Double trouble

This is a story of triumph and tears, heroism and villany, and a season for the ages

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I had water bottles thrown at me at San Diego. Pennies at LMU. I had people approach me on the bus, screaming at me, trying to jump on the bus. But that’s when it was just bananas. It was a traveling circus in a sense. I don’t know how else to describe it. Everywhere we went was sold out. People were hanging out in the rafters. — Adam Morrison

College basketball this season has been dubbed The Year of the Senior, which simultaneously has been fantastic for the hoops junkies who thrive on seeing the entire arc of a player’s career and a direct byproduct of the lack of elite freshmen across the country.

Ben Simmons got all the hype early in the year, but as his team sputtered and the likes of Denzel Valentine, Buddy Hield and Malcolm Brogdon put together All-American-caliber campaigns, it’s been the veterans who have made the headlines. It’s been a decade since we’ve seen a season that was this senior-laden. That was back in 2006, when four seniors were named Preseason All-Americans and college basketball was still a year away from hosting the nation’s best prospects for their one-and-done season.

Duke’s J.J. Redick was one of the four seniors on that Preseason All-America team.

The fifth guy on that team?

A floppy-haired, mustachioed junior from Gonzaga named Adam Morrison.

That duo did not exactly enter the season without expectation. They were Preseason All-Americans on top-10 teams at two of the most visible programs in the country. But no one could have predicted the phenomenon that they became, their battle for the nation’s scoring title and the race for Player of the Year becoming one of the biggest stories in sports.

This is the story of that season. Each of the participants in the oral history is listed by the title they had during the 2005-06 season. Redick refused numerous requests to be interviewed for this story. His quotes are attributed to the source they came from.

* * *

“He was just unbelievable. He hit shots from everywhere, every play. … It was one of the all-time great games.” – Tom Izzo (Michigan State Head Coach)

Redick was a superstar for Duke entering the 2005-06 season. He had played in the Final Four as a sophomore, and he was a first-team All-American as a junior, when he averaged 21.8 points per game. He already was one of the most hated players in college basketball history. Morrison entered the season as another guy in a long line of Gonzaga stars that those outside of the West Coast Conference couldn’t really distinguish, but all it took was three games for him to make the transition into a national sensation.

That was when Morrison put on a show in the Maui Invitational, leading the Zags to the title game in a tournament that included four teams ranked in the top 12 and five in the top 25. The game everyone remembers was against Michigan State, a nationally televised, triple-overtime thriller played in primetime on a weeknight, when Morrison finished with 43 points.

JOHN BLANCHETTE (Columnist, Spokane Spokesman Review): “Really, the whole deal it started with the tournament in Maui that Gonzaga played in, with Morrison playing sensational basketball.”

MORRISON: “That was the breakout for myself and that particular Gonzaga team. It was obviously nationally televised and that’s always a fun tournament to watch. Then Michigan State speaks for themselves as far of their talent and track record. Then also, it’s just a three-overtime game that was really fun to watch.”

IZZO: “Maurice Ager and Adam Morrison had a shootout that Morrison won. He was just unbelievable. He hit shots from everywhere, every play. It was a helluva game. I thought [Gonzaga] played really well and we played pretty well, but [Morrison] definitely was the difference in the clutch. He kept answering the bell, making shot after shot. It was one of the all-time-great games.”

BLANCHETTE: “It was literally a March game in November. I can’t remember any Gonzaga tournament games that had as much fire and as much passion as that one did. Maybe because of the setting a little bit, it’s that tiny little gym in Lahaina. There was just an atmosphere to it that was otherworldly.”

MARK FEW (Gonzaga Head Coach): “There’s no fluff, no nothing. There’s two little tiny locker rooms and you share it with the team that just got over and you’re out of there because the next team comes in.”

LEON RICE (Gonzaga Assistant Coach): “It’s pure. You go and you play in these big NBA arenas in front of 20,000, but there’s nothing like these pure gyms, where you’re warming up and stretching and the other team is on the other side of a curtain.”

BLANCHETTE: “That tournament really set the tone for the season. For people locally, it kind of said that this team had a chance to do something great. Nationally, people said, ‘Look at all this drama, look what these guys can do, look at this guy who is going off for 43 points.’”

RICE: “Coach Few, he always had concerns, he was like, ‘I don’t know, guys. We’ve lost our ability to score. Adam has lost his ability to score. He doesn’t score like he used to.’ I’d been with Mark for a long time and we had been best friends for a long time so I didn’t bother arguing with him.”

“That game in Maui, Adam gets 43. That game was one of the most remarkable individual performances I‘ve ever seen. Looks like Adam hadn’t lost his ability to score.”

FEW: “Leon was right.”

IZZO: “Whatever we did [against Morrison], it failed. Like a good head coach, I blame my assistants for that.”

DEREK RAIVIO (Gonzaga Point Guard): “That’s kind of when he started getting into a big rhythm.”

MORRISON: “That put it at a whole different level from there on out.”

* * *

“He’s like a mountain stream of running water. It goes up against one rock and turns another way. It never stops flowing.” – Rick Barnes

Morrison’s season was rolling along for the first month. He had 25 points against Maryland, 25 against Washington State, 34 against Portland State, another 43-point outburst at Washington. Redick, on the other hand, was just kind of floating along, doing what had become customary for him at Duke. He failed to break the 20-point plateau in four of his first eight games. He struggled against Memphis. He struggled against Virginia Tech. Duke was 8-0, but it wasn’t playing the way that you would expect an 8-0 team ranked No. 1 in the country to be playing. 

