Doug McDermott has spurned hecklers in return to Creighton
Welcome to Week 2 of SI.com's Wooden Watch, and what a weird week it was. It's inevitable that even the nation's top players will stumble every now and then, but everybody in the same week? Perhaps it was road fatigue or holiday stress -- or maybe the bugs that were plaguing Marcus Smart and Andrew Wiggins somehow went, well, viral.
For some reason, every one of our Wooden Award candidates to watch from last week had a least one subpar performance this week. Bricks were launched, turnovers were coughed up, losses were recorded, streaks were broken. The status quo here largely held, but for one major exception: Last night one candidate delivered the kind of transcendent, clutch performance we hope to see from a potential Player of the Year, and he was rewarded with a major promotion.
NOTE: All stats are through Monday, Dec. 2.
Among the reasons McDermott returned for his senior season was the opportunity to play in a new conference against bigger and better competition and in iconic arenas he has never seen, like Madison Square Garden and Hinkle Fieldhouse. But there is one potential downside to the move for the two-time All-America: The heckles that had grown old in arenas around the Missouri Valley Conference -- "Daddy's Boy," a reference to his relationship to Bluejays coach Greg McDermott, his dad, was a favorite -- will feel clever and fresh to crowds in the Big East. "I'm sure I'll hear a lot of the same things I heard in the Valley," says McDermott, "though I do think the walk-on thing is set to pick up a little."
In case you haven't heard, McDermott is a walk-on this year; he gave up his scholarship so teammate Grant Gibbs, who was unexpectedly granted a sixth year of eligibility, could have it. Given that even his teammates razz McDermott about his new status -- "They seem to think I should carry their bags now," he says -- opposing fans will undoubtedly find some something there to work with. But it's not likely to do much good. With the exception of one off game in a loss to George Washington at the Wooden Legacy on Dec. 1 (more on that below) McDermott has been as efficient as ever -- going into the GW game, he was averaging nearly 28 points on 50 percent shooting -- while starting to show the effects of his offseason work, which focused on three-point range, ball-handling and defensive quickness. The improved defense, he says, comes mostly from facing quicker opponents. At a Team USA mini camp in Las Vegas, he guarded NBA wings like Gordon Hayward, Chandler Parsons and Paul George and held his own. "That really helped my confidence," he says.
One other thing he's better at: moving on from frustration. His game-winner at St. Joe's on Nov. 16 (his first-game-winner ever) came after he was held scoreless for the first 10:35 of the game. "I didn't have my best game," he says. "But I kept believing in myself, and I ended up getting an open look at the end to win it."
He wasn't the only one who moved on quickly from being denied. As soon as the game ended the hecklers in the crowd -- this being Philly, they were lots of them -- had moved on to their next mission: getting in line to get McDermott's autograph.
1. Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State
Last week: 1
Stats: 20.5 points per game, 5.0 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 3.0 steals
The Old Spice Classic in Florida was a mixed bag for our list leader. In a 97-87 win over Purdue on Thanksgiving, Smart was brilliant, scoring 30 points on 9 for 18 shooting. Against Butler a day later he was more pedestrian, scoring 17 points and grabbing eight rebounds in a 69-67 win. In a 73-68 loss to Memphis in the final, Smart was -- well, he was sick. Battling flu-like symptoms, he had 12 points on 4 for 13 shooting, missed all five of his three-point attempts and had five turnovers, including two in the final 30 seconds, both of which led to crucial Memphis free throws. But given the struggles of his competitors, he didn't budge from the top.
2. Jabari Parker, Duke
Last week: 2
Stats: 23.0 points, 8.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists, .554 FG, .500 3-pt FG, .733 FT
This is what happens when you become the first freshman since Kevin Durant in 2007 to score at least 20 points in your first seven games: a point total of 19 constitutes an "off" night. And so Parker fell to earth on Nov. 29 when Duke lost 72-66 to Arizona and its freshman phenom, Aaron Gordon, in the most anticipated game of last week. Though Parker's 19 was second only to teammate Rodney Hood's 21 among all players, he missed 14 of his 21 shots, including all five of his three-point attempts, and turned the ball over five times. In the big picture, he is still solidly behind Smart: Through eight games he is averaging 23.0 points and 8.0 rebounds per game and hitting 50 percent of his threes.
3. Doug McDermott, Creighton
Last week: 3
Stats: 24.9 points. 7.1 rebounds, 0.9 assists, .504/.425/.830
After scoring 27 points and going 10 for 10 from the stripe in an 88-60 win over Arizona State and scoring 30 (including 5 for 8 from the three) in an 86-80 loss to San Diego State in the Bluejays first two games in the Wooden Legacy in Anaheim, McDermott had one of the worst shooting nights of his career against George Washington. Not only did Creighton lose 60-53, McDermott was also held to seven points on 2 for 12 shooting. Tuesday's game at 1-7 Long Beach will give him a great opportunity to test his newfound resilience. His numbers through seven games: 24.9 ppg; 7.1 rpg; 42.5% from the three.
