McDermott makes name for self at No. 19 Creighton
At Creighton, Doug McDermott is no longer overshadowed by another star.
Before he showed up in Omaha last year, McDermott was the wingman for superstar Harrison Barnes at Ames High School in Iowa.
McDermott is his own man nowadays - and the man to fans of 19th-ranked Creighton.
Other than the Chicago Bulls' Kyle Korver, the Bluejays' sharpshooter from 1999-2003, McDermott is the most celebrated Creighton player athletic director Bruce Rasmussen can remember in his 32 years at the 6,000-student Jesuit school.
After the sophomore forward scored 25 points and went over 1,000 for his career in Sunday night's 90-71 win over Southern Illinois, McDermott and some teammates walked into a sports bar for dinner.
A smattering of claps grew into a standing ovation.
McDermott's 24.3-point average is second nationally to Damian Lillard's 25.5 for Weber State, and no sophomore in the nation has scored more points so early in his career.
''It's crazy how everything has worked out,'' McDermott said Monday. ''If you told me I would be in this situation two years ago, I probably would have called you crazy.''
A crazy turn of events led McDermott to Creighton.
He had signed a letter of intent with Missouri Valley Conference rival Northern Iowa before he graduated from Ames High, where he and Barnes helped lead the nationally ranked basketball powerhouse to back-to-back unbeaten seasons.
McDermott's father, Greg McDermott, was coaching at the Big 12's Iowa State at the time but didn't recruit his son because both of them thought Doug, at 6-foot-7 and 185 pounds, was better suited for the mid-major level.
When Greg McDermott resigned on April 26, 2010, to take the Creighton job, UNI coach Ben Jacobson released Doug from his letter of intent so he could play for his dad.
''Northern Iowa is where my dad played, where I grew up always hating Creighton,'' Doug said. ''Now I'm here playing basketball for him. It's a lot of fun, and I think we've enjoyed it all the way.''
Doug last year became the first freshman to make the All-Missouri Valley Conference first team since 1952. This season he's getting mentioned as a candidate for national player of the year.
He ranks in the top 10 of the Valley in nine of 13 categories. He's shooting 62 percent from the field, 53 percent on 3-pointers and averages 8.5 rebounds. He's on pace to be the first player in 20 years to lead the league in scoring and rebounding.
Barnes, the leading scorer for No. 8 North Carolina, said he texts McDermott occasionally and watches his highlights on TV.
''He's always been a really efficient basketball player,'' Barnes said. ''I think he's in an opportunity right now where he's able to take as many shots as he needs - and he's maximizing all those.''
McDermott is no longer the gangly kid he was in high school. He has packed 30 pounds, much of it muscle, onto his frame since he arrived at Creighton.
He's equally effective scoring out of offensive sets or in transition. A natural right-hander, he's just as comfortable using his left hand around the basket. And he can shoot the 3-pointer as well as anyone in the country.
''When Doug gets out, he's got an uncanny ability to be on one end and get to the other end pretty quick and establish a post-up,'' Southern Illinois coach Chris Lowery said. ''He can score without seeing where the basket is with either hand. He does a great job of flipping (the ball) up and getting it over people no matter how tall they are down there.''
McDermott is blessed with a strong supporting cast and great chemistry with his teammates at Creighton (16-2, 6-1), which is tied with Wichita State for the MVC lead.
Senior point guard Antoine Young has proved to be a capable scorer when opponents have found ways to limit McDermott. Junior center Gregory Echenique does grunt work in the low post. Gonzaga transfer Grant Gibbs does a little of everything, with two-thirds of his team-leading 106 assists converted into baskets by McDermott.
''Doug ought to be taking him out to eat every night, wherever he wants to go, because of the great passes he throws,'' coach McDermott said. ''Grant has a unique ability to put the ball right where it has to be.''
McDermott scored a career-high 44 points on Jan. 7 at Bradley, then was held to 14 three nights later by a Northern Iowa team that did all it could to deny him the ball and double-teamed him when he had it. The Bluejays beat the Panthers 63-60, with Young scoring a season-high 21 points.
Greg McDermott said he expects his son will be subjected to more physical and creative defensive strategies the rest of the season.
''The reality of it is, when you're playing a guy who is the second-leading scorer in the country and he's getting all the publicity Doug is getting, if you're a league team you get tired of that and you don't want it to happen against you,'' the coach said.
Doug McDermott said his experiences on the U19 Team USA last summer and with Barnes at Ames High prepared him for the spotlight he finds himself in this season.
He said he never tired of playing in Barnes' shadow.
''It brought a lot of attention to all of us,'' he said.
Imagine the attention if McDermott and Creighton met Barnes and North Carolina in the NCAA tournament.
''That would be really fun, obviously,'' McDermott said. ''Ames High vs. Ames High. I can't think about that (now), but it would be real cool.''
AP Sports Writer Aaron Beard in Chapel Hill, N.C., contributed to this report.