When important people in our lives move on, those of us who were affected by them tend to reflect. After all, it is during this period when we decide how we will remember our heroes. Witness the goodwill extended to President Reagan last summer and all things written about Hunter S. Thompson the last several weeks.
Here at Duke, where basketball is king and Coach K is something more supreme, it goes without saying that basketball players are some of Duke’s VIPs. Accordingly, for those who follow the team a tendency arises to determine each player’s correct place in the annals of Duke basketball history. And with Daniel Ewing’s last game in Cameron Indoor Stadium Thursday, this phenomenon has been in effect, no more noticeably than in the pages of this newspaper this week.
But with his final contest in Cameron behind us, let us ask what kind of place No. 5 will assume in the hearts and minds of Duke fans? (This, of course, could all change in the upcoming ACC and NCAA tournaments.)
Well, Ewing has certainly never been the superstar. Even in his senior year, teammates J.J. Redick and Shelden Williams still get the majority of the team’s press.
For the season he is averaging 15.3 points per game, compared to a career average of 11.4. Playing for the last time in front of the Cameron Crazies, Ewing managed 14 points, a career-high 10 assists and his first double-double.
“It’s like a storybook game,” Ewing said. “It was good to go out like that.”
Without the same attention given to his teammates, particularly Redick, Ewing is quietly the guy who has won more games (110) than any other player in the country. Also high on his résumé would be MVP of the 2003 ACC Tournament.
As the Crazies chanted his son’s name, George Ewing recalled his favorite moment of Daniel’s career. It was from the second game of the NCAA Tournament in 2002, when the freshman Ewing scored 18 points and grabbed six rebounds to fend off an upset from Notre Dame.
“I know the coach of Notre Dame said, ‘If anyone was going to beat us, it was Daniel Ewing,’” George Ewing said. “And he was the one that beat [Notre Dame].”
Perhaps most impressively, Ewing only lost two games in Cameron Indoor Stadium over his four years.
“I hope that he is remembered as a champion,” head coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “He’s just a kid you want to be around all the time.”
Those close to Ewing—from teammates, to coaches, to the team’s sports information staff—all echo Krzyzewski's feelings. Yet I always thought Ewing carved an uneasy presence on campus, especially among his fellow students. His reputation is not one of being easily approachable. He is not the kind of guy who has the same rapport with the student body as some of his teammates, like Redick and Lee Melchionni, do.
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“I would say it’s almost like people might think he’s standoffish,” Melchionni said.
Talking is not something that comes naturally to Ewing. From all accounts, the maturation of the incredibly quiet freshman to the team’s vocal leader has been a long one. Even now, Ewing is arguably the Blue Devils’ biggest trash talker, but you still have to pay close attention to catch it.
“He’s learned to deal with a lot of things at Duke,” George Ewing said. “This year has brought a lot out of him because he had to be vocal, had to talk.”
So, then, where does Ewing belong? Given his statistics, his victories, his journey, he ought to be remembered more than he will be. And wherever it is, he’ll probably be overshadowed by someone else, and he’ll most likely not speak up about it.
“You aren’t going to know the true effect or wealth of Daniel until he’s gone,” Melchionni said. “He’s like the superstar who is underappreciated.”