Then, December 10 happened. Duke was playing No. 2 Texas in the Meadowlands, and Gonzaga was taking on Oklahoma State in Key Arena in Seattle in the back-to-back games of a doubleheader on CBS.

DAN WIEDERER (Columnist, Fayetteville Observer): “There’s a unique intensity that comes with playing at Duke. On one side, there’s this perception that (Mike Krzyzewski) teams are always overpraised and overhyped. That, in turn, leads to this exaggerated wave of criticisms. So what I remember most about the leadup to that Texas game is that Duke had really been feeling mentally strained. The previous weekend they had dodged an upset at Cameron (Indoor Stadium) against Virginia Tech when Sean Dockery hit a half-court shot at the buzzer. A few days later, they’re sloppy and out of rhythm in an underwhelming win against Penn. There was this stress that came with that. It didn’t matter that you were 8-0 at Duke. If you were ranked No. 1, people wanted you to prove it.”

GARY PARRISH (Writer, Memphis Commercial-Appeal): “Clearly because of the way the schedule played out, the J.J. Redick thing wasn’t a thing yet. I remember this: Even though J.J. had scored 22 points per game the season before, I don’t remember Memphis playing against J.J. Redick being a big deal. It was Memphis against Duke.”

WIEDERER: “As early December college basketball games go, it had all that buzz. OK, this is important. No. 1 vs. No. 2. Verne Lundquist and Billy Packer on the call. One of the first games on CBS early in the season. Vince Young was in New York for the Heisman trophy ceremony and he comes to the game. There’s this buzz for the whole thing.”

CHRIS COLLINS (Duke Assistant Coach): “They had LaMarcus Aldridge, Daniel Gibson, P.J. Tucker. They were loaded. And J.J. just went off. Nine threes, 41 points. They were incredible threes, off-the-dribble fadeaways, guys all over him.”

MIKE KRZYZEWSKI (Duke Head Coach): “As good as they come. For me, it’s up there with any [performance] that any kid has had for me.”*

GREG PAULUS (Duke Point Guard): “It was a special performance. It was just one of those days where, as a point guard, you see him getting it going early and you try to find him whenever you can. He was just making shots.”

LEE MELCHIONNI (Duke Shooting Guard): “J.J. had a lot of open looks, and his ability to come off screens and get open, just burying almost every shot he took. Typical J.J. He just came out gangbusters and set the tone from early on in the game.”

RICK BARNES (Texas Head Coach): “He’s like a mountain stream of running water. It goes up against one rock and turns another way. It never stops flowing.”*

WIEDERER: “He put on a damn show. Nine 3s, not just that he scored 41, Duke wins that game by 31 points.”

COLLINS: “Right after our game, it was a national doubleheader, and I think right after our game [Gonzaga] played.”

FEW: “We were not playing good. Oklahoma State did a good job taking us out of things.”

RICE: “Oklahoma State did everything but win that game. They put themselves in a great position and they did all the right things. They were right there.”

Oklahoma State led by a point with less than 10 seconds left after they missed a free throw.

J.P. BATISTA (Gonzaga Center): “I remember grabbing the rebound and he was the first guy in front of me, so I passed to him and ran to set a screen on him.”

RICE: “We got the ball to Adam on that wing.”

FEW: “We were mulling through some stuff, and then Adam hits a banked three at the buzzer to win.”

BATISTA: “In the locker room he came in yelling, ‘I CALLED BANK! I CALLED BANK!’”

RICE: “To this day, he claims he called bank. That’s one of those legendary Adam things. Knowing Adam, he might have. He banked that thing in from the side for the game-winner. That was pretty remarkable, but that was Adam. We speak about the things that we see in practice, we would practice situations like that all the time and Adam would always make them. We would try to stack the situations even harder. Length of the court, one second left. ‘There’s no way Adam’s going to make this one.’ Then they’d throw it to him at half court and he’d make it. Gosh. That’s when we knew we were seeing things that were not normal. Once in a lifetime. That’s what we would see in practice all the time. When he made it against Oklahoma State, we were like, ‘Yeah, that’s Adam.’”

FEW: “He’s been saying [he called bank], but I doubt it. No one calls bank.”

DAVID PENDERGRAFT (Gonzaga Forward): “I know what he says. I was going to rebound the miss. I was focused and didn’t hear it. Let’s go with that.”

DEREK RAIVIO (Gonzaga Point Guard): “It didn’t surprise me he made it. He was always throwing shots like that up in practice. Messing around, it was kind of fitting. It was just like, ‘Oh, man, that’s Adam right there.’ He said he called it, but I guess we’ll never know.”

MORRISON: “No, I didn’t call bank. What am I supposed to say? It was one of those things where I’ve made a banked 3 before so it wasn’t like an out-of-this-world thing, but I wasn’t trying to bank it in on a fadeaway. It just so happened to go in. So I went with it. It’s like when you make a really long putt. You say you meant to do it. I was going to take the final shot regardless. I certainly wasn’t going to pass it. So I’m just glad it went in, to be honest.”

COLLINS: “That was the day that the J.J. vs. Adam stuff took over the country, and the college basketball season became their year.”

JAY BILAS (ESPN and CBS color commentator): “It was a two-man race really from December on. I don’t remember anyone else really entering the conversation.”

*(Quotes from postgame press conferences.)

