Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith a couple of weeks after the Blue Devils defeated Butler for the NCAA championship and asked them about their passions and pursuits-- in life and in sports. Their answers provided some insight into their personalities on and off the court.DURHAM, N.C. – Jerry Kavanagh caught up with Duke’s
The co-captains, returning for their senior seasons, hope to make Duke the first school to win back-to-back titles since Florida accomplished the feat in 2006 and ’07.
Q. What’s the best thing about basketball?
Singler: The competition. Even though basketball is a team sport, there are a lot of individual challenges. I like that aspect of the game.
Smith: I love to compete. There is really no limit on potential, so it is always great to challenge yourself.
Q. Tell me about competition.
Singler: It’s the opportunity to go head-to-head with another individual or team to see who comes out on top. Both teams are trying to beat each other, and that brings out the best in them.
Smith: Competition excites me. Every day when I take the court, I get to compete and make myself better or help someone else improve. The way I see it, if you are not competitive you should go live in a box. Life is about competing in everything you do.
Q. What’s it like competing in the ACC?
Singler: The ACC has always had great teams. I love the tradition of the conference.
Smith: Every game that you play is going to be a battle in a tough environment. The ACC has great tradition and a history of a lot great players.
Q. What’s special about college sports?
Singler: The fans. They really get into the action and support their teams.
Smith: It is people who are playing for the love of the game. And the fan support in college athletics is amazing.
Q. What about the NCAA Tournament?
Singler: It is crazy. Anything can happen. You have to stay focused and never let down.
Smith: It’s win or go home for every team. No matter the seed or school, each team is fighting for a chance at the title. It also teaches you that tomorrow is not promised. And that is a life lesson that I live by.
Q. What do you like about pro sports?
Singler: I enjoy watching the top players competing at the highest level.
Smith: Professional athletes are the best in the game. Watching them, I can learn so much about what it takes to reach that level of competition.
Q. Who has been the most influential person in your life?
Singler: My family has been the most influential in my career because they always supported and encouraged me.
Smith: My mom. She has always been there for me and taught me how to fight for what I want and to never run when things get tough.
Q. Tell me an idea you wish you had thought of.
Singler: The iPod. It makes sense and has great applications. I use it all the time.
Smith: The iPhone. Everybody wants one.
Q. A fantasy job?
Singler: Astronaut. I would like to go in space just for the experience.
Smith: Take Reggie Love’s job as right-hand man to President Barack Obama
Q. Any pet peeves?
Singler: I hate being interrupted.
Smith: I hate being poked and when people stare at me. I am a friendly person and want people to feel free to come up and talk to me.
Q. What is something about you that would surprise those who know you?
Singler: I’m weird and like a lot of different types of music.
Smith: I am a pretty open person, so there aren’t many surprises about me. What you see is what you get.
Q. What do you like best about yourself?
Singler: I am a driven person. I can motivate myself easily, and that is a good quality to have.
Smith: My smile. I am a happy person. I love life.
Singler: My mom and dad. They did a great job of raising me.
Smith: My dad. He taught me so many lessons in a very short time. My mom. She reinforced all those lessons my dad taught me and many, many more. Her influence has made me the man I am today.
Singler: Larry Bird. He is one of the greatest basketball players ever. I admire what he was able to accomplish.
Smith: Kobe Bryant. He is a warrior. He has a look in his eyes that says, “I want to be the best.” And Juwan Howard. He is a good friend of mine. He has been in the league for a long time, and that just shows what hard work can do for you.
Singler: The Portland Trail Blazers. They are my home town team.
Smith: The Los Angeles Lakers – the champions. I root for champions because they know how to win, and I like winning. And the Washington Wizards. They are not your typical champions, but they are my home team and a lot of people within the organization played a very big part in my life and my family’s life.
Singler: Medford, Ore. I might be biased, but it is a great town.
Smith: D.C. It is my home town. I enjoy the people, and there is a lot to do there.
Singler: My computer. I have a lot of my artwork on it and I use it to watch movies or listen to music.
Smith: My family. They have meant everything to me. They have been my backbone. They keep me up when things are going down and they keep me humble when things are going well. I love them to death.
Singler: Old family photos. There is nothing better than looking at family photos.
Smith: The last thing my dad gave me – a little glass car. I have it on a shelf at home. Just seeing it helps me remember everything my dad taught me.
Time of year:
Singler: May – It is my birthday month and it marks the start of summer.
Smith: Spring time. I like the warm weather and March Madness is under way.
Singler: Depends on my mood. I listen to anything from hip-hop to slower R&B.
Smith: Everything. I am a very diverse person. I listen to everything from Miley Cyrus to Lil’ Wayne.
Singler: Sports Illustrated, Sporting News, and all the other sports magazines
Smith: ESPN the Magazine, Sports Illustrated. I will read just about any sports magazine to learn about fellow athletes.
Singler: AddictingGames.com, datpiff.com, and stumbleupon.com.
Smith: Any sports web site and Twitter. Twitter allows me to connect with fans and followers.
Singler: Nerf Guns.
Smith: I love gadgets. I have two phones – the iPhone and the Blackberry Tour. I give the edge to the iPhone because of all the apps.
Singler: Art, paintball, ultimate Frisbee, Frisbee golf, and board games.
Smith: Anything from arcades to go-karts to putt-putt to batting cages to bowling. Anything that puts a smile on my face and lets me be a kid.
Singler: I took a trip to Europe last summer. I had a great time and visited a lot of cool sites. I am hoping to go back again.
Smith: Cancun, Mexico. It is a city that doesn’t sleep, just like New York, with much better weather.
Singler: My favorite genre is comedy – “Blue Streak,” “Dumb & Dumber,” “Pineapple Express,” and “Heavyweights” are some of my favorites.
Smith: Any movie that makes me laugh. “Life,” with Eddie Murphy and Martin Lawrence, has to be my favorite and one of the funniest movies of all time.
Singler: “The Office,” “Flash Forward,” and “Community”
Smith: Cartoons. “SpongeBob Squarepants” is the apple of my eye.
Singler: David Garibaldi, Salvador Dali, and TuPac.
Smith: Lil’ Wayne and Lauren Hill.
Singler: I love Mexican food, and my home town has a great restaurant in Las Morenas Taqueria.
Smith: Anything my mom makes. She has a lot of specialties, so I can’t pick just one item.
Singler: Anything milk chocolate.
Smith: I am not really a sweets guy.
Singler: Anywhere with a beach. I like to relax in the sand and play in the water.
Smith: Miami and Houston are two spots in the states that I enjoy. The weather is always nice and the people are very friendly.
Singler: I am holding out for the flying car.
Smith: Fast ones.
Singler: Erykah Badu, Devil Doll.
Smith: Jennifer Hudson, especially when she sang “One Shining Moment.”
Singler: “If you are not living on the edge you are taking up too much space.” My papa used to always say that to me.
Smith: "Don't quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion." -- Muhammad Ali
Jerry Kavanagh is a former editor with New York Magazine and Conde Nast.