One by one, Kyle Singler, Jon Scheyer and Nolan Smith walk into the small media room inside Cameron Indoor Stadium and take a seat behind a wooden table with one mic amidst a sea of digital recorders. Over and over, they answer geeky notebook-jotting reporters who try and find smarter ways to recycle the same question.
It’s boring and typical, and Duke’s “Big Three” — arguably the storied program’s most talented and productive trio since Christian Laettner, Bobby Hurley and Grant Hill — all know it. Still, consummate professionals, they embrace the redundancy. Even have a little fun with it.
Why not? It isn’t every year that you’re in line for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, favored to win the ACC Tournament title, and are the nation’s top scoring trio with 53.7 points per game combined. And while the on-court dominance is doing wonders to shed the perception that Duke has rolled out yet another slow and unathletic team of strictly jump shooters, it’s their off-court swag that’s shedding another image.
It’s cool to play at Duke again, and Singler, Scheyer and Smith are a big reason why. Long gone are the days of the Boy Scout, goody-two-shoes, Ivy League legacy image that’s plagued the Blue Devils ever since Jay Williams stopped collecting ankles and taking names back in 2002. Currently ranked No. 4 in the country, the Blue Devils (26-5) play their ACC tourney opener later today against Virginia.
High school sensation Austin Rivers (Winter Park, Fla.), a potential one-and-done guard and Duke’s primary target for the 2011 recruiting class, said that this year’s trio of Blue Devils stars “have Duke’s swag turned all the way up right now.”
“I think people have put that nerdy, square label on Duke guys because you have to be smart to get in (to the University),” said Austin, whose father is Doc Rivers. “But those guys have swag, and obviously they can ball. I definitely don’t buy into the geeky perception. Most players don’t anymore.”
We had separate sit-down interviews with Scheyer (18.9 ppg, 5.2 apg), Smith (17.6 ppg) and Singler (17.2 ppg, 6.8 rpg), asking them the same questions to see how well they matched up, and to figure out how they’ve been able to bring the cool factor back to Durham.
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Dime: This will be a break from the norm because we’re mostly going to talk about off-court stuff.
Jon Scheyer: Cool!
Nolan Smith: That’ll work.
Kyle Singler: Good.
Dime: What personality are you in the trio?
Scheyer: I think I can be a little bit of a jokester. Both Nolan and I are jokesters, but I can switch it up and be serious sometime too.
Smith: I’m definitely the joker. I just love to have fun. I’m the funny guy. I keep the mood loose and I keep the guys smiling. After a loss, I’m the one to get us on to the next thing. I’ll shoot a text to everyone or something like that.
Singler: I would say that I’m more of the quiet one, but I can be a little bit of a joker. I’m pretty low key. We’re all, personality-wise, pretty different. Nolan’s the joker and Jon… He’s a joker sometimes. He just does little pranks that are annoying. He moves rocks in front of our cars when we’re parked. Or he’ll park his car really close to the driver’s side door so we’ll have to get in through the passenger side. He just does little annoying stuff to piss us off. Then when you do it back to him, he gets all mad. So he can dish it out, but he definitely can’t take it.
Dime: So do you guys have a nickname other than the “Big Three?”
Smith: The stuff we hear is what we go with. I actually heard this one here lately, the “Law Offices of Smith, Scheyer and Singler.” I like that one. We may just make that happen one day, who knows.
Scheyer: No, we don’t make up names for ourselves.
Singler: What did they come up with? Hmm… Yeah, I like the law firm one. I’ve heard the “Three Musketeers,” but that’s a little lame.
Dime: With your chemistry on the court, it’s obvious that you guys must be cool, but how cool? People throw out the “best friend” label pretty loose, so I’m wondering how tight you REALLY are?
Smith: Yeah, I know what you mean, but we’re definitely all tight. These are my brothers for real. Our moms are all of our moms. If one mom isn’t there the other mom takes care of us. It’s one big family.
Scheyer: Yeah, we’re real close. We’ve been through A LOT together and we definitely look at each other like brothers.
Singler: Well, they’re OK… No, I’m kidding we’re all pretty close.
Dime: So what kind of stuff do you do together?
Scheyer: We do some of everything. We hit the bowling alley, the movies…
Smith: Everything. We chill at each other’s houses, we go to movies, bowl, watch reruns of games… just everything.
Singler: We bowl, we go to movies, we hang out. We do a lot of stuff together.
Dime: Who’s the best bowler?