* * *

“Before we were just two buddies playing Halo together, and now we’re like, ‘Do you think our calls are being monitored?'” – J.J. Redick

Part of what made the race for the Player of the Year such a media spectacle was that both Morrison and Redick were living, breathing caricatures of the people we wanted them to be. Redick was the archetypal ‘Duke Villain’, a cold-blooded superstar who looked like an Abercrombie & Fitch model. Morrison was a prototypical counterculture college kid, reading Karl Marx and listening to Rage Against the Machine while growing out his hair and showering around twice a week.

That they were both white, confident and brash enough to come for your throat on the court and then tell you, all of your teammates and everyone in the arena within earshot about it only made the subject all the more irresistible.

And then the media found out they were besties who played video games online.

MORRISON: “We were kind of two of the better players to watch at that time. And to be honest, we were both white guys, so that played into it. You’d be an idiot not to think that was a part of it.”

REDICK: “We’re both competitors and we’re both really, really white.”**

MORRISON: “We met at the 2004 Jordan Camp. All the college guys make their rounds at Adidas, Nike and then the Jordan camp. We met there and had similar interests and kept in touch.”

REDICK: “We played Halo 2 together. He [was] on there all the time.”**

RAIVIO: “I remember with video games, he would get really into it. I’d be coming back from practice and he would be hooting and hollering down the hall. ‘Oh, that’s Mo right there. Getting into it with somebody.’ He loved the college experience and the college lifestyle. He was close to all the guys in the dorms. He was always down to play video games. He just thrived in that atmosphere.”

MORRISON: “[J.J. and I] really didn’t play together much. That was an angle the media took. It was a three-hour time difference and obviously being busy with school and our respective roles on the team, video games were kind of on the back burner. It wasn’t as big as everybody made it out to be.”

WIEDERER: The angle was overblown. It was this sort of new-age, 2006 relationship of guys on opposite sides of the country who could talk on a cell phone, text, get on X-Box headsets and play Halo. They could share this common ground, great shooters that could share the spotlight of being a college superstar. Both really into video games. Their communication kind of took off, but those guys, until the postseason when they were collecting awards, they had only met in person one time, 2 1/2 years earlier.”

MORRISON: “It was right at the time when Facebook and all that stuff started to become normalized. Text messaging was no longer thought of as a T9, weird thing to do. It was definitely on the national scale not comparable to now. Everybody’s in touch with each other in some way or fashion.

REDICK: “We’ve talked about how this whole thing between us has been created. I’ll be watching Adam’s game, and Dick Vitale is calling me out and the fans are chanting, ‘J.J. who?’ Before we were just two buddies playing Halo together, and now we’re like, ‘Do you think our calls are being monitored?'”*

*(Via Sports Illustrated.)
**(Via CSTV)

* * *

“It was too easy for him sometimes.” – Derek Raivio

LEON RICE (Gonzaga Assistant Coach): “Adam was a stir-the-pot guy sometimes. He liked to be controversial. He was kind of a James Dean character. It was fun. As a coach, I loved it. I loved showing up to see what was going to happen with Adam that day and see how that was going to go. There’s never a dull moment when Adam’s around. The thing about him, his dad was a coach. He always had respect for us and he would always listen to us. But it was always on the edge.”

MARK FEW (Gonzaga Head Coach): “He’s really, really, highly competitive. We figured out early that if we were going to have good practices, I literally had to make every drill competitive. If I didn’t put a number on it, then he wasn’t interested in giving it his all. 1-on-1 drill, 3-on-3 drill, 5-on-5 drill, then look out. Then it was going to be all the way, right to the level of fisticuffs. Because of that we had remarkable practices. He was so crazy competitive. I would never temper that fire, although at times it was frustrating.”

MORRISON: “My dad probably doesn’t want to hear this, but I wasn’t the greatest practice player at that time. I also was playing 38 minutes a night so I wasn’t exactly into doing the full court 1-on-1 Z until I dropped. I gotta play in a day here.”

RAIVIO: “I still say it to this day. I’ve been in Europe playing nine years professionally, NBA summer leagues and stuff, and of all the guys I’ve seen, he’s got the best ability to put the ball in the hole. Sometimes he would come down and not touch a ball for a month, and he would play pickup and it would be like he was playing ball everyday. It was crazy. Even if you don’t work out for a week, guys are rusty. They’re off. For him, it was just natural. It was too easy for him sometimes.”

DAVID PENDERGRAFT (Gonzaga Forward): “Even when he was done in the NBA, he would come in and play pickup with the guys or we’d play old vs. current guys, and he was amazing. There’s not too many people that can score like that. Three weeks off? He goes in and he just busts guys. It’s unbelievable.”

MORRISON: “I was never injured, so I never took a week or two off. It’s funny, my teammates misremember a lot of things. It’s fine. They set a lot of screens for me so I’ll deal with it.”

PENDERGRAFT: “He did not like to lose. He was intense. He’s not a bully, but he would try to manhandle situations. It’s what made him great.”

J.P. BATISTA (Gonzaga Center): “He was competitive on the floor. He was competitive in a discussion in the locker room. He wanted to be the guy that had the upper hand. He definitely had that competitiveness inside of him. There’s no doubt. We play a game, he wanted to win. We play video game, he wanted to win. He was that guy.”

Proof of that competitive fire could be seen after Gonzaga’s loss to UCLA later that season in the NCAA Tournament. But did you know that Morrison’s most recognizable trait was a direct result of his inability to accept losing?

MORRISON: “One of my teammates dared me to play with a mustache all year when we were joking back and forth, and it kind of grew an identity of its own.”

