Tuesday August 11th, 2009

The latest subject of our Hoops Q&A series is Duke guard Jon Scheyer, who averaged 14.9 points and 2.8 assists last season as a junior. The Northbrook, Ill., native -- and former Illinois Mr. Basketball -- helped lead the Blue Devils to an ACC tournament title and trip to the Sweet 16 in 2008-09. The following is an edited transcript of our discussion this week.

Luke Winn: We had our first meeting for SI's preview issue last week, and there was no real consensus on where to rank Duke. Give us some advice.

Jon Scheyer: Well, this is the most excited and confident I've felt coming into a season. I don't know where you guys will rank us, or where other people will rank us, but I have a great feeling that at the end of the year we'll be high up there. I think we're really going to have a great team -- the best team I've played on at Duke so far.

LW: So you expect top-10 by the end of the season?

JS: Oh, without a doubt. I think the reason people don't know where to rank us is, they know the people we lost, but if they could see our pickup games this summer, they'd have us as high up as anybody. A lot of guys have really developed -- Miles Plumlee, for one, has been a monster this summer. And we're probably going to be bigger than any team we'll play the whole year.

LW: Anyone else make an impression in those pickup games?

JS: Kyle [Singler] has been a great player for a few years, but him moving to the wing this year, I think, will make him a nominee for ACC Player of the Year. Playing on the wing will show how good he really is, because he and I will push each other to be better. Nolan [Smith] has also made a big jump; he had been held back by some injuries last season.

LW: You moved over to point guard [from shooting guard] in February, with some success. How are the point-guard duties going to be doled out between you and Nolan this season?

JS: I'll be at the point -- and Nolan will too, because both of us can handle it. If a team tries to pressure one of us hard, it's nice to have the flexibility where another guy can bring it up. And Nolan and I have talked about this already. It's something we're really excited about; it's not like one of us needs to have the title of point guard or not. Obviously, if I'm playing point guard I'm not going to be doing it for 40 minutes.

LW: There was a chance [after Elliot Williams' transfer to Memphis, and before the announcement that recruit Andre Dawkins was planning on skipping his senior year of high school to join the Blue Devils early] that you were going to have just two scholarship guards on your roster. Is there any way that could have worked?

JS: For me, this is my last year, and I'm going to do anything I can to win a national championship, and to win every game. Whether it would have been two guards or just one guard, I would have done anything to make it work. Regardless of the situation with Andre, I'm going to need to be really strong, and in shape to potentially play 40 minutes, because teams are going to think they can wear us down, maybe by picking us up full-court. But one thing about Duke is, we're always in the best condition.

LW: What's the latest with Andre [Dawkins]? I know his arrival isn't official yet, but what have you heard, and what's he capable of doing as a freshman?

JS: To be honest, I can't really say anything about Andre, because I don't know the details of situation. Obviously I hope he comes, but I don't know for sure if he is. I played with him one time, and he's a great player. If he comes he would help us tremendously, because he an shoot and he can finish. He's a really good athlete. And that's just from me seeing him one time. So I hope everything works out.

LW: Coach K re-upped his Olympic commitment this summer, and it seems like there's been some debate, locally, about the impact that his USA Basketball duties have had on the Duke program. As a player, what effect have you felt from him having that dual responsibility?

JS: I think it's had no negative impact at all. If anything, it's had a positive impact. The thing that people don't realize is, when he's had to travel for the Olympic team in the past two years, when he was in China, or Vegas this summer, he couldn't have had any contact with us anyway, whether it be coaching us or watching workouts. The other thing is, when he comes back from an Olympic camp, you always see that he's so excited for our season. It's had no impact at all, and he's been the Olympic coach since I've been at Duke, so I don't know if things have changed, necessarily, but for people to say that it's negative is ridiculous.

LW: One thing that I always see in various bios of you -- aside from the famous 21 points in 75 seconds feat from high school -- is that you were offered a scholarship from Marquette while you were still in the eighth grade. How did that go down?

JS: Basically, I went to Marquette on an unofficial visit, just for their kids' camp, and I was just finishing up my eighth-grade year. I got to do a little workout with Dwyane Wade and some other players, and after that Tom Crean just offered me a scholarship. That was the best feeling in the world, and I'll never forget it.

LW: What happened with Marquette after that?

