Creighton's McDermott diversifies game to maintain spot among nation's top offensive players

Doug McDermott is scoring as much as ever. He's just working harder to do it.

Creighton's opponents have tried to design defenses to curb his production but haven't had much success. McDermott has shown a more diverse offensive repertoire this season and is averaging 24 points, a point better than his 2011-12 average.

"To average the amount of points he's averaged over the course of two years with what people are doing to him defensively. ... If he had stayed the same, he wouldn't have been able to do that," said Greg McDermott, coach of the 16th-ranked Bluejays and Doug's father.

Doug McDermott knew after earning first-team All-America honors last season that he couldn't stand pat. He's developed a dependable midrange jump shot. He's shooting, and making, more 3-pointers. He's improved his ball-handling. He's grown comfortable passing out of double-teams.

He's still almost unstoppable in the post.

McDermott's evolving game has prompted TV commentators to draw parallels between him and a Missouri Valley Conference player of yesteryear, Larry Bird. Even Bird's coach at Indiana State, Bill Hodges, said he can see a bit of Bird in McDermott.

Doug and his dad pooh-pooh that talk. But Doug does acknowledge "it's cool to even be named in the same sentence as him."

The 6-foot-8 junior heads into Wednesday night's game at Indiana State second nationally in scoring behind Virginia Tech's Erick Green (25.0 ppg). He's shooting 56.5 percent from the field and a team-leading 51 percent on 3s for the Bluejays (20-3).

He's made 52 3-pointers in 23 games, two short of his total in 35 games last season.

When he's double-teamed, he's finding open teammates. He has 42 assists — five more than his 2011-12 total.

McDermott didn't arrive at Creighton in 2010 accustomed to being the main man on offense. One of his teammates at Ames (Iowa) High was Harrison Barnes, who went on to play at North Carolina and now is with the Golden State Warriors.

"It's been a huge adjustment," McDermott said. "High school, Harrison was getting all those (double-teams) and I was the guy who was wide open for 3s, so it's been different adjusting to that role. They definitely bring a lot of double teams for me this year. I just try to stay patient. I play with a lot of good shooters, so it makes it a lot easier."

McDermott has benefited from being surrounded by good shooters. The Bluejays are the best 3-point team in the country, with five players making better than 42 percent.

McDermott is dangerous shooting the 3 off a screen or in transition. When he's surrounded in the post, Ethan Wragge, Austin Chatman, Jahenns Manigat or someone else can knock down the long shot.

"If Austin or Ethan or any of those guys have hit a couple," McDermott said, "(opponents) have to be a little less physical with me and focus on them a little more."

Hodges, who recruited Bird to Indiana State and was his head coach in the magical 1978-79 season, lives in Roanoke, Va., and coaches high school basketball. He said he's watched three or four Creighton games on television and can see similarities between McDermott and Bird.

Bird averaged 30.3 points over his three seasons at Indiana State, dazzled with his no-look passes and is best remembered for leading the Sycamores to the 1979 national championship game against Magic Johnson and Michigan State.

Bird was the national player of the year. McDermott is a strong candidate for the same honor this year.

Hodges said McDermott channels Bird with his ability to shoot from the perimeter, post up and make his teammates better.

"There are a lot of things that are reminiscent of the way Larry played," Hodges said this week. "The thing about Larry is that he was such a dynamic passer. I don't know if he has that flair Larry had."

Greg McDermott doesn't get caught up in the comparisons.

"As much as I love my son and appreciate what he does on the basketball floor, he can't do everything that Larry Bird did," the coach said. "So having said that, obviously, to even have him mentioned in the same sentence is a compliment to Doug and to how his game has developed. Larry was a once-in-a-lifetime player, and I haven't seen another one in my lifetime yet."