DURHAM, N.C. -- Over the next week, GoDuke.com will honor the seven 2013 Duke Athletics Hall of Fame inductees with their own Hall of Fame Spotlight, a seven-question interview that covers their time at Duke, the people that most influenced their remarkable careers, their advice to current student-athletes, and more.
Next up, legendary Duke basketball player, Jason Wiliams. Williams was a two-time national player of the year honoree on the hardwood while guiding Duke to a three-year record of 95-13 that included the 2001 NCAA championship. In his first season, he garnered National Freshman of the Year accolades from The Sporting News as well as ACC Tournament MVP honors. After averaging 21.6 points per game and helping the Blue Devils to the NCAA crown as a sophomore in 2001, Williams was honored as the National Player of the Year by the National Association of Basketball Coaches. His third and final campaign at Duke was highlighted by a second straight first team All-ACC citation as well as the Naismith Trophy and Wooden Award as the nation’s top player. In 108 career games, Williams, who led the ACC in scoring average as both a sophomore and junior, scored 2,079 points for a scoring average of 19.3 points per game. He went on to be the second overall pick of the 2002 NBA Draft by the Chicago Bulls, and on February 5, 2003 had his jersey #22 retired to the rafters of Cameron Indoor Stadium.
GoDuke.com: Who had the most influence on you during your time at Duke?
Jason Williams: I would be remiss if I were to say it wasn’t Coach K. It was the way that he taught me to attack. He was one of the few coaches that found a way to light my fire. For me, it was, ‘hey listen, this player said this about you,’ or ‘you should think about this,’ and not only has that been able to help me on the court, when I played, but I’ve been able to translate that into my life, with the way I attack my job, the way I attack my business, the way I attack my relationship, I always want to be better. I’m always looking for ways to reinvent myself and stay up with the times and continue to work to get better.
GoDuke.com: What was your proudest sports-related moment at Duke?
JW: A lot of people would probably say winning a national title, or winning back-to-back national player of the year, but for me, it was the culmination of all of those moments, and graduating school in three years. I was able to kill multiple birds with one stone. That’s why I came here to school, to graduate.
GoDuke.com: What was your fondest memory of Duke outside of sports?
JW: Probably freshman year. I went to an all-boys high school. For me, freshman year, coming here to this school, because it’s a co-ed school. That first day on the quad, I’m like ‘I think I’m really going to like this college experience. This is going to be pretty fun.’
GoDuke.com: What advice would you give to current Duke student-athletes?
JW: Always strive to be better. It comes with the territory when you go to school here. People are always trying to bring you down. Don’t let that affect your mentality. Use that as motivation. This is a place where you’re always going to be challenged, not just athletically, but academically, and embrace that challenge, because that’s the way of the world.
GoDuke.com: What is your reaction when you hear your name and “Duke Athletics Hall of Famer” in the same sentence?
JW: It still hasn’t really hit. I think for a lot of other guys, when they get inducted into the hall of fame, they’re having ten, fifteen plus NBA year careers and they’re off doing other things. For me, I’m 32 years old, and as much as people say, ‘Congratulations, you’re in the Duke hall of fame,’ I think, ‘Yeah, but I still have a helluva lot more to do and to accomplish.’ It’s one of those things where I’m very appreciative of it and I’m blessed to be here, and I still have a lot of work left to do.
GoDuke.com: What separates Duke from other schools athletically?
JW: I don’t think it can just be defined athletically. I think it has to deal with the people here who are associated with the school. I think this is a school that doesn’t settle. Even if we happen to be ranked number one in whatever, if that’s academics or athletics, in whatever respective sport you play, it’s always about what’s next. We have another challenge. How can we get better? For me, in my life, that’s been an ongoing theme that’s helped me. Even when you achieve a milestone, youcan’t be content with that milestone. I’m ready to see past that and what’s next on the horizon.
GoDuke.com: Why did you choose Duke?
JW: I owe that to my father. I was being recruited by a lot of schools. We came here and I spent time with Coach K and I loved every word that he said. I was inside Cameron Indoor Stadium and, this is in no disrespect to any of the other schools, but my dad said, ‘Would you rather be a king among the poor, or would you rather be a king among kings?’. I said, ‘I want to be the best of the best.’ He said, ‘Well, that’s your answer right there. This is where you need to be.’