Duke's Redick realizes dream, more

Goal to play for Devils is met, but even he didn't foresee freshman stardom

College Basketball

January 18, 2003|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

DURHAM, N.C. - The dream of playing basketball at Duke was first conceived more than a decade ago, when 7-year-old J.J. Redick watched on television as Christian Laettner hit what became a legendary shot to beat Kentucky in the 1992 East Regional final.

The reality of playing for the Blue Devils began to formulate when Redick, then 15 and finishing his sophomore year at Cave Spring High School in Roanoke, Va., helped his AAU team win the 17-and-under national championship. Redick scored 28 points against a Chicago team featuring current NBA player Darius Miles.

The dream and the reality have found their way here for Redick, now a freshman who starts for the top-ranked Blue Devils. After just 12 games, Redick has already shown that he could be the best shooter to play for Mike Krzyzewski in his 23 seasons at Duke.

"I expect myself to make big plays and when the game is close, I want the ball in my hands," Redick said after scoring a career-high 34 points in Wednesday's 104-93 win here over Virginia. "My confidence is pretty high already, but when I get into that zone, my confidence just skyrockets."

A starter for the past nine games, Redick, a 6-foot-4 guard, leads the 12-0 Blue Devils in scoring (17.0 ppg) going into today's game against No. 17 Maryland in College Park.

After scoring 20 points in 27 minutes off the bench in a win over UCLA on Nov. 30, Redick moved into the starting lineup. He has scored 20 or more in five other games and is one short of tying Carlos Boozer's record for a Duke freshman.

His point total against Virginia was a school record for a freshman, three more than Johnny Dawkins put up against Maryland in 1983.

"He has the maturity of a senior," Krzyzewski said. "He came here with his feet under him. He understands the game and he's an easy kid to play with. He's just found his niche the easiest of all our freshmen. He's not just a good freshman. He's one of the outstanding players in the conference."

Defenses are now geared to stop Redick, whether it means using a bigger, more experienced player as Wake Forest did with Josh Howard or occasionally trying a box-and-one, as Virginia did after Redick hit seven straight shots - some up to 25 feet away - in one stretch.

"As the season's progressed, I've been getting the other team's best defender," Redick said. "Fortunately, I'm not at the point where I have to carry the team by any means. We've had other guys step up."

What Redick has accomplished in such a short time has surprised even his father, considering where he is doing it.

"To some degree it has, that he has moved into the starting lineup so quickly," said Ken Redick, who played two years at Ohio Wesleyan and is now a counselor and administrator in an employee assistance program. "The thing that has really surprised me is that he's gotten to be a much better basketball player in these four months."

Ken Redick chuckles at the memory of his oldest son and the third of his five children sneaking out the back door while being home-schooled (through the fifth grade) to shoot baskets on the gravel driveway court behind the house. It was there that Redick learned to shoot.

The son knew he would somehow wind up at Duke.

"I've always set goals for myself. Growing up, when I got to 10 or 12 or 14, I told my friends, `I wanted to play for Duke,' " Redick said at Cameron Indoor Stadium after practice on Tuesday. "Some people told me that I would never go there. I was fortunate to have those dreams come true."

His father recalled parents of other players laughing at his son when he revealed his dream.

"My wife and I have always had the philosophy that kids need to dream big, so we always encouraged them to do that," said Ken Redick. "He just always believed it, which is important. He just got on the path of his dream."

Being recruited by Duke is one thing; starting for the Blue Devils as a freshman is another. Redick's early-season play has moved sophomore Daniel Ewing back to the bench and has kept fellow freshman Sean Dockery on it for most of the game.

Redick, who has played more minutes (346) than any other Duke player this season besides All-America candidate Chris Duhon, could challenge Dawkins' freshman scoring record of 18.1 points a game.

"You watch him shoot in practice, in games, in any situation, it's the same shot," said Dawkins, now the team's associate head coach. "He repeats it so well. It's very simple. The guy has a great stroke, but he knows where he wants to go [with the ball]. That's what separates him from a lot of players."

Said Krzyzewski: "He's not fast, but he's real quick with the ball. When you add that weapon of a shot, it adds to his quickness. He knows what he's going to do and the other guy doesn't."

That was obvious against Virginia. Using his height advantage over both Keith Jenifer, a 6-3 sophomore from Baltimore, and 6-foot junior Todd Billet, Redick got on a roll after missing his first two shots. He wound up shooting 9-for-13 from the field, including 5-for-6 on three-point attempts.

"I think he gets a lot of calls to be a freshman, but he's a really good player," Jenifer said of Redick, who would hit all 11 of his free throws. "He curls a lot, moves good without the ball. He got to the hole a little bit more than I expected him to."

As he waited after the game, Ken Redick was asked if that was the best game he had ever seen his son play.

"On the college level it is," he said. "He was possessed."

From age 7, first with a dream and then with a jump shot.

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