Scheyer: Definitely me. It’s not even close. I bowl like a 200. (Duke associate head coach Chris Collins walks by and says, “He’s lying!” Scheyer responds, “I’ll out-bowl you any day!”) But no, really, I bowl around a 200, and really that’s not all that good, but of the three of us I’m by far the best bowler.
Smith: I don’t know. I’m gonna have to say me. I’m a force out there now!
Singler: Oh wow, who’d they say? Doesn’t matter, you’re looking at the best bowler. I’m always around 150. Jon said he bowls a 200? He’s lying. That’s not true. It’s definitely me.
Dime: So let’s just say the bowling debate rages on. Do you guys party together?
Scheyer: Oh definitely!
Dime: OK, let’s say we’re at a party right now. Where are you located?
Scheyer: I’m at a low-key spot. Probably standing in the corner and taking it all in. I’m just the cool guy holding up the wall.
Smith: I like to dance so there’s a decent chance that I’d be in the middle of the dance floor. Jon will be on the wall nodding his head a lil’ bit and Kyle might be dancing, too.
Singler: I’ll just be all over, chillin’. I’ll do a little bit of chillin’ and a little bit of dancing. It just depends on how I’m feeling.
Dime: Who gets the most girls?
Scheyer: Well, Kyle has a girlfriend so he’s not in it… Who gets the most girls… Uh, sorry, Nolan can’t compete with me! Don’t let him lie to you either. I definitely get more girls than Nolan. He’s my boy and he does pretty well too, but I’ve got him. Do. Not. Let. Him. Lie. To. You.
Smith: Well, let’s go ahead and say it’s between me and Jon because Kyle has a girl. But it’s definitely me! Definitely me!
Singler: Hmm, that’s a tough one… I would definitely say that Nolan has more game than Jon, but… Yeah I’d have to say that Jon gets more girls.
Dime: Sounds like it may be close?
Scheyer: Not really! Let me tell you how Nolan is… We went out after the Carolina game and we’re just in there hanging out. So here comes Nolan with this girl. He introduces me and then he just turns around and leaves (laughs). I’m like, how are you just gonna leave me? That’s Nolan, though. He’s a clown like that. He’s always doing things like that. But she WAS cute so I can’t complain too much.
Smith: It’s no competition there. Jon knows what time it is.
Dime: Do you guys have a handshake between the three of you? Just please don’t tell me you do the played-out salute thing.
Scheyer: No, no saluting. We actually don’t have any handshakes. Nolan has a lot of little different handshakes he does with different people, but nothing with just us three.
Smith: Nah, not with us three. We’re straight business. We don’t need handshakes to get us going. We’re already ready.
Singler: No handshakes. No salutes.
Dime: How about looks on the court to let the other know what’s about to happen?
Smith: I guess you could say that. We might do the head nod thing.
Singler: I guess. Whenever one of us hits a couple shots the other one knows that we’re feeling it. So I guess we have a “feeling it” look. I don’t know… (laughs)
Scheyer: Yeah we do little looks I guess. Subtle things.
Dime: Gerald Henderson told me once that “Jon is a slob when it comes to cleaning up the apartment.”
Smith: You know, I’ve heard that one before. Maybe it’s a rumor, but I’ve heard it a few times so…
Singler: Yeah, Jon’s definitely like a little kid. He’s definitely messy. He’s got a lot of toys and he loves to play video games, so yeah, I’ll definitely back Gerald up on that one.
Scheyer: (laughs) Not true. Not true.
Dime: Kyle, you’re the artist on the team, and I saw the tribute drawing to being 17-0 at home. Do you have one in the works for the three of you?
Singler: Hmm, no I actually don’t. That’s a good idea, though. I’ll credit you for that one.
Dime: Nice. OK so Kyle, you’re like the tough guy. You’ve got the scratches, the black eye. I’m curious, who wins a UFC tournament between you three?
Singler: No question it’s DEFINITELY me. They should agree! If they know what’s good for them.
(Editor’s note: Regarding the statement that Scheyer-Smith-Singler might be Duke’s best “Big Three” since the Laettner era, I completely blanked on the Williams-Boozer-Dunleavy-Battier squads when I edited this article. My bad, not Jason Jordan’s. My Duke haterism likely caused me to block those teams out of my memory. — Austin Burton)
More Duke basketball stories:
– We Reminisce: The Best of Duke vs. North Carolina
– Jon Scheyer vs. Greivis Vasquez: Pick the Better NBA Draft Prospect
– Grant Hill’s game day routine