FAMILY BONDING was a major theme for several mid-major schools in 2010. Five-star point guard Ray McCallum Jr. passed up scholarship offers from UCLA and Arizona to play for his father in the Horizon League, at Detroit. Four-star shooting guard Trey Zeigler eschewed Michigan State and UCLA to join his dad, Ernie, in the MAC at Central Michigan. A less-hyped union was that of Greg McDermott, the freshly hired coach at Creighton, and his son Doug, a three-star, 6'7" small forward who was mostly known for playing with an elite recruit at Ames (Iowa) High: North Carolina's Harrison Barnes, the nation's top-ranked player as a high school senior last season.
But Doug's emergence as the Missouri Valley Conference's best freshman, with averages of 13.4 points and a team-high 6.9 rebounds for the 12--7 Bluejays, has been one of the season's most surprising developments.
"Part of my job is to see things before they become obvious to others," Creighton athletic director Bruce Rasmussen says, but he also claims he had seen something in Doug, when ex-Creighton coach Dana Altman hosted him on a recruiting visit in 2009. Doug was so impressive in an interview—he reminded Rasmussen of former Bluejays star (and current Chicago Bull) Kyle Korver—that the AD was crestfallen when Doug committed to play for Northern Iowa, his father's alma mater.
Doug wasn't comfortable joining his dad's previous team at Iowa State—he felt the Big 12 wouldn't be a good fit—but says it was a "no-brainer" to ask for a release from UNI to go to Creighton. Over the summer Greg sought advice from Dick Bennett, who'd coached his son, Tony, at Wisconsin-Green Bay; Tubby Smith, who coached Saul at Kentucky; and John Beilein, who coached Patrick at West Virginia. "What I learned," Greg says, "is that it's easiest on the father and son if the son is either one of the best four or five players on the team or a walk-on who'll never play. Anywhere in between, and it can be difficult."
With that in mind, Greg thought that Doug, who weighed just 195 pounds and was joining a forward-rich roster, would be best off redshirting. But injuries forced Doug into the starting lineup at power forward in an October scrimmage at Colorado, where he thrived, and he subsequently scored 18 points in 20 minutes in an exhibition against Northern State on Nov. 4. It was clear that Doug's consistent, smart play was just what the Bluejays needed.
In December, Doug moved to small forward to accommodate Rutgers transfer Gregory Echenique, a 6'9" center who became eligible after the first semester. Combined with 6'9" Kenny Lawson, the trio composes the MVC's best frontcourt. The Bluejays are an outside contender for the league's automatic bid—especially if Doug can deliver more 28-point performances, the way he did against Drake on Jan. 1. At the least, he's ensured that Omahans are warming up to his family. "I think what Creighton fans like most about me," Greg says, "is that my son is on the team."
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CHARLIE NEIBERGALL/AP (DOUG MCDERMOTT)
FEELING BLUE McDermott says his decision to play for his father in Omaha was a "no-brainer."
ERIC FRANCIS (GREG MCDERMOTT)
[See caption above]