrammed a play that his team had just started practicing for late-game situations but had not yet run in a game.
Point guard Austin Chatman dribbled up the right sideline. Jahenns Manigat was on the right wing and Chatman dribbled toward him. As Chatman handed the ball off to Manigat, Ethan Wragge set a screen.
If this sounds familiar to college basketball diehards, it should. It's the exact play that Kansas coach Bill Self uses in late-game situations—called "Chop"—made famous in the 2008 national championship game when Mario Chalmers hit the game-tying three to force overtime against Memphis.
"Obviously, you watch them run that play enough when everybody knows it's coming and they're still able to get a decent shot off it," Greg says.
The second option on that play, which was the first option for Creighton, had McDermott coming off a flare screen set by Isaiah Zierden. Manigat got the ball to McDermott with 4.8 seconds left and he drilled the game-winner from about 24 feet out.
After the game, Greg got a text from Self giving him a hard time about stealing his play.
"I'm smart enough to steal a good play when I see one," Greg says.
The search to thicken his playbook has been made a lot more fun with a weapon like his son over the last four years.
He was not expecting that when he took the job in 2010.
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
Doug, surprisingly, arrived at Creighton with an innate ability to score that he really had yet to show the world. He had been the complementary piece to current Golden State Warrior Harrison Barnes at Ames High School the previous two years, but no one actually believed two phenoms played for Ames.
McDermott, after all, had spent his freshman year on the freshman team and his sophomore year on the sophomore team. Division-I prospects do not play sophomore basketball. McDermott had nearly given up the game like his brother did when the family moved to Ames.
McDermott had joined the AAU team that Barnes played on that summer and one of the first tournaments was in Fort Wayne, Ind. McDermott barely played. On the drive back home, he told his dad he wanted to quit. He decided his destiny was to be a manager for his dad at Iowa State.
Greg talked him out of it. He knew his son was going to grow and get better. That summer he took Doug over to meet Vance Downs, the coach at Ames High.
"Here's Doug 5'9, 5'10", going to be a freshman and his dad is such a massive man," Downs remembers. "Dad says 'that is exactly what I looked like at that age.'
"I just kind of shook my head and thought it's 'dad talk.' I'll smile and move on. I'll be darned, Greg was right on."
Yet when it came time for the youngest McDermott boy to pick a school, Iowa State wasn't an option if he wanted to actually play. Greg didn't think his son was good enough to play in the Big 12.
Creighton had been an option, but former coach Dana Altman needed a center and offered up his last scholarship to Will Artino, who is now a redshirt junior at Creighton and averages 6.0 points per game.
McDermott could have had a walk-on spot at Creighton, but he opted for a scholarship at Northern Iowa until Altman left and Greg jumped at the chance to get back to the Missouri Valley.
Nati Harnik/Associated Press
Greg planned on redshirting Doug as freshman until he led the team in scoring during a closed scrimmage against Colorado. He led the Bluejays in scoring that season at 14.9 points per game, but he was limited in how he could score.
Coming off a screen, like he did to hit the St. John's game-winner, was a rarity. He scored only 26 points in 39 games coming off a screen in his first year, according to Synergy Sports Technology (subscription required), and spent most of his time on the blocks.
That year is when a mindset took effect. McDermott wanted more.
Every offseason he's added another element to his game, and like his dad, McDermott is not above stealing material.
Two summers ago, he added Dirk Nowitzki's signature shot, the one-footed-fallaway jumper, and made it his own.
"I just feel like I have the touch to be able to do that and I feel almost more comfortable shooting that shot than a normal one from 15 feet," he says. "It just really gets me in a rhythm and I've learned to love that shot."
This past summer he worked on his face-up game and creating for himself off the dribble.
"I feel like I've done enough work around the basket where I can finish a lot of wild-looking shots around the rim," he says. "Adding stuff further away from the basket allows me to work without a double team coming. It allows me to see the whole floor to find teammates instead of just being buried down on the block."
The Bluejays are so experienced with four seniors in the starting lineup that Greg has given his guys, particularly Doug, a lot of freedom to roam.
On every possession, McDermott is making his own reads and in constant motion. At no time can the defense relax.
