Redick’s Jersey Retired at Duke

By Katie Sweet | February 4, 2007

Former Duke Blue Devil J.J. Reddick waves to the crowd after a speech for his jersey retirement during halftime of their game against the Florida State Seminoles at Cameron Indoor Stadium on February 4, 2007 in Durham, North Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Duke University’s Coach K could take a wet rag and teach it discipline, poise, a proper screen, and the three-point shot. So imagine his excitement when Magic guard J.J. Redick chose to take his game to Durham, N.C., and keep it there for four years.

“He’s off the charts with focus and commitment. Nobody has had more or done it better here…He’s one of the truly great players to play in this conference. Of all time, this kid’s a treasure. That’s part of learning every year, not being satisfied with where you’re at. He’s a believer, and he’s full of commitment,” said Krzyzewski last year, just before Redick walked away with the second National Player of the Year trophy in as many years.

And so it is only fitting that Sunday afternoon (February 4), with the visiting FSU Seminoles in town, J.J. Redick watched his No. 4 jersey retired to hanging in the rafters, frozen in time. With his family, Grant Hill (and family), Pat Garrity, Mike Gminski (former Duke player and current basketball analyst), and 9,000 rabid Duke fans in crazed attendance, J.J. choked by tears and took a place in Duke history that only 12 previous players have ever had in 102 years.

“It feels so good to be home. Grant’s been telling me all week that I’m going to cry, so I’m going to do my best to hold back the tears. Real quick, I want to share one story. My freshman year, it was the first week of school, and Coach K meets with every player during that time. He looked at me and his first question was, ‘What do you want to accomplish on a personal level in your time at Duke?’ I looked at him as an eighteen-year old kid and I said, ‘I want my jersey to hang in the rafters.’”

As a 22-year-old man, he watched it unveiled to chants of ‘one more shot!’

Duke is a place where basketball stars shine long after the next day’s sunrise, but hanging that jersey forever doesn’t come just because the fans take a liking to you. In order for a jersey to be retired a Duke, a player must achieve great things at the national level, such as earning National Player of the Year, setting an NCAA record or earning All-American status. The other main criteria is that the player had to earn his degree. With his numerous accolades, after J.J. earned a degree in history, it simply became a matter of scheduling.

Former Duke Blue Devil J.J. Reddick tears up during a speech for his jersey retirement during halftime of their game against the Florida State Seminoles at Cameron Indoor Stadium on February 4, 2007 in Durham, North Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
His numbers at Duke are staggering. He is second among NCAA all-time leaders in free throw percentage (.912). He has the scoring record for Duke University and the ACC and is 16th in NCAA history with 2,769 career points. He shares Duke’s single-game three-point record (9). He has played a total of 4,732 minutes and made a total of 457 three-point shots, all in Devil blue. He has been hated for a certain swagger. A swagger he has undoubtedly earned having garnered 54 honors and awards for his 2005-06 senior season.

Let me say that again, with a little emphasis – 54 honors and awards in one season. In order to fit it on one page in his bio, the font needs to be shrunk. We’re talking the James E. Sullivan Award for the nation’s best top amateur athlete; ACC Tournament MVP; National Player of the Year for SI.com, ESPN.com, and The Sporting News (among others); and ACC Player of the Week six times. Pick an honor, and I’m sure it’s on the list.

But all that didn’t mean as much as seeing his jersey raised among the greats of Duke’s past.

“Well, records are something that just kinda happen as you’re playing, but an honor like having your jersey retired, somebody has to recognize you. Somebody has to honor you. So for Duke to do this, for Coach K and President [Richard] Brodhead, I am just extremely humbled, and every time now that I walk into Cameron, it’s going to mean something more. This is something I crazily dreamed about years ago.”

So with his skills, going pro was the only reasonable thing to do. He was drafted by the Magic in the first round (11th) in 2006. He’s seen limited play, but has shown promise. In early February, in back-to-back games, he scored 11 points the first night and 13 the next, each in just over 20 minutes of play. And recently, the Magic Glass Half-Full columnist predicted a rise in Redick sightings in the second half of the season, assuring us he is going through a process that will make him a great player for the Magic.

With the Duke support behind him and Magic support beside him, Redick looks to add to his long list of accomplishments. It will just be a matter of time before that font has to shrink again, this time on his Magic bio page.

In the stands, one row behind him sat teammate Pat Garrity.

“I thought he did a terrific job. He spoke from the heart. He was genuine and relaxed. It’s kinda funny for us cause we’re used to him being the rookie on the team, you know, the low man. And sometimes you forget how big of an impact he had on his school. He’s one of the greatest players to play college basketball. He’s in a unique situation now…working his way up. He comes from such a celebrated background and everyone knows who he is.”

And all around him sat scores of fans, young and old who love him. One grandmother waved a photo of Redick giving her a hug and to the side were two grad students with a sign, calling their beloved JJ “Magic.” As he sees more court time in Orlando, those devoted fans will begin to emerge in sunny Central Florida. They may not body surf during timeouts (and I mean, literally surf across bodies) like Cameron Crazies, but they have their own brand of Magic. Magic Maniacs perhaps?