College / Mar 12, 2010 / 11:00 am

Duke’s “Big Three” Bringing Back the Cool Factor

Duke's Jon Scheyer

One by one, Kyle Singler, Jon Scheyer and Nolan Smith walk into the small media room inside Cameron Indoor Stadium and take a seat behind a wooden table with one mic amidst a sea of digital recorders. Over and over, they answer geeky notebook-jotting reporters who try and find smarter ways to recycle the same question.

It’s boring and typical, and Duke’s “Big Three” — arguably the storied program’s most talented and productive trio since Christian Laettner, Bobby Hurley and Grant Hill — all know it. Still, consummate professionals, they embrace the redundancy. Even have a little fun with it.

Why not? It isn’t every year that you’re in line for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, favored to win the ACC Tournament title, and are the nation’s top scoring trio with 53.7 points per game combined. And while the on-court dominance is doing wonders to shed the perception that Duke has rolled out yet another slow and unathletic team of strictly jump shooters, it’s their off-court swag that’s shedding another image.

It’s cool to play at Duke again, and Singler, Scheyer and Smith are a big reason why. Long gone are the days of the Boy Scout, goody-two-shoes, Ivy League legacy image that’s plagued the Blue Devils ever since Jay Williams stopped collecting ankles and taking names back in 2002. Currently ranked No. 4 in the country, the Blue Devils (26-5) play their ACC tourney opener later today against Virginia.

High school sensation Austin Rivers (Winter Park, Fla.), a potential one-and-done guard and Duke’s primary target for the 2011 recruiting class, said that this year’s trio of Blue Devils stars “have Duke’s swag turned all the way up right now.”

“I think people have put that nerdy, square label on Duke guys because you have to be smart to get in (to the University),” said Austin, whose father is Doc Rivers. “But those guys have swag, and obviously they can ball. I definitely don’t buy into the geeky perception. Most players don’t anymore.”

We had separate sit-down interviews with Scheyer (18.9 ppg, 5.2 apg), Smith (17.6 ppg) and Singler (17.2 ppg, 6.8 rpg), asking them the same questions to see how well they matched up, and to figure out how they’ve been able to bring the cool factor back to Durham.

*** *** ***

Dime: This will be a break from the norm because we’re mostly going to talk about off-court stuff.
Jon Scheyer: Cool!
Nolan Smith: That’ll work.
Kyle Singler: Good.

Dime: What personality are you in the trio?
Scheyer: I think I can be a little bit of a jokester. Both Nolan and I are jokesters, but I can switch it up and be serious sometime too.
Smith: I’m definitely the joker. I just love to have fun. I’m the funny guy. I keep the mood loose and I keep the guys smiling. After a loss, I’m the one to get us on to the next thing. I’ll shoot a text to everyone or something like that.
Singler: I would say that I’m more of the quiet one, but I can be a little bit of a joker. I’m pretty low key. We’re all, personality-wise, pretty different. Nolan’s the joker and Jon… He’s a joker sometimes. He just does little pranks that are annoying. He moves rocks in front of our cars when we’re parked. Or he’ll park his car really close to the driver’s side door so we’ll have to get in through the passenger side. He just does little annoying stuff to piss us off. Then when you do it back to him, he gets all mad. So he can dish it out, but he definitely can’t take it.

Duke's Nolan Smith

Dime: So do you guys have a nickname other than the “Big Three?”
Smith: The stuff we hear is what we go with. I actually heard this one here lately, the “Law Offices of Smith, Scheyer and Singler.” I like that one. We may just make that happen one day, who knows.
Scheyer: No, we don’t make up names for ourselves.
Singler: What did they come up with? Hmm… Yeah, I like the law firm one. I’ve heard the “Three Musketeers,” but that’s a little lame.

Dime: With your chemistry on the court, it’s obvious that you guys must be cool, but how cool? People throw out the “best friend” label pretty loose, so I’m wondering how tight you REALLY are?
Smith: Yeah, I know what you mean, but we’re definitely all tight. These are my brothers for real. Our moms are all of our moms. If one mom isn’t there the other mom takes care of us. It’s one big family.
Scheyer: Yeah, we’re real close. We’ve been through A LOT together and we definitely look at each other like brothers.
Singler: Well, they’re OK… No, I’m kidding we’re all pretty close.

Dime: So what kind of stuff do you do together?
Scheyer: We do some of everything. We hit the bowling alley, the movies…
Smith: Everything. We chill at each other’s houses, we go to movies, bowl, watch reruns of games… just everything.
Singler: We bowl, we go to movies, we hang out. We do a lot of stuff together.

