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My Second Last First

by Amile Jefferson (2013-present)

Story by Duke Basketball | Devils Life November 11th 2016

When I look back on the first game of my freshman year, I remember being really nervous. I thought I’d played pretty well in our two exhibition games, but I had a feeling of, “Now this is for real.”

With the senior leadership we had from Mason, Ryan and Seth, I was feeling really confident about our team. For me, it was about finding a niche, somewhere to fit in with the great group of guys that we had.

That first game was a good one for us. We had Kentucky next, so the game against Georgia State was a good first step for our team. Still, I remember being really nervous.

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Everyone was really ready for that first game, and had been for days. We couldn’t wait to play. It was finally time to play a game that would be put in the record books.

I could tell that Mason was ready just by the way he went about his preseason preparation. He was the rock for our team that year, and we followed him. He came prepared every day. That set a tone for our team and placed him a leadership role that I’d never seen before.

He was a man. Being a freshman, it was hard for me to conceptualize that. Now, I understand that he was really confident in who he was as a person and a player, and he carried that over to our team.

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The week leading up to the first game of a season is so long. You’re practicing really hard, you’re preparing but you’re doing it against each other. Guys get so anxious to play someone else for real.

As the days count down, you can’t think of anything other than what it’s going to be like out on the court. The anticipation of being in a moment that you’ve prepared so hard for can actually start to envelop you. It doesn’t let up until you’re actually out there.

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Tonight will be my second last first game.

Last year, I thought a lot more about the fact that the season opener was going to be my last first game. I had no inclination that I was going to be back this season.

This year, it’s about having fun. I’ll still be a little nervous being back in Cameron for a game that counts for the first time in a while.

My strongest feeling right now is excitement. I’m excited to be back out there, to be a leader on this team. I’m excited to play with Matt, Grayson, Luke and Chase again, and I’m excited to be a leader to this group of young guys.

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Having not played in a while, I feel like a freshman in a lot of ways. The jitters are there. I’m anxious to get out there and play against someone else in a game that counts on our record.

When the ball tips and I get to talking and playing the game, all that will go away. Up until that point, I’ll be playing the game in my head. I’ll go play-by-play in my mind and try to visualize what we’ll run on offense and the plays I’ll try to make on defense.

That cycle will repeat itself over and over again until we actually play the game. I won’t make out the jersey of the other team, but I’ll see myself out there making plays. I just have to trust that the images I see in my mind will coincide with the actual game.

The fact that a lot of us have been here since May 19 only enhances the anticipation of actually playing with these guys.

Everything surrounding our team and program this fall has been great, but to finally get out there and show what we can do is the ultimate reward for all the hard work.