Video Below: Watch the press conference with Doug McDermott and coach Greg McDermott
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Doug McDermott’s teammates figured it was just another day in the gym Wednesday afternoon.
They were playing pick-up games with a guy they didn’t know for sure would be around next season. But McDermott had a secret.
Shortly before hitting the court, McDermott had told his father, Creighton coach Greg McDermott, that he intended to return for his senior season rather than declare for the NBA draft.
Father and son then informed Creighton Athletic Director Bruce Rasmussen. Doug called his mom to break the news to her, then stepped into the gym to play a little ball.
“He wasn’t acting any different,” Grant Gibbs said. “Business as usual.”
Later that night, McDermott let the news slip to a couple of them.
“I had to go to class today, knowing that he was going to announce it, and try to be super low-key,” Jahenns Manigat said. “But I couldn’t stop smiling.”
It’s safe to assume Bluejay Nation had much the same reaction when, shortly before 2 p.m., McDermott sent out the following message on Twitter:
“There was no doubt in my mind that I would have been a first-round pick.''
“I will be returning to Creighton for my senior year and can’t wait to put on that uniform for one more season.”
McDermott’s return for his senior season will allow a fan base that has come to marvel at his on-court accomplishments the past three seasons one more chance to watch him. College basketball insiders see his return possibly giving Creighton more of a fighting chance as it moves into the new Big East.
For McDermott, it will give him a chance to make more of an orderly transition from college basketball to professional basketball. He knows he’s taking a risk from a financial standpoint.
“That’s definitely a lot of money I’m passing down, but that money could be there next year,” McDermott told reporters Thursday. “It might not be quite as much, but you really can’t put a price tag on a senior year.”
That was the same theme that McDermott touched on repeatedly Wednesday night in an exclusive interview with The World-Herald. In the final analysis, McDermott’s heart won out over the cash.
“My heart has been telling me all along to stay, but my mind tried to take over a couple of times,” McDermott said. “I just ended up trusting myself that I was making the right decision.”
|See some of the best shots from Doug McDermott's junior season.|
His mind, of course, focused on the financial benefits that might be his had he decided to turn professional. Based on evaluations he received from the NBA Draft Advisory Committee, McDermott said, “There was no doubt in my mind that I would have been a first-round pick.”
That would have meant a two-year, guaranteed contract that could have been worth between a minimum of $888,600 to $1.4 million if he had been selected with one of the last 15 picks in the lower half of the first round.
That initially had his father recommending that his son turn pro.
“He knew my dream is to play in the NBA, and he just felt that this was too good of an opportunity to pass up,” Doug said. “But the way I look at it, if I can play in the NBA, I can play there the next year just as well as I can next year.
“I feel there are things I can work on. I feel I can still improve my draft stock by playing in the Big East. There are a lot of areas that I can get better at, and I just felt I’d be more comfortable doing it here in Omaha.”
McDermott had heard more than once from outsiders that he should turn pro because he had nothing left to prove as a collegian. The 6-foot-8, 225-pound forward has been a consensus first-team All-American in each of the past two seasons. He broke Creighton’s career scoring record near the end of the last season.
That argument might have swayed some players, but if there is anything McDermott has shown the past three seasons it’s that he’s an unconventional superstar. He remains as unassuming as the day he stepped on campus in June 2010. He embraces the attention from an adoring fan base that some players might find stifling.
It’s that fan base, McDermott said, that figured prominently into his decision.
“I care so much about Creighton,” he said. “There are a lot of people around here that believed in me. This whole fan base has been with me from the start. I felt like I owed them one more year.”
|A SEASON TO REMEMBER|
|Take a look back at Doug McDermott's historic junior season.|
McDermott said the opportunity to play in the new conference became more of a factor as he got deeper into the decision-making process. He admitted had Creighton remained in the Missouri Valley it might have made it easier to turn pro.
But the opportunity to play in the Big East, and perhaps prove a few people wrong, was too much to pass up.
“I feel there are a lot of people that don’t believe we can be successful in the Big East,” McDermott said. “If you ask anyone on our team, we feel that we’re going to be capable of doing some damage there.
“That played into my decision a lot. I care for the guys in this program and I care for the coaches. I wanted to do what I could to help make this transition a successful one.”
What didn’t factor into his decision, he said, was the fear that he would be leaving his dad in a tight spot had he bolted for the NBA. As Greg McDermott said Thursday, his son’s 23 points and eight rebounds a game will come in handy next season.
But Doug said his father and Creighton would have been fine had he decided to leave.
“He never pushed for me to stay,” Doug said.
“I feel like I have some unfinished business here at Creighton."
In an interview with The World-Herald on Tuesday, McDermott indicated he might remain undecided until Sunday’s deadline to declare for the draft. The agony of the decision-making process was apparent as he spoke. He clearly was undecided.
In discussing his decision Wednesday night, McDermott said he never intended to take so long in making up his mind.
“I apologize for putting people through that,” he said.
In trying to make up his mind, McDermott said, he put his emotions to a test. He would go through one day with the idea in mind that he was headed for the NBA.
The next day, he would approach things as if he would be returning to Creighton.
“I wanted to see how I felt,” McDermott said. “I found myself waking up the next day feeling a whole lot better when I was thinking about coming back. But I went back and forth more times than you can imagine.”
He said Tuesday that he had talked with former Creighton All-American Kyle Korver, now in his 10th season in the NBA. McDermott also sought the counsel of Harrison Barnes, his former teammate at Ames High School who now is wrapping up his rookie season with the Golden State Warriors.
“He and I talked before the NCAA tournament, and he told me I should go to the NBA if I felt I was 100 percent ready,” McDermott said. “That really stuck with me.
“Harrison told me that playing in the NBA is a completely different world. The money is nice, but you’re out there fighting for your job every night. It’s not like college, where you’re playing for the love of the game and for the fans.”
In the end, those factors appealed more to McDermott than money.
“I believe I’m going to play in the NBA, but I have to do it when I feel I’m 100 percent ready,” he said. “I feel like I have some unfinished business here at Creighton. I feel like I can be a lot better, and why not do it here where I can have fun for another year.
“I’m so relieved. I feel like a ton of weight has been lifted off my shoulders. I can’t put into words how happy I am this is behind me and how excited I am to be coming back. This just feels right.”
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>> Video: Watch the Doug McDermott press conference:
>> Video: Greg McDermott reacts to Doug's decision:
>> Video: See Doug McDermott's 2012-13 highlights: