Day 9: Duke | Traveling Violations
DURHAM, N.C. – The opponent was North Carolina Central, not North Carolina. It was a warm November night for an exhibition game, not an ACC battle with a February chill in the air.
But Cameron Indoor Stadium still is Cameron Indoor Stadium. It always is a great place to watch a game. Any game.
Our favorite college venue remains Oklahoma State's Gallagher Iba Arena due to its sense of history and the fact that the adult fans there are about as crazy as the students (Okies may grow up, but they don't mellow). But Cameron is special, too.
With just 9,314 seats, the intimacy of the place is assured. Atmosphere is supplied by the famed Cameron Crazies, who surround the court. NCCU may be a local small-college program, but that didn't stop the students from heckling the Eagles during warm-ups, pregame introductions and, of course, the game.
The Eagle players wouldn't have wanted it any other way.
The building was supposedly first drawn up in 1935 on the cover of a book of matches by Eddie Cameron and Wallace Wade. It was opened in 1940 at a cost of $400,000, renovated for $2 million in 1980 and tinkered with a few times since.
The result is a stately, classy but fully functional building housing a number of Duke athletic offices (the main Duke basketball office is located next door).
Cameron, in terms of home courts, is the most powerful recruiting tool in the country.
We documented the East-West BBQ rivalry that rips the state of North Carolina apart at the seams in Thursday's column.
But please remember, we started this trip the morning after Election Day and promised to promote healing and unity. So whether you like your sauce ketchup-based or vinegar-base, can't we all just get along and slow-cook some pork?
In that spirit we hit a joint in the Eastern part of the state Thursday that cooks its meat in a Texas style. And I don't care where you are from, it was good.
With the Duke sports information department – Jon Jackson, Art Chase and Matt Plizga – leading the way, we lunched at the Durham establishment The Q Shack. Its motto: "BBQ, tender as a mother's love."
All I know is, the chili-rubbed beef brisket sandwich (on Texas toast), side of mac and cheese and the obligatory hush puppies were enough to make a grown man, his momma and his cardiologist weep. And the hoops talk was as good as the food.
After nine cities in nine days it was a nice reminder that talking hoops and eating BBQ never gets old.
One of the enjoyable parts of staying in Durham is getting a chance to take an afternoon jog that includes a lap of the Durham Bulls Athletic Park, home of the minor league baseball team that "Bull Durham" made famous.
Thursday there was a couple taking pictures outside of the park, though it is not the one used in the movie.
In the spirit of Nuke LaLoosh, may we recall: "This is a very simple game. You throw the ball, you catch the ball, you hit the ball. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, sometimes it rains.' Think about that for a while."
Valued Reader Email
Your correspondence, with my response in italics:
Dan – Your mention of Winston-Salem State is appropriate. You should probably mention that a certain player with the nickname of "The Pearl" was at WSSU during those dark, segregated times when Packer and Chappell were at Wake.
John H. Davidson
Good point, Earl "The Pearl" Monroe (WSSU '67) is more than worthy of a mention.
Dan – I have enjoyed the college b-ball preview the last few days. Thanks for the plug about my BBQ. I just want to clarify that the delicious dessert your friend enjoyed was not banana cream pie but good ole nanner pudding.
a.k.a. Little Richard
He cooks that well and has time to read? I love this guy.
Duke's J.J. Redick appears leaner and stronger entering the season, which should allow the sharp-shooting junior (.397 career three-point shooter) to be quicker defensively. His ability to defend the ball is one of the keys for him making it at the next level. There is no doubt he can knock down open shots.
While this may have been an exhibition game, Crazy Towel Guy made a midseason-caliber appearance.
I got a chance before the game to visit with Mike Jarvis II, who has hooked on as an assistant coach at Duke after spending a dozen years working for his father at George Washington and St. John's. There aren't many better people in college basketball than The Deuce.
Mike Krzyzewski was excited to play this game against the fellow Durham team because it marked the 60th anniversary of a "secret game" between the two schools. Duke was all-white then and NCCU was all-black. Games between races were forbidden.
An intramural team from the Duke medical school played the varsity from NCCU in a non-sanctioned game. It doesn't sound like much now, but in the 1940s in the South, it was a big deal.
"It just showed how basketball has been a vehicle to bring change," Krzyzewski said. "I would hope that this game not only made us better but also brought to everyone's attention that this is a good thing and what a great community we have."
Bill Brill, a local media institution, has a new book out in honor of the 100th season of Blue Devil hoops. "Duke Basketball: A legend of achievement" is a history book of the program, with about half dealing with the last 25 seasons in which Krzyzewski has turned the program into a juggernaut.
Wake Forest coach Skip Prosser made an interesting point the other day. The ACC is going to be so strong this season – six league teams are ranked in the preseason top 20 – that no league team may be able to stay in the top five or top 10. League teams will just beat up on each other.
By that reasoning no ACC team could be a 1 or 2 seed in the NCAA tournament. "But if you can survive the gauntlet in the ACC, I think your mettle will certainly have been tested when March comes around," Prosser said.
Our hotel in downtown Durham, the Marriott, was shared by Bobby Bowden, the Florida State football team and a whole bunch of rowdy fans. Everyone was in town for Thursday's game against North Carolina State, which meant that the lobby bar was doing bang-up business for a Thursday.
The Cameron Crazies are so coordinated in part because they hand out "cheer sheets" that go over the game plan. If an opposing player has recently been caught, say, boosting a car, you can bet keys will be rattled.
There were only a couple of things to know for the NCCU game, according to the sheet handed out on Thursday night.
"Above all else, be classy, creative and funny."
But then again. …
"Screaming 'Go to Hell, Carolina, Go to Hell,' is always appropriate."
Total mileage: 1,818.5 miles.
Next campaign stop: home.