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Scheyer Looking to Cement His Legacy
Courtesy: Al Featherston,
Release: 03/12/2010
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Jon Scheyer had 15 points, five rebounds and three assists in Friday’s win over Virginia.
Photo Courtesy: Duke Photography
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DURHAM, N.C. - Jon Scheyer's legacy at Duke is not yet complete.
Only a few games are left for the senior guard, but those may turn out to be the most important games of his four-year career in Durham. If Scheyer can lead the Blue Devils to a second straight ACC championship and a deep NCAA Tournament run, it will be the perfect cap for an impressive career.
"Obvious, to go 9-0 [the rest of the way], that would be the perfect way," Scheyer said earlier this week. "I think it's great to have a great end to the regular season and move on. We just want to take the ACC Tournament right now and not worry about the NCAA and try to win another championship."
Scheyer has already tasted perfection, when his Senior Night in Cameron Indoor Stadium was marked by Duke's 82-50 victory over North Carolina - the Devils' most lopsided win over its ancient rival in 46 years and a win that clinched a share of the ACC regular season championship.
"I don't know what else I could ask for," Scheyer said in the locker room after that victory. "Everybody played well. I played okay. We won by a lot and the crowd was unbelievable."
Even UNC coach Roy Williams couldn't contain his admiration for Scheyer. In a classy move, the Tar Heel coach joined the applause when Scheyer was pulled from the game in the final minutes. Later, he told the Duke standout that he had enjoyed watching his play for four years.
"Jon Scheyer is a young man I've really enjoyed watching when he was not playing against us," Williams told the media. "To go from 'quote' a shooting guard to one of the primary ballhandlers - to have seven assists and zero turnovers [in the finale against UNC] - is I think sensational. I've really enjoyed him as a college basketball player and think he stands for so many great things."
Scheyer has had - with a handful of games remaining - a remarkable career.
He is going to be just the ninth player in Duke history to average double figures for four seasons. He's about to become the 10th player in school history to top 2,000 points. He's currently percentage points ahead of Trajan Langdon for second place on Duke's career free throw list (and fifth in ACC history) and should finish fourth at Duke (and 10th in ACC history) in 3-pointers made.
Yet, mere numbers don't provide an adequate description of Scheyer's impact on Duke - and ACC - basketball.
"Scheyer is like an old-time guard to me, in that he does everything in terms of handling the ball, shooting the ball, playing defense," Maryland coach Gary Williams said. "It's not like he's a specialist. That's what makes him so tough, because he can do all those things and do them at a very high level for almost 40 minutes a game. Anytime you have a player like that, it's almost like having more than one player on the court. It's like a guy who can play the one, two or three positions, which he can do. It enables you to have a shorter bench if you want to because he can play so many positions ... he has the skill at each one of those positions to be a good player."
Scheyer arrived at Duke before the 2006-07 season as a McDonald's All-American after a distinguished prep career at Glenbrook (Ill.) North High School. He was part of a four-man class that also included McDonald's All-Americans Lance Thomas and Gerald Henderson, plus Parade All-American Brian Zoubek.
It was a talented quartet, but they arrived at a time when the Duke roster was decimated by the graduation of the J.J. Redick-Shelden Williams senior class and by the early NBA defection of Luol Deng, who should have been the senior anchor of the 2007 team.
That season, the team had no seniors and just one junior on the roster. Adding to the team's problems, sophomore point guard Greg Paulus, one of the team's two returning starters, broke his foot on the second day of practice and missed almost the entire preseason.

"When they were freshmen, they were part of probably one of the youngest teams ever in the ACC," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said of his current senior class. "So they had to learn through experience. They learned well enough to go 22-11, 8-8 and make the NCAA Tournament [in 2007]. When we got beat [by VCU in the NCAA first round], a lot of people threw up the fact that we got beat - but we made it."

Scheyer was the freshman who made the most consistent contribution that season - he started all 33 games and averaged 12.2 points a game (third-best on the team) with 3.3 rebounds and almost two assists a game.

A year later, Scheyer accepted the role of sixth man. He started just one game, but still played starter minutes (third highest on the team) for a 28-6 team that finished the season ranked No. 9 nationally. His scoring average went down slightly (to 11.7 a game), but all his shooting percentages went up, along with his rebounding and his assist totals.

Scheyer moved back into the starting lineup as a junior-originally playing his natural wing guard position alongside point guard Nolan Smith. He was playing well, raising his scoring average to nearly 15 points a game, but the Duke team began to struggle in early February. It hit rock bottom at Clemson, losing 74-47 to the Tigers in a game that Scheyer described as "the breaking point" in his career.

"That was a big moment for me," he said. "I hated the way I looked. I hated the way I played and I used that never to go back to that. Those are the moments you need to have."

