Everyone on our team takes exhibition games seriously and views them as an opportunity to get better. For me, they’re a great chance to play in front of the crowd at Cameron. It’s a chance for me to show my coaches and teammates, as well as the fans, what I can do against another team as opposed to practice.
As intense as our practices can be, you can’t totally simulate that game experience. There’s nothing like having the crowd around you, having a different team across from you and having your teammates next to you. You can’t duplicate that feeling.
It was a lifelong dream of mine to go to Duke. I’ve always loved the program and I was a fan for as long as I can remember.
When the coaches called me and offered me a spot as a preferred walk-on, I jumped on it right away. I looked at it as a great opportunity.
Coach K and Coach Scheyer talked to me a lot about their belief that I’d develop into a player who can thrive at this level. They made it clear that, even though I’m a preferred walk-on, I’d have an opportunity to play if I put in the time and worked to get better. How can you not buy into that?
Like any other kid who was a huge Duke fan growing up, I wanted to be around the program. In the summers after my freshman and sophomore years of high school, I was able to attend camp here. It’s interesting seeing things from a player’s perspective now after experiencing it from a camper’s perspective when I was younger.
If I could go back and tell that younger version of myself anything, it would be to treat every drill or rep like it’s a game. Take everything that seriously and go that hard. Work hard on every aspect of your game because you never know what opportunities will present themselves to you down the road.
When I was younger, my parents instilled in me the importance of holding myself accountable. Every sport my brother and I played – even my middle school soccer career – we were expected to take it seriously and give it everything we had. We were taught to strive to be the best we could be in everything we did.
When we reached high school, my dad advised us to focus on the sport we liked the best – basketball for me and football for Corey. When we started that focus, he showed us how to be professional about it. He showed us the level of commitment we needed and the time we needed to devote to be great.
I’m so thankful he did that because he really helped me understand what it takes to be here at Duke. His lessons didn’t just help me get here; they’re helping me thrive here.
I definitely see myself as a leader on this team, whether that’s on the court or in the locker room. I try to be a source of encouragement, especially for the freshmen. I try to help them understand how we do things and what it means to be a Duke player.
A big part of what I do is to go at these guys as hard as I can in practice every day. If that earns me playing time, all the better. If not, it improves our team by helping guys be as ready as possible for the intensity and competition we’ll face this season.
I’m honored that Coach K chose to redshirt me last season. It was totally worth it. It was a great experience that gave me a chance to get in really good shape and get my skill level where it needs to be.
I worked with Coach Scheyer tirelessly on shooting, ballhandling, defense, you name it. I feel so much more prepared to contribute now than I did at this time last year. I feel like it provided me with a head start because I’ve been here for a year but I still have four more years ahead of me.
I’m already kind of shaking with excitement thinking about tonight’s game. I love it. I love these games.
Being able to go out there tonight with my teammates and play in front of our fans at Cameron is never something to be taken lightly. It’s an opportunity that I’ve been waiting for and I intend to make the most of it.