Dime: Who’s the best bowler?
Scheyer: Definitely me. It’s not even close. I bowl like a 200. (Duke associate head coach Chris Collins walks by and says, “He’s lying!” Scheyer responds, “I’ll out-bowl you any day!”) But no, really, I bowl around a 200, and really that’s not all that good, but of the three of us I’m by far the best bowler.
Smith: I don’t know. I’m gonna have to say me. I’m a force out there now!
Singler: Oh wow, who’d they say? Doesn’t matter, you’re looking at the best bowler. I’m always around 150. Jon said he bowls a 200? He’s lying. That’s not true. It’s definitely me.

Dime: So let’s just say the bowling debate rages on. Do you guys party together?
Scheyer: Oh definitely!
Smith: Yessir!
Singler: Yes!

Dime: OK, let’s say we’re at a party right now. Where are you located?
Scheyer: I’m at a low-key spot. Probably standing in the corner and taking it all in. I’m just the cool guy holding up the wall.
Smith: I like to dance so there’s a decent chance that I’d be in the middle of the dance floor. Jon will be on the wall nodding his head a lil’ bit and Kyle might be dancing, too.
Singler: I’ll just be all over, chillin’. I’ll do a little bit of chillin’ and a little bit of dancing. It just depends on how I’m feeling.

Dime: Who gets the most girls?
Scheyer: Well, Kyle has a girlfriend so he’s not in it… Who gets the most girls… Uh, sorry, Nolan can’t compete with me! Don’t let him lie to you either. I definitely get more girls than Nolan. He’s my boy and he does pretty well too, but I’ve got him. Do. Not. Let. Him. Lie. To. You.
Smith: Well, let’s go ahead and say it’s between me and Jon because Kyle has a girl. But it’s definitely me! Definitely me!
Singler: Hmm, that’s a tough one… I would definitely say that Nolan has more game than Jon, but… Yeah I’d have to say that Jon gets more girls.

Duke's Kyle Singler

Dime: Sounds like it may be close?
Scheyer: Not really! Let me tell you how Nolan is… We went out after the Carolina game and we’re just in there hanging out. So here comes Nolan with this girl. He introduces me and then he just turns around and leaves (laughs). I’m like, how are you just gonna leave me? That’s Nolan, though. He’s a clown like that. He’s always doing things like that. But she WAS cute so I can’t complain too much.
Smith: It’s no competition there. Jon knows what time it is.

Dime: Do you guys have a handshake between the three of you? Just please don’t tell me you do the played-out salute thing.
Scheyer: No, no saluting. We actually don’t have any handshakes. Nolan has a lot of little different handshakes he does with different people, but nothing with just us three.
Smith: Nah, not with us three. We’re straight business. We don’t need handshakes to get us going. We’re already ready.
Singler: No handshakes. No salutes.

Dime: How about looks on the court to let the other know what’s about to happen?
Smith: I guess you could say that. We might do the head nod thing.
Singler: I guess. Whenever one of us hits a couple shots the other one knows that we’re feeling it. So I guess we have a “feeling it” look. I don’t know… (laughs)
Scheyer: Yeah we do little looks I guess. Subtle things.

Dime: Gerald Henderson told me once that “Jon is a slob when it comes to cleaning up the apartment.”
Smith: You know, I’ve heard that one before. Maybe it’s a rumor, but I’ve heard it a few times so…
Singler: Yeah, Jon’s definitely like a little kid. He’s definitely messy. He’s got a lot of toys and he loves to play video games, so yeah, I’ll definitely back Gerald up on that one.
Scheyer: (laughs) Not true. Not true.

Dime: Kyle, you’re the artist on the team, and I saw the tribute drawing to being 17-0 at home. Do you have one in the works for the three of you?
Singler: Hmm, no I actually don’t. That’s a good idea, though. I’ll credit you for that one.

Dime: Nice. OK so Kyle, you’re like the tough guy. You’ve got the scratches, the black eye. I’m curious, who wins a UFC tournament between you three?
Singler: No question it’s DEFINITELY me. They should agree! If they know what’s good for them.

No disagreement.

(Editor’s note: Regarding the statement that Scheyer-Smith-Singler might be Duke’s best “Big Three” since the Laettner era, I completely blanked on the Williams-Boozer-Dunleavy-Battier squads when I edited this article. My bad, not Jason Jordan’s. My Duke haterism likely caused me to block those teams out of my memory. — Austin Burton)

More Duke basketball stories:
- We Reminisce: The Best of Duke vs. North Carolina
- Jon Scheyer vs. Greivis Vasquez: Pick the Better NBA Draft Prospect
- Grant Hill’s game day routine

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  • KWAME

    duke definitely has no swag…unless doofy looking is a swag

  • http://heckler@aol.com Heckler

    remove this article from the site today.
    we all HATE all things duke.
    f*ck them!!!!!!!!!