JS: I was pretty fortunate in the recruiting process, in that schools started recruiting me pretty early, even before I started high school.

One of things I loved about Marquette was their assistant coach at the time, Darrin Horn, who now coaches at South Carolina. He ended up leaving a year after that offer was made. That was sad for me. I loved Marquette and Tom Crean, but there were so many schools coming in after that.

LW: Last November, you were often playing in the same backcourt with Greg Paulus. If he had said to you, "At this time next year, I'm going to be a quarterback at Syracuse," how would you have reacted?

JS: I would have laughed, not because he couldn't do it, but just because ... I didn't know that was possible. But once I heard about it this spring, I thought, what a cool thing to do. So I wish him the best of luck. It's such a unique situation. I don't know how many people could do what he's doing.

LW: But your initial reaction to hearing the Paulus football news was what?

JS: It definitely came as a shock. The first thing I heard was the Packers rumor, and then one of my best friends goes to Michigan, so people there were asking me about what was going on about the Michigan rumors. Then the whole Syracuse thing happened, and it seems like a great fit for him.

LW: Now that Paulus is gone, who takes over the title of most hated Dukie?

JS: I would hope myself. I think I'm pretty hated. I'm sure Kyle [Singler] is probably right up there, though. I'm the most hated at Maryland, without a doubt, so that's a pretty big honor.

LW: It's not like an official designation within the team yet, though, right?

JS: No, but that would be a good category. Because, I would have to say, we have a lot of fans, but we're also a pretty hated team. To be the most hated player on a pretty hated team ... that's an honor.

LW: After what Maryland's students did last season, focusing their energy on you [with Operation Scheyerface], you and your teammates took the high road afterwards. But what was your honest reaction to it?

JS: I'm thinking, Gerald [Henderson] is going to score 25 points on you again -- you might want to try to get on him. But the whole thing is fine with me. I knew they were the same with J.J. [Redick], and even my freshman year, when I was averaging 12 points -- it wasn't like I was putting up huge numbers -- they were all over me. It always makes winning there really fun.

LW: I read a story about you from high school in which you admitted to being "really, really superstitious," and you said you borrowed the same teammate's iPod before every game and listened to the same Bryan McKnight song. What were your superstitions last season?

JS: Last season was interesting because I'm very quick to ... if I do something before a game, even down to getting my ankles taped a certain way, and it works well, I'll stick with it and ride it out.

And if I do something unusual before a game and we lose, I'm going to switch it up. Last year I went through three different stages. So I hope this year I'm consistent through the whole year.

LW: So what, specifically, were you listening to for the longest stage?

JS: A lot of people just listen to rap or whatever before a game. I decided to really listen to things that are motivational, that have lyrics that are meaningful. So sometimes I'll even listen to slower things. Because a lot of times I'm excited or antsy. Slower music can calm you down. So Luther Vandross is the guy I'd listen to a lot before games, believe it or not.

LW: Were you listening to One Shining Moment?

JS: He does that song, I know, but I don't go there a whole lot. I like that version of [One Shining Moment], but I usually just hit shuffle and play through other songs of his. But -- if we play in the national title game this year, I'd play it before that game.

LW: I also read that you liked to sing a lot in high school, but sang pretty poorly.

JS: I'm still singing poorly. My teammates would attest to that. You know, if I could do one thing it would be to be a good singer, to have a good singing voice. But in truth, what I have is far from it. I love music, so I know a lot of songs and like to sing to them. And people hate to listen to me sing.

LW: What are you singing lately?

JS: It could be anything. I'll play Rock Band with friends, and get on the mic ... and I get booed before the song. I'll do Wonderwall, by Oasis. I try to sing, and I get through it most of the time, but sometimes get booed off. Friends will give me crap, even before I'm about to sing, and it's very unfair to me. I don't know why they think that every time I get on the mic, I'm not going to sing well.

LW: You talked about getting booed. Has Duke hatred manifested itself in any weird ways for you, getting booed away from the court, or harassed in everyday life?

JS: Well, Chapel Hill is so close that, if we're going to get food, and a Carolina fan is working at a restaurant, they might say, jokingly, 'Hey, I'm going to mess with your sandwich.' And they are joking, I think. But honestly, it makes me want to watch my food being made, just to make sure.

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