Greg McDermott wasn’t certain that his son, Doug, could handle it in the Big 12 back when he was handing out scholarships as the head coach at Iowa State. However, after jumping to Creighton and the Missouri Valley, the elder McDermott decided to take his kid — and it’s paid off. Doug McDermott quickly turned into a star, a 6-8 skilled forward who can score from just about everywhere on the court and is a legitimate candidate for National Player of the Year honors this season.
McDermott averaged 22.9 points, 8.2 rebounds and shot nearly 50 percent from beyond the arc last season. Here, he talks about a range of subjects, including his quick rise, whether he thought about leaving early and about playing for his dad.
McDermott's Creighton team is the preseason favorite in our MVC preview.
What is the toughest place you have played in your career?
Wichita State. It’s crazy. Everyone is on top of you. I was talking to UNLV’s Mike Moser about it, and he agreed. It gets so loud and it’s always sold out and the student section is on top of you. I love it, but it’s nuts.
Who is the guy you have had the most trouble scoring on?
John Henson and James Michael McAdoo. We played North Carolina in the second round of the NCAA Tournament last season, and Henson is just so long and athletic. McAdoo is real strong and also athletic, but Henson’s length just makes it so difficult to score.
Which coach, other than your dad of course, would you want to play for?
Bill Self. I’ve always respected what he’s done at Kansas. His teams always play well, no matter who they have. I watched him closely when my dad was coaching in the league at Iowa State, and he seems like a pretty good guy, also.
Your dad didn’t offer you a scholarship when he was coaching in the Big 12 at Iowa State and you were in high school. How often do you remind him of that?
I don’t really think about it anymore, and we really don’t talk about it much. A lot of old boosters joke with him about it, though. He always says that he thought I was good enough, but that he just didn’t want to waste a scholarship on me. We are where we are now, though, so why go back about it? I’ll probably have more fun with him about it after I’m done playing for him.
Is it crazy to think you may start this season as a first-team preseason All-American?
Crazy. I didn’t even start on my high school team in Iowa as a junior. My confidence was a little shaky, then all of the sudden I got a chance to play with Harrison (Barnes), I got to watch how hard he worked and it inspired me to where I am now. It’s nuts, though. I still can’t believe it.
When did the light really go on for you?
Probably my freshman year at Creighton. There were a couple injuries that happened on the team that put me in the mix, but the plan was for me to redshirt. I played fairly well and then my confidence really skyrocketed. Then after the season, I was on the U.S. team, and that helped me out as well. It showed me that I could play with just about anyone in the country.
You had a terrific freshman season at Creighton, but you didn’t always see eye-to-eye with your coach/dad. What was the deal?
We argued a lot that year. When I came in, I felt like I knew everything. We’d argue about what type of defense we were running. He’d say that I knew nothing about defense and that I was always guarding the other team’s worst offensive player. It was tough at times, but we’ve come a long way and we rarely argue now.
Were you surprised that Harrison Barnes fell all the way to Golden State at No. 7 in the NBA Draft?
Actually, I really wasn’t. I thought there was a chance he would go to Cleveland, but I thought Golden State was a great fit for him. I think he’ll be a better pro than a college player. He’s long, has range and will have more space to work with in the pros.
Admittedly, you deferred at times early last season. Leadership has been a difficult area for you, somewhat due to the fact that you were an underclassman and also because you play for your father. Where do you feel you are in the leadership department entering this season?
I think I came a long way from my freshman season to my sophomore season. It’s hard to be vocal sometimes, especially when your dad is the coach. Last season I became more comfortable. Sometimes it’s hard when he’s yelling at the team because he’s my dad and they are my teammates. Watching Grant Gibbs has been great for me. He’s a great leader and isn’t afraid to yell at guys. I know I have to continue to improve in this area next year.
More previews for the 2012-13 season can be found in the Athlon Sports College Basketball annual available in the online store
A summer ago, you never stopped. You played for the U.S. team in Lithuania, then came back and went with the team to the Bahamas. Did your body wear down towards the end of the season because you never really had a rest in the offseason?
