The reason I play this game has never changed. I love the game. I came here to Duke because I wanted to play and get better. Some people were telling me to wait. Sit out. Do everything after the college year. I didn't come here to sit. I came here to play. I came here to follow my love for the game. I came here to play for Duke and embrace everything this place has to offer. Embrace the managers and soak in all the hard work that everyone around here does. Of course, I wanted to learn from Coach and have fun, too. It's something I always wanted to do and I didn't want to sit.
And, I knew for me to progress as a player, I needed to play. I needed to get used to contact. The games are a different story. They've helped me out a lot. If you want to play well and improve at the max level, you go to Duke, listen to Coach, and work hard. But, it hasn't been easy.
It was tough with my injury, especially at first. You just think, 'I have to do this all over again.' It was different at Duke than my other rehab experiences. I could talk to Coach and be around the guys. Nick and Jose are great guys and I could work with them. It keeps me on point. You have to take it day by day and stay patient. Talk to the coaches. They know I want to be the player I was before, but that it takes time. They've pushed me in practice and with time things have become better.
I've already experienced a lot in my short time on the court. One of the biggest things you pick up quickly here is balance. Coach expects a lot of us but how could he not? Everybody on this campus works hard and does their job or school work to the max. Coach says you should never be down about having stuff to do. You should be excited. "Man, I've got a lot to do at a place like Duke. I am a lucky guy." He's preparing us for life beyond basketball. It's easy for us to listen, because he knows. It could never get on our nerves because he knows. Over the long term, he has been through it all. He's worked with players who I want to be. With the school work and basketball, you do have to balance everything but that will only help us now and down the line. It's busy and challenging. I would hate to not be busy or challenged.
We were knocked back big time in our first ACC game. The speed of the game was a surprise to me. We talked and prepared for the game, but it's different once you get out there. The speed of the game is a different level and it was the most minutes I had played. It all came to me so fast. It was on the road as well. They had a good intensity in the gym. They came out and played us tough. It was fast. I hadn't played a game at that pace ever, in my life. It helped me a lot going forward and it helped us as a team as we saw last night against Georgia Tech.
We played together on Wednesday. We fed off the loss at Virginia Tech. At the same time, we weren't about to leave Coach off on a bad note as he went into surgery. We wanted him to feel good about us and confident in who we are becoming as a team. We needed to take a big step forward. We did that. That game was what you dream about. You see all the videos and Duke teams playing so hard together. We hadn't fully been that until Wednesday. We hadn't felt what that was like. Now that we have felt it, that will only motivate us even more to want the feeling again. You get back to the hotel room and stop and think, "We just had a great moment as a team." Until these things happen, you just don't know. Watching in high school or just talking about it, you haven't felt it.
All teams go through struggles. We know that. We've had so many injuries. We haven't been ourselves fully yet. We couldn't have been. Against Georgia Tech, we still weren't 100 percent healthy but we were a lot closer than we have been. It takes time to gel, bond and get used to playing with each other. Now, if we play together and put the team first we will be fine. We have to keep working and listening.
It's nice for me to have great coaches and older players who have been through this. Last night, Grayson was talking to me on the court and making sure my mind was focused. Matt helps me by staying in my ear. He always makes sure we don't feel alone out on the court. Amile has been in the same spots as me since we play a similar position. He knows the game like the back of his hand. He's a great rebounder. We're really excited about what we can do rebounding the ball. You might have trouble scoring, missing shots and things aren't going right, but rebounding is always there. You can always get going with that.
The key to rebounding is heart. You have to want it and understand it can set the tone. And there are things like positioning too. It's about heart and effort and wanting to get it. I've always liked to dominate the glass because every rebound helps my team out. It can start a break, get us points, or end an offensive possession for them. It's one of the most important things you can do out on the court. It's something I always focused on because I figured out when I was young that it was something I can always do well for my team even if my shots aren't falling.
That is the mindset we need to have as a team. We have to stay focused and hungry. The past won't matter as we go forward. Enjoy the win for a day and move on. If you lose, you have to move on. Everyone needs to stay together and hungry and keep working hard and we will be fine.
I know our path will be hard and I know that I can still do even more out on the court. I will keep taking it day by day, with my eyes and ears wide open. I will be a lot closer to my dreams out here in Cameron with my coaches and teammates, than I would be on a couch or working alone in a gym somewhere else.
It's a family thing here. It's so much bigger than any one person. That's always been my thing. I've never liked to be selfish or a person that likes to talk about himself. If you are a high-ranked player or one of the top players on a team, you should share that. Make everyone on the team feel good. Use your publicity to help others.
At the same time, I like to win. You can be a great individual player but if you can't win, it's pointless. Winning is the best feeling for me, regardless of how many points you score. You can score 30 or you can score three. It doesn't matter if you just love to win. That's been my thing. If my team is winning, everyone will get theirs. And that's why I came to Duke.
I didn't come to Duke to sit out. I didn't come to Duke just to play. I came to Duke to win with my coaches and my teammates, and get better.