PENDERGRAFT: “We were goofing off and in the summer, as college kids, you don’t really groom yourself very well. It was one of those things where everyone saw the mustache and in the beginning it just looked ridiculous. And his hair … It was total joke dare and it became a reality. That’s how the conversation went down. Sitting on couches in the summer. But he did it.”

MORRISON: “I think every American boy has a time when bad facial hair was a part of their persona.”

* * *

“It was kind of like, ‘Man, what are you doing? We’ve got a game tomorrow.'” – Lee Melchionni

Talk to anyone around the Duke program at that time, and they’ll tell you that there was a change in Redick between his sophomore and junior seasons. He fully embraced what it meant to be in college, both as a star athlete and a kid that enjoyed the party scene. But entering his junior year, Redick became a different — and unstoppable — force because he was a different person off the court.

REDICK: “I think a lot of college students, when they go through those first two years, they’re trying to figure out who they are and who they’re going to be. And I struggled with that for a while.”

“Maybe if you’ve never partied before and you go to a party on Saturday night and have fun — in your eyes — well there’s another party on Sunday night. Should I go to that, too? You just kind of get caught up in what everybody else is doing.”*

LEE MELCHIONNI (Duke Shooting Guard): “It was kind of like, ‘Man, what are you doing? We’ve got a game tomorrow.’ It’s sort of hard being in that place, but you needed to say that for the good of our team.”*

DAN WIEDERER (Columnist, Fayetteville Observer): “Early on in his career, he partied a little bit more than he should have. He made 3 a.m. visits to the Cosmic Cantina for burritos. He’d be a little heavy.”

MELCHIONNI: “He was enjoying being a college student sophomore year. Not that he wasn’t working hard, but the level his conditioning and preparedness went to his junior and senior year are evident in the statistics that he put up.”

WIEDERER: “There was a point somewhere along the line where both Coach K and Johnny Dawkins pulled him aside and said, ‘You can be an all-ACC player and have a solid career here and do everything the same as you do now, or you can be a jersey-in-the-rafters kind of special if you dedicate yourself.'”

JOHNNY DAWKINS (Duke Assistant Coach): “We asked him, ‘What do you want to accomplish while you’re here?’ The only way you’ll be able to do that is to get yourself into great, great shape. He really bought into that, he really focused, and that became his mission.”

REDICK: “At some point, you wake up one day and think, ‘I’m not really headed down the road I want to head down.’ And I had that day.”*

COLLINS: “That started after his sophomore year. We had a really hard-fought loss to UConn in the 2004 Final Four and he had a late turnover in that game in the lane where he got stripped and we were down by one. He took that loss really hard, and that summer, he made a commitment to his body and his game that he was going to put everything into being as good as he could become. Those last two years, what he was able to do with his shape, I think that’s what set him apart.”

GARRETT TEMPLE (LSU’s Defensive Stopper): “I had to get my track shoes ready to run around with him. A couple of practices before, we had one of our redshirt guys just run around screens the whole practice, some times not even passing him the ball, him just running.”

COLLINS: “We watched a lot of film of Ray Allen, Richard Hamilton, Reggie Miller. Those were the three guys I tried to get a lot of film of for him. At that time, the three best guys in the world in terms of movement, running off screens, being in great shape, non-stop motion, wearing the defense down. Our goal was always to get to those last eight minutes, and instead of JJ being the one that was worn out and tired, the guy that was guarding him, a lot of times, was the guy that ended up being exhausted because they couldn’t keep up.”

*(Via The Sporting News)

* * *

“He had always been targeted because he’s the scorer, a little bit flamboyant. The role was not a new one, it’s just now you’re on Broadway with it and bigger audiences.” — Coach K

“Fans don’t boo nobodies.” – Reggie Jackson

As the season progressed, the amount of attention that Redick and Morrison garnered became, at times, overwhelming. For Duke, it was more or less business as usual. Redick’s star power, and the requests for his time by fans and media, was not all that different from any other Duke star of year’s past. But for Gonzaga, which had already jettisoned its way into conversation as a top 10-15 program nationally, this was an entirely different level of attention.

As their bicoastal, one-on-one battle became the focal point for SportsCenter every morning and reached the cover of seemingly every magazine in the country, the hate that they would receive from opposing student sections reached insane levels. And, perhaps more than anything else, the one trait that defined both Redick and Morrison was that they reveled in that role. It wasn’t that they loved being the villain as much as it was that the trash talk and vile comments got their juices flowing. And when they got pissed off, they were out for blood.

MARK FEW (Gonzaga Head Coach): “That year when we went to Memphis with [John Calipari], it was enormous. They did something in the papers, like 43 reasons why this is the biggest game for Memphis, because Adam had 43 twice.”

GARY PARRISH (Writer, Memphis Commercial-Appeal): “This came at a time where Memphis was in Conference USA, the s**** version. They didn’t have high-profile games too often. Beyond that, Morrison had just had that Maui Invitational and he was becoming this iconic thing. Long hair, mustache, white dude, scoring all the time. It was an expensive ticket. To get in the upper level it cost real money. It was as hyped a game as I can remember at Memphis. It wasn’t Gonzaga was coming to town, it was ‘Adam Morrison is in town.’ It was like ‘LeBron James is in town’ or ‘Kevin Durant is in town’. It was a big deal.”

FEW: “When you got into Memphis, and places like that that are basketball-centric towns, those are basketball fans. They get it. That kind of ignited it and that probably ignited the national scene.”

MORRISON: “It was bananas. That’s when we knew that we were in the slot of being a team that a lot of people like and some will dislike because we were getting so much media attention.”

