Tuesday, November 24, 2009

November 24, 2009

I was announcing a basketball game at the University of Guelph on the weekend, and I was having a conversation with one of the students who works at the scorer’s table. Jon is a very pleasant young man who generally works the 24-second clock during Gryphons games, and is clearly a big basketball fan. He and I were discussing NCAA Basketball and the topic of my beloved Duke Blue Devils. Jon said to me that “Duke only recruits white guys,” and I took umbrage with that statement.

Now, let me preface this rant by saying that I don’t want this post (or this blog) to turn into a place for racial commentary, but I felt I had to defend this point once I heard it from Jon. This is about correcting Jon on the facts, not about the merits of black basketball players vs. white basketball players.

Now, back to the point. It’s a common criticism to accuse Duke of anything and everything under the sun (Bring it on Tar Heels fans!), but at least get the facts straight. My initial response was to point out that some of the best players in Duke basketball history--Grant Hill, Jason Williams, Elton Brand, Shane Battier, Johnny Dawkins—are black. And so many other big names within the program as well…players like Corey Maggette, Chris Duhon, Carlos Boozer, Luol Deng, Tommy Amaker, Chris Carrawell, William Avery, Antonio Lang, Gerald Henderson, and Shelden Williams.

Now, I’ll give you that it doesn’t get much “whiter” than Christian Laettner, Bobby Hurley, Mike Dunleavy Jr., and J.J. Redick, but it’s absurd to say that this team recruits only white players. And it’s insulting to even suggest that a world-renowned coach like Mike Krzyzewski would ever consider such a ridiculous practice.
Let’s take a look at the roster on the 2001 Duke Blue Devils, which is the last Duke team to win the National Championship. On this roster of 16 players, over 50% of them were black (9). On top of that, eight of the top nine players (Jason Williams, Shane Battier, Chris Duhon, Carlos Boozer, Dahntay Jones, Nate James, Casey Sanders, and Reggie Love) and 80% of the starting five were black.

I’m sending Jon a link to this post, and I’ll be interested to hear his response. Comments are open, but please keep it on topic.


Jon Moyer said...

Sean, I appreciate your argument on two levels. Number one is that I certainly relate to the passion you have for your college basketball team. Number two is that some of the arguments you make conveniently support mine. Before I continue I think it appropriate to make it clear what exactly my argument is. I believe that Duke recruits black basketball players only when they are above average in skill set, therefore able to contribute significantly to Duke’s chances at winning a national championship i.e. 1991,1992, and 2001. However, when it comes to the role players on Duke’s team, I argue that it is a Caucasian boys’ club in which coach K fills with his “All American” type of boys. First off the statement that says that 8 of the 9 players were of African American descent actually proves one of my main theories on Duke basketball. This theory being that Duke does recruit black players but the players they recruit that get the free education and do not play often tend to be given to Caucasian men as proven by your statement that 8 of the top 9 were Black which means the bottom 7 were all white . My second point is that 61% of NCAA basketball players are of African American descent where as the 2001 Duke basketball team had 50%. Further study into Dukes roster over the past three years shows 28% of the players are of African American descent. My third and last point is that though it was stated this was the stupidest statement ever heard that this is actually quite factual and not just the whims of a passionate college basketball fan. This is not meant as an attack against Duke University basketball but merely an observation of their basketball program and their history of recruiting.

Sean said...

Jon, while I appreciate your arguments, I have a few things to say in response:
a) Duke does not recruit black players "only when they are above average in skill set." The recruit EVERYONE when they are above average in skill set! It's not a black vs. white thing...it's that they look for the most skilled players,period.
b)How can you argue that a bench filled with white players who rarely play behind the black players who do, constitutes a "Caucasian boys' club"> Makes no sense.
c) Sorry to correct your math, but 9 out of 16 isn't 50%. Yes it still puts them below that national average of 61%, but your argument wasn't that Duke was below the national average, it was that they 'never recruit black players.'
d)Maybe the "stupidest statement I've ever heard" was a tad harsh. :)
e) Your last line contradicts your point. If you want to make a salient point based on numbers, use the last 3 years (as you started to) and the percentage of 28%, not their "history of recruiting", because that's where my point wins out. And even then, 28% is higher than 0%, which is what you insinuated with your initial comment.

Jon Moyer said...

I will response to each of your points
a) This is a point that I think we could argue about all day but, don’t have sufficient data to argue with (though if you look at the players in the NBA that are from Duke you will notice that the majority of them are black).
b)My point here is that he plays the best players (I am not calling coach K a racist as only a person that knows him at an intimate level can claim to know whether he is or not) but, gives the scholarships and all the added perks of being a varsity athlete in the U.S. Jobs with alumni that pay really well, unlimited connections, national exposure, and enjoying a form of celebrity to white players.
c)You are correct I miss read but yes it is still below the national average
e)It should be noted that soon after saying “only……” I said “Duke recruits mostly white players”, as by now you know I am a passionate fan and do know the history of Duke Basketball. The “only” was more for dramatic affect and I think I got that dramatic response I was looking for(perhaps more of a dramatic response than I thought would happen) . Though I am not sure either of us have the time to do extensive research, from the small samples we have examined it cannot be denied that they are well below the national average. Though you may be right it is just a recent trend rather than a historical trend.
f)My elder brother was once a blind Duke fan, yet as time has gone on though he would still say they are his favourite team he has now realized that in fact the statement “Duke recruits mostly white players” to be true.
g)You can’t argue with their success, it is just an observation.