Abmas among under-the-radar March Madness stars
Drake's Tucker DeVries was an interested spectator when the father-son team of Greg McDermott and Doug McDermott helped Creighton make consecutive NCAA men's basketball tournament appearances in 2013 and 2014.
DeVries' father, Darian, was an assistant on Greg McDermott's Creighton staff back then as Doug McDermott led the nation in scoring and earned national player of the year honors. Now it's Darian DeVries who will be coaching his son on the March Madness stage.
Tucker DeVries is the Missouri Valley Conference player of the year after turning down some high-major offers to enroll at Drake. DeVries said watching the McDermotts helped give him an idea of what it might be like to play for his dad.
“I think there was a lot to be learned from, being able to experience and see how that relationship worked,” the sophomore guard/forward said. “Part of what went into me wanting to come and play for my dad here is being able to have a little taste of that myself.”
So far, it's been just about everything DeVries could have imagined.
DeVries averages 19 points and 5.6 rebounds per game, and he has shot 38.7% (87 of 225) from 3-point range. He was named the most outstanding player in the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament.
“I grew up at Creighton my whole life,” DeVries said. "When they decided to recruit me, it was tough to turn that down – playing in the Big East where I grew up. Iowa State, 45 minutes away. Oregon. Just some of those schools are obviously schools you grow up watching on TV, dreaming about playing for. But I don't think any of them had what was home for me here.”
Now he has the chance to find out what it's like to play for his father in the NCAA Tournament. Drake (27-7) is the No. 12 seed in the Midwest Region and will face Miami (25-7) on Friday.
“To be able to experience it with my dad as a coach is definitely pretty cool and special – to be able to experience it together,” DeVries said.
DeVries is one of several players from one-bid conferences who bear watching this week. Here's a look at some others.
Max Abmas, Oral Roberts
Abmas already has shown he can make an impact in March. Abmas averaged 26.8 points in the 2021 NCAA Tournament while leading Oral Roberts to the Sweet 16. This season, the 6-foot senior ranks seventh among all Division I players in points per game (22.2) and sixth in 3-pointers per game (3.5). The two-time Summit League player of the year has scored over 22 points per game each of the last three seasons. Firstround game: Thursday vs. Duke.
Jordan Brown, Louisiana-Lafayette
Brown isn't the typical under-the-radar recruit who ends up at a mid-major program. The 6-foot-11 forward was a 2018 McDonald's All-American. He began his college career at Nevada and was a Pac-12 sixth man of the year at Arizona last season before transferring to his third school. Brown earned firstteam all-Sun Belt honors while averaging 19.4 points and 8.7 rebounds. Firstround game: Thursday vs. Tennessee.
Sincere Carry, Kent State
Carry has earned first-team all-Mid American Conference honors and has made the league's all-defensive team each of the last two seasons. He was named MAC player of the year last season. He has averaged over 17 1⁄ points
2 each of the last two seasons at Kent State after transferring from Duquesne. The 6-1 guard has scored at least 21 points in four of his last five games. First-round game: Friday vs. Indiana.
Ray Harrison, Grand Canyon
Harrison helped Grand Canyon get here by collecting 31 points, eight rebounds and eight assists against Southern Utah in the WAC Tournament championship game. The 6-4 guard has scored at least 25 points in four of his last six games. Harrison, a Presbyterian transfer, has averaged at least 17 points each of the last three seasons. He has 17.7 points, 4 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game this season. First-round game: Friday vs. Gonzaga.
Drew Pember, UNC Asheville
This Tennessee transfer has emerged as a star in two seasons at UNC Asheville. This year, he became the first player to lead the Big South in scoring (20.4), rebounding (9.2) and blocks (2.3) in one season. Pember leads all Division I players in free throws made (262) and attempted (314). The 6-11 forward averaged 29.7 points and 11.3 rebounds in three Big South Tournament games. First-round game: Thursday vs. UCLA.
Tucker Richards, Colgate
Richardson had a triple-double in the Patriot League Tournament championship game with 14 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists as Colgate defeated Lafayette, 79-61. The 6-5 guard was named the Patriot League's overall player of the year and defensive player of the year. He's the first player in league history to combine 1,600 career points, 700 rebounds and 600 assists. Richardson had 15 points and seven rebounds last year in an NCAA Tournament loss to Wisconsin. First-round game: Thursday vs. Texas.