Saturday, January 31, 2015

Creighton star Doug McDermott introduces himself to Philadelphia

Courtesy of ASAP Sports, here's a transcript of Creighton's press conference ahead of Friday's NCAA tournament game against Cincinnati at the Wells Fargo Center.

Creighton star Doug McDermott introduces himself to Philadelphia

Courtesy of ASAP Sports, here's a transcript of Creighton's press conference ahead of Friday's NCAA tournament game against Cincinnati at the Wells Fargo Center.

Q. Doug, I know you've been through this plenty of times, can you just go over again your emotions from going‑‑ your dad not recruiting you at Iowa State, then him going to Creighton and you leaving Northern Iowa to go there? Just your kind of emotions on that and your thought process and did it maybe surprise your dad that you would go to Creighton?

DOUG McDERMOTT: Yeah, it all happened so fast. I was signed to go to Northern Iowa to play for Coach Jacobson and was really excited about it. My dad was at Iowa State and times were getting kind of tough there, and I felt like he wanted to move.

Creighton offered him a position, and I was quick when he offered me to come join him. I figured Northern Iowa and Creighton are in the same conference, and I felt like I'd have to play against him two or three times a year, so that would be really hard for me, so that made the decision a lot easier. 

Q. Greg, just talk about going up against Darren Savino who recruited you to Rutgers, now he's a Cincinnati assistant, and also the Cincinnati coaches were just talking about what great shape you're in. Talk about how your body has changed from when you were at Rutgers to now.

GREGORY ECHENIQUE: It's definitely been a tough process, talking about the whole‑‑ my transformation of my body. You know, the way my body is and my metabolism, I'm just not one of those guys that can eat whatever and just lose weight. I have to really sacrifice a lot of things that I like to eat, and I work hard with a strength coach, our strength coach, and nutritionist. That helped me a lot.

Yeah, it's kind of funny being back here now and playing against the team I previously played against when I was at Rutgers and one of the assistant coaches that was a part of my team before. We already kind of bid that too. We played Northwestern earlier in the year when Fred Hill was in it. I'm excited. I think it's always fun going against people that you know, and I'm pretty sure that it'll be a great game, so I'm looking forward to it. 

Q. Greg, what's this journey been like for you? When we last saw you, you were at Rutgers, sort of a kid. Now you're a man. What has this been like?

GREGORY ECHENIQUE: It's been great. At the moment it was tough. Obviously I had to make a quick decision and I couldn't play for a little while because of my eye. But thank God I'm fine with that. I'm clear.

And nothing, I mean, Creighton has been great to me. They welcomed me, and the whole fan and the whole community that we've got there, they really supported me. I really think that I made the right decision and had good experiences at Rutgers, as well. So I don't regret that. I know I made the right decision by going to Creighton, and now I think we have something special.

Q. What are your impressions of Cincinnati's defense, and do you have any thoughts about what they might do to try to stop you?

DOUG McDERMOTT: I mean, they're a really good defensive team. They pressure the ball, they like to full court press at times, and we don't see a lot of teams like that each year. We're definitely excited for it. I mean, they're going to be really athletic, really physical I'm sure with me, and I mean, I'm focused on that, and we've watched a lot of film on them.

I think we're ready for whatever they have to throw at us. 

Q. Doug, I'm not sure if you're coming back next year or not, but what are your feelings about the move that Creighton is making to join the Big East schools and probably get much more exposure now?

DOUG McDERMOTT: Yeah, it's huge for the school. I mean, you can't say no to that when that offer comes because not a lot of schools could say they could join the Big East Conference. It's awesome for our school, awesome for our athletics. I know all of our fans are excited, as we are, as well. Having Georgetown, Marquette, teams like that come to town, you can't pass up on. Everyone is real excited about it. 

Q. And if I could just follow up, what's your feeling about you're going to be playing the Big East Tournament every year in Madison Square Garden from now on.

DOUG McDERMOTT: Yeah, it really hasn't hit me yet. That's pretty cool to say. I mean, if you were to telling me this a couple years ago I would have called you crazy. Watching the Big East Tournament ever since I was little, growing up, at the Garden. Everyone wants to play on that stage. It's definitely a cool deal that's going on. 

Q. Grant, if Cincinnati throws a press at you guys, how are you going to handle that?

GRANT GIBBS: Yeah, like Doug said, we haven't faced a whole lot of teams this year with their kind of athletic ability and what they're going to do pressure wise. We worked this last week kind of trying to attack that, stay aggressive.

