Mason Plumlee and Miles Plumlee have an uncle who won tickets to the Final Four before this season began.DURHAM, N.C. –
Now that the Duke duo has punched a ticket to the event in their home state next weekend that's one less relative they'll have to find a ticket for.
"He let me know right away," Mason, who is a freshman, said of the lucky uncle. "But I've been hearing about how we had to get there from a ton of people all year."
After hoping they'd get the chance all season, the Plumlee brothers are heading back to Indiana to face West Virginia on Saturday at Lucas Oil Stadium. They're excited to play within driving distance of their hometown of Warsaw, Ind., which is 118 miles from the stadium.
"Since we knew it was in Indy at the beginning of the year we thought that would be unbelievable," Miles, a sophomore, said. "Now it just really opens your eyes like: 'Wow we're really here now.'"
The brothers have become key role players for a Duke team that has benefited from an extra set of big bodies in the rotation. Miles is averaging 5.4 points and 5.1 rebounds a game and Mason has pitched in with 3.8 points and 3.3 rebounds.
"It's been great being able to rotate with those guys and knowing that there's not going to be a drop-off when they come in," Duke's 7-1 center Brian Zoubek said. "I think they provide something a little bit different as well, a little more athleticism and blocking some shots. Rotating in with them, we can just play till exhaustion, go get a break, then come back in, so you're a lot more fresh when you come in and a lot more aggressive on the boards and on defense."
The Plumlees grew up in a basketball family, their mother Leslie played at Purdue — the school Duke beat to get to the regional final— and father Perky played for Tennessee Tech. But their basketball lineage doesn't end there, with their grandfather Albert Schultz playing at Michigan Tech and uncles William Schultz and Chad Schultz suiting up for Wisconsin-Eau Claire and Wisconsin-Oshkosh, respectively.
It was only natural that the pair — born just 18 months apart — would follow in the family basketball tradition.
Miles recounts the importance basketball played in his family and community when he was growing up and shakes his head at the good fortune he has in being able to share this with his younger — but certainly not little (both Plumlees are 6-foot-10) — brother.
"It's unreal," he said. "Growing up, playing in the driveway with Mason and my dad working out with us and stuff, you dream of making it and getting to this point. Now you're here, it's hard to take it all in at once. We're just trying to make it last as long as we can."
Miles and Mason both agree that the culture of basketball in Indiana shaped who they are as players even though they both finished their high school careers at a prep school in North Carolina. Miles transferred there for his junior season and Mason left Indiana for the school after one high school season.
"It definitely was a big thing growing up," Miles said. "Everybody took it so seriously that you couldn't help take it just as serious. We put in a lot of practice."
Added Mason: "I think Indiana is big on basketball in general, it's not football or baseball or anything else," he said. "That's what everybody does when they're little. Just loving the game comes from growing up there."
Since Mason left Indiana at a younger age than Miles did, he's a bit more amped up for the return.
"I haven't played an organized game back there since my freshman year of high school," he said. "So it will be great to go back and play in front of a lot of friends and family."
There were several sets of brothers playing Division I basketball this season and there have been a number of such pairs to reach the Final Four in NCAA history. In 2004 there were Stephen and Joey Graham of Oklahoma State and another Duke pair — Justin and Ryan Caldbeck — were on the Blue Devils team in 1999 that lost the national championship game to Connecticut.
They're the 10th pair of brothers to play in Duke history and the sixth such duo to play at the same time.
"It's great to have someone who I've known my whole life to share the experience with," Mason said. "I think that's part of the reason we both came here, so I wouldn't trade it for anything. It is a rare opportunity. I don't take it for granted."