Interview by Josh Staph
Jonathan Clay Redick honed his fierce skills and textbook shot on a mixture of gravel and dirt in his backyard in Roanoke, Va. For hours, he would play in solitude, staging imaginary games and pressure-cooked situationsworking on his dream. Since the age of seven, J.J. has wanted to play for Coach K at Duke; and shortly thereafter, he knew he wanted to play in the NBA. But what separated J.J. from other childhood dreamers was that he knew the huge sacrifices he would have to make to turn his dream into reality.
Before his junior year in high school and after leading his teammates to two AAU National Championships, the young hoops prodigy was offered a full ride to the school he dreamed about. What ensued was nothing short of legendary.
J.J. wasted little time making his presence felt, averaging 15 ppg his freshman season. By the time he wrapped up his final season as a Blue Devil, he was averaging 26.8 ppg and owned the Duke and ACC career scoring records with 2,769 points. The All-American ended up with a career free throw percentage over 91 percent and took home the Adolph F. Rupp and John Wooden trophies as the nation's best player. He was also tabbed the Associated Press and Naismith Player of the Year. His senior season left little doubt that he was the best shooter in the country maybe the best of all time.
The 6'4" guard was selected by the Orlando Magic with the 11th overall pick in the 2006 NBA Draft. As the owner of the nation's nastiest shot arrives in Orlando to start his rookie season, he plans on putting the final touches on his childhood dream. What lies ahead for the young star with a penchant for poetry is still unknown, but don't be surprised if, when he's not putting pen to paper, he's rewriting the record books.
When you were growing up in roanoke, Who were your biggest influences?
J.J.: My biggest influence overall was my dad. He is the hardest working man I have ever met, and he was such a calming influence on our entire family. Sports-wise, though, my biggest influences were Michael Jordan and Brett Favre. I was in love with basketball, and I think everyone in my generation fell in love with Jordan. I admire his will to win. No matter what happenedif he was sick or had an 11-for-40 shooting nightJordan always found a way to get his team to win. What I like about Favre is his competitiveness. He gets knocked down constantly, then gets back up and will talk trash to anyone. He has the imagination to come up with these plays no one else would try, because he has an inner confidence.
Did your admiration of Favre have anything to do with your wearing number 4 at Duke?
J.J.: Actually, it doesn't. When I was a high school freshman, I wanted to pick number 25, because I had worn it my whole lifethrough AAU and everything. I knew I wanted to go to Duke, even though they weren't recruiting me yet, and that number 25 was retired there. Since I wanted to wear the same number in high school and college, I decided to pick another number. I thought about wearing 5, but my high school team didn't have it. I ended up with 4, because it was the closest.
How did coming from a family of athletes affect your development?
J.J.: There is no question that it helped me out; coming from a big family with a lot of kids is a huge benefit. I was really competitive with all of my siblings, and we pushed each other pretty hard. When my older sisters started playing basketballthey were 13that's when I started playing. After playing for only four years, they both got Division I scholarships. I was maybe 11 or 12 at the time they were offered, which made me want to get a D-I scholarship, too. That's also when I started thinking about playing in the NBA.
So the NBA dream started then?
J.J.: That's when the NBA dream began, but I knew I wanted to play at Duke since I was seven. When I saw [Christian] Laettner hit the shot to beat Kentucky, I went to my parents after the game and told them I was going to play basketball at Duke. They were like, "OK, whatever you say."
Once you set your sights on Duke, how did you develop your game and lethal shot to get there?
J.J.: I always dreamed about and imagined making it to and playing at that level. I was home-schooled until fifth grade, so until I was about 11, I had only about an hour of work a day. When I was supposed to be doing chores or when my mom was distracted, I would sneak outside and shoot the ball for hours. I literally mean hours. When we had snow days in elementary school and junior high, I would go out in the snow and shoot with gloves on. I always figured out a way to get out in the backyardand that's when I started imagining things. I have a good friend, one of my coaches from Duke, who always talks about imagination, and that's one of the things I always had. I could imagine myself in a game. Back then [in junior high], I would play the whole ACC tournament in my backyard. I was always Duke, and we always won.
