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A Word to the Wise

by Amile Jefferson (2013-17)

Story by Duke Basketball | Devils Life September 30th, 2016

Young guys,

A season is all about moments. It’s all about taking steps. This afternoon, we take a new step.

What we’ve done all summer and fall has prepared us to take this step. The start of practice is the start of the journey for our group.

It’s an incredible time for you guys. It’s what you prepared for all summer. It’s why you’ve lifted three times a week and run sprints this fall.

Today is the culmination of all the stepping stones that will lead to our group being special. It’s also the first day for you guys to realize what it REALLY means to be a Blue Devil.

Amile Jefferson at practice as a freshman at Duke.
Amile Jefferson at practice as a freshman at Duke.
Amile Jefferson at practice as a freshman at Duke.

I find myself having some of the same feelings now that I did when I was in your shoes. Having not played the majority of last season, I have a new, fresh feeling about the start of practice.

You may not have slept much last night. I know when I was a freshman, I didn’t. I woke up early on the first day of practice and I was antsy. It was hard to focus on anything but that day being the start of practice, the first day.

That’s ok. It means you’re excited. That’s a good thing.

Today, you get to start building something. Today, everything you do counts. Everything you’ve done will show – the work, the hours, the attention to detail.

You have to figure out how to keep building over the course of the season. Figure out what you need to do to have your body ready to go game speed every day, and be diligent about it.

I’m having the same giddy feelings you are today. The only difference is that I have the experience of knowing what it takes to go through it. That’s what I’m trying to pass on to you right now.


There are a bunch of reasons why I’m excited to go into practice with you guys.

Each team creates its own identity, and that starts over the summer. This year, we had more guys here for first summer session than ever before. We were able to create a bond that I don’t think any other Duke team was able to do so early.

Whether or not our bond will be as strong at the end as the great Duke teams is still to be determined.

I do know that the bond we got to create with each other from May 17th to September 30th is the strongest of any team I’ve ever been on. To finally take the court with you guys in practice - learn from you guys, teach you guys - has me really excited.

We had some great pickup games this summer. You guys really elevated the level of those games. We were all proud of the way you handled yourselves.

That’s in the past now.

Our coaches are going to teach us and mold us. They’ll show us the principles of playing defense, where we need to be on the court. They’ll show us how to play together.


The first things you’re going to notice about practice are the speed and the intensity. Those two things will be evident right away – even starting with the warmup. At a Duke practice, we do everything hard.

At first, it might be hard for you to understand how we’re going to do something harder when you feel like you’ve already been going as hard as you can. You might ask how we can run harder when you don’t think you’ve ever run harder than we did this fall.

It’s a mindset. It’s an understanding in all of us that we can take it to another level. We find that level as a group.

You’ll notice it today. The intensity will be through the roof. You’ll hear it in Coach’s voice. You’ll hear it in the way Coach Capel talks. You’ll hear it in Coach Will when we’re just getting started.

By the end of today’s practice, you’ll understand the level that we’re expected to meet if we want to be really good.

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The term for what we’re about to do is “practice,” but understand that what we do on a daily basis is game-like.

Everything is at the level, the speed and the attention to detail that we’ll need in a game. In some respects, practice is harder than a game because you have to do things over and over and over again. We’ll drill things in during practice so when the games roll around, they’ll be habits and you’ll do them without thinking.

You have to understand that practice isn’t a time when you can go through the motions. It’s a time to learn and a time to make mistakes. It’s a time to build things within our group.

This year, we have the guys and the depth. Practice is not a time to pace yourself. It’s not a time to say, “I’ll go hard when we’re actually in a game.”

Practice is your chance to audition, not only for Coach but also for your teammates. We have to know what to expect from you and that we can put our undivided trust in you.

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Heading into our first practice today, I want you to be true to yourselves. Have an ego, but have the right ego. Have confidence and understand that this team will go as far as our bond will take us.

The start of practice is the first step of what could be an amazing journey. On this journey, everyone is needed every day.

No matter what you have going on in your life – family, friends, school work – this two-and-a-half hour time that we have together each day is only about us. To be able to block out the rest of the world and realize how important those two-and-a-half hours are is critical to our season.

I want you to know that you’re never alone. This entire team has your backs and, as captains, Matt, Grayson and I are always here for you.

When we take that court later today, just be confident and be ready to take an amazing first step in what I think is going to be an unbelievable season.

Your friend and teammate,


Courtesy: ESPN Photos
Footnote: Header photo courtesy ESPN Photos.