Tucker and Darian DeVries make a March Madness joy out of Drake


ALBANY, NY — Tucker DeVries knew the question was coming, so he asked it himself. “What’s it like playing for my dad?” he said. Then he replied with a grin, “Good days and bad days.”

The best story going into Friday’s four first-round matches is here not the ongoing saga of Rick Pitino’s journey from Iona to St John’s – which will likely happen on Monday if the Gaels don’t win two games there – but the delightful father-son tale of Drake star Tucker DeVries and his father and coach Darian DeVries .

“I know we have our moments,” the father said on Thursday afternoon. “But it was a great experience coaching Tucker.”

That’s a fair assessment considering Tucker, a 6-foot-7 sophomore, averages 19 points and 5.6 rebounds per game. He was the Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year and Conference Tournament MVP.

“As a coach, sometimes you miss things with your kids,” said Darian DeVries. “You miss games or tournaments or things you want to see because you’re away. Having the chance to coach Tucker and spend time with him while he’s in college has been a pleasure.”

DeVries – whose younger brother Jared played 11 seasons in the NFL – is 47 years old. He grew up in Iowa and played in Northern Iowa before becoming an assistant coach at Creighton, where he stayed for 20 seasons. When Dana Altman left Creighton for Oregon, Greg McDermott succeeded him and asked DeVries to stay with him.

He has. McDermott successfully recruited his own son, Doug, to Creighton, and Doug became a star, the 2014 National Player of the Year and the 11th pick in the NBA draft that year. He’s still in the league and now plays for the San Antonio Spurs.

Tucker DeVries has a lot in common with Doug McDermott — aside from being a coach’s son. He’s listed as either the same height or an inch taller, and like McDermott, he’s an excellent three-point shooter, scoring 39 percent from outside the arc this season. It helps that he’s surrounded by an experienced team: three of the starters are fifth-year graduate students.

DeVries was highly recruited when he left high school, and his father admitted there were a few nervous moments when he wondered if he was going to join Drake or go to a Power Five school.

“I wanted to be absolutely sure that the decision was his,” said Darian DeVries. “I knew he had a lot of options but I didn’t want him to think I was pressuring him to come to Drake. I just hoped he would eventually want to come to Drake. Luckily it worked out that way.”

Tucker DeVries’ adjustment to college was facilitated by joining a Drake team that just came off a 26-5 season and appearing as a big team in the NCAA tournament. Most of the key players on that team returned. In fact, Tucker considered Redshirting a freshman.

“In the beginning it seemed to make sense,” he said. “But as I worked my way up into the team, I felt better about my ability to play and contribute. So we decided that I would rather play as a freshman than wait a year.”

“I wanted him to earn playing time,” his father said. “We had a group of guys that were very successful and there was a whole father-son dynamic involved. But the older guys were great from day one. By the end of the summer, I knew Tucker deserved the chance to play.”

That was a good call. DeVries led the team with 13.9 points per game last season and was named MVC Freshman of the Year. That season, a year under his belt, he improved all his numbers and Drake went from 25-11 to 27-7.

Players and teams from “The Valley,” as the conference is called, are often overlooked, even when teams rotate. In 2013, Wichita State reached the Final Four. In 2018, Loyola Chicago and “Sister Jean” did the same. (Both schools later left the conference.) The high point for Drake came way back in 1969, when the Bulldogs reached the Final Four before losing 85-82 to UCLA and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (then known as Lew Alcindor). . . That was by far the Bruins’ closest tournament game en route to their third straight title. Drake defeated North Carolina in the third-place game, and that team is still talked about in Des Moines.

“The boys keep coming back,” said senior Garrett Sturtz, who is Drake’s all-time leading rebounder — at 6-foot-3. “It’s great when they still come to us and tell us the stories of their team and how much they respect what we do. They act like they should be as honored to be around us as we should be to be around them.”

Dolph Pulliam, the best player on that 1969 team, worked at Drake until he retired in 2013. He recently sent Darian DeVries a copy of a photo Abdul-Jabbar sent him of that Final Four game. In the photo, he blocks one of Abdul-Jabbar’s shots. The note with the photo read, “I don’t think there are many of these floating around.”

No one from Drake is talking about a run to this year’s Final Four. The 12th seeded Bulldogs will open Friday night against No. 5 Miami, a team that won the ACC regular-season title and made the Elite Eight a year ago. There’s no way Miami coach Jim Larrañaga will take Drake lightly. He knows first-hand how dangerous a double-digit seed can be when he coached George Mason in 2006.

The best news for Darian DeVries is that he will not lose his son to either the transfer portal or the NBA. He will lose a number of seasoned veterans to the deal but believes his program is on solid ground having won at least 20 games in all five seasons as coach.

Whether Tucker will develop into an NBA player like Doug McDermott is still unknown. But he definitely enjoys college.

“I told him to join in if the boys started yelling at me in the locker room,” his father said. “I want his experience in college to be as normal as possible. I tried to give him some space.

“If this year’s ride ends tomorrow, it was still a fun ride.”

And either way, there’s more to come for the DeVries family.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/2023/03/17/tucker-devries-drake-darian-father/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=wp_homepage Tucker and Darian DeVries make a March Madness joy out of Drake

Ian Walker

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