With Duke basketball’s storied history, Cameron Indoor Stadium has long been a breeding ground for the professional basketball players of tomorrow. But from Oct. 5 to 12, the gym will become a training center for NBA players of today.
The Philadelphia 76ers will use the Blue Devils’ facilities to prepare for their upcoming season and will play their first preseason game Oct. 12 against the Washington Wizards. This is the second consecutive year the 76ers will have training camp at Duke.
76ers President and General Manager Billy King, who played at Duke in the late 1980s and was named National Defensive Player of the Year in 1988, is the link between the organization and Duke. King requested use of Cameron for the preseason to give his team a chance to get away from Philadelphia and focus on basketball.
“Duke’s got the great facilities, the storied arena, and I want our players to have a little to do, but not a lot to do,” King said.
Past 76ers practice sites include Penn State and North Carolina, but King joked that the latter is no longer an option.
University officials said the 76ers will not disrupt any Duke teams even though the volleyball team, which plays but does not practice in Cameron, has a pair of matches while the 76ers are in town. The 76ers will practice twice a day in Cameron, and Assistant Director of Athletics Mike Cragg said “the 76ers have been very accommodating” to Duke’s facility restrictions.
Athletic Director Joe Alleva hopes the 76ers will foster a positive environment that can benefit Duke athletes.
“I think it is good to have professionals around to learn from their culture,” Alleva said.
2001 NBA MVP Allen Iverson, who has led the NBA in scoring three times and has a career average of 27 points per game, highlights the 76ers’ roster. Although Iverson has had tumultuous relationships with authority figures, King has nothing but respect for the 2004 Olympian.
“Allen Iverson in a word? Unique. In a phrase? One of the most loyal and competitive people I’ve ever met,” King said. “He was great at the Olympics. He said the right things when we won and the right things when we lost.”
Nate James is the only former Duke player in the 76ers’ camp. James, who averaged 12.3 points per game for the 2001 National Championship team, is trying to make an NBA team for the first time in his career.
Iverson and James will get the chance to see where they stand at the end of their practice stint in an exhibition game against the Wizards. 76ers and Duke officials are encouraging students to attend the 7:30 p.m. contest with a reduced ticket price of $10 and a pregame fan meet-and-greet. Tickets for the general public range from $20 to $50.
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“[King] wanted to create an exhibition game and put his franchise in more of a collegiate atmosphere,” Cragg said. “We will try to have real low prices for students. So hopefully we will have a great student turnout.”
Jake Poses contributed to this story.