Three years ago, Daniel Ewing joined the reigning National Championship Duke team as the lone scholarship freshman. Today, the senior captain sits atop a team that has given him the opportunity to play, grow and now, lead.
Although he is an integral member of the basketball team, Ewing maintains a low profile on a campus that often knows too much about its athletes. Widely perceived as shy and quiet, perhaps even a loner, Ewing is grounded, humble and mature—qualities that he takes with him into the locker room and onto the court.
“He’s not this ‘rah rah’ type, but he’s got a strength to him,” head coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “He’s a very unselfish guy. He works all the time so his best thing is to lead through example and quiet talk.”
Ewing is quick to mention the influences of previous Duke leaders even before talking about himself. He only admits one accomplishment without hesitation: “I’m the champ right now in pretty much every sports video game,” he said with a laugh. He describes himself as just a regular guy without mentioning his 59 career double-figure scoring games or his 2003 ACC Tournament MVP award.
“What you see is pretty much what you get,” he said. “I’m a laid-back guy. I don’t do too much hollering, ranting and raving, but when I get on that court, I get the job done the best way I can.”
Ewing said he understands the role he plays for his team because of his experience with former leaders. He recalled some of his past conversations with former captain Chris Duhon, who encouraged Ewing to lead by being himself. Having played under the leadership of Jay Williams, Dahntay Jones, Carlos Boozer, Duhon and Coach K, Ewing approaches his role with maturity and self-awareness.
“I can’t go out there and try to be like Chris,” Ewing said. “I have to be Daniel Ewing and do it the way that Daniel Ewing does it, but do it effectively to help the team.. You can take little things from other great leaders, but it needs to be in your type of way.”
This mature attitude with which he approaches his role as senior captain manifests itself on the court, but it was cultivated by his family, which has been his inspiration throughout his life.
“Without my family, I wouldn’t be the person that I am today,” Ewing said. “My family has really supported me since I was born and been behind me in everything. I just want to be able to tell my dad sometime in the near future that he can stop working, and be able to take care of him and my mother. That’s really what inspires me to be the best player I can be, to be the best person I can be: To be able to take care of my family, my parents and my little nephews and nieces.”
The youngest of three sons, Ewing describes his family as close and loving. More than four years ago, Ewing’s mother underwent heart surgery the day before he committed to Duke.
“At the time, I really didn’t know what to expect,” the Houston native recalled. “It really scared me thinking that my mom might not live to see the next day. It allowed me to appreciate life more, and just to live for the day because tomorrow is not promised to anyone.”
Despite the stress of the situation, Ewing was able to achieve as a player and student in his senior year. A McDonald’s All-American and Texas 5A Player of the Year in 2001, he averaged almost 20 points per game and led his high school team to an undefeated 2000-2001 season.
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His career at Duke has also been characterized by poise under pressure, especially in the postseason. His freshman year, Ewing helped the team advance by scoring 18 points in the second-round game of the NCAA Tournament against Notre Dame, including four free throws in the final two minutes. He won ACC Tournament MVP in his sophomore season and averaged well above his season marks in the postseason.
In his last season at Duke, Ewing will try to achieve his personal and team goals with the added pressure of being a team leader. He said he would like to be named to the first team All-ACC and lead the Blue Devils back to the Final Four, but he will have to continue developing to achieve these goals.
“I’ll be growing a lot throughout the season, but I think I’ve done a lot to get me here so far,” Ewing said. “I’ve come a long way, and I think I’m headed in a good direction.”