Doug McDermott is making sure to pack the chip on his shoulder as Creighton moves to the new Big East.
And he wants to make sure his teammates bring theirs, too.
One of the reasons McDermott believes he and Creighton have enjoyed the success they have in recent seasons is that little extra edge they've played with on the court.
“People look at me and say how is he able to do what he does,'' McDermott said. “Same with our team. They look at us and say we don't have a lot of athletes, we can't guard, but we find a way to get it done.
“That's the way I've always approached the game, with that chip on my shoulder and ready to battle every single night.''
That approach has helped McDermott become Creighton's first two-time first-team All-American in helping the Bluejays win a program-best 57 games over the past two seasons. The move to the new conference from the Missouri Valley has raised the stakes, though, and provides the program with a new set of challenges.
The approach has to stay the same, McDermott said.
“We have a lot of work to do, and nothing is going to be given to us,'' he said. “We know we're being picked in some polls to win the conference, but to me that's just getting teams fired up to play us. We have to have that same chip on our shoulders to get fired up to play them.
“We have to show that we're a great program, that we were a tough program when we played in the Valley. I'm excited about that part of it because I think there are a lot of people that still aren't believers in us.''
That's one of the reasons McDermott decided to return for his senior season rather than heading off for professional basketball. Another is the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that Creighton's move to the new league presents.
Seven former members of the old Big East selected Creighton, Xavier and Butler as members of the basketball-centric league. For the Bluejays, the jump to the new Big East opens up opportunities to bang elbows with powerhouse programs such as Marquette and Georgetown and play in storied venues such as Madison Square Garden.
McDermott sees that working in Creighton's favor, much like the limited opportunities the Bluejays had in the past to play teams from power conferences.
“We played some of our best basketball last year when we played those nonconference games against the bigger teams,'' he said. “No one really gave us a lot of respect in those games. Once we got into the Valley, it became a grind because everyone knew us.''
McDermott compares the new conference to the tournament the Bluejays played last season in Las Vegas, where they scored double-digit victories over Wisconsin of the Big Ten and Arizona State of the Pac-12.
“Every single game is going to be a new experience, and that played a big part in my decision,'' McDermott said. “This is the real deal. We're playing in Madison Square Garden. Every place we'll play is somewhere I haven't been.
“Those things are things I'm looking forward to. New competitions, new venues, new fans to play against. It's going to make this season a lot of fun and it's going to make it fly by even more than it already has the last three years.''
The 6-foot-7 McDermott said it seems like yesterday he was one of the new guys on the block. Now he and Grant Gibbs, Ethan Wragge and Jahenns Manigat are the seniors leading stretching drills before the start of workouts.
“I want to enjoy every single day of it,'' he said.
His coach — and father — has sensed that.
“I think Doug recognizes this is it,'' Greg McDermott said. “He had a very difficult decision to make, and he made that decision because he yearned to do this one more time. His attitude has been, 'Let's be sure we make the most of it.' ''
In order to do that, Greg McDermott is going to demand more out of his son from a leadership standpoint than he has in the past three seasons.
“Doug has always led in his own way, but he's wearing a little different hat because he is a senior,'' coach McDermott said. “He's going to have to verbalize that leadership even more than he has in the past, even though Grant is back. The more guys we have leading and pulling us in the right direction, the better.
“I think with Ethan and Doug and Grant and Jahenns, this is as good of a leadership team as a guy could ask for.''
Doug McDermott, too, is comfortable with the situation.
“Grant, Jahenns, Ethan and myself have been here for three years,'' he said. “We know what it takes. We can talk about how we're ready, and I think we are. We have that kind of swagger about us that we think we can play with anyone and we know we can play with anyone.''
McDermott's preparations for this season included playing for a U.S. national team for the second time in his collegiate career. He was a part of the squad that competed in the World University Games in Russia in July.
Upon returning to the United States, McDermott was invited to USA Basketball's national team mini-camp in Las Vegas. The only other college player to participate in the event was Oklahoma State star Marcus Smart.
“I performed well there and that really got my confidence going,'' McDermott said. “Ever since then, I've been really excited for my senior year. I did some things there that really helped me out for my future and I gained some confidence for the Big East season by going against those NBA players.
“Now, it's finally here and it has finally hit me. This is my final go-around, and I have to take the best advantage of this with some of my best friends. It should be a lot of fun.''
Practice delayed one day
Creighton will delay the formal start of basketball practice by a day in order to accommodate a recruiting visit.
The Bluejays had planned to begin drills Friday, the first day allowed by the NCAA, but will now conduct their opening practice Saturday morning.
Ronnie Harrell, a 6-foot-7 guard-small forward from Denver, is making his official visit to campus this weekend. Harrell reportedly has received offers from about 10 schools, has visited Purdue and plans a visit to Kansas State in two weeks.