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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

All-American Doug McDermott

After playing alongside Harrison Barnes in high school, Doug McDermott is used to being overlooked. He was a solid big man alongside Barnes that did the little things. His play was admired, but not celebrated. His teammate Barnes was being compared to Kobe Bryant. Nobody was comparing McDermott to Larry Bird.

Barnes left North Carolina to be a lottery pick over the summer and now finally McDermott has a chance for the spotlight. He went into this season as the top returning scorer in college basketball and one of the favorites to win National Player of the Year. His team is no longer underlooked either - they look to be a legitimate top 15, maybe even top 10 team.

Now McDermott has expectations. His game will be placed under a microscope. All of this, yet Im not sure fans understand what his game is all about.

McDermott is an outstanding shooter, hitting over 48% from deep last year. But that shouldn't define his game. If anything, the mystique of his shooting ability may be overrated, which in turn underrates what all he brings to the table.

McDermott only made 1.5 3-pt shots per game last year. He's far from a product of his father's system. He's far from a one trick pony that runs around screens all day to get him open looks. He's not one of those leading NCAA scorers playing on a high possession team or a team that doesn't win. He doesn't take bad shots and he isn't even the focus of the offense. 

His dad isn't the coach of Grinnell College and McDermott isn't Jack Taylor. McDermott is a basketball player and one of the best in the country.

All in all, McDermott is different from your average NCAA scoring leader.

Despite his preseason accolades, its time for him to get credit for all he does. None of it is circumstantial - he is legitimately one of the best players in the country. He is. I'm not sure people really believe that when they place him on All-American teams.

First of all, McDermott is a heck of a post player. That is his bread and butter in the college game. Around 3 shots per game come from deep, but plenty more come from inside the paint (nearly 3 quarters). McDermott is a relentless worker in the post, never allowing the opponent to catch him relaxed and at mercy of being pushed around. McDermott is the aggressor and takes it to the opponent before they can take it to him. He sprints down the court as if there is a sale on prime real estate near the rim each and every time.

McDermott gets to the line and is doing his best job at it this year. He's getting to the line nearly 7 times this year in only 29 minutes. He does an excellent job drawing contact and does an even better job at finishing through it. He displays great body control and is able to use his body to get his short shots at the rim off against longer defenders. He absorbs the contact, shows great concentration on the rim, and has great touch with either hand. The biggest thing may be his competitiveness - he is not going to be denied getting the rim.

McDermott can score through the Hansbrough method, but also has great footwork in the paint and a high skill level. Consistently finishing up and unders, hook shots, and occasionally a turnaround jumper, McDermott is one of the most skilled post players in the country. And one of the most true.

All this talk about stretch forwards and McDermott's transition to the SF in the pros, yet McDermott is a pure power forward at Creighton. Its a huge part of his game. He relishes the contact and the physicality inside. He rebounds well despite his 6-8 wingspan and his shortcomings athletically. His feel for the power forward position is outstanding and would be tough to take away at the next level.

He shows great feel in the paint without the ball - not just with his constant work to get open in the post, but coming around screens and finding the soft area of the defense. His savvy knowledge of how to get open combined with his constant fight to get open equates to him getting good looks. Simple really. 

Creighton's offense is one of the best in the country and very fun to watch. In a lot of ways, McDermott is just another player. He almost looks like a role player with the way he has to scrap on offense. He doesn't have a large amount of plays for him and he scraps at the hoop. He crashes the offensive glass, runs the court in transition, really, he does just about everything to get the ball in the hoop. There is a lot that goes into McDermott scoring 23 points per game and the biggest thing is hustle. I'd say he gets half of his points off hustle, but then again, his scoring ability is testament to his motor. 

Getting through a McDermott article without touching much on his shooting is actually quite easy. Its not his game. He shot over 60% from the field last year. That is truly remarkable. There is so much about McDermott's game you are missing out on if you just assume he is a shooter. 

And there will be so much about his game in the pros that you will miss out on if you treat him just as a spot up threat. 

Herein lies the hard part - what to make of McDermott's pro potential.

And with that, I'm out. Somethings are just more fun to watch unfold.

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