4. Julius Randle, Kentucky
Last week: 4
Stats: 18.1 points, 12.5 rebounds, 2.1 assists, .536 FG
Kentucky's freshman stud followed up a 14-point, 10 rebound offering against Eastern Michigan with a 12-point, 8-rebound, 4-assist effort against Providence (both wins, by the way), which marked the first time this season he has failed to get a double-double. But he is still averaging one, and that's what SI's Wooden Watch cares about: through eight games, he is notching 18.1 points and 12.6 rebounds a game.
5. Shabazz Napier, Connecticut
Last week: 10
Stats: 16.4 points, 7.3 rebounds, 5.6 assists, .506/.600/.769
As a kid Napier always wanted to be Superman, and on Monday he got to save the day. In a big home game against a ranked team, with an undefeated record on the line, the Huskies senior point guard shook off his four-point performance against Loyola on Nov. 26 and delivered clutch buckets all night, none bigger than the 15-foot buzzer beater that beat No. 15 Florida 65-64. (Though his four-point play, as he tweaked his ankle, to give the Huskies a one-point lead with 33 seconds remaining, was a close second.) He finished with 26 points on the night, but, as evidenced by his stat line above, he has done far more than just score this season.
6. Jahii Carson, Arizona State
Last week: 5
Stats: 20.2 points, 3.1 rebounds, 5.1 assists, .504/.515/.763
Overall, it was a tough week at the Wooden Legacy for the man ASU season ticket holders had taken to calling Ja-hii-sus. Yes, he had a 21-point, 7-assist game against the College of Charleston, but that was sandwiched by losses to Creighton (15 points, 4 assists, 5 turnovers) and Miami (8 points on 2 for 14 shooting, 3 assists, 3 turnovers and one badly rolled ankle.)
7. Russ Smith, Louisville
Last week: 6
Stats: 18.9 points, 2.9 rebounds, 3.9 assists, 1.7 steals
In the Cardinals' lone game last week, Smith didn't look much like the scoring machine he was against North Carolina on Nov. 24, when he had 36 points on 11 for 24 shooting. But that's not necessarily a bad thing. Against an overmatched Southern Mississippi squad intent on denying him, he was choosey about his eight shots, making five of them for 11 points while adding six assists and four steals in 22 minutes.
8. Keith Appling, Michigan State
Last week: NR
Stats: 16.9 points, 3.0 rebounds, 5.6 assists, .586/.522/.727
With last week's entrant from Sparty, Gary Harris, out for the week nursing a sore ankle, his teammate Keith Appling makes his debut. (With center Adreian Payne also putting up impressive numbers this season, this space might host a rotating cast of Spartans going forward.) Coming off the bench -- punishment for showing up late to a class -- in a 98-65 win over Mount St. Mary's, Appling had 17 points and five assists to add to his case for being the most important (and improved) player on the No. 1 team in the country.
9. Andrew Wiggins, Kansas
Last week: 7
Stats: 14.3 points, 5.6 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 1.3 steals
After filling the stat sheet with 17 points, four rebounds, four assists and three steals in a win over Wake Forest in the Jayhawks' opening game at the Battle 4 Atlantis event, Wiggins all but disappeared in the next two games. In an upset loss to unranked Villanova and a narrow win over UTEP, he had a total of 10 rebounds and five turnovers and went 5 for 17 from the field and 5 for 11 from the stripe for 16 points. Maybe Wiggins' underwhelming performance can be explained by the bronchitis he was suffering. But he can have a confounding lack of assertiveness, which you won't find often in a Player of the Year.
10. Marcus Paige, North Carolina
Last week: 9
Stats: 20.8 points, 2.7 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 1.5 steals, .500/.447/.933
Paige had only one opportunity this week to build his Wooden resume and, frankly, he didn't do much with it. Paige, a natural point guard who had been averaging 22 points a game as a shooting guard going into Sunday's game at UAB, was held to 13 points and 0 for 6 shooting from the arc in the Tar Heels' 63-59 loss. Paige and the Heels have a chance for a major bouncebback on Dec. 4 against Michigan State.
Dropped out: Gary Harris (LW: 8)
In the wings: Nick Johnson, Arizona; Roberto Nelson, Oregon State; Adreian Payne, Michigan State; Xavier Thames, San Diego State; Ron Baker, Wichita State; Aaron Gordon, Arizona