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Entertainment guaranteed

Graduate student Andre Dawkins, along with teammates Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood, gave the crowd at Cameron Indoor Stadium a healthy dose of slam dunks Tuesday.
Graduate student Andre Dawkins, along with teammates Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood, gave the crowd at Cameron Indoor Stadium a healthy dose of slam dunks Tuesday.

A Monday-night game against UNC-Asheville: A pithy student crowd shows up to a 91-55 Duke blowout.

The very next day, the Blue Devils play again. This time, the opponent is East Carolina. Section 17 appears nearly as empty as the day before, except there is plenty of Pirate purple sprinkled in.

“In warm-ups you can see it,” Quinn Cook says. “If you can see the brown, you can see the bleachers— something’s going on.”

Duke hits its first 11 shots, and another rout appears in order. But then it isn't. The Pirates storm back and bring the game within one, only to fall short 83-74.

“It was a heck of a basketball game,” head coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “I wish that more people could have attended.”

Part of the emptiness is to blame on the Preseason NIT. Both days, the pair of games was considered a single-admission doubleheader, and each school was given an area to sell tickets to their fans. The single-admission part essentially guarantees some empty areas because fans from the schools not playing aren’t necessarily going to watch the other game. It happens in tournaments all the time. East Carolina’s allotted area was in Section 17, explaining why it appeared even emptier during Monday’s Duke game and purpler Tuesday.

The bigger problem, though: The schools couldn’t sell their allotment of tickets, and Duke was only informed about this Sunday, said Mike Cragg, senior associate director of athletics for operations. Usually, Duke can figure out how many students will come to a game and when it won’t be full. That’s when they sell tickets to Section 17.

“We can anticipate these nights,” Cragg said. “But we couldn’t do anything about it.”

Duke tried to give away the tickets for free, but the Preseason NIT didn’t allow them to, Cragg said. As Krzyzewski said after the game, the seating arrangement at the Preseason NIT “stinks” because it “ruined the atmosphere of Cameron.”

Students, though, could have continued to come. They weren’t being turned away. Any student who showed up before game time would’ve been allowed in. Any student who wanted to watch Duke dribble out the clock after a thrilling second half probably could’ve walked in for just that final moment.

Perhaps it was because students have midterms, Cragg said, and that Duke is amid a stretch of three home games in five days. There was the epic football game Saturday too. That’s a lot for even the most dedicated Blue Devil fans. And then there are other reasons that are common sense: Sometimes it’s nice to watch a game in high-definition on a couch with a beer and a laptop.

But go watch this team in person. This isn’t to blame students—I’ve spent plenty of games watching on a couch. And I’ve never bought the argument that any athletic team, professional or amateur, “deserves” fans. This argument has been made with practically every non-revenue sport, football and women’s basketball over the years. It usually sounds something like, “Fans should go because the team is good and deserves the support of its peers.”

I don’t want to blame people for not going as if they’ve done something wrong. I just want to say: If you’re not watching this team in person, you’re missing out.

There is something so incredibly fun about this year’s team that doesn’t quite translate to television, even with surround sound and a 60-inch 1080p flat screen.

This is the type of team fans dream about. Not fans of Duke, fans of the sport. A team that runs and guns, pumps fists and bumps chests, and dunks and dunks again. It’s a real-life video game.

Jabari Parker dunked the ball four times against East Carolina. One was an alley-oop from Cook that sent the fans—those that were there—berserk. On another, he dribbled the full length of the floor through four Pirate defenders and sent it home with ease as if he were playing alone on the Central Campus courts. There was almost a fifth—another alley-oop from Cook—that might have been the best slam in program history if Parker were able to successfully put it down with his mighty right arm that stretched out like Michael Jordan’s at the end of Space Jam. There will be plenty of time to watch Parker on TV next year, when he’s most likely playing in the NBA. What Parker, Rodney Hood and the rest of the Blue Devils are doing right here and now on Coach K Court isn’t the same on TV.

Whether the game is a blowout, like against UNC-Asheville, or a nail-biter, like against East Carolina, entertainment is guaranteed. If it’s a blowout, just enjoy the Durham Dunk Co. put on a highlight reel with ease. If it’s a good game, enjoy that. You’ll get some awesome dunks too.

The price of admission to Club Cameron is free, and the show is unlike any other in recent memory. Just ask any student who was there because with all the excitement this team generated, the noise at the end made it seem like the stands were packed.

“I felt like it was regular Cameron in here,” Cook said. “The fans who came did great.”

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