DURHAM, N.C.-- GoDuke.com recently sat down with former Duke women's basketball student-athlete Nicole Erickson, who played for the Blue Devils from 1998-99, to see what she is doing these days, get her thoughts on Duke women's basketball and to reflect on her time in Durham.
Erickson transferred from Purdue and guided the Blue Devils to their first NCAA Final Four in 1999. She was a second team All-ACC honoree in 1998 and 1999, while remaining as one of the top three-point shooters in school history. She hit 60 and 62 treys in two years with the Blue Devils, while tying a school mark with seven hit against Clemson in 1999.
GoDuke.com: Give us a run down on what you are doing now.
Nicole Erickson: Currently, I am teaching 6th- 8th grade health & physical education at a title1 school in Jacksonville, Fla. I also coach girls & boys basketball, as well as Track. My partner and I are part owners of two restaurants. One is in Jacksonville and the other is going to be opening this summer in Fort Pierce, FL which is where we call home.
GD: What type of restaurants do you own and how do you like working in the restaurant business?
NE: They are called Hurricane Grill & Wings. It is a fairly new franchise that originated in Fort Pierce, Fla. We are famous for our wings (over 30 different flavors) but serve everything from steak philly's to mahi salads and fried shrimp. The pricing is moderate and the decor is laid back, tropical. We sell beer & wine. I helped open the first one and actually served every day over the summer until school started. My partner pretty much runs everything. Once we open this second one in Fort Pierce, I may become fully involved in the restaurant and step out of teaching for a bit.
GD: How different is it to coach girls and boys basketball?
NE: I think at the middle school age, boys are definitely more competitive as a whole. The girls at my school really did not have much prior basketball knowledge so I was teaching them basic fundamentals. Meanwhile, I was teaching more X's and O's, reads & advanced skills to the boys. Honestly, I really enjoyed working with the boys at this age. It was fun gaining their respect and showing them I knew basketball by beating them one on one or in shoot outs, etc., (Most of them think girls don't know how to play basketball).
GD: Do you have a spouse and children?
NE: I have been in a nine-year relationship and we have two weimeraner dog kids :) Gracie & Guinness.....
GD: What do you like best about your career?
NE: I love making a difference in young people's lives. The population I teach are very challenging but the reward of seeing them grow as people is what it is all about. They also keep me young! I think I learn as much from them as they do from me :)
GD: Do you come across many Duke fans?
NE: There are very few Duke fans in Florida.....lots of Gator fans. But when I do come across a Dukie, it makes my day :)!! Unfortunately, I see a few more Tar Heel fans around here.
GD: Do you still play basketball recreationally?
NE: I will play with my middle school boys every now and then....but it's gets too frustrating when the mind is telling the body to do one thing but the body isn't hearing it! My favorite recreation now is SURFING....It's my new passion! It's kind of taken the place of basketball for me.....because I am still learning and it is a challenging work out as well.
GD: What are some of your favorite off-the-court memories of Duke?
NE: Ohhhh, there are sooo many.....I couldn't possibly just name one. My time at Duke was the best years ever!
GD: What was your major?
NE: Cultural Anthropology with a minor in African American Studies
GD: What made you choose to come to Duke?
NE: Coach G, the academics, the possibility of winning a National Championship, & Cameron! (Who wouldn't want to play their games in Cameron?!)
GD: What was it like for you to transfer from Purdue and end up advancing to the schools first NCAA Final Four?
NE: It was a surreal experience. Even when I look back on it today, I cannot believe how we ended up playing Purdue for the National Championship. (Still never watched the second half of that game.) It was quite a journey for us all, especially after our rocky start and all the injuries through out the year.
GD: Beating Tennessee in 1999 was one of the biggest upsets in NCAA history, how was the team able to defeat the three-time NCAA Champions?
NE: I think it was a culmination of things that allowed us to beat the three-time defending champs.
1.) It started out with our preseason goal of winning the National Championship. From day one, Coach G had us visualizing winning the National Championship and cutting down the nets. After a while we truly believed we could do it.
2.) After losing to Tennessee earlier in the year and watching the game film, we knew if we played them again we could beat them. When we got the No. 2 seed in their region our response was excitement, not fear.
3.) In the locker room before tip-off, Coach G simply said to us that the only people who think we can beat Tennessee are the people in this room. She went on to tell us how Tennessee had already purchased all their airline tickets and hotel rooms. So we went out and played our hearts out, together, composed and determined. It also helped that Chamique Holdsclaw played the worst game of her career that night. :)
GD: Where did you live when you were at Duke?
NE: Central campus apartments
GD: How much has women's basketball changed since you played?
NE: The athletes are bigger and stronger. I think there is more parity now in women's basketball as well.
GD: How has Duke changed since you were in school?
NE: The facilities are out of this world now! Just amazing in every way. The current players are so lucky and hopefully know how good they have it!
GD: How exciting has it been to watch Duke grow into one of the top programs in the country?
NE: It's been amazing to watch the growth of Duke women's basketball. After going to the Final Four in 99' I think we knew that our program was on its way to becoming one of the elite programs in the country. Duke is top notch in every way, with so much to offer. There is no reason why the best student-athletes wouldn't choose Duke!
GD: How often do you watch Duke basketball games? When was the last time you were able to see a game in Cameron?
NE: I watch Duke on TV as much as possible- both men's and women's basketball & football, too! The last time I saw a game in Cameron was for our 10-year reunion in 2009 vs. Georgia Tech. This year, I went to the first and second rounds of the Men's NCAA Tournament here in Jacksonville and had a blast. It was awesome watching the future National Champs with a crowd of Duke supporters!
GD: Have you had a chance to come back and see the new practice facility? If so how nice would it have been to have that when you were playing at Duke?
NE: I don't know if I would have ever left the gym! :)
GD: What kind of impact has a Duke degree had on your life?
NE: Having a Duke degree has instilled a huge sense of pride & confidence in myself and my abilities. So many doors have opened simply because I graduated from Duke. Deciding to play basketball at Duke has been one of the best decisions of my life and I wouldn't trade it for anything!
GD: Do you keep in touch with your former teammates?
NE: Via Facebook keeping in touch became a whole lot easier, but I definitely wish I could see my buddies more often! We had some wonderful times and I will always cherish the memories & friendships.