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McDermott leads Creighton in Big East

Photo by Dave Weaver / USA TODAY Creighton forward Doug McDermott, back, guards University of Missouri-Kansas City’s Caleb Johnson during a NCAA game on Monday at the CenturyLink Center.

By Tom Miller

Forum News Service

OMAHA, Neb. — Wearing a USA basketball shirt, Creighton senior Doug McDermott emerged from the CenturyLink Center locker room Friday night and was immediately met by fans, friends and media.

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After dismantling Alcorn State 107-61 in the season opener, Doug posed for photos, signed posters for young Bluejays fans and answered questions for radio and newspapers.

He didn’t go to the postgame press conference despite leading the team in scoring with 20 points in 20 minutes. The blowout win provided a chance for the Creighton media relations staff to give McDermott a mini-break from the constant attention he attracts.

Everywhere you turn at the CenturyLink Center, billboards, programs, ticket stubs and press passes highlight the school’s biggest storyline: After 54 years in the Missouri Valley Conference, Creighton is now a member of the Big East Conference.

At the forefront of that marketing is Grand Forks-born star McDermott.

The two-time All-American’s face is everywhere you turn. It’s even on a giant cardboard cutout that floats through the Bluejays student section, fashioned with a headband that just says “buckets.”

Doug and his dad-head coach, Greg McDermott, are literally the poster boys of Creighton’s historic change from the mid-major Missouri Valley to the big boys of the Big East.

“It’s really exciting,” said Greg, who was an assistant coach for the North Dakota men’s basketball team from 1989-1994. “To make that transition is historic regardless, but to do it with this group and my son on the team is pretty cool.”

With conference upheaval the past few years, the Big East has been rebranded, led by the schools dubbed as the Catholic Seven — Georgetown, Providence, St. John’s, Seton Hall, Villanova, Marquette and DePaul. Unlike most conference shifting that is powered by football, the Big East’s bread and butter is men’s basketball. With that in mind in the offseason, the Catholic Seven added Creighton, Xavier and Butler.

“It’s an exciting time for our team, our program, our city,” Doug said. “It’s brand new to us. It’s really exciting for this to come my senior year and last go-around, with my dad and family here.”

Doug is in an unprecedented position. He has a chance to be the first NCAA Division I player to be named player of the year in two different conferences. After being named the Missouri Valley player of the year last year for the second time, Doug was tagged as the Big East preseason player of the year.

Doug, who was second in the nation in scoring last season, has a chance to be the second player (North Carolina’s Tyler Hansborough being the other player) to be a three-time All-American since Georgetown’s Patrick Ewing.

On Friday, Doug’s first shot gave him the Creighton all-time record for field goals. He scored the Bluejays’ opening six points and nine of his team’s first 11 in front of a sellout crowd of 17,740.

In beating Alcorn, Creighton shot 55 percent from the field and better than 45 percent from the 3-point line. The offense was also keyed by a 25-6 assist-to-turnover ratio, the typical discipline of Greg’s teams.

After coaching stops at UND, Wayne State, North Dakota State, Northern Iowa and Iowa State, Greg still thanks his time in Grand Forks for laying some of the groundwork of his coaching style.

Greg began his coaching career under UND head coach Rich Glas, who is now athletic director and men’s basketball coach at Concordia Collegein Moorhead.

“I learned a ton from Rich Glas,” Greg said. “Lots of what I still do is a result of what he taught me ... his ability to deal with players and motivate players ... his creativity on the offensive end.

“He’s a good friend; we have a lot of great friends in Grand Forks. Both of our boys (Doug and Nick) were born there. It’ll always be a special place for us.”

Tom Miller

Miller has been with the Grand Forks Herald sports department for the past 13 years. He's also a Grand Forks native and UND graduate. 

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