"That's why he's so hard to guard," Greg says. "He's always on the move. He's learned to read screens incredibly well, and because of that, he's put himself in some pretty good spots."
Early on against Providence on Saturday, McDermott scored on four straight possessions. On his first two buckets, he ran to the right block and sealed his man, and the Bluejays got him the ball right away.
"You've just got to cognizant of where he is at all times because he's constantly making cuts and curling off screens and trying to put himself in position to score the ball," Gibbs says. "For a guy like me who likes to distribute and facilitate, he's a dream to play with because his hands are so good."
The next possession, McDermott had two early touches on the perimeter and as soon Providence's Carson Desrosiers relaxed, he got caught under a screen and McDermott nailed a three from about 25 feet. On the fourth possession, he got an early touch, the Bluejays spaced the floor, faked a ball screen and then McDermott sized up 6'9" Kadeem Batts. He took four dribbles, getting Batts back on his heels, and then McDermott crossed over and nailed a stepback three.
Earlier in his career, he would have rushed into a shot. Assistant coach Darian DeVries says that McDermott was an "anxious scorer," but as he's aged, he's learned to slow down when the time is right.
"I watch a lot of Paul Pierce and how he reads ball screens and uses the shot fake," McDermott says. "He's not the quickest guy. He plays that slow-man game, and I feel like if you can slow down your defender, you can create even more space."
On the fifth possession after his four straight buckets, an NBA front-office executive watching from press row said, "He's taking this shot."
McDermott got the ball on the left wing near the same spot he had scored the possession before. With Batts guarding closely, unwilling to give up another three, McDermott started to drive past him. When Providence guard Josh Fortune came to help, McDermott passed out to Austin Chapman for an open three.
"Good for him," the executive said.
That's part of what makes McDermott so consistent. For someone who gets up so many shots, he's never been called a chucker. The Bluejays have four other players shooting better than 40 percent from deep, and McDermott trusts his teammates and is a willing passer.
"It's certainly eliminated a lot of the double teams," DeVries says. "Some teams try it every once in a while, but because he's been doubled so many times throughout his career, he's gotten really good at knowing when to fire it out the backside to a shooter or a guy slashing down the paint. That's where the rest of the pieces of our team really become effective."
Creighton's offense is more efficient, to date, than any offense in the country over the last 12 years, according to kenpom.com (subscription required). That's when stats guru Ken Pomeroy started tracking such numbers.
McDermott's own efficiency is what makes his numbers so impressive. He is arguably putting together the best offensive season of this century. Actually, there's really no argument when you compare his efficiency numbers with the other great scorers who have won National Player of the Year since 2000.
|PPG||Off. Rating||Effective FG%|
|Adam Morrison, Gonzaga (2004-05)||28.1||114.5||53.3|
|J.J. Redick, Duke (2005-06)||26.8||120.2||57.8|
|Kevin Durant, Texas (2006-07)||25.8||116.5||53.6|
|Jimmer Fredette, BYU (2010-11)||28.9||114.5||53.3|
|Doug McDermott, Creighton (2013-14)||26.5||123.4||59.7|
Jimmer Fredette, as the numbers suggest, is no Doug McDermott. But what Fredette went through—Jimmer Mania—is similar to what McDermott is experiencing.
Chicks dig the long ball, and college basketball fans dig a scorer.
On March 1 at Xavier, Creighton lost for the third time in Big East play and dropped to second in the conference standings. This was the loss that cost the Bluejays a shot at the Big East title.
Afterward, McDermott accompanied his dad to the press conference. From there, he headed back onto the court for an interview with Creighton's radio guys. On the way, he got stopped by some kids wanting autographs. McDermott quickly signed as many as he could before Creighton's staff rushed him over to the radio guys.
Courtesy of Rob Anderson/Creighton Sports Information Director
Once McDermott was finished with his interview, a Xavier security guard was there to help him get back to the locker room through an exit on the opposite end of where Xavier fans had congregated.
"No. No. I'm good," McDermott told the guard, eyeing the group of kids in the opposite corner. "I'm just going to sign some of these."
Every venue Creighton visits now, this is the scene.
