Having recently competed against some of the best young players in the world, Doug McDermott now gets a chance to see where his game stacks up against some of the best players from this country.
The Creighton forward and Oklahoma State's Marcus Smart are the only collegiate players invited to participate in next week's U.S. National team mini-camp in Las Vegas. The other 28 players invited are from the NBA, including three of the past four No. 1 draft picks and the last two rookies of the year.
“It's going to be a little intimidating at first playing against guys I've been watching on TNT and hearing Charles Barkley talking about,” McDermott said. “But having Harrison there is going to be really special.”
McDermott and Harrison Barnes were high school teammates at Ames, Iowa. Barnes, who played collegiately at North Carolina, is coming off his rookie season with the Golden State Warriors.
“We've both come a long ways,” McDermott said. “He's had a great career and I'm trying to follow his path. It's a real special honor for Ames High School but I'm not going to back down from that competition. I'm looking forward to going head-to-head against him.”
McDermott will leave for Las Vegas on Sunday. He returned to Omaha on Thursday after spending a month with the U.S. team at the World University Games in Kazan, Russia.
McDermott led the Americans in scoring (14.1 points) and minutes per game (23.8). The U.S. failed to make the medal round, finishing the tournament in ninth place at 6-2.
“I was focused on winning a gold medal but we came up short,” McDermott said. “The thing our team did a great job doing was not getting down after we couldn't win the gold medal. We probably played our three best games after that.”
In Russia, McDermott was approached by a USA Basketball official about his interest in participating in the mini-camp Monday through Thursday at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas. The showcase of the event will be an intrasquad scrimmage Thursday at UNLV's Thomas & Mack Center.
Duke's Mike Krzyzewski, the U.S. national team coach through the 2016 Summer Olympics, will direct the camp. He'll be assisted by Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim, Chicago Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau and New Orleans Pelicans coach Monty Williams.
“This is going to be a good test to see where I'm at compared to those guys at that level,” McDermott said. “I'm going to have to be ready for that, and I'm going to pick their brains — not just the players but Coach K, Jim Boeheim and the other guys that are going to be there.”
The professional players invited to the camp range from six-year NBA veteran Mike Conley to nine players coming off their first seasons, including 2013 rookie of the year Damian Lillard of Portland. Cleveland's Kyrie Irving, the 2012 rookie of the year, also will participate.
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Nine of the players were members of the 2012 U.S. select team that trained against the Olympic team.
“When they asked me if I was interested, I said, 'Sure, if it's there,'?” McDermott said. “I wanted to get some rest when I got back but this will be a great alternative.”
Especially given that McDermott and Smart are the only collegiate players invited. Smart, who led the U.S. to the under-19 world championship earlier this month, turned down a chance to go professional in deciding to return to Oklahoma State for his sophomore season.
“He could have been a top-five pick,” said McDermott, a likely first-rounder himself had he not decided to return to Creighton for his senior season. “It's a huge honor to be included with all these other great players.”
McDermott called the World University Games a positive experience. The U.S. won its first three pool games before losses to Australia and Canada knocked it out of medal contention.
“We all got along great — the team chemistry was off the charts,” McDermott said. “But once game time hit, some of the teams had an advantage because they had been together for so much longer than we had.”
The U.S. team was coached by Davidson's Bob McKillop, with South Carolina's Frank Martin and Michigan's John Beilein assisting. McDermott picked up some tips from McKillop, who runs primarily the same offense the Bluejays do.
Martin provided, emphatically at times, some defensive advice.
“Frank Martin wasn't pleased with my defense a few times, and I heard about that,” McDermott said, smiling. “I think that's only going to make me better.
“We gave him a bad time because while we were there, he got rated as the most intimidating coach in college basketball. I was like, 'I don't see that at all from you, man.' Then I saw it later the same night when he got on me about my defense. ''
The participants stayed in an Olympic-style village. McDermott treasured the experience of meeting “a lot of cool people from a lot of different countries.”
The U.S. team provided its players with pins to trade with athletes from the different countries. One night, McDermott said, he went off on his own to do some trading.
“I went from building to building and just talked my way through trying to get pins,” he said. “I got some real cool stuff. I really hit it off with the South Africans. I was hanging out with them and learning some terms.
“It was a good experience.”
Video: Creighton senior Doug McDermott discusses the U.S. men's basketball team: