McDermotts – star Doug and coach Greg – will lead Creighton against UNC, old friend Harrison Barnes
His son is Doug McDermott, an All-American sophomore forward for the Bluejays. He was among the country’s top scorers all season and his team bounced in and out of the top 25, yet the average college basketball fan probably couldn’t pick him out in Creighton’s team photo.
That will change Sunday.
“We’ll try to do the best job we can of treating it as another game,” Greg McDermott said.
That line came from the coaching handbook. Then, thankfully, McDermott the dad surfaced.
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“For them to meet again on this stage, that’s a pretty cool story,” he said. “And I wasn’t real excited when the seeding came out to find out that was a possibility, but I understand why it’s important to people and why it’s going to be a story. These two guys have achieved at a really high level. They have taken different paths, Doug flying under the radar with no expectations to the start of his college career. Harrison, you could argue, has had more expectations placed upon him at the start of his college career as any player in history.
“And they could be playing for a trip to the Sweet 16 on the same floor with each other, and that’s pretty neat.”
The college basketball universe officially gets its introduction to Doug McDermott on Sunday – and this could be his Stephen Curry moment. Curry also was a scoring machine at a mid-major program that never landed on too many TVs across America. Curry seized the stage in 2008, carrying Davidson within one shot of the Final Four after a March scoring onslaught that captivated the country.
Now McDermott gets his shot on that stage. Not only does eighth-seeded Creighton get a shot at big boy North Carolina, the top seed playing just down the road from its campus, the McDermott-Barnes story will be retold countless times to basketball fans for 48 hours.
Greg McDermott actually credits Barnes for helping his son become the player he is today. He said when Doug met Barnes as a high school freshman, his son was floored by Barnes’ desire to improve. Together, they became two-time state champions and part of what Greg McDermott thinks could be the greatest high school team in Iowa history.
“He had an incredible work ethic,” Greg McDermott said of Barnes. “One that I’ve never seen from a high school player.”
But McDermott and the Bluejays first needed to grind past Alabama’s terrific defense before gaining entry onto Sunday’s main stage. Everyone knew the Tide’s chances hinged on slowing Creighton’s offense – which ranks seventh nationally at 80 points per game – and that means slowing McDermott, the nation’s third-leading scorer at 23.2 ppg.
It worked, too, for a long time. The SEC’s best defense held McDermott to seven points on 3-of-7 shooting in the first half. The Bluejays struggled getting the ball to McDermott in the post, and midway through the second half, Alabama appeared on the verge of blowing open the game.
The Tide led 50-43 with eight minutes remaining. McDermott, though, moves so well without the ball, jockeys so hard for position, that the Tide tired of chasing and battling with him on every possession.
“He’s always moving,” Creighton center Gregory Echenique said. “He’s not the heaviest guy but he’s quick. He makes it look so easy and you wonder how, but he’s always moving and he’s always sealing off [the defender].”
Creighton struck with a decisive run before it was too late. Two 3-pointers sparked it, then McDermott began popping open under the basket for easy buckets. In a five-minute span, the Bluejays went on a 14-0 run.
“Part of our plan was to run in transition, and that’s what we have been doing all year,” Doug McDermott said. “Transition post-ups have been huge for us, and I just tried to constantly sprint to get them tired. And even if I wasn’t getting the ball, I knew I was getting them more tired as the game went on.”
In the final minute, McDermott’s offensive rebound off a missed free throw – and subsequent free throw – turned out to be the difference, even though Alabama had a chance to win at the buzzer after a bizarre final 30 seconds included a couple of questionable no-calls and an ugly final possession from the Tide.
McDermott finished with 16 points on just 12 shots and a game-high 10 rebounds. He did a postgame interview, then walked by himself quietly into the tunnel at Greensboro Coliseum, up a flight of stairs and down a hallway toward the Creighton locker room. He passed dozens of people along the way who never gave him a second glance, definitely not the typical gawking an All-American receives.
That will change Sunday when America is formally introduced to McDermott in the weekend’s biggest story line.
“How often does it happen – where you have someone that had the high school career that Harrison did and receive that much national attention as a high school player, and then have a teammate that flies under the radar and ends up playing for his dad and all of a sudden he’s an All-American?” Greg McDermott said. “That’s a cool story and I understand why people would be interested in it.”
Then dad suddenly transformed back into a coach.
“But my concern will be the game.”
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