Why do you think some people hate seeing Duke succeed?
J.J.: I think you just said it. Our success is the biggest reason people have that hatred. People can say, "Hey, you guys haven't won a National Championship since 2001," but we're still the winningest team since then. We win our league just about every year; we are in the top 10 every year; and we get a lot of media attention. It's the same situation the Yankees are in. They have their own network, the highest payroll and they are talked about a lot on SportsCenter. That's the nature of sports; when a team, organization or university is successful, people will always have animosity towards them.
Did you ever find motivation in that animosity?
JJ: It was definitely motivational for me. I have a fire inside of me as it is, and I can use just about anything to fuel that fire. Any time we went to an opposing arena, I was like a kid in a candy shop. It was my favorite time of the week. I liked playing road games better than playing at Cameron [Indoor Stadium].
Why did you forego the draft to stay at Duke for your senior year?
J.J.: From what I gathered about the NBA Draft, I saw myself as a mid- to late-first-round pick. I just found out this summer that there was a team between 16 and 20 that wanted to take me. Had I known that then, I might have made a different decision. But the biggest reason to stay was because I wanted to leave a legacy at Duke. I had been through a lot there, and they had always been good to me. I wanted to return that favor and give as much back as I could.
What's your biggest inspiration or motivation these days?
J.J.: My biggest source of motivation right now is all the naysayers who think I won't be successful in the NBAI love to prove people wrong. But God is always my inspiration. My goal in life is to be worthy of being called one of His children. I live my life accordingly.
What are your goals for your first year in the league and down the road?
JJ: Most people say I should set the goal of being Rookie of the Year, but that's not how I set goals. My goal this year is to earn a spot in the regular rotation and contribute. That is all I can ask for as a rookie. Then, depending on how my rookie year goes, I will set a new goal for next year. That's how I was in high school and college. I set goals I think are attainable, then I hold myself accountable for reaching them.
How have you adjusted to the NBA game so far?
J.J.: I am still adjusting, and I will be until the end of the regular season. It's been frustrating because I have been injured about 90 percent of my time here. I haven't been able to practice all that much. As I get more and more comfortable, I'm sure I will make the adjustments a little better.
What is the biggest difference so far between NBA and college basketball?
J.J.: The strength and overall athleticism of NBA players are amazing. In college, you sometimes see a 6'5" guy playing the four-spot if a team is a little undersized. We did that my freshman year at Duke. [6'5"] Dahntay Jones played the four; in the NBA, he's a two. There are 6'5" point guards. Everybody's bigger, everybody's stronger, and everybody's more athletic. I faced great athletes every night in college, but it was usually just one or two guys. Here, it's everybody on the court.
When did you start writing poetry?
J.J.: I started writing poetry in eighth grade after my grandfather died. I was really close to my mother, and it was the hardest thing that she ever went through. I didn't know how to deal with seeing her so distraught, so I started writing poetry about that situation, then it became something I did on a regular basis. At one point in college, I wrote two to three times a day. I still write today, but as I've been trying to get settled in Orlando over the past few months, I haven't been able to do it much. As I get more comfortable here and learn the ins and outs of my daily schedule, I'll start writing more often again.
Do you have any advice for a young athlete based on your experiences so far?
J.J.: First, set a goal. Second, work to make that goal a reality. Third, always stay humble. Any athleteor person for that matterwho is overconfident or cocky will always have a moment of humility. You have to be prepared for that.
It's mind over matter,
the power of my brain
He thinks I'll give in if my
muscles start to strain
He believes I'll submit to
the evil of society's frame
And benefit from
He says I don't have to
properly train and
that he'll give me all the
fame and everyone will know
But I think he's insane
'Cause I know the truth
to gain is to give
To have pain is to live
Excerpt from J.J. Redick's poetry
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