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Eric Olson / Associated Press, Published January 26 2011

Son sparks Creighton squad led by former NDSU coach McDermott

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,” said the elder McDermott, who previously was a coach at North Dakota State. “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 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. He was an assistant under Greg for one year at NDSU and 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, tonight, 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.”