By ADAM MILLER
Duke Sports Information
DURHAM, N.C. - While Duke basketball had more former players in the NBA in 2011-12 than any college program, several Duke alumni have enjoyed great success and built respectable reputations playing overseas in recent years. Seven former Blue Devils are currently playing overseas, and a number of others have retired after successful careers in Europe.
Current Duke alumni playing overseas include Daniel Ewing, David McClure, DeMarcus Nelson, Marty Pocius, Shavlik Randolph, Jon Scheyer and Kyle Singler.
Ricky Price, who played for the Blue Devils from 1994-98 and averaged 9.2 points per game, spent nine years playing in different parts of the world, including Mexico, Finland and the Ukraine. The swingman had a longer-than-average tenure playing on international courts and credits his years at Duke as an important step in the preparation process.
"Duke is like an extension of the pros," Price said. "When you're playing at Duke, you're playing at such a high level. It's preparing you for the next level. For me, my overall dream was to play in the NBA. That never happened for me, but I was ultra-prepared to go overseas and play."
The lessons he learned playing under coach Mike Krzyzewski were very clear when it came to playing professionally, and those disciplines were instilled for the duration of his professional career.
"As a professional, you've got to be just that: a professional," Price stated. "Be on top of practice, be at speaking engagements, be a constant professional, take care of your body, play well, not make excuses for your game - these are the same things I learned here at Duke from Coach K, and I applied them to the next level."
McClure, who played in Durham from 2005-09, and Langdon, between 1995-99, share similar opinions in terms of how their time at Duke was key in adjusting to a new culture and ensuring longevity to their professional careers, and how those two aspects translated into better team chemistry playing in a different part of the world.
"I think the biggest thing is learning how to adapt and learning things you need to help you win," McClure said. "It surprises me, year-in and year-out, how many guys come over and will only be over there for small stints of time - two weeks, a month, two months - whether it's just they don't fit in with the team or they don't fit in with the environment, or, they might fit in, do very well and have great stats, but aren't doing things to help the team win."
Trajan Langdon, who played three seasons with the Cleveland Cavaliers after being selected 11th overall in the 1999 NBA Draft, spent an additional ten seasons playing in Italy, Turkey and Russia from 2002-11. During his senior year at Duke, Langdon was a team captain which helped him fine-tune his leadership skills.
"Becoming a leader really allowed me to show how I understood the team concept on both ends of the court," Langdon said. "Over there, there's great knowledge of the game and respect for the team game of basketball in Europe, and a lot Americans that come over don't understand it immediately."
McClure, a situational player for a large portion of his collegiate career, finds one aspect of his game to be instrumental to his ability to play overseas: defense.
"A lot of people over there can shoot the basketball," McClure commented. "A lot of people can score and get to the basket, but not everybody knows how to play team defense or how to talk as a team."
Like many players, McClure takes pride in his play, believes he has a personal responsibility to make the team better and does what he can to show it.
"I think the biggest thing is holding yourself accountable because it's rare a lot of the times that your coach will hold you accountable over there, so it would be easy for a lot of players to take plays off and maybe just take for granted that they're playing professional basketball," McClure said. "When you go out every day and treat it like it's your last and play the way that you were taught to play at Duke, you really separate yourself from the rest of the players."
Langdon agrees with McClure's testimony and the premise that accountability and hard work pay dividends toward building team chemistry in an unfamiliar place.
"I think when they see a talented player come over - an accomplished player - who understands the team aspect and respects other players, it goes a long way in their respect for myself," Langdon said. "I think my ability to be open and accept other cultures and other people allowed me to perform well on the court."
Price, McClure and Langdon were all presented with challenges playing beyond the U.S. border, but embraced them and did not let them become burdens on their careers.
"You talk about 6-9 months away from the house, [not] seeing your mom, home-cooked meals - it's different," Price said. "For me, I would say those are the biggest things."
McClure dealt with injuries when he first started playing overseas, but has overcome that obstacle and is ready for the next challenge to be presented.
"When I got over there last year, I didn't really have a problem getting adapted to the culture, the system," McClure said. "I came in and our team took off, and in the first regular season game, [I] went down and needed to get surgery last year. It was, again, another year of my life fighting back from injury, but once I was able to lock in [and] get healthy on the court, everything was okay."
Unlike McClure, Langdon found the culture change to be a bit tough, but had his own way of being outgoing and making the best of a challenge.
"I think the language barrier is always difficult, but the most important thing is just being open, and I was always open, whether it was Italian, Turkish or Russian that I didn't speak," Langdon said. "As long as you're open and you're willing to attempt to assimilate into the culture and communicate with your teammates, the organization and fans, they'll embrace you. It's nothing I've really struggled with, but it's something that is a challenge."
Through the changes in lifestyle, openness to new cultures and overcoming obstacles presented by change, Price sums up his time as a Blue Devil and the translation into a professional basketball career in the shortest and simplest way.
"I think the Duke experience prepares you for life."