But it's definitely going to be an adjustment with the kind of athletes that they have and the pressure they're going to throw at us. It'll be an important facet of the game, how we handle that pressure, being in attack mode but still being smart and not turning the ball over. 

Q. If you look around the tournament you can see guys like McCollum or Jamaal Franklin, all these guys who are great scorers who were probably under‑recruited. As a player who is sort of similar to that, what are your thoughts on that sort of top players who may not have been appreciated until late?

DOUG MCDERMOTT: Yeah, last year seeing C.J. go off against Duke was definitely special and seeing guys like that in the past like Jimmer and Adam Morrison, it's been awesome to watch growing up. I can't say I'm like those guys. I haven't even played a game in the tournament this year. I mean, I'm just looking forward to playing against Cincinnati, and I think it'll be a good game. 

Q. If you could just talk about what Greg has brought to the team. What did you know about him when he transferred from Rutgers, what did you expect, and how has his body and his game changed since then?

DOUG MCDERMOTT: Yeah, he looks like a different person from the time I came on to campus, that's for sure. He's done a great job of committing himself to his body and his conditioning, and he's been huge for us. He was huge for us down the stretch here in our conference tournament in St. Louis.

I think he had a total of 16 blocks or something. He's just been a presence defensively for us, and we're not afraid to throw him the ball, either, because when he gets that thing he's not missing around the rim. He's been a huge key to our success. 

Q. Greg, having been in the Big East and playing against Cincinnati, what can you tell your teammates about what to expect from them?

GREGORY ECHENIQUE: Yeah, well, pretty much I told them, just similar to what Coach said to us, they're very athletic and they play hard. They're a team that's not really intimidated by anything, and I'm pretty sure that they haven't changed their philosophy since the last time I played them.

Watching film and stuff, I can tell they have that same mentality. They're a tough team, and it's going to be a fist fight. But we'll be ready for it.

We've just got to stay within our plan and just be smart, don't fall into ‑ I think it's going to be a lot of emotion involved in that game, and we've just got to stay focused, and our coaches do a good job just spending a lot of time watching film and putting a plan together. So we've just got to follow it, and we'll be fine. 

Q. The success of teams like George Mason and VCU over the years, is there a sense that the schools that you play against in the MVC are just as good as anybody in the country given the parity that's in college basketball?

GRANT GIBBS: Yeah, you know, you see teams make those runs, obviously, and comparing them talent‑wise to the teams in our conference, obviously I think kind of a little under‑respected as far as playing in a mid‑major conference.

But going up night in, night out against the teams in our conference, as well coached as they are, I think you kind of gain that respect and you understand why Butler and VCU can make those deep runs because they play in conferences with really well‑coached teams and are kind of battle tested in their own way.

GREGORY ECHENIQUE: Adding to what Grant said, once you make it to this point I think everyone deserves respect in a way. If you made it here, it's for a reason, and I think that's why sometimes I feel like people buy into big names too much, a little too much, and then they get surprised when teams that were under‑rated or things like that.

But this is the NCAA Tournament, so I feel like, like I said before, each team should have some respect because they worked just as hard to get in it, just as hard as the other teams.

DOUG MCDERMOTT: Like both these guys said, those teams set the bar for us, mid‑majors, especially this year in college basketball anything can happen.

Teams we played against in the Missouri Valley Conference where really well coached, Wichita State went into VCU and won this year and earlier in the year I think UNI played neck and neck with Louisville down in the Bahamas. Anything can happen, and I feel like we're well prepared. 

Q. Doug, you're at Ames High School, and I would think Iowa State is a school that everyone wanted to go to, so when you were in high school was there any hard feelings about not being recruited to Iowa State, or have you been around it so long that you understood the recruiting process and it was just something that you understood how it works?

DOUG MCDERMOTT: Yeah, I felt like at the time personally I didn't think I was good enough to play at that level. I mean, I felt like the mid‑major seemed to kind of fit my game a little better, and I felt like I could go to Northern Iowa and make a name for myself, and then Creighton came rolling along with my dad's situation, and it couldn't have worked out any better for me.

I loved Iowa State growing up, obviously with my dad coaching there, but just the way things were going, I felt like it wasn't a good fit for me so I decided to stay close to home and choose Northern Iowa.

THE MODERATOR: We have Creighton head coach Greg McDermott.

COACH MCDERMOTT: We're thrilled to be back.

This team has overcome some adversity throughout the year, certainly in early December when we lost Josh Jones, our fifth year senior, off the bench to a heart condition, and we were able to maybe mask some of the things that we lost because of Josh's departure for eight or 10 games, but it became evident at some points during our conference play how bad we missed him and how that impacted our team.

