J.J. Redick had big plans for his career at Duke.
Brought in by head coach Mike Krzyzewski with three other McDonald's All-Americans as part of a star-studded, six-man recruiting class, Redick dreamed of what could be accomplished during his time in Durham.
"I think our class will win a ton of games and win a ton of championships," Redick said in the fall of 2001 after committing to the Blue Devils. "And when all is said and done, we will go down as the best class [in school history]."
More than four years later, Redick's prophecy for his class remains unfulfilled. Of the six, only four remain after Michael Thompson transferred and Shavlik Randolph left early for the NBA.
The four players left from the recruiting class-Redick, Shelden Williams, Sean Dockery and Lee Melchionni-have stayed four years but still have not won a championship. They have won 111 games together, and they made the 2004 Final Four.
And now on the eve of Senior Night, the group will have just one last run at making Redick's prediction come to fruition with the ACC and NCAA Tournaments later this month.
But before that happens, the four-along with walk-ons Patrick Johnson and Ross Perkins-will be honored for what they have already accomplished. Thoughts of postseason play will be put on hold Saturday, as No. 1 Duke (27-2, 14-1 in the ACC) aims to go out in style during its final home game against No. 13 North Carolina (20-6, 11-4) at 9 p.m. in Cameron Indoor Stadium.
"It's going to be, hopefully, a really great night," Redick said. "I love the guys that I've played with over the years and I love playing in Cameron with all the fans."
During past Senior Nights, Redick said he was emotional for his graduating teammates. Now that his turn is finally here, Redick said he is unsure of how he'll react during the final home game.
"I actually cried during Chris Duhon's Senior Day and Daniel Ewing's Senior Day last year," Redick said. "I'm an emotional guy. I believe I will cry and get emotional on Senior Day at some point."
The current group of seniors have never lost at home to their Tobacco Road rivals, and they are 5-2 overall against the Tar Heels during their time at Duke.
Last season, the No. 7 Blue Devils knocked off the No. 2 Tar Heels at home in a thrilling 71-70 victory. The eventual National Champions, North Carolina was deeper and more talented, but Duke protected its home court. During the teams' second meeting in Chapel Hill, the Tar Heels stormed back in the final minutes and won, 75-73.
This year, the roles appear to be reversed. Despite losing to Florida State Wednesday night, the Blue Devils have lived up to their lofty preseason expectations and should enter the NCAA Tournament as a No. 1 seed.
After losing its top seven scorers from its title squad a year ago, North Carolina has surprised many by rising to second place in the conference. The Tar Heels almost shocked Duke Feb. 7 in Chapel Hill, before Redick's late-game three-pointers saved an 87-83 victory.
"They're obviously our biggest in-conference rivals and we have to be on top of our game Saturday night," Redick said. "We want to win every game, we want to play well every game. We obviously don't want to lose two games in a row."
Coming off three straight games in which Redick's shot has not been falling-the senior was 10-for-28 Wednesday-Duke will need his touch to return to finish the regular season on a high note.
With his final home game creeping up, Redick seemed to be focusing his emotion less on the hoopla surrounding his last time in Cameron, and more on the bigger picture of his legacy at Duke.
Asked more recently if he would well up Saturday, Redick was less sure than he was a little more than two weeks ago.
"I hope not," he said. "I hope I get emotional... the last Monday of the season."
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