OMAHA, Neb. -- There's a long strip of wood hanging in a house in Cedar Falls, Iowa, that might soon be worth some money. Mary Weld isn't interested in selling; it's a family keepsake. When her sons were growing up, she marked their growth spurts on this strip on the wall, and then when a polite young tyke named Doug McDermott started hanging around the house all the time, she figured heck, why not measure him, too?
The task started off easy, but then McDermott shot up nearly 3 inches in eight months, then another 3 inches, and then Weld needed to stand on a chair to measure him. Two summers ago, after an All-America basketball season at Creighton, a grown-up McDermott showed up in Cedar Falls, stopped by the Welds to visit and stood against the wall to be measured again. Six feet, 8 inches. McDermott didn't think that was cheesy at all.
Before he was college basketball's boy next door, McDermott was the kid five blocks down the street. He loved "Space Jam," tacos and wrestling in the basement. When it was time to collect bugs for a science project, he was squeamish about killing them.
"It was a golden time," Weld said. "Nobody saw this coming, so we got to see Dougie as just Dougie.
"He's still Dougie to me."
In late January, the Welds came to Omaha to watch McDermott play. He scored 39 points and hit a falling 25-footer with two seconds to go to give Creighton a 63-60 win against St. John's. The game was so riveting that Mary was still shaking 10 minutes after it was over. And when McDermott emerged from the postgame ruckus and wrapped his arms around his old friends from Iowa, he talked very little about the game.
"How are you guys doing?" he said.
Doug McDermott's impact at this Jesuit school, in a city of about 410,000 in the middle of America, can't be measured. It seems impossible that a 22-year-old could lift a program to such prominence that he'd play a part in Creighton landing in the Big East Conference, but that's exactly what McDermott did. He's a once-in-a-generation basketball player, so famous that he can't go out for a decent meal in Omaha anymore without getting swarmed. On Saturday night, a packed house at the CenturyLink Center will say goodbye to the scrappy, cordial, baggy-shirted swingman known by nearly everyone as "Dougie."
His mother, Theresa, will sit in her usual spot, about 20 rows up from the Creighton bench. His father, Greg, will stand on the sideline, coaching him in his final home game, keeping him in check. When things got gigantic for Doug this season, Greg would send his son a text. "Me and your mom are watching 'SportsCenter' here," he'd type, then throw in a line about who would've thought he'd be all over national television? Enjoy the moment, he'd write his son.
"Don't get a big head."
This is the end of something special, and everyone can feel it. College kids don't normally get to play for their dads. Superstars just don't stick around this long anymore. The common scenario usually goes like this: A 16-year-old prodigy gets plastered all over the TV and Internet, commits to Kansas or Kentucky or somewhere on Tobacco Road, starts as a freshman, and is subsequently out the door and to the NBA the following summer.