Duke's Kelly, Plumlee well-versed with Creighton's versatile McDermott

lkeeley@newsobserver.comMarch 23, 2013 

— When Creighton’s Doug McDermott walked into his hotel room at the Amar’e Stoudemire basketball camp in Chicago, there was a big, green bag in the middle of his floor.

The two-time All-American figured that meant his roommate was North Texas’s Tony Mitchell. But then Ryan Kelly came out of the bathroom.

“I thought he’d have a Duke Nike bag or something,” McDermott said. “That was kind of funny.”

Kelly and McDermott will meet on the court for the first time since last summer Sunday at 9:40 p.m., when No. 2 seed Duke faces No. 7 seed Creighton in the third round of the NCAA tournament for a trip to the Sweet 16.

McDermott, who leads the team with 23.2 points and 7.6 rebounds per game, was a Duke fan during the Shane Battier and Jay Williams era. He watched the Blue Devils from afar, as his family moved from places like Cedar Falls, Iowa, to Fargo, North Dakota, as his father, Greg McDermott, climbed the coaching ladder – he has been the coach at Creighton since the 2010-11 season.

The elder McDermott has seen his son go from a lightly recruited prospect to an All-American. McDermott was the high school teammate and good friend of former North Carolina player Harrison Barnes, and he was there as coaches like Kentucky’s John Calipari, UNC’s Roy Williams and Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski came to Ames, Iowa, in attempts to woo Barnes.

“He would always just greet me, and I would welcome him into our school,” McDermott said of Krzyzewski. “It was obviously really cool. He got front row parking at our high school. It was the talk of the town when Coach K came to town.”

McDermott and the Bluejays met Barnes and the Tar Heels last season in Greensboro, where UNC ended Creighton’s season and moved on to the Sweet 16. McDermott then spent his summer traveling to camps, to Stoudemire’s in Chicago where he roomed with Kelly, and then to the LeBron James Skills Academy where he teamed with Mason Plumlee.

The combination of size and athleticism that Plumlee brought to the basketball court impressed McDermott. Plumlee flashed that same athleticism off the court, too.

“We were done with the camp, so they took us out paintballing,” McDermott said. “Me and Ryan didn’t participate in it because we didn’t want to get our shoes dirty. But Mason, I remember, did really well.”

Kelly wasn’t as interested in telling stories from the summer. He focused instead on the challenges that McDermott will present. Several Blue Devils compared McDermott to Ohio State’s DeSean Thomas, whom Kelly held to 16 points and two rebounds in November, both under his season averages.

While guarding McDermott, Kelly will have to utilize lateral quickness he worked on during his rehab for his right foot injury.

“He’ll be constantly moving,” Kelly said. “Whether it’s playing off screens or cutting toward the basket, a quick post, you can never be surprised by his moves. Not many big guys do that.”

When Kelly isn’t chasing McDermott on the defensive end, he will be looking to rediscover his rhythm on offense. Since his 36-point explosion against Miami, Kelly is 2-of-16 from 3-point range. He is 0-for-9 from deep in his last three games.

Kelly said after the win against Albany in the second round that he wasn’t concerned, and that he knew his shot would come. He was all business then, just like he was when asked about his summer interactions with McDermott.

“That’s a good story line,” Kelly said, “But none of that really matters once we step on the floor.”

Hard to argue with that.

Keeley 919-829-4556; Twitter @laurakeeley

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