Father-son team find a connection with Creighton

DAVID SWANSON / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Doug McDermott, with his father, Greg, watching in the background, goes through a workout at Wells Fargo Center.
DAVID SWANSON / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Doug McDermott, with his father, Greg, watching in the background, goes through a workout at Wells Fargo Center.
Posted: March 22, 2013

BY NOW, the story has been told so many times that it's become the "Tall Tale" of the McDermott family.

Back in 2009, the father, Greg, was the head basketball coach at Iowa State University in Ames.

The son, Doug, was a first-team all-state player who averaged 20.1 points and 7.8 rebounds for Ames High School, which won consecutive state titles, going 53-0 in the process.

The father, just like every other major college coach in the country, was hot on the recruiting trail of his son's teammate - Harrison Barnes, a consensus High school All-America who spent two seasons at the University of North Carolina before being selected seventh overall in the 2012 NBA draft.

But there was no trickle-down effect from dad to son. His father did not recruit him to Iowa State, so Doug accepted a scholarship to Northern Iowa, of the Missouri Valley Conference.

The easy story - the one both McDermotts play along with - is that Greg didn't think Doug was talented enough to play at Iowa State in the Big 12.

And to be fair to Greg, none of the other big-time coaches who saw Doug while watching Barnes offered a scholarship, either.

Then fate stepped in.

In April 2010, Greg left Iowa State to take the job at Creighton, of the MVC.

Doug, not wanting to play against his dad at least twice a season, was released from his commitment to Northern Iowa and transferred to Creighton.

Three years later, Doug is the two-time MVC Player of the Year, the second leading scorer in the nation and leading the seventh-seeded Blue Jays against 10th-seeded Cincinnati in a Midwest Region second-round game Friday at the Wells Fargo Center.

Greg, as he has had to do for the previous two seasons, was asked to do some explaining.

"It's never that simple," Greg McDermott said of not recruiting his son to Iowa State. "It wasn't my decision. It was our decision. Doug and I talked about it.

"There were a lot factors. I wasn't too sure how long my tenure was going to last at Iowa State. I wasn't real proud of the culture we had created there and, frankly, we had not won as many games as I had expected."

Four straight losing seasons had left Greg on shaky ground in Ames, and he did not want to put Doug in a situation where he had come there and then quickly had to deal with his father being fired.

"If something was going to go down with me professionally, the last thing I wanted was for my son to be a part of that," Greg said.

But there was also the level of competition thing. Doug said that, coming out of Ames High, he wasn't sure he was good enough to play in the Big 12. He thought Northern Iowa, where his dad had coached for five seasons before going to Iowa State, was the right fit for him.

"I felt the mid-major scene kind of fit my game a little better," Doug said. "I loved Iowa State growing up, and my dad was coaching there, but it didn't seem the right fit for me. I thought I could go to Northern Iowa and make a name for myself.

"Then the Creighton situation came rolling along with my dad. It could not have worked out any better for me."

Clearly, this was the right match. In his first season, Doug started 39 games and set a MVC record for points by a freshman, with 581. He became the first freshman to make first-team All-MVC since 1952.

As a sophomore, Doug averaged 22.9 points and was a consensus first-team All-America. He was the first Creighton player to be named Larry Bird Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year since former 76er Kyle Korver in 2002 and 2003.

This season, after averaging 23.1 points and 7.5 rebounds, Doug became the eighth player to repeat as MVC Player of the Year and the first non-BCS player since Larry Johnson, of UNLV (1990 and '91) to repeat as a first-team All-America by the U.S. Basketball Writers Association.

Doug joined Louisiana State legend Pete Maravich has the only first-team All-America to be coached by his father.

The McDermotts wrap their story as things working out for the best.

"Let's say I would have stayed at Iowa State and Doug came there," Greg said. "Would he have been able to have the same impact as a freshman in the Big 12 as he did in the Missouri Valley Conference?

"He was able to get on the floor and play as a freshman, play through his mistakes and learn what he was going to have to change for the next year.

"Sometimes, a freshman at a BCS school might not have his body ready, and then they are learning through practice. But playing is the best way to convince you that 'I better make some changes and improve in certain areas if I want to come back a better player the next season.' "

In 2013 NBA mock drafts, Doug McDermott projects anywhere from late first round to early second round. Greg said he and Doug agreed to put that in the background until after Creighton does whatever it can do in the NCAA Tournament.

"I'll have to do my research as coach," Greg said, "and then I'll have to talk with him as a father. But, ultimately, it's Doug's life, and he'll have to make the decision that is best for him.

"I think some guys fall through the cracks for a reason. Kids go to college and they develop. There has been an awful lot of investment to work on and improve his game. He's one of those guys who has put the time in, because it's obvious his skill level has gotten better each year."

That's something even a dad can see.

Email: smallwj@phillynews.com

Columns: philly.com/Smallwood

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