FEW: “[Adam] was better in that environment. If ever there was an apathetic arena, which there wasn’t that year, he wouldn’t be that good.”

RICE: “When we played Memphis and Calipari knew that. He’s a smart coach, and he had put his guys on warning.”

PARRISH: “In practice that week, I was in the practices, that’s one of the things Cal was stressing. Because these Memphis kids f’ing talk, man. Chris Douglas-Roberts — he wasn’t a Memphis kid but he might as well have been — Shawne Williams, Andre Allen. They’re constantly talking. Cal was like, ‘Listen, cut that s*** out with this dude. Because he’s crazy. You start talking to this kid and he’ll go off. Just don’t say a word to him.’”

“And there it is, first half, Morrison isn’t really going yet, and he and Shawne Williams end up nose-to-nose. And then Morrison took off.”

FEW: “Cal just went nuts and started lighting up Shawne Williams.”

RICE: “Coach Cal went absolutely ballistic on him. Meanwhile, ‘I’m like, this is great, this is going to get Adam going.’”

MORRISON: “We got into some scuffle, I can’t remember what happened. I think he said something or nudged me and I just, I think Cal was right. I think all greats — and I don’t want to call myself great — good scorers or what have you feed off of that stuff.”

FEW: “Adam literally scored the next 20 points. And that’s just kind of how he was. Adam was also the kind of guy that he’d hit a couple shots, the crowd would start booing and he’d raise both hands, like, ‘Bring it on’. He just thrived under that kind of environment or attention.”

CHRIS COLLINS (Duke Assistant Coach): “Inherently, [J.J.] wasn’t that kind of player. He wasn’t like that when he was in high school. He was a great player, but he kind of just played and didn’t allow the outside environment or anything to get him going in either direction. I think initially in his career it was something he struggled with because he was really good when he was early, and I think he couldn’t understand why there was so much venom towards him. He’s a guy who’s really strong with his faith, he’s a good kid, and all of a sudden, he’s like, ‘Why is there so much hate towards me? I’m just out there playing ball.’”

COACH K: “J.J. had a personality that could handle adversity and not let it interrupt performance. It would enhance his performance. He had always been targeted because he’s the scorer, a little bit flamboyant. The role was not a new one, it’s just now you’re on Broadway with it and bigger audiences.”

DAWKINS: “He eventually liked being the villain. Absolutely. To become a great player you have to enjoy that. You have to look at that as a sign of respect.”

COACH K: “He always used it as a positive and never looked at it as a distraction. Never looked at it in a personal way, but in a respectful way. ‘Why are they giving me all this attention? I must be pretty good.’ The real competitors who are put in those situations understand that.”

WIEDERER: “He liked being the villain because he knew there was little point in hating being the villain. He was going to be the villain either way. He sort of embraced it, and I think he became more mature in handling that by his senior year, with the way he interacted with opposing crowds and the way he carried himself. Early in his career he was a little bit more overtly cocky and a little bit more antagonistic.”

STEVE WOJCIECHOWSKI (Duke Assistant Coach): “It was the worst that I’ve seen and/or experienced while I was at Duke. I wasn’t around to experience up close Laettner or all that stuff, but I can’t imagine that anybody in the history of college basketball has endured the exuberance of opponents’ fans like J.J. did. He got it everywhere he went. The thing about him that was pretty neat was that he kind of reveled in it. He got better in those environments.”

COLLINS: “At Maryland that year, they had to turn the boom mics off. [The fans] were all chanting ‘F*** YOU, JJ’ in unison, every single person in that building. He just kind of had that little grin, like, ‘Keep bringing it my way, this ain’t fazing me.’”

MELCHIONNI: “Maryland brought out their best, or worst, however you want to phrase it, when Duke came to town. They had signs that read, ‘JJ drinks his own piss.’”

WIEDERER: “I remember him and Sean Dockery talking about a poster of ‘Brokeback Mountain’ and they had a pink cowboy hat and superimposed JJ’s face on it. He thought it was funny.”

COLLINS: “He learned to just embrace that that was what was happening, and he kind of learned to enjoy the banter and the things people were saying about him, to use it as motivation, but also instead of getting hurt by it, if this is who they want me to be, then I’m going to have fun being that villain. It’s something that he certainly kind of thrived on his last year. I think it helped him deal with all the things that were coming his way.”

REDICK: “I probably in a way bought on some of the animosity towards me with antics. The smiling, the head-bobbing, the trash-talking.”*

“I said, ‘All right, if they want to call me these things, then I’m going to act like a jerk on the court.’ That made people dislike me even more. Over the [last] two years, as I matured as a person, I just [became] more secure in who I am. There’s no reason for me to act like an idiot out on the court or to say stuff to the opposing crowd. Really, the only thing I ever do is just smile because I’m having a great time out there playing basketball.”***

“This is going to sound terrible. At Wake Forest [my senior year], I hit a shot in the second half. It was a tough shot, off a spin move, and I was going down the front row — this is going to make me sound like a jerk — but I just shook my head and said, ‘Man, I’m really good tonight. I don’t know what it is, but I’m just really good.’ I said that to the entire front row. That’s probably the reason people dislike me so much. I guess that’s part of the persona I have on the floor. I would never say that off the court.”**

“But to be honest with you, it was more in reaction to the hate that was already coming my way before I ever did anything to warrant it. It’s almost like every time there is a player at Duke, the media says, ‘Oh, you should dislike this guy.’”*

COLLINS: “Sometimes, if he didn’t have that look in his eye, we knew the way to get to him was to get him mad, get him angry, and if you put him in he would turn it on. The best example of that was his final ACC game. We played Boston College in the ACC Championship and BC had a great team. Craig Smith, Jared Dudley, Sean Williams. They were loaded.”

