Articles > Blue (and White) Devil Jon Scheyer
Some years ago, St. Joseph’s University’s men’s basketball team was scheduled to play Lute Olson’s Wildcats in Tucson. A snowstorm prevented the St. Joe’s team from getting to Arizona, and as a result they had to forfeit the game. To gain sympathy, St. Joe’s coach Phil Martelli (this was in the pre-Jameer Nelson glory days) commented that whereas Arizona had players that were McDonald’s All-Americans, St. Joe’s had players that ate at McDonalds. The point being, of course, that McDonald’s All-Americans signed to play at top programs.
With 14 Final Four appearances (3rd behind UCLA and North Carolina) and three NCAA championships, Duke basketball is certainly one of those top teams, with its fair share of high school McDonald’s All-Americans. One member of the current Duke team holds the record as the only Jewish McDonald’s All-American to date. Sophomore guard Jon Scheyer recently spoke with our reporter. Here is what he had to say:
Coming into Duke you were already a pretty highly rated player. What would you say you have learned in the past two years since you’ve been in the program?
Going against guys like DeMarcus Nelson every day in practice for two years has really made me a better player. It also makes you more competitive as a player. And then, you learn a lot from the coaches, and from Coach K. If there’s any one part of my game that I would say has really gotten better it’s my ability to go to the basket.
You had a pretty stellar year in 2006-07 coming in as a freshman. You started in all but one game, you were named to the ACC All-Freshman Team and three times you were ACC Rookie of the Week. What was it like then to play this season coming off the bench (only 1 start in 34 games)?
Whether it’s starting or coming off the bench, I just want to help the team the best way I can. This was something that Coach K felt was best for the team, and I accepted it. Especially with Gerald (Henderson) and DeMarcus being very talented on the wings.
Former Duke player David Henderson (no relation to Gerald) shared with us his thoughts on the process whereby Duke recruits, all very talented players, have to learn to mesh with equally talented players and become part of a team. What was that process like for you?
For me, it’s always been more about winning than about scoring. I think that a lot of us came to Duke to win. This year coming off the bench, what I have tried to do is just create a spark coming in; sometimes it could be scoring, sometimes it could be rebounding – whatever it is. It’s just about winning.
What have you gotten from the opportunity to play for one of the legendary coaches in the game?
With his vast experience, he’s been through just about every situation possible. I really feel like it’s an honor to play for him. The list of players he has coached is pretty amazing. Even beyond the game, the message he gives you is not just about basketball, it’s for the rest of our lives.
Are other members of your family also athletically-oriented?
My dad played racquet ball when he was younger, and my mom was pretty athletic in high school, but I am the first to be playing at this level. I just started playing basketball when I was really young, and kept at it.
What is it like to be the first Jewish player named to the McDonald’s All-American team?
I didn’t know that I was. Well, that’s pretty cool.
How do you look at the idea of being a role model for younger Jewish basketball players, or kids in general?
I think that is kind of exciting. When I was younger I had some people I looked up to, of course NBA players but even just older guys in my neighborhood, where there were a lot of basketball players. I think that is something that I would want to give back.
What was your Jewish background growing up?
I was Bar Mitzvah. Growing up, we usually celebrated the Jewish holidays at my grandmother’s.
Two Duke grads, Gene Banks (’81) and David Henderson (’86), played professionally in Israel. Depending on how things develop, is that something you that would interest you?
I really haven’t given it much thought. For now I’m just focused on playing here at Duke. When my career here is over, I’ll see. Obviously, everybody’s dream is to play in the NBA, but for now I’m just going to take it step by step, and see what my options are. Actually, a friend of mine has been talking with me about playing (for the U.S. team) in the Maccabiah Games in 2009.
You said once in an interview that Manu Ginobili (of the San Antonio Spurs) is a player that you admire.
To me he is one of the most creative players in the NBA. He’s pretty athletic, but he’s not really that big. When I’m playing I like to make up shots or be creative in that way – I think he’s one of the best at that.
How do you find the balance between the discipline of running set plays and that kind of creativity?
It can be tough. For me, I’ve mostly been more that creative kind of player, but I think you can take some of the things that you do with the team and make it creative, so I think you can find that balance.
The first time you stepped on to the Duke court as a player, did you feel like you wanted to pinch yourself?
That’s exactly how I felt. It was kind of a surreal feeling. I remember just trying to soak it all in. During my freshman year, there was the first time playing in front of a crowd, first home game, first road game, first conference game. It was all very exciting.
Have your parents gotten to see you play much?
They’ve been able to get to a lot of my games. They always came to watch my games when I was younger. It’s been exciting to have them in stands and supporting me.
Most players play some sort of summer-league ball. Do you ever feel like it gets to be too much, like you need a break from it?
Not at all!
Thanks for taking time to speak with us. Good luck in the future.
Post Script: Jon has ranked as one of the top free throw shooters in the ACC, finishing the 2007-08 season with a .899 free throw percentage, including going 11-11 against Miami. As a high school player, he once scored 21 points in 75 seconds of play. He ended his high school career with 3,034 points, putting him 4th in Illinois high school history. He was named Mr. Basketball for the state of Illinois in 2006. You can check out his Duke player profile by clicking here.
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