I felt a little tired but tried not to let it get to me mentally. I’m only 20 years old, so it’s not all that bad. But I felt a lot better this summer and was able to work on my game more. Last year I didn’t get a chance to do as much skill development because I was playing so much. This summer’s been more low-key. I went to Indianapolis and worked out with Ed Schilling and some pros — guys like Robbie Hummel and Marquis Teague — and also played with the Butler team.
What happened last year when you guys went through that rough stretch? Creighton was clicking on all cylinders and then the wheels appeared to fall off for a while.
We just got too comfortable. We weren’t doing the same things we were doing earlier in the year. We lost three or four straight, and I honestly believe it was good for us. It humbled us. We hadn’t really hit any adversity before that, and I think our entire team was tested. I know I was. I think that’s where I grew as a leader — with the help of Grant. We finished strong, winning the Missouri Valley Tournament.
You had such a strong season. Was there any thought of trying to leave early for the NBA?
Not really. There were no conversations between me and my family. I felt as though I wasn’t ready. I know I’ve still got a lot of work to do to get there. We have a really good team this season, and for me, it’s so much fun to be in college. I’m playing for my dad and having the best time of my life, so there’s no rush for me to try and leave.
What do you like to do when you aren’t in the gym?
Hang out with friends. I don’t love the class part of things too much, but I just hang out with my friends and do normal college kids stuff. We’ve got a small campus, and the city of Omaha really embraces us. It’s kind of being a pro team in town. We play ping-pong. We play a lot of NBA 2K. I golf. I feel like I’m pretty good at golf. I shoot in the mid or low 80s.
Your dad was a pretty good player back in the day at Northern Iowa and played overseas for a year. When’s the last time you played him one-on-one?
I think it was way back as a freshman or sophomore in high school. I think he’s too scared. I think he got me back then — in the driveway — but I was probably 6-5. He backed me down and I had no answer. But now? I think I could get him on the wrong. We never talk about it, but our team jokes around whether he can still dunk. He does it once a year and last year he barely got it. He’s definitely getting older.
Your game doesn’t compare to guys that preceded you, because let’s face it, it’s unorthodox. What’s your reaction to that?
I hear it all the time and I take pride in having a different game than anyone else. Some people compare my game to Wally Szczerbiak, but I don’t really remember him and he’s more of a 2-guard and small forward. I can’t really think of anyone else I’ve heard. I can’t come up with anyone, either.
Who do you get excited to watch?
I love watching Dirk (Nowitzki). He’s a 7-footer, but I still try and take some things from his game — leaners and floaters off one foot. I love watching Paul Pierce. He’s not the most athletic guy, but he’s so effective.
What are your goals for this upcoming season?
To get further than we did and to advance further than any Creighton team has in its history. Last year we got to the second round and that’s how far they got in Kyle Korver’s last year. We want to get to the Sweet 16 — at least — and also win the Missouri Valley regular-season title. Wichita State got us last year. We had a good chance, but then we went on that three-game skid and it ruined our chances. We feel like we have the pieces to do it this year.
What area(s) of your game did you concentrate on this summer?
I’m definitely working on moving my feet better and also offensively on my face-up game.
You and your dad like to eat. That’s no secret. What’s your ideal meal?
I’m a huge meatloaf guy. I get it all the time. I’m not afraid to order it for lunch. My mom makes the best meatloaf hands-down.
OK, we need to talk about your vertical. You aren’t exactly a high-flyer, but have you ever had your vertical tested?
We did it right after the season and it wasn’t too good. Off two feet, I think it was a 31. Not horrible.
You changed your Twitter handle a few months back. Any particular reason?
My old handle was @DFresh03 and I just felt like I needed to mature a little so I changed it to @dougmcd3. All my teammates now give me crap and try and act like I’ve changed. They’re all saying that we miss the old "DFresh", but I just felt like it was a little immature sounding so I changed it.
You’ve had your moments with your dad, but overall what’s the experience been playing for him?
It’s as good as it gets. Sure, there are times when we don’t always see eye-to-eye, but it’s been so much fun, especially since we’ve had so much success in the two seasons I’ve played for him. It’s been great to do well, but it’s been even better to watch him and see how happy he is now after struggling at Iowa State.
Athlon College Basketball Countdown:
8. Ohio State
10. Michigan State
11. NC State
14. North Carolina
15. San Diego State
19. Notre Dame