The first Countdown to Craziness was my senior year. I remember the coaches telling us we were going to do something different for the opening night, and a brief description of what they wanted.
I‘d previously thought a lot about the fact that other schools had these types of events, but personally, I was never really into the hype, the fireworks, the strobe lights … whatever it was. Each opening night, I‘d thought about one thing and one thing only: winning. Yes, even against my own teammates.
But I quickly realized what was being put into place - the most genuine, fun and exciting celebration that exists in all of college basketball.
For me, the first Countdown was so fun because we’d never experienced anything like it. I was introduced last, and wasn’t sure if each of the guys before me were going to dance, come out and pump up the crowd, or what.
Sure enough, a few introductions before me, Nolan Smith came out like only Nolan can. He wore a blue pair of Kanye West shutter shades and the crowd went nuts. Then, Brian Zoubek performed a choreographed dance to Vanilla Ice. So that took it to another level. I definitely didn’t expect that.
I will never forget how it felt to walk out to the incredible fans and the rest of my team that night. My intro song was “All These Things That I’ve Done” by The Killers. There’s a part of the song where they sing, “I’ve got soul but I’m not a soldier.” Besides the fact that I love that song, I picked it because it reminds me of one of my favorite Nike commercials.
To me, it means that you keep going no matter what, and that‘s what I intended to do until we had a championship banner back in Cameron. Each time I hear it, I think of my first and only Countdown.
Now, as a coach, I am excited for the guys on this year’s team to experience that. There is absolutely nothing like putting on the Duke uniform and playing in front of our crowd - the best in all of college basketball - for the first time.
Though it may be hard to keep their emotions in check at certain points, I hope that they stay in the moment. I hope they showcase the discipline they’ve learned to focus for a big game and the skills we have worked on this summer and fall. I want them to show the crowd how much they’ve grown already, and how good of a team we can be this year.
At the first Countdown to Craziness, I remember all of those feelings - including the satisfaction of being on the winning team. It was electric, emotional, and exciting, and since then, it’s become an incredibly important night for our program. Guys always have tricks up their sleeves for the introductions, the team poster is revealed, and it sets the tone for the year.
But it‘s more than that.
Every Duke team has its own journey and runs its own race. For almost a decade now, each of those teams has had at least one thing in common: the privilege to start the season with a celebration at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
Countdown to Craziness. It never gets old.