“It was his last ACC game. Greensboro Coliseum, ACC Championship. Early in that game, they were knocking him around, chucking him on cuts, and I thought he was acting a little bit like a baby in the game. He was complaining, he was whining to the refs. I told Coach K to take him out and we were losing. It wasn’t a big deficit, but we were losing early in the second half. ‘Coach, take him out for a minute. I need to talk to him.’”

“I knew that the only way to get him back to his level was to try to make him mad at me, so I just started unloading on him, calling him a baby, calling him a brat, ‘I can’t believe this is your last ACC game and you’re acting like this.’ After about a minute of me just getting into him, he finally started yelling back at me. As soon as he snapped back at me, I leaned over to my right and I said, ‘Hey coach, we’re ready to put him back in.’ We put him back in and he hit three 3’s as soon as he came in in the span of about 65 seconds and just blew the game open.”

*(Via The Vertical Podcast)
**(Via The Sporting News)
***(Via New York Times

FEW: “The amazing thing to me was that Duke would play two or three hours before us, and J.J. would post an incredible number, and all of a sudden Adam would post the same one or one more three hours later. It was like they were going back and forth, and I don’t know how much the really knew, but it made you wonder. He got 33 and then Adam would get 34 or vice versa. There were a lot of nights like that.”

RAIVIO: “We didn’t really expect to get that big nationally. As the season progressed, it would be on SportsCenter and ESPN every night. Secondary to who won or lost, they just wanted to see who had the bigger game.”

MORRISON: “It got to a point where it was hard for me to go anywhere. It gets to be, ‘I’ve signed three balls for you and now you’re mad I won’t sign the fourth because you want to throw it on eBay?’ As a young kid how do you interact with that situation? Because it’s never presented to you. In any situation in life, nobody gets practice on being a celebrity or whatever you want to call it. It just gets thrown on you. But it was crazy for a while. I couldn’t go anywhere.”

BLANCHETTE: “The SID puts together a conference call, and people can dial in, and they did it in the media room where a couple of us happened to be filing our stories a the time. Adam knew he was going to come in and there were going to be 40 guys on the call, and he was going to answer so much of the same stuff he had been answering all year, and he came in, and the first question was something very typical. And his head just went down and bonked on the table because he was just like, ‘I gotta go through this for another 20 minutes?’ It was the same stuff that he’d been talking about all year. There were times when it dragged on him.”

MELCHIONNI: “Everywhere we went, there were Duke fans and they wanted an autograph, to see (Redick), touch him, be near him. That was no matter where we went, and that was before selfies and social media took off. Before everyone had a camera on their phone. Every restaurant we went to, every arena, even if we just went out, people knew who J.J. was and they wanted a piece of him.”

WIEDERER: “(J.J.) couldn’t watch SportsCenter. What does every college kid want to do: You come home from class, you come home from practice, you put on Sportscenter. But every episode had something about Redick, something about Morrison, something about Duke. He got sick of it. He’d flip on a Gonzaga game to watch Morrison play and Dickie V would be like, ‘J.J., are you watching? OOHHH J.J.?’ It didn’t always have to be about those two, but it always was about those two.”

REDICK: “I [would] check the box score online to see how many [points] Adam had. Neither one of us probably wants to admit it, but we know what each other’s stats [were].”*

*(Via New York Times)

FEW: “It just started rolling from there, and the reason it kept rolling is that [Adam and J.J.] kept producing and kept delivering.”

JAY BILAS (ESPN and CBS color commentator): “If you’re in the WCC, Gonzaga is the storm-the-court game. That’s the game that everyone sells out, and for some, that’s the only one. Same thing with Duke. People come in there ratcheted up for their team to do well and hate you, and those two were the primary targets.”

FEW: “When we got all the way into league, there were just some unbelievable performances where he had 30 in a half with standing-room-only crowds. The fire marshall was kicking people out. Just putting on a show.”

MORRISON: “It was a traveling circus in a sense. I don’t know how else to describe it. Everywhere we went was sold out, people hanging out in the rafters.”

RICE: “We were playing down at Loyola, and they were guarding him, face-guarding him, box-and-1-ing him. All that stuff. There were these fans sitting in the front row on the other side, and they started chipping at Adam, and I thinking, ‘He’s only got seven points, I wonder how he’s going to get to 28 today?’ Those guys got him going and he comes out in the second half and scores 37.”

FEW: “That’s a crazy number. Are you kidding me?”

PENDERGRAFT: “It was a surreal moment. It was like you were watching a video game on easy.”

MORRISON: “Somebody was yapping at me in the crowd. I can’t remember what he said. But it was something that bothered me. It was one of those games where I was in the zone and felt really good. It was one of those things where good scorers in any sport or a musician or anything really where you get into a zone that you feel like you can’t do anything wrong. It was one of those times. Everything I threw up went in. It was fun.”

PENDERGRAFT: “I remember them throwing pennies at us after the game was over. Chucking pennies and bottle caps and everything at us. He was getting into it with the fans and egging them on. He would hit one and just look at them, talk back. Then they’d say other obscene things and he’d do it again. 37 points in one half. It’s just insane.”

MORRISON: “I had water bottles thrown at me at San Diego. Pennies at LMU. I had people approach me on the bus, screaming at me, trying to jump on the bus. But that’s when it was just bananas.”