The Clemson loss also convinced Krzyzewski that he needed to revamp his lineup. He tried several things, but it wasn't until Feb. 19 against St. John's in Madison Square Garden that he found the solution to the team's problems.

That solution? Move Jon Scheyer to the point and insert freshman Elliot Williams into the starting lineup as the off-guard.

What a difference that made! Duke was 20-5 when Coach K made the change, but the team was reeling with four losses in six games. But starting with the St. John's game, the Devils won five straight and 10 of the last 12.

That streak included three wins in the ACC Tournament in Atlanta, where Scheyer earned MVP honors after he averaged 21.7 points and hit 12-of-25 3-pointers in the three wins.

"He's a great competitor," Krzyzewski said after the 2009 season. "He handles the ball real well. He scores - he scored more when he was bringing the ball up than when he didn't bring the ball up. I think the more the ball is in Jon's hands, the better."

Smith, who blossomed this season playing the wing guard alongside Scheyer, has had the experience of playing alongside two of the most talented point guards of this generation. As a junior at Oak Hill Academy, he shared the backcourt with Ty Lawson, the 2009 ACC player of the year at North Carolina. As a senior, Smith's backcourt mate was Brandon Jennings, currently a candidate to become NBA rookie of the year.

"I definitely rate Jon in there with those two," Smith said. "His poise and his leadership are tremendous. Jon is not a jet like those guys, but he can control games like them - he controls them at his pace. I love to play with Jon."

Virginia coach Tony Bennett, who was an outstanding collegiate guard at Wisconsin-Green Bay and played three years in the NBA, was recently asked what he liked and what he disliked about Scheyer's game.

"There's not a lot to dislike," Bennett said. "He's very complete. Any time a guy is that kind of threat from outside - they may not be lightning quick, but if they're good with the ball, if they're heady and they can really stretch you, you have to honor that.

"The best example I can remember from when I was fortunate enough to play, my idol was Mark Price, Georgia Tech guy. He was such a great shooter, if you gave him a little bit of room, he would get it going. You had to press up on him, but he was quick enough to get by you. I look at Scheyer and he's such a good shooter and they run good stuff for him, it opens up so much.

"He's such a complete offensive player. You first have to respect his shot, but he's got other things to go with it. He's such a leader and he makes very few errors. He's an efficient player - he had five steals against us. You can see how he's evolved. He's kept improving through his career. That's what you hope for as a coach."

Amazingly, Scheyer never made All-ACC - not even third-team All-ACC - before this season. But he's been one of the league's - and the nation's - dominant players in 2010. He was just made a unanimous first-team All-ACC pick and finished second to Maryland's Greivis Vasquez in the ACC's Player of the Year voting.

For N.C. State coach Sidney Lowe, himself one of the great point guards in ACC history, it was hard to choose between Scheyer and Vasquez.

"They're both very, very tough mentally -- VERY tough," Lowe said. "Both are obviously good shooters. They're very smart basketball players. They bring so much to the table. They refuse to let their teams lose. You saw that the other night in those overtimes when [Vasquez] just refused to let his team lose. They both provide leadership. They're both winners. They refuse to lose games. They refuse to allow anyone around them to lose games. They're both just outstanding basketball players."

The victory over North Carolina was the 106th victory of Scheyer's Duke career. He's played in every one of the team's 135 games over the last four years. He's been a major contributor to one ACC championship team (2009), one regular season ACC co-championship team (2010) and two teams that have finished in the final AP top 10 (9th in 2008; 6th in 2009) - a total that is likely to grow to three as the current No. 4 ranked Duke team is almost certain to be ranked in the top 10 of the final poll after next week's ACC Tournament.

But rankings don't mean as much as championships and Scheyer would like to close his career by adding a few more championship flags - another ACC title, an NCAA regional championship ... maybe a fourth national title?

"This team has made steps throughout my career here," Scheyer said. "We're just a really hungry team right now. You win one championship and you want to win one more ... then you want to win another. We've been there before and we know what it takes, so going into the ACC Tournament, our expectation is to win it.

"And the same thing for the NCAA Tournament."

For Krzyzewski, Scheyer and his class represent a throwback to the days before his program was up and running at a high level. He pointed to the progression they have made from the "disappointment" of that 22-11 season to now, when they represent the core of a championship quality team.

"They remind me some of my '86 team," he said. "I don't think they're as talented as that - but [the 1986 seniors] started 11-17 and we had not won anything until their senior year. Then they won a regular season. Then they won the tournament. Then they won a regional championship and they almost won a national championship. I'm not saying the same scenario will happen ... these guys have a chance to do that."

And that's the chance that Scheyer would like to realize in the coming weeks to complete his legacy.

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