We had a couple tough stretches at the end of January and into February where we didn't play as well, and fortunately we were able to regroup at the end, win the regular season conference title, and then go on to win in St.Louis in our conference tournament.

These guys have done everything the right way all season long, and I'm just really proud that a group of guys that has remained so committed to one another through some tough times has been rewarded for that sacrifice with a trip to the NCAA Tournament.

We're fired up to be here. Obviously we're playing a great opponent in Cincinnati tomorrow, but we look forward to that challenge. 

Q. Obviously the story with Doug and you, it's something that's gone through. But is it a little too simplistic just to say that you missed out on him when he was in high school?

COACH MCDERMOTT: Yeah, there was a lot of factors that went into‑‑ and it wasn't my decision, it was our decision. Doug and I talked about it. When I was coaching at Iowa State, I wasn't sure how long my tenure was going to last at Iowa State.

I wasn't real proud of the culture that we had created there, and frankly we hadn't won enough games, as many as I expected. And if something was going to go down with me personally, from a professional standpoint the next year or two, the last thing I wanted was to have my son be part of that and expose him to what would go with that.

And at the time Doug was 6' 6", 180 pounds, and every high major Division I school was through Ames, Iowa, to watch Harrison Barnes play, and every time they watched Harrison play, they watched Doug play, and nobody was banging down his door.

Part of it was he just continued to get so much better. He always had a great feel for the game. He had the ability in high school to be in the right place at the right time. I think we as coaches college wondered how would that ability transfer to the next level. And as you watch him play in college you say, God, that kid is always in the right place at the right time.

Now there is NBA general managers who are trying to figure out how does that transfer from college to the NBA.

And to Doug's credit, he's just worked really hard to get better. He's added something to his game every year, and to go from someone that was a sixth man on your high school team as a junior and be a two‑time all‑American five years later, that just doesn't happen. A lot of the credit goes to Doug.

Q. My question is with the success of schools like George Mason, VCU and all that, has recruiting become a little bit easier? And a lot of times kids want to be at the big schools, they want to be at the major schools. Has recruiting and getting guys become a lot easier when you can convince them that, hey, we can create something here?

COACH MCDERMOTT: I think it certainly has helped the mid‑majors and it's helped the parity in college basketball because of the success that so‑called mid‑majors have had. We're a little bit different in Omaha in that we average 17,000 fans for our home games, so we have a lot of things that the BCS schools would love to have that allows us to compete in recruiting on regular basis with those types of schools.

We are a little bit different than most, and obviously our move to the Big East and any problem we've had with being a mid‑major school is certainly going to go away very soon. 

Q. And following up on that theme, I wanted to ask you exactly about the move to the Big East yesterday. What impact will that have on your program going forward do you think, to be with that group?

COACH MCDERMOTT: Well, we certainly have a lot of research to do and a lot of decisions to make within our department. Bruce Rasmussen, our athletic director, has done an unbelievable job of building an athletic program in his tenure at Creighton.

Certainly started on the men's basketball side when he hired Dana Altman in 1994, and Dana built an unbelievable program, and we're charged with carrying that torch and trying to take it a little bit farther.

By doing that in the Missouri Valley Conference, the commitment level to men's basketball was either at or near the top of our conference. That commitment level doesn't get us at or near the top of the Big East. So we've got some decisions to make on how we're going to do things if we expect to compete for championships in the Big East.

Now, we already have a beautiful NBA arena, we already have an unbelievable fan base and an incredible season ticket base, so the support part of it is there. We just have to make some changes in how we do things. We broke ground on a new practice facility next month that'll be done a year from now that'll be state‑of‑the‑art and one of the nicer ones that I've seen.

The bricks and mortar are there we are just going to have to invest in our program a little bit more and there is no reason we can't be as competitive in the Big East as we are in the Missouri Valley.

Q. How wide open is this field in terms of how many different teams can win it, whether a team at this so‑called level like yours could win it this year?

COACH MCDERMOTT: I think it's as wide open as it's been. I don't see a Kentucky or North Carolina of last year where you have four lottery picks on a team like we saw in a couple teams last year. Now, North Carolina had some injuries that certainly impacted their ability to move forward. But I don't see that this year.

There's some very talented basketball teams. But I think every team maybe has a few warts, and it's just a matter of getting hot at the right time and having the ball bounce your way and finding a way to win a close game somewhere in the tournament that maybe you shouldn't win.

So because of that, I think there's a lot of teams that could get on a roll and win, and I think that's what's going to make this NCAA Tournament one of the most fun to watch in recent years.

