No, that’s not Anthony Grant. Close, though. The Alabama basketball coach sent in his teen-aged son A.J. — a dead-ringer for his father — to lighten the mood in the days leading up to Alabama’s NCAA tournament opener with Creighton.
Another father-son combo will be waiting for the Crimson Tide Friday in Greensboro. This one is all business.
The McDermotts of Creighton have the Bluejays in position for something special. Father Greg McDermott, in his second season as head coach, has a dynamic threat with the same last name. His son Greg McDermott is a first-team All-American and the nation’s third-leading scorer who has started every Creighton game in two seasons.
“I don’t know that I’ve ever seen one quite like this one,” Grant said. “You’ve got a great team whose best player happens to be the coach’s son. I think it’s a unique situation.”
And Doug McDermott is a rare talent.
At 6-foot-7, the sophomore can play in the post and shoot the 3-pointer. His 23.2-point scoring average includes a 49.5 percent success rate shooting 105 times from behind the arc.
Grant said he’s like a cross between sharp-shooting Florida forward Eric Murphy (6-foot-10) and 6-8 Alabama forward JaMychal Green.
As of Tuesday afternoon, Green and the Tide had not broken down film on the Bluejays. But the team’s only senior knew the initial scouting report and he knows his assignment.
“No, I plan on being the one that’s guarding him when I’m at the four,” Green said.
Discipline is especially important when facing McDermott. Green said he can’t bite on the pump fake and find foul trouble.
“I’m ready for the challenge,” Green said. “Going into the tournament, all teams are good. You just have to step up to the plate.”
The secret of McDermott’s success was spoiled by a profile in the Feb. 13 issue of Sports Illustrated. The magazine tracked his rise from being a lightly-recruited high school teammate of 2010 No. 1 prospect Harrison Barnes to one of the nation’s top college players.
Greg McDermott, then an assistant at Iowa State, didn’t put the hard sell on his son to play for the Cyclones as smaller schools pursued his services. Doug McDermott signed with Northern Iowa before swapping Missouri Valley Conference programs when dad was hired by Creighton.
“When you’re in the middle of this grind of coaching a college basketball season,” Greg McDermott said, “The fact that you’re coaching your son, even with all the success that Doug’s had, I probably don’t do a good enough job of stepping back and enjoying that.”
He remembers his son tagging along to NCAA tournament games as an elementary schooler when he was an assistant at Northern Iowa.
“It will be really special Friday when his name is introduced and to realize that my son is playing on the biggest stage of college basketball, which is a goal of every player,” he said. “And I’m going to have another opportunity to coach in the NCAA tournament, which is why we get up and work every day.”
It’s hard to imagine the Bluejays would be in such a position without the rangy player with a quick release.
SI quoted Bradley coach Geno Ford calling McDermott “a nightmare” for opposing teams. He should know.
McDermott scored 44 points on 18-for-23 shooting against Ford’s team in a 92-83 Creighton win on Jan. 7. He went 3-for-5 from the perimeter that night and made all five foul shots.
McDermott crossed the 30-point barrier five other times this season including his last outing. An 83-79 overtime win over Illinois State in the Missouri Valley Conference title game involved 33 McDermott points.
No opponent held him to fewer than 13 points all season, though Evansville yielded just 14 the league semifinals March 3. Creighton still won 99-71.
So Grant is preparing his guys no differently than he has before.
“It’s always going to be about our team versus their team,” he said. “It’s not a one-on-one battle. He’s a great player. He’s got very good pieces around him, a very good system. So it’s always going to be a team game.”
Season …G-S … Points …. Field goals …. 3-pointers …. Rebounds
2010-11: 39-39 ….14.9 ….220-419 (40.5) … 47-116 (40.5) …7.2
2011-12: 33-33 ….23.2 …293-480 (61.0) ….52-105 (49.5) ….8.2