"Kid can't say no to people," DeVries says. "He's so accommodating to make sure all the kids get a picture with him. You just don't see that a lot anymore. Kids are more consumed with their own time and Doug is more consumed with everybody's happy before they leave the gym. And it's hard. It's a lot to ask."
McDermott is the show, but there's not a trace of jealousy in the Creighton locker room.
"They've accepted him as that guy," DeVries says. "With all the attention he gets and a lot of times they get left with very little, they don't seem to mind at all. It's because of how humble Doug is about it."
On Saturday night after McDermott had scored 22 points in the first half, he came out of the locker room at halftime, ran to the ball rack and started passing out balls to his teammates as if he were living out his old dream of being a manager for his dad.
Gibbs, a sixth-year senior, is still at Creighton because of McDermott. He thought last year was his final season because the NCAA allows only five years to play four.
When McDermott surprised him and everyone in the program and decided to return for his senior season, Gibbs decided to go through with the school applying for a sixth year of eligibility because he had only played three seasons. He said he wouldn't have even applied if McDermott had not returned.
On his second Senior Night, Gibbs thanked all his teammates and had a nice word for each of the fellow seniors. He finished with McDermott.
"And this dude," Gibbs said, smiling. "I don't even know what else you can say about this dude right here."
Gibbs face then turned serious, and he found the words.
"Doug, you're going to be the greatest player that I've ever played with, that any of us have played with, the greatest player to ever play at Creighton and one of the greatest in NCAA history, and that's honest, man.
"And I know people talk about it a lot, but it's the truth, the way you've handled all the accolades and all the attention, always making it about the team, never changing from who you are, man, it's been special to watch."
|1. Pete Maravich, LSU||3,667|
|2. Freeman Williams, Portland State||3,249|
|3. Lionel Simmons, La Salle||3,217|
|4. Alphonso Ford, Mississippi Valley||3,165|
|5. Harry Kelly, Texas Southern||3,066|
|6. Keydren Clark, Saint Peter's||3,058|
|7. Doug McDermott, Creighton||3,011|
|8. Hersey Hawkins, Bradley||3,008|
|9. Oscar Robertson, Cincinnati||2,973|
|10. Danny Manning, Kansas||2,951|
The end of this historical career for McDermott is near. As a senior in high school, he said his only goal was to play in an NCAA tournament. He's been there twice, and he says his only goal now is to get to the Sweet 16 for the first time.
With every game Creighton plays, McDermott will also move up in the record book. He needs 56 points to move into fifth place on the all-time scoring list, and with at least two games left in his career, he'll likely get there.
If Creighton were somehow able to reach the Big East final and then the national championship game, giving McDermott nine more games, he could move into second behind Pete Maravich by simply maintaining his season average (26.5 points per game).
He's a shoo-in to become the first player to be a three-time first-team All-American since Patrick Ewing and Wayman Tisdale did it in 1985.
"It's pretty cool what I've been able to able to do," McDermott says, "and it's been kind of a bonus everything else that's happened."
Nati Harnik/Associated Press
McDermott could end up as the best four-year player in the one-and-done era. Out of those eight guys with more than 3,000 points, only one other (Saint Peter’s Keydren Clark) has done it in the last 20 years.
A year ago, McDermott thought he was finished. His brother went with him to the Final Four for the Player of the Year announcement. Otto Porter and Victor Oladipo had already decided to leave.
“I thought Doug would do the same,” Nick says.
“This is a bonus for me,” Greg says. “I didn't think he was coming back.”
McDermott’s career would have been historic—a Missouri Valley player making two All-American teams—but not this historic.
Now everyone is watching, and how McDermott will finish is anybody's guess. His career, to this point, has played out like a dream. Take Saturday, for instance.
Every day before he leaves the gym, McDermott goes to the top of the key and swishes a three-pointer.
Downs, his high school coach, called that a "Bird," as in Larry Bird.
On Saturday night with his high school coach in attendance and needing one more bucket to get to 3,000, McDermott dribbled to his left near the top of the key. From about 25 feet out, he shot and the ball went perfectly through the hoop without touching rim.
"That was definitely a 'Bird'," McDermott said later that night. "... To have it be that shot is very fitting."
C.J. Moore covers college basketball for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @CJMooreBR.