OMAHA, Neb. – Doug McDermott isn't just the best player for Creighton, he's the top freshman in the Missouri Valley Conference.
That takes some pressure off his dad, first-year Bluejays coach Greg McDermott.
"I don't think anybody anticipated he would have the success he's had, especially as consistently as he's had it," the elder McDermott said. "It certainly makes it easier to have your son on the floor if he's earned the time and he's backed it up with production. Fortunately, Doug has done that."
No one can accuse of the old man of playing favorites. Doug's 13.6 points and 7.2 rebounds per game lead the Bluejays. According to STATS LLC, he was the only freshman in the nation to score 10 or more points in each of his team's first eight games.
Barring a late-season collapse, the 6-foot-7, 210-pound forward should run away with the Valley's freshman-of-the-year honor. The question then becomes whether he will be the first freshman to make All-MVC first team.
"I think you can take what year he is in school out of the equation," said coach Cuonzo Martin of first-place Missouri State. "He's as good as anybody in the league."
Give an assist to Northern Iowa coach Ben Jacobson for making this father-son union happen.
Greg McDermott was coaching at Iowa State last year while Doug was helping Harrison Barnes lead Ames High School to a second straight undefeated season. Barnes, the nation's top college prospect, signed with North Carolina. Doug pledged to UNI, his dad's alma mater.
After Greg resigned from Iowa State last April to take the Creighton job, Doug made the difficult call to Jacobson to request a release so he could join his father — and UNI's Missouri Valley rival. Jacobson immediately put Doug at ease.
"It was one of the better conversations I've had with coach Jacobson," Doug said. "He was real understanding. It shows how good a person he is and how he does everything the right way."
The Jacobson and McDermott families have known each other for two decades. Ben played at North Dakota when Greg was an assistant there, and he was a UNI assistant under Greg for five years. Their wives are best friends. Ben is godfather to the McDermotts' daughter, Sydney.
"He did for our family what I would have done if the shoe was on the other foot," Greg said.
Northern Iowa (15-6, 6-3 MVC) and Creighton (13-8, 5-4) will meet for the first time this season in Cedar Falls, Iowa, on Wednesday night, and Doug is expecting a mixed reaction from the crowd. He said he still has friends in the town where he attended grade school and middle school, and a lot of his high school classmates attend UNI.
"It's not something I'm looking forward to, playing against the school I signed with," he said. "You've got to play. It's just basketball at the end of the day. You have to block out the outside stuff."
The younger McDermott planned to redshirt this season, but injuries at the forward spot dictated that he play. He showed right away that he was ready for the college level. He scored a season-high 28 points against Drake on Jan. 1, the most by a Creighton freshman in 13 years. It's also been 13 years since a Creighton player averaged as many rebounds.
"You never know how a guy is going to transition into that freshman year," Jacobson said. "Physically, Doug is going to get stronger as the years go by. He's been around the game forever, he's got some length, great timing. He's a great player."
Greg said he had no reservations about coaching his son.
"I was more curious than anything about what it would be like," he said. "As college coaches, we don't have the opportunity to coach Little League baseball and AAU basketball because we're recruiting during those times of the year. It was a first for me and a first for Doug."
To get an idea of what he was in for, Greg spoke with, among others, Dick Bennett, who coached son Tony at Wisconsin-Green Bay; John Beilein, who coached son Patrick at West Virginia; and Pat Knight, the Texas Tech coach who played for his father, Bob, at Indiana.
Greg said he made a pact with himself and Doug that he would treat Doug the same as any other player when it came to meetings, practices and games.
There are challenges, however. Greg said it's difficult sometimes to shed his father's role and deal with Doug solely as his coach.
"And then there also are some of the things that may take place in the locker room or away from basketball when Doug is with his teammates," he said with a chuckle. "Maybe there are conversations going on about his dad, some of which Doug may agree with."
Everyone who offered advice about coaching his son told him that their years together at Creighton would be rewarding.
"As much as it means to Doug and me now," the coach said, "I think 10 years from now it will probably mean even more."