  • KWAME

    on another note…austin rivers keeps sayin “oh im solid in my commitment to Florida’…i dont believe his ass haha

  • life-p

    Duke hater are funny, yet sad..

    @Dime-Jason,

    …”arguably the storied program’s most talented and productive trio since Christian Laettner, Bobby Hurley and Grant Hill”

    Early 2000s
    1. Jay Williams
    2. Shane Battier
    2. Carlos Boozer or Mike Dunleavy

    C’mon son!

    Go Duke!

  • spswange

    one small word…..

    NEEEEEEEERDS!!!

  • life-p

    Boy, these Dime readers sure do know how to hate! People usually hate on what they can not attain. Let’s stop the hatecism fellas.

  • life-p

    @spswange

    That’s actually a long incorrect word.

  • life-p

    @spswange

    That’s actually a long incorrect word.

    @Heckler

    Please refrain from using the pronoun “we” as it is inclusive of “all of us”. “We” don’t hate Duke.

  • spswange

    @life-p

    NERD. Yes “we” all hate DUKE

  • sweetv0mit

    haters! lets go duke!

  • JAY

    Agree w/ life-p.
    1. Jay Williams
    2. Shane Battier
    3. Carlos Boozer or Mike Dunleavy

    Much better than this team.

    It’s really a shame what happened to Jay Williams. He was destined to have a nice, long, productive career in the NBA.

  • life-p

    @spswange

    Better. Still incorrect. Try again.

  • duke_blue

    yall some faggot ass haters postin comments on this blog…would yall rather for them to do a piece on carolina?

  • Bill

    Nothing to do with duke but turner just hit sick 37 footer for the win.

  • Sporty-j

    Mike needs to go to the NBA and coach with the big boys. Hes just to good for college and i think he will do alright in the pros but i guess hes scared to take that next step and doesnt want the drama…

  • KWAME

    i would much rather them do a piece on carolina…tar heels still have more nba prospects than duke…whether or not they have a bad season

  • patrick

    how about brand, will avery and trajan langdon. They would have killed these guys.

  • R

    KWAME I recognize that your point is pretty much irrelevant, but I think the following Duke men will receive attention from NBA scouts at some point and have a shot at a career there:

    Zoubek (believe it)
    Singler
    Smith
    Scheyer
    Plumlee
    Plumlee
    Dawkins
    (Curry)

    They’re not all ready and more than likely they won’t all make it. I think most of them will. Possibly even Kelly in time will be ready and Thomas is athletic and focused enough to make it happen. I’m going to go ahead and say if Lance wants to to play in the NBA, he will, even if he plays in Europe first. He has the heart of a champion, as does everyone else on our team.

    Who on your team is a man? Who’s going to the league?

  • James

    This was a good interview, but I respectfully disagree that the words “cool” and “swag” are terms that can and should be associated with Duke basketball. From what I have seen, Duke has consistently promoted the clean cut, goody-two shoes, ultra-conservative image. Were there exceptions to the rule? Yes, of course. Players like Corey Maggette, and Sean Dockery come to mind. Maggette dipped to the pros after a year and he didn’t even get much PT. He didn’t fit that system at all, and even though he would ball out when he got on the court, it was clear (to me) that his style of play made Coach K a little uncomfortable. Dockery was all but neutered in that system. Dock was a beast among beasts in Chicago, but couldn’t turn it on at Duke, and I attribute that limitation to coaching. However, those exceptions never truly upset the status quo at Duke.

    As far as the swag of the current “big three” unit is concerned, I just say “come on son.” Look at that picture of Kyle Singler. Seriously? You’ve seen the Scheyerface posters. He gets clowned, regularly. Smith doesn’t exactly drip with swag either. Are the talented ball players? Most definitely? Are kids trying to model their games and on-court personas after those players? No. Are you SURE that some ish is about to go down if one of them calls for an iso at the top at the key? No.

    I’m just saying, look carefully at the majority of Duke players. Watch the interviews, watch the on-court activity, watch the bench. Yes, they are intense. Yes, they play hard. Yes, they win. But no, they don’t have cool. It’s the fundamental difference between Duke and North Carolina. Jordan-Sheed-Vince-Stack vs, Laettner-Hill-Redick-Langdon.

  • dukefan16

    Kyle has a girlfriend? My life is over.

