McDermott will get a shot in the Big East

April, 26, 2013
Doug McDermott isn't just returning to Creighton.

He's getting a rare chance to play for the same school, in the same arena, but have a completely different experience in a new league -- a Big East that will provide the Bluejays, their fans and his father, the head coach, a chance to create a lasting impression in some of the major cities in the Midwest and East Coast.

The decision to return for his senior season and the opportunity to be a three-time All-American as well as the national player of the year was agonizing for McDermott. But in the final days, the new Big East started to become a clinching factor.

"I thought about it quite a bit,'' said McDermott. "My dad wasn't pushing me to stay and I know he would have been proud if I left. But I truly care about Creighton and the fans and what they've done for me the last three years. I want to give them one more year and take care of business in the Big East so we can prove people wrong.''

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Doug McDermott
Eric Francis/Getty ImagesDoug McDermott returns to Creighton as a top candidate for national player of the year, but questions linger about the Bluejays' inside game.

Greg McDermott said he told Doug not to make the league a reason for staying. But it did become a discussion point in the final days.

"I don't think that entered into the equation until this week,'' said Greg McDermott. "I was adamant that it not be the factor. We got the facts and research from the NBA. But he did see the opportunity to play on the first Creighton team in the Big East. That's something he'll always have and you can't take that away from him. I'm excited for him, to play in those venues. The emotion tugged at him. But there was connection to his teammates and to the fans and he wanted to embark on this new journey together. He wanted to be a part of that.''

Creighton's credentials dwarf a number of the seven new Big East teams in Providence, Seton Hall, DePaul and St. John's. The big three -- Marquette, Georgetown and Villanova -- can boast stronger résumés. But Creighton wasn't first up on the invitation list for the fledgling league. That went to Butler and Xavier out of the Atlantic 10. And while Butler has been on the fast track from the Horizon to the A-10 to now the new Big East, the Bulldogs played in two national title games.

Creighton was the 10th team. And first impressions are important.

"What does it mean for Creighton?'' said athletic director Bruce Rasmussen. "Well, for me, I'm in the same office, the same city and the same university but I've got a completely different job. He's on the same team, but he's got a completely different job in a new league. They all have to step up. We're confident in our own ability but we're not arrogant. He looked at the ability to play with his dad and be with a group of guys and good friends. He can go to different places and go against different competition. It was exciting for him and it's definitely going to make the transition easier for us.''

Rasmussen said there is an expectation that the Bluejays will continue to have one of the most well-attended games in the country. Playing 18 Big East games will only enhance that, but if the Bluejays struggled without their star player, then that certainly would have hurt their perception in the new league.

"We are concerned and you want to be a productive member in this league and your fans don't give you a long time to make a transition,'' said Rasmussen. "We will continue to put 17,000 in the building. But we are aware of the exposure and we're better prepared with Doug a member of the team than without him.''

McDermott said he fully enjoys being a college kid. The NBA can wait.

"I feel like I can be a lot better and the whole Big East deal and helping Creighton with the transition to the new conference and playing for my dad for another year was all important,'' said McDermott. "At the end of the day, that's where my heart was and I couldn't pass it up.

"It's going to be a whole different season next year. It hasn't hit me yet that we're going to be playing in Philadelphia, New York, Chicago, D.C. and cities with good programs, and we're looking forward to what we can do and the damage we can do.''

McDermott's decision wasn't lost on some of the coaches who will have to scout to stop him.

"He's the preseason unanimous player of the year,'' said Marquette's Buzz Williams.

"It's great for Creighton and great for the Big East,'' said Villanova's Jay Wright. "Doug can be national player of the year.''

"He's a marquee player, he's one of the best if not the best player in America,'' said Xavier's Chris Mack. "The league will have its hands full. I'm petitioning to have Creighton return to the MVC one final year so Doug can set all their league records.''

"The Big East has always had great players and Doug adds to that long list and tradition,'' said Providence's Ed Cooley.

"Doug McDermott deciding to return to college will further bolster the assemblage of outstanding talent in an already deep Big East conference,'' said St. John's coach Steve Lavin.

The Bluejays have two major holes to fill with the departure of Greg Echenique and Grant Gibbs. But Doug McDermott said point guard Austin Chatman has been playing exceptionally well. He also said Will Artino and Ethan Wragge are more than capable of stepping up.

Creighton will be considered a contender to win the league with Marquette and in line with Georgetown and Villanova with Butler, Xavier, Providence and St. John's more than capable of making a run toward the top three spots. The balance in the league will be comparable to last season's 10-team Mountain West Conference, which placed five of the nine teams in the NCAA tournament.

The Bluejays built a nonconference schedule with the thinking they would be in the MVC, not the Big East. Creighton is in the Anaheim Classic, with other potential NCAA teams Arizona State, Marquette (will have to be on opposite sides of the bracket) and San Diego State. They also play Tulsa, Nebraska and Cal at home and are on the road at Saint Joseph's and Long Beach State.

"Obviously we will have one of the best players in college basketball and that's a huge plus,'' said Greg McDermott. "I'll be able to coach my son that's obviously important to me and something I'll look back on as a special time. I hope we can compete for a league title. It's a tall task.''

Andy Katz | email

ESPN Senior Writer



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