With just over 12 minutes remaining in Duke’s exhibition game against Fort Valley State, and Duke leading by 53, Alex O’Connell jumped out of bounds near midcourt to save a loose ball.
He batted it back to Tre Jones, then bent over at the waist, holding his hands over his face.
O’Connell had gotten poked in the right eye by a Fort Valley State player who was also fighting for the ball, and he couldn’t keep it open.
“For a second (it wouldn’t open),” O’Connell said, then corrected himself. “For a few minutes.”
Two Blue Devils were waiting at the scorer’s table to sub in. But O’Connell wasn’t one of the players that left the floor. He waved off any suggestions that he leave the game, leaving the referee closest to the Duke bench looking over at the coaches with surprise.
But O’Connell remained on the floor.
“I didn’t feel like I did a good job in the first half,” O’Connell said. “I didn’t want to come out. I wanted to push through it.”
Despite the fact that it was an exhibition game, and Duke led 91-38, O’Connell had something to prove.
“It wasn’t that bad,” he said. “Push through it. It might happen in the future. Things will happen. You’ve just got to push through it.”
A few seconds after play resumed, Javin DeLaurier got a loose ball and pitched it ahead to O’Connell, who threw down a one-handed dunk over a FVSU defender.
“I was trying to pick it up there, because I wasn’t doing well,” he said.
It was a message delivered to his teammates and coaches—a little thing like an eye that won’t stay open isn’t going to slow him down.
“It’s open now,” he added after the game.