PENDLETON — These are brave new basketball waters for Sean McDermott. Fortunately, the Pendleton Heights rising junior has no shortage of helpful navigators.
McDermott’s mother, Kim, played at Indiana State. Uncle Linc Darner played at Purdue, and another uncle, Tige, played at Appalachian State.
Grandfather Alan Darner won two state titles as a head coach at Pike after a highly successful run at Highland.
So the pressure of playing the same position as Butler’s Kellen Dunham this winter and landing on the radar screens of elite college basketball recruiters isn’t likely to overwhelm the soft-spoken sweet shooter.
“In the house, to have somebody who played college basketball and somebody who made it to the state finals,” McDermott said, referencing his mother’s run as a player with the Scots, “it’s a big help.”
Linc Darner, now the head coach at NCAA Div. II Florida Southern, was able to attend a couple of his nephew’s games in person last week at the Adidas Invitational in Fishers. He was not alone.
McDermott competed in the event with his AAU team, Speice Indy Heat, and walked away from the tournament with offers from Illinois State and New Orleans.
Butler assistant coach Terry Johnson, an Anderson High School graduate, had been in contact with McDermott before then-head coach Brad Stevens left for the Boston Celtics.
And McDermott hopes the Bulldogs’ interest will continue under new head coach Brandon Miller.
Indiana joined the pursuit a little later in the game. But McDermott has been in weekly contact with assistant coach Tim Buckley ever since the Hoosiers came on board.
“It’s different because this is my first year really being recruited,” he said of the sudden influx of attention. “It’s fun right now, but I’m just focused on getting better.”
His summer with Speice Indy Heat is helping with that.
McDermott enjoyed a solid sophomore season with the Arabians after transferring in from Lapel. He appeared in 23 games after being granted full eligibility in December and averaged 12.4 points while shooting nearly 41 percent from 3-point range in his first varsity season.
Pendleton Heights head coach Brian Hahn said little has changed in McDermott’s game this summer. It’s more about refining the tools that are already there.
“He’s getting a little stronger, shooting the ball with more consistency and just continuing to improve in all areas,” Hahn said.
McDermott is typically modest about his summer work thus far.
He’ll take part in the top 100 workout Thursday at Ben Davis, and he’s having a blast testing himself against elite competition.
“This is my first year really playing on a high-level AAU team,” he said. “It’s completely different playing against really good teams. It’s really helping me playing against these kids every day.”
McDermott said success during the high school season is his primary goal, and he figures to be the focal point at PH this season.
He’s spoken with Dunham and heard the same advice he gets nearly every day from Hahn — just block out distractions and focus on getting better each day.
Growing up in a basketball family has taught him at least one other important lesson as well. The team always comes first.
“I just know when I go out there, my teammates are there to help me,” he said. “If I need to score to help us win a game, that’s what I’ll do. If I need to get the ball to my teammates and get them involved for us to win, that’s what I’ll do.”
McDermott acknowledged he’ll look to be more aggressive next season, putting doubt into defenders’ heads about whether he intends to drive to the basket or pull up for a jumper.
And he knows enough about the game to realize how much more he still has to learn.
“I just want to keep improving,” he said. “I want to be the very best player I can be.”