Q. What kind of things do opposing defenses do to try to stop Doug, what's been the most successful, and what do you expect Cincinnati to try to do against him?

COACH MCDERMOTT: We've seen everything. He's seen double and triple teams once he's caught it, he's seen teams try to deny him the basketball. Doug moves in space so well and he is in constant motion which makes him difficult to guard.

Cincinnati is blessed with some length and athleticism that some of the teams in our league don't have. What Mick chooses to do, I'm not sure. We'll read that in the first five minutes and then we'll adjust accordingly.

When teams have double and triple teamed us, that's when our shooters get loose. We have six guys shooting over 38 percent from the three‑point line. It's a big part of what we do, and we play off those double and triple teams that we've seen and have been able to have success as a result of that.

Q. Do you see any similarities between this Cincinnati team and Alabama's team from last year?

COACH MCDERMOTT: There are similarities, certainly defensively. Alabama threw it into JaMychal Green a lot more than Cincinnati looks to throw it inside. But Cincinnati has got probably a little bit more fire power in their guard court with the ability of Wright and Kilpatrick and Parker to score the basketball. They can all shoot it, they can all get into the defense and create.

They've had a stretch where they probably haven't shot it as well as they are capable of shooting it. And if all those three guys come out of it at the same time, look out, this is a dangerous, dangerous basketball team, and we've got to try to get to them and run them off that three‑point line and make sure their looks are tough. There are some similarities but also some differences in their approach.

Q. When you look at guys, is it too simple like when you look at Doug or C.J. McCollum or Jamaal Franklin, is it too simple to say that they fell through the cracks or is there sort of a common thread there?

COACH MCDERMOTT: You know, I think some guys maybe fall through the cracks for a reason. Doug was on an unbelievably talented high school team with the top high school player in the country. So does he get overlooked or maybe not get as many shots or as many touches because his team was so talented? That's certainly possible.

But I think a lot of it is, you look at the big kid at Bucknell, kids go to college and they work hard and they develop, and I think that, at least in Doug's case and in Mike's case at Bucknell, I saw C.J. when he was younger, he's gotten a lot better. Jamaal Franklin from his freshman year until now is a totally different player.

There's been an investment made on their part to develop their game, and you know, not many guys reach their ceiling in college because often times you can't get them to work hard enough on a consistent basis, and I think those four are examples of guys that have put the time in because it's obvious that their skill level has gotten better each and every year.

Q. Does that make certain players sort of like more suitable for the program?

COACH MCDERMOTT: One of the differences for Doug, had Doug ‑ let's say I stayed at Iowa State and he comes to Iowa State. Could it he have had the impact as a freshman in the Big 12 that he was able to have in the Missouri Valley Conference as a freshman: He was able to get on the floor and play and play through his mistakes and learn what he was going to have to change for the next year.

Sometimes freshmen, if their body isn't ready and they go to a BCS school, they can't get on the floor right away, so they're learning in practice as a red shirt or with limited minutes.

The best way to learn is in a game. That's the best way for you to convince yourself that, you know what, I'd better make some changes in the way I play the game. I'd better improve in area X, Y and Z in I want to be a better player next year, and it's hard to do if you're not playing a significant role on that team.

I think in all the cases that you mentioned, all of those guys were able to get on the floor at a young age and they were able to produce in some cases and play through some mistakes in other cases, and that maybe isn't quite as prevalent at the BCS level.

Q. What is the likelihood that Doug will be back next year, or have you had that conversation yet?

COACH MCDERMOTT: We have not had that conversation, and we agreed about six weeks ago that Doug just wanted to shelve it until everything was over, and then I've got to wear a couple hats.

I've got to do the research that Doug deserves from his head coach to get everything in front of him so he can make an educated decision, and then when it comes time to talk about the things that are on his mind, I've got to take my coaching hat off and be his father and advise him in an appropriate way.

But at the end of the day, I'm going to listen. This is Doug's decision. He has to do what's best for him at this point in his life, and Doug has said it before: It's always been a dream of his to go to the NBA, like I think most basketball players, but at the same time, he's living the dream playing basketball for Creighton University.

He's got great teammates, and except for the head coach I think he enjoys the staff on most days, and he's playing in front of his mom and his sister every single day. They get to watch every single game, and that's a pretty neat experience.

Jonathan Tannenwald Sports Producer
About this blog
Soft Pretzel Logic is Philly.com's college sports blog, with a primary focus on the University of Pennsylvania. You'll also see coverage of the Big 5, other major college sports events in the region, and the annual Penn Relays track and field meet.

Jonathan Tannenwald Sports Producer
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