FEW: “It was like traveling around with the fifth Beatle. We were using aliases to check into hotels and things like that. There were people waiting for the bus in the towns when we got there.”

PENDERGRAFT: “He just did things that made you look at him, like, 1. ‘How, in your right mind, would you decide to do that?’, and 2. ‘How’d you come through doing that?’ There was one in San Francisco where he was feeling it and caught it off the pass and pulled up from the volleyball line, and you’re like, ‘What?’ That is not a good shot for anybody, I don’t care who you are, pulling up from the volleyball line is not a good shot.”

“He hit it. Nothing but net. He had 43 that game.”

FEW: “What would usually happen is that he would end up winning the opposing crowd over. San Francisco, it was standing room only and at the end of the game they’re giving him a standing ovation.”

The subplot to the entire season for Redick was that as he was chasing ACC titles, Player of the Year Awards and scoring titles, he was also making an assault on the NCAA record books, going after Duke’s career scoring record, the ACC’s career scoring record, the NCAA record for 3-point shooting. It was incredible. It was also exhausting.

COLLINS: “That stretch from early December to mid-February, he was doing it every night. There was a look in his eye. I saw it every night. It wasn’t like, ‘Here he’s got it going.’”

BILAS: “Nobody could stop him. They were throwing everything at him. And you’re looking at some of these shots and you’re going, ‘That’s not possible. How do you do that?’ And he just kept doing it.”

WIEDERER: “There was a sense all year long that J.J. understood how big the spotlight was and how big the moments were and he really enjoyed it.”

“I remember that building being super energized that night. They played three consecutive road games after the Miami game, so he needed 30 points to catch Johnny. He really wanted to do it at home, they really wanted it to happen at home.”

COLLINS: “Typical J.J. It was fitting that it happened at home in Cameron. Here’s a kid whose dream his whole life was to go to Duke and get his number retired. He grew up watching the great Duke teams and dreaming of being one of those guys, and I think that made it really special to.”

MELCHIONNI: “It’s an incredible moment for J.J. to not only break the all-time Duke scoring record at home, but to do it with the guy he passed being our assistant coach on the sideline.”

REDICK: “I feel very lucky and I feel blessed and honored for Coach Dawkins to do that. He’s the best player in Duke history, and he helped turn the program around. Without him, I’m probably not here.”*

WIEDERER: “During my time on Tobacco Road, that’s the loudest I’d ever heard Cameron for a non-Carolina game.”

DAWKINS: “I’m sure it was a great to get it there, but knowing J.J. like I know J.J., he was worried about the win.”

*(Via ESPN Broadcast)

COLLINS: “There was a particular night that I really saw it in his eyes. We were playing Virginia at home and that was always a meaningful game for him because that was his hometown school. If he didn’t go to Duke he probably would have gone to Virginia. A lot of guys on that team that he grew up with, playing AAU for Boo Williams, a lot of those guys were on that team. Guys he played in high school with. It was one of the the more remarkable performances I’ve ever seen, I think he scored 40 points on 13 shots. He scored 40 points on 13 shots. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen that.”

BILAS: “The guy went the whole year without getting an open shot. It was all unbelievably contested and coming off screens with guys flying at him or having to shot-fake dribble. It was amazing the work rate and what he had to do to score. It’s not just making the shot, it’s getting it. And I don’t know that anybody had to work harder to get a shot than he did.”

WIEDERER: “The other thing that came of that season is that he played 37 minutes a game. They couldn’t afford to take him out. They didn’t talk him out, [which is unique] for a guy like that under that much scrutiny and that much defensive attention.”

COLLINS: “He got a little bit worn down by the end of the year.”

WIEDERER: “There is this, I call it an exhaustion, that comes with playing at Duke. You’re always going to get the other team’s best shot. You’re always going to get the opposing crowd’s most energetic noise and most hostile chants. There’s a drain to that, and I think the drain goes up exponentially when you’re the best player and it goes up even more when you’re J.J. Redick.”

* * *

“Heart. Break. City.” – Gus Johnson

Everyone remembers the way that Adam Morrison’s final collegiate season came to an end. The team’s collapse, his collapse, the tears. What people may not remember is that J.J. Redick’s career was coming to a close with a loss to LSU as Morrison’s final game was tipping off.

WIEDERER: “It’s one of JJ’s worst games. 3-for-18. 11 points. LSU has this kid, Garrett Temple, a long, athletic freshman who I don’t think did shit in the box score, but he was more athletic and quicker than JJ and hounded him all night.”

TEMPLE: “I remember watching him during the regular season on TV thinking, ‘How’s he averaging 28?’ He’s not the most athletic, he can shoot he piss out of it, but he can’t really create off the dribble. If you watch, the shots that he’s taking are deep, but no one is really crowding him. He uses screens well, but the bigs don’t help. I told my brother that if we win our first two games, I’ll be able to guard J.J. When we beat A&M in the second round, he texted me and said, ‘You got your chance.’”

JOHN BRADY (LSU Head Coach): “That may have been the best defensive effort I’ve seen in one of my teams.”*

COACH K: “We could have had a better offensive game, there’s no question about it. But LSU had a lot to do with that.”*

TEMPLE: “The whole game plan was no open looks. Chase him, chase him, chase him. We helped. A lot. When he caught it, we were there trapping, Big Baby and Tyrus Thomas. It was easy for me to pressure guys because I funneled them right to one of the best shot blockers in the country in Tyrus Thomas. You’re not going to get a 3 up and you’ve got to shoot a mid-range because if you get all the way to the rim, it’s going to get sent to the second row.”

