Creighton’s Doug McDermott unanimous Big East player of year
Doug McDermott has 3,000 points, 1,000 rebounds and one catchy nickname. He’s on the cover of Sports Illustrated and he just won the first of what is expected to be several prestigious individual awards for all his accomplishments this season.
"McBuckets" is becoming McFamous.
The nation’s leading scorer, McDermott was a unanimous choice Wednesday as the Big East player of the year after leading No. 14 Creighton to a second-place finish in its first year in the conference. Selected the Missouri Valley Conference player of the year the previous two seasons, McDermott is believed to be the first player to win that honor in two conferences.
"It’s really cool. It’s something I never would have guessed I could accomplish," he said. "Coming from the Valley, I never thought I’d be seeing this day. So it’s really special and something I’ll never forget."
Jay Wright, who led Villanova to its first outright Big East title since 1982, was chosen the league’s coach of the year, and DePaul freshman guard Billy Garrett Jr. was the rookie of the year in a vote by conference coaches.
All three accepted their weighty trophies during a news conference at Madison Square Garden before the start of the conference tournament. Across the street, only blocks from Broadway, McDermott was one of several Big East stars featured on a 6-story-high video billboard promoting the event.
He and the second-seeded Bluejays (24-6, 14-4) open up Thursday night in the quarterfinals.
McDermott is looking to become the 11th three-time All-America and first since 1985. He is the seventh-leading scorer in NCAA history and is averaging 26.5 points per game this season, making him the favorite to win most national player of the year awards.
"He is the most complete basketball player that I have coached against," Wright said. "He reads screens better than any player I’ve ever seen. Now that’s on top of being a great shooter, a great post player, a great passer — can drive the ball extremely well.
"He’s a nightmare mismatch for us."
McDermott’s mark of 27.7 points per game in Big East play fell one-tenth shy of the conference record, the league said.
In an overhauled Big East that said goodbye this season to past powers like Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Louisville and Connecticut, McDermott joins an impressive list of players of the year that includes Patrick Ewing, Chris Mullen and Ray Allen.
"I’m glad I could start some new memories," he said.
All the accolades are generating an awful lot of attention for McDermott, the steady senior from Ames, Iowa, who played his home games in Omaha, Neb.
"It’s been a big adjustment, you know? Being a small-town kid," he said. "It is weird, but it’s been a tribute to a lot of hard work and our team having the success we’ve had. So, you know, just got to try to enjoy it at this time, enjoy the moment. I never would have guessed I’d be on that billboard, so it’s really cool to see and I hope I can enjoy it.
"I think once the games start, all that other stuff goes away."
McDermott has 3,011 career points and 1,060 rebounds, joining La Salle’s Lionel Simmons (1986-90) and Texas Southern’s Harry Kelly (1979-83) as the only Division I players to reach 3,000 and 1,000.
He appears on the front of this week’s Sports Illustrated in a recreation of a 1970s cover photo that featured Larry Bird.
"I was kind of shocked how well it really looked like the old one," said McDermott, the son of Creighton coach Greg McDermott.
With coaching greats like Jim Boeheim, Rick Pitino and Jim Calhoun now gone from the Big East, Wright is proud to carry on the league’s long tradition of outstanding bench bosses. In his 13th season at Villanova, he led the third-ranked Wildcats, picked fourth in the conference’s preseason poll, to a 16-2 league mark and 28-3 tally overall — both school records.
"I’m starting to come to grips with being one of the elder statesmen," Wright said. "I definitely feel a responsibility for this great league, and for all the great coaches that have come before us. … I take great pride in being a part of that heritage."
Wright also was the Big East coach of the year in 2006 and 2009.
"I’ve been fortunate to have a lot of really enjoyable years — probably more than I deserve," he said. "But this one has been really special. Just a group that has been incredibly close, really resilient."
In another award presented Wednesday, Butler junior guard Alex Barlow was selected the Big East scholar-athlete of the year.