Sitting in front of a slough of reporters at the NBA Draft Combine last month, Creighton's Doug McDermott, when asked, proudly declared himself the best shooter in this year's class.
He's confident. And he's right.
The 2014 Naismith Men's College National Player of the Year is coming off a historic senior season in which he led the nation with 26.9 points per game, passed Larry Bird, Oscar Robertson and Danny Manning, among others, for for fifth on the all-time scoring list, led his Bluejays to a Big East regular-season championship and 27 wins and finished off one of the most decorated collegiate careers in recent memory with a third straight NCAA Tournament berth. He also became the first player in nearly two decades to be named an All-American in three straight seasons.
And it all stemmed from his stellar shooting. McDermott shot 52.6 percent from the field in his senior season, including 45 percent from beyond the arc and better than 86 percent from the free-throw line. According to Synergy Sports, McDermott averaged 1.22 points per possession on his 224 jump shots, putting him in the 95th percentile nationally. And considering he was second in the country in field-goal attempts, his efficiency was off the charts - he attempted more than 38 percent of his team's shots while on the court, the second highest rate in the country, and still held an effective field goal percentage of 60 percent.
"I think so. In my mind, I do," McDermott said when asked if he was the draft's best shooter. "I'm working out with quite a few good shooters in Chicago (Nik Stauskas, Joe Harris, Sean Kilpatrick) so we go at it every day, and if I can hang with those guys I feel I can hang with anyone in the draft. I feel like I can shoot from anywhere on the floor."
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The country's leading scorer scored 30 or more points 13 times -- including a 45-points outburst in which he surpassed the 3,000-point total for his career -- grabbed double-digit rebounds in seven games and made four or more 3-pointers in 13 contests. He was 20th in 3-point field goals made last season, and the only forward above him on the list was his teammate, Ethan Wragge; the Bluejays led the country in both made 3-pointers (356) and 3-point field goal percentage (41.5 percent).
But McDermott was more than just a spot-up shooter who knocked down his open looks in a system offense. Playing for his father, Greg McDermott, the stretch forward dominated in the scoring department while also taking care of the ball at a phenomenal rate; his usage rate was second in the country and his turnover rate was in the top-60, two marks that usually don't correlate, though Creighton's style of play certainly catered to the latter.
And he's confident that his basketball smarts will serve him in the pros, where he won't be able to get by on scoring alone.
"I think my IQ of the game and just my ability to shoot it," McDermott said of his best NBA-type attributes. "I think I've had a good three to four years with that as you all know, and just being a coach's kid, I've been around the game for a long time so I bring a good IQ to the table and good leadership skills. I think that'll really help me at the next level."
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But like all NBA Draft prospects not named Embiid, Wiggins or Parker, there are questions about McDermott's prospects. Recent Naismith Players of the Year have included Kevin Durant, Blake Griffin and Anthony Davis, but also NBA duds T.J. Ford, Evan Turner and Jimmer Fredette. And though McDermott tested well with a 36 1/2-inch vertical at the Combine, at just 6-foot-7 3/4 he's not quite tall or big enough to play power forward, and he's not quick enough to guard 2's.
That makes him a prototypical small forward with a deadly jumper, but versatility has become crucial for players, and McDermott is lacking it, at least for now.
"Once I get stronger I think (NBA teams) can see me as a 4, guarding 4s, but for now I'm going to have to be able to keep a 3 in front of me and possibly a 2, just because I'm not quite as tall as some of the 4s in the NBA," he said. "I think I'll figure it out once I get on the floor. I'm a basketball player and I've got to figure it out from there."
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Still, McDermott's size, elite scoring prowess and intangibles of being a four-year starter have made him a highly sought after prospect. At the time of the Combine he had spoken with three teams - including the Bulls - and had nearly a dozen more lined up. And when he does hear his name called, most likely sometime late in the lottery, he'll begin a new process of proving his doubters wrong. A three-star prospect out of high school playing second fiddle to Harrison Barnes in Ames, Iowa, playing in the Missouri Valley Conference and, in his final season, the Big East made many wonder if he could compete with the country's best.
But he hasn't let it slow him down. Just in his senior season, McDermott scored 30 points against San Diego State, scored 39 points against No. 4 Villanova and tallied 30 more in the Bluejays' first round win in the NCAA Tournament. As a junior he scored 30 points in a win over Wisconsin and in six career NCAA Tournament games, on the biggest stage, averaged 21.5 points on 45 percent shooting.
"I've always played with a chip on my shoulder. I feel like that's what's made me the player I am right now, so that's defenitely not going to stop going into the next level," he said. "For me it's all about going to the right team and the right style, the right coaching staff where I can really thrive."
And if his collegiate resume is any indication, the draft's best shooter is going to do just that.