COLLINS: “I thought at the end of the season [the entire ordeal] eventually took its toll. I don’t want to take anything away from LSU, they did a great job, but I also thought that what he had to go through from the start of the season to that point, at the very end he didn’t have quite the pop that he had. It stunk because there was no one to me that was more deserving of going to a Final Four and having a chance to win a national title.”

WIEDERER: “He got pulled out of the game with 11 seconds left of whatever it is and goes to the bench and I was expecting more of an emotional reaction from Coach K and from JJ, but they were both just so numb.”

MELCHIONNI: “When the season ended, it’s a shock. It’s abrupt. It’s final. you don’t really realize that you’ll never take the court again as that team.”

COLLINS: “I still have a huge picture in my house of J.J. and I with our arms around each other after the LSU game. It didn’t end the way we wanted it to end, but his senior year was a magical journey, and I don’t know that we’ll see that for quite some time.”

BILAS: “I did the LSU game and it was surprising. LSU played great. They were so athletic. I watched the UCLA-Gonzaga game after.”

PARRISH: “I was there for that one. That was my last year before I came to CBS. I was the Memphis beat writer and Memphis was in that same regional. Memphis was playing the second game. That was the first game. I wasn’t out there for the second half. I sat and watched the first half, but that game was over. They were up 17 points! I remember leaving the court going, ‘This game’s over.’ You had to walk through all these halls and you’re way underneath the arena. They just set up a bunch of tables under the stands in Oracle. And there’s no TV there. But I hear these roars. Loud, crazy roars. You know something crazy’s happening. I finally get out there and realize that UCLA won this game.”

RICE: “I went back like a year later and charted everything that went right and everything that went wrong. It was just like the perfect storm. Everything had to happen, just one little event changes and we would have won that game.”

FEW: “A big play was that we got an offensive rebound and instead of pulling it out to run more clock we tried to go back up with it and got blocked and that led to a fast break. We had a couple situations where we got the switch we were after, they put (Jordan) Farmar on Adam and he’d been just so tough and aggressive and ornery that he’d just bounce a guy like that down and go through their chin, and he settled for a couple jumpers.”

MORRISON: “Raivio turned it over, J.P. turned it over that could’ve been called a foul, I missed an easy jump shot when we were up two and I had a smaller defender on me and I settled, probably should have taken that and would’ve gotten fouled or to the line. A lot of weird plays happened back to back. Ryan Hollins makes two free throws. Farmer makes that running back from 18 feet.”

BILL GRIER (Gonzaga Assistant Coach): “Luc Richard Mbah-a-Moute full-on dove from behind Raivio to tip the ball away. Then they steal the ball from the strongest guy I’ve ever been around in J.P. Batista.”

MORRISON: “We thought we were going to win. The people watching thought we were going to win. We were thinking of Memphis coming up to go to the Final Four.”

RICE: “That one was, to this day, still is lodged in there and it still rubs against you in the wrong way. It took me forever to even watch that game again.”

RAIVIO: “I remember coming into the locker room and it was silent. Adam was down.”

PENDERGRAFT: “Adam was having a phenomenal year, and we had a good team. Being up like we were … that was a tough one to swallow.”

RAIVIO: “It’s a testament to him and shows how much he put into it and how much he cared. We were like brothers; we were with each other every day. It was like family. We were all there and grieved differently. I think it showed right there what it meant to him.”

BLANCHETTE: “Adam was [at the press conference] and once he calmed down after the immediacy of the loss, he was fine and pretty lucid. He was obviously downcast, but he answered questions.”

MORRISON: “I get how people would throw shade or whatever. I’m fine with it. There’s worse things I could’ve done in life than show emotion.”

“The thing is people always expect me to be embarrassed or shameful of it. I’m honestly not. It doesn’t really bother me. I showed emotion. There’s a lot of other things I could’ve done. I could’ve punched my girlfriend in an elevator. If I’m known for (the display of emotion), I’m totally fine and at peace with it and have been for quite some time. People give me the picture to autograph, and they’re like, ‘Oh, sorry’. I’m like, ‘Why? It’s an image from that year.’ I’ll sign it for you, absolutely. Doesn’t bother me.”

“The UCLA game is not a great memory. But people are like, ‘Oh my god, you said UCLA around him.’ I went to the game last year and sat on the bench, and they were like, ‘You’re going to go to the game?’ Yeah. Of course I’m going to the game. When I was [playing in the NBA] with Charlotte, they were like, ‘I can’t believe you played with Los Angeles.’ I had to look at this guy for 10 seconds, and think, ‘Is he just really dumb and I should give him a pass because he’s stupid? Is he thinking that I won’t come to a city of eight million with beaches and beautiful weather because one of the colleges beat us in a game? Congratulations for waking up every morning, because that probably takes a lot of will power.'”

FEW: “A good percentage of high-level players are moved to tears when their career comes to an end. I don’t know why people reacted so adversely to that. They should have celebrated it and understood just how much these guys put into it and how much it means to them. That’s what everybody asks of them, including the people that were making light of it or that had a problem with it. They want it to mean everything to these people and call them out when it doesn’t.”

“Here’s a guy that did lay it all out on the line and he’s reacting to the end of his season and career. And he gets mocked, which is ridiculous. A joke. People should have been celebrating it, the year that this guy had. It had to go down in the annals as one of the greatest single season individual performances in college basketball.”