St. Joseph’s coach Phil Martelli had the highest of praise for a player he hopes the Hawks are able to contain on Saturday – Creighton 6-foot-8 junior Doug McDermott.
When describing McDermott, Martelli said, “This kid is Larry Bird. McDermott is Larry Bird. He is this year’s Larry Bird. He has all the stuff."
Martelli was speaking shortly after the Hawks improved to 4-1 with Wednesday’s 74-55 win over American University at Hagan Arena.
It would be understating it to say that Martelli is impressed by McDermott.
While his description of the Creighton forward may be slightly over the top, it should be stated that McDermott is an excellent player and a likely NBA first round pick if he chooses to come out this year.
McDermott is averaging 21 points and 7.3 rebounds for the 6-1 Bluejays, who suffered their first loss in Wednesday’s 83-70 defeat to visiting Boise State. He is shooting 53.3 percent from the field and 40 percent (10 for 25) from beyond the arc.
One area where he is unBird-like is in assist-to-turnover ratio. McDermott has eight assists and 19 turnovers.
That said, he’s is a major threat from the perimeter.
Last season Creighton was 7-0 and ranked No. 17 before losing an 80-71 decision at St. Joseph’s. In that game McDermott had 26 points and 10 rebounds. He shot 10 for 16 from the field, and 5 of 7 from beyond the arc.
Martelli also praised Creighton center Gregory Echenique, who is averaging 9.6 points and 6.6 rebounds.
“He’s a monster,” Martelli said.
In fact Martelli looks at this as a major early-season test and that is not over hyping the situation.
“It’s November and we have a lot of work to do and have a great chance on Saturday because we are going into a great environment against a really good team that does similar,” Martelli said. “They run play after play after play.”
And in running those plays a main strategy is to get McDermott open looks. Nobody knows McDermott’s game as well as Creighton’s head coach Greg McDermott, who happens to be his father.
So it all adds up to a major challenge for the Hawks and also one for Creighton.
“I am anxious to see how we handle being on the road,” Martelli said. “It’s easier in college basketball to play at home because the noise is always with you.”
He then added “We will have no noise for us on Saturday.”
Martelli hopes that Doug McDermott doesn’t make much noise on the court and for one game he hopes he doesn’t live up to the high praise given to him by the Hawks coach.