  • Kevin

    James, come on, you must have gotten your education at Carolina because you completely missed the tongue-in-cheek tone of the article.

    Clearly these guys don’t have the “Hood” swag that you’re referring to, which usually involves showing your drawers, skipping classes, having little to no mastery of the English language, and wearing your baseball cap askew. Gold teeth are an added touch but optional.

  • El Sid

    yeah, i’m not sure these guys are what i would consider cool. but i don’t want cool as much as i want WIN.
    however…watch out next year. kyrie irving is cool/dorky i don’t care, but he is amazing. thornton and hairston also athletic guys that don’t fit this stiff nerd label that everyone wants to stick on them. also watch out for carrick felix coming out of idaho. 6’6″ athletic winger, future nba’er. Duke is going to look a lot different next year. already a commitment for 2011 from gbnije, another strong athlete. yeah, since 2001-2004 duke’s had kind of a stodgy image. i think coaching in the nba might have helped coach k open up to a more run and gun style. he just hasn’t had the personnel.
    i’m a big duke fan but i don’t watch to find out what’s cool. remember most of your cool friends in high school? many ended up losers. like unc this year. they were too cool to care, too cool to try. yeah, there are some nba players on there and frankly it seems like they can’t wait to just get there already. they’re going to have to wait until after the lockout though and then they’re going to make less money and wish they had studied more because the league won’t be the same.

  • El Sid

    hastily submitted comment…
    i meant coaching nba players in the olympics.
    also felix isn’t a final commit yet but i think he will be.
    final point: these guys are natural dorks. yes. but, they are cool because they play at duke. regardless of their nba futures (which i think are bright per R’s post) they will have their choice of super hot ladies and make tons of money and do more exciting things than Kwame on this board, for example, can dream of. Unless off course it is kwame brown…in that case he has more issues to deal with. at least these duke kids play to their highest potential.

  • ann dumas

    I would have enjoyed reading the interview but that awful grey area made it impossible to read!

  • duke fan

    kyle has a girlfriend?! noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo

  • Go Vols

    James:

    Maggette didn’t get much PT? What sport do you watch? As a frosh, he was Duke’s best sixth man that year, and I think he even started a few games. Do you even remember who was on that team? Brand, Avery, Battier, Langdon, Carrawell, James, etc. – many say it was Duke’s most talented team in history. And the most important wings – Battier and Carrawell – were sophs and seniors respectively. Who are you going to start a frosh Maggette over? That’s why they invented the term, “6th man”. Hell buddy, on a team with that much talent, you’re lucky to play at all.

    And Dockery? Please tell me you’re joking. Dockery was a great defensive player, and he was given the ball most of his junior year and all of his senior year, and what did he do with it? Coach K holding him back, right? His was the ****ing starting guard all of Redick and Shelden’s senior season. No chances for assists or drives there, I know. OH! Wait! He tore it up in high school…where Kwame Brown tore it up? Here’s a token of wisdom – players might not perform the same level in high school as they do in college. That’s why your neighbor or cousin isn’t on a scholly to Kentucky right now.

    I hope you’re the expert on “cool” like you say, bc you don’t know sh!t about basketball “homey”.

  • James

    Kevin: If this article were meant as satire, I believe it failed. Jeremiah Rivers is the one who said swag; HE made the reference. The rest of your post was just… Frustrating… But I guess that was probably meant as tongue in cheek as well.

    Vols: I guess 17 minutes a game isn’t bad. I didn’t feel like he got enough PT over Carrawell, and I erroneously equated “not enough” with “not much.” Dockery was not playing in a system that took full advantage of his abilities. There isn’t much “drive and kick” in that offense as there might be in other systems that are built that way. So, yes, Dockery’s style of play on the offensive side of the ball didn’t match what Coach K typically required of his PG. I never said anything about his defense, but I do acknowledge that he was quite the defender while at Duke.

    So here’s my token to you, since that’s what we’re doing now… Players perform better when they’re comfortable, and comfort can be derived from a number of sources including the coach’s system.

    Dockery was a “cool” player, IMO, but none of the “cool” in his game was accentuated at Duke. I think it would have gone differently for him had he been groomed in a different system. Go Gators. (Yeah I know we lost lol)

  • Heavy D

    Cool is probably not the right word. Seems like you are trying to catch the same spirit as the Gregg Doyel column about how this Duke team isn’t as hate inspiring as other Duke teams.

    @15, Coach K needs to stay at Duke and set the all-time wins record.

    As a Duke fan, I would enjoy an article on North Carolina and Roy Williams meltdown this year. It would have a lot a drama in it.