Kyle Korver isn’t one to overstep, and he certainly didn’t want to just start spewing out life-experience tips to a 21-year-old who’s incisive enough to make his own decisions.
But the Final Four was in Atlanta 3½ years ago, and Doug McDermott was in town as a Naismith Award finalist for Creighton. Korver’s always been grateful for his formative years at Creighton and an active follower of the program.
So Korver picked up the phone.
“I didn’t want to say too much to Doug,” Korver said in an interview this week. “Because Doug has a lot of great people around him — an incredible family, great friends. Just a lot of people he can go to for advice and lean on.”
But McDermott, then a college junior, was glad to accept another mentor.
Which is why he and Korver went to dinner back in 2013 and spent a couple of hours talking about everything. The NBA draft. The expectations of a pro basketball player. College memories. Drillwork. Strategy.
Those were just the hoops-related topics.
“He knew what I was going through, and he wanted to give me his two cents,” McDermott said. “Just give me the best advice a 10-year NBA vet could give. It’s something I’ll never forget.”
The relationship has only grown from there. McDermott is close with two of Korver’s brothers — Kaleb played at Creighton and Kirk lives in Chicago. Kyle still makes a point at least once a year to come to Omaha and check in on his alma mater, where McDermott’s dad, Greg, is coach.
Thursday will be new for both of them, though. The two former Bluejay stars get to compete against each other in front of an arena full of adoring Creighton fans.
And they’re both pumped about it.
It’s the Bulls against the Hawks. McDermott and Korver. The Bluejays’ all-time scoring leader and the man who’s made more 3-pointers than anyone else in CU history. The much-anticipated preseason game will be played at the CenturyLink Center — where McDermott tormented opponents and dazzled onlookers en route to 3,150 career points (fifth in NCAA history).
Tickets are sold out. A limited number of standing room only passes were available as of Wednesday afternoon.
“Omaha will always hold a special place in my heart,” Korver said. “To play against Doug there, to play against the Bulls? That’s exciting.”
It’ll be Korver’s first game at CenturyLink. It’ll be McDermott’s first time playing on his college home court since he dropped 45 points against Providence on senior day.
“It’s going to be a fun night,” McDermott said.
McDermott could have an especially productive showing. He’s entering his third season and embracing an increased role. He’s been the Bulls’ second-leading scorer (at 12.5 points per game) during six exhibition outings.
But McDermott said he wouldn’t mind if Korver steals the show.
The 13-year pro is looking to return to his All-Star form after he shot 39.8 percent from 3-point range last season, his lowest rate since 2008-09. He’s still regarded as one of the league’s most potent perimeter threats. He’s an underrated defender, too — McDermott said he’s picked Korver’s brain and studied the veteran’s game clips for pointers on defensive positioning and angles.
They’ll likely be matched up on each other at some point Thursday. Maybe there will be a bit of trash talking. In the end, though, Korver said, he expects both to have a blast.
“There’s just a real strong loyalty that comes with Creighton, and we’re always pulling for each other, no matter who you are,” Korver said. “You naturally cheer for and root for good people in life. Doug, his family, Coach Mac — they’re just good people that you want to see well.”