Shane Battier - Forward | 1998-2001
Shane Battier did everything during his career at Duke. He was an incredible ambassador for the game and NCAA athletes off the court, and he was an unbelievable player for the Blue Devils on the court. He was a three-time National Defensive Player of the Year and, as a senior, he was the National Player of the Year and a first team All-American.
Battier finished his college career at Duke by guiding the Blue Devils to the 2001 national championship over Arizona and it couldn’t have been a more perfect ending for one of the greatest players in Duke history. I’ve never seen a more incredible leader of a team than Shane Battier.
Nolan Smith - Guard | 2008-2011
Even for people who hated Duke, it was hard to root against Nolan Smith. He faced tremendous adversity as a child when he lost his father, former NBA player Derek Smith, to a heart attack, and he always seemed like one of the genuinely good guys in college basketball during his days at Duke.
Nolan played the game with an energy and passion that made him a pleasure to watch. He’d carry a big smile on his face and seemed to love the opportunity to play for Mike Krzyzewski. It was also special to watch him improve every year, and he eventually became one of the best players in the country as a senior.
J.J. Redick - Guard | 2003-2006
J.J. Redick was the hometown superstar for me when I was in high school. He’s from my hometown of Roanoke, Virginia, and I remember watching him destroy the high school competition he faced. I hoped it would translate to him having success at Duke, but I never imagined he would become the greatest scorer in the history of the program.
I like J.J. even more now that he’s matured and has done away with the arrogant way he conducted himself in college, but I loved the way he played with a chip on his shoulder as a Blue Devil and got a kick out of him silencing a crowd that wanted to see him fail in every way. And watching him shoot the ball is still one of my favorite things in all of sports.
Daniel Ewing - Guard | 2002-2005
I don’t think Daniel Ewing ever got the credit he deserved as a Blue Devil because he always played with guys that overshadowed his ability. Whether it was Chris Duhon, Dahntay Jones, Luol Deng or J.J. Redick, Ewing was viewed as a role player who benefited from playing alongside other great scorers.
Still, he was a terrific guard who was very exciting to watch and his production increased every season at Duke. He went from being a limited role player as a freshman who averaged six points per game to one of the best guards in the ACC as a senior.
I mentioned the leadership and incredible intangibles of Shane Battier, and Jon Scheyer possessed many of those same traits during his time at Duke. He arrived with a reputation as a shooter, but finished his career as one of the best point guards in the country who could do a little bit of everything to help his team win. And he helped his team win every game down the stretch of his senior year, guiding the Blue Devils to the 2010 national championship.
Scheyer was a pleasure to watch because there was a brilliance to the way he played the game. He wasn’t the most athletic or talented, but he understood what was happening better than anyone on the court and always put himself in position to make the right play. He’s a testament to the idea that fundamentals are the most important part of succeeding in any sport.