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Jon Scheyer talks hoops, faith Monday at Freeman Center

<p>Men’s basketball assistant coach Jon Scheyer has won two national championships at Duke—one as a player and one as a coach.</p>

Men’s basketball assistant coach Jon Scheyer has won two national championships at Duke—one as a player and one as a coach.

For Duke men’s basketball assistant coach Jon Scheyer, returning to his roots has always meant something special.

Scheyer, a former basketball standout for the Blue Devils and member of the 2010 national championship team, is one of three former players that currently make up head coach Mike Krzyzewski’s coaching staff, joining associate head coach Jeff Capel and assistant Nate James. On Monday evening at the Freeman Center for Jewish Life, Scheyer spoke to a group of nearly 50 students, discussing a wide range of topics including his playing career—both at Duke and abroad—the transition to coaching and the time he spent playing basketball in Israel.

“I felt proud to be Jewish living in Israel,” he said. “You realize how there’s not a lot of Jews in the world, so that really strengthened my beliefs.”

The question-and-answer session, moderated by sophomore Zachary Spiera, a manager for the men’s basketball team, began with Scheyer, 28, discussing his family and what it was like to grow up Jewish in the Chicago suburb of Northbrook, Ill. He noted in particular that it was very meaningful to him to be a member of the first high school in Illinois to ever win a state championship with a starting lineup comprised entirely of Jews.

Despite cutting down the nets in 2010, the first few years at Duke were a struggle for Scheyer, as the Blue Devils failed to advance past the Sweet 16 in the NCAA tournament until his senior year. They were, nonetheless, a critical learning period for him.

“You win because of the work you put in. You don’t win just because you’re at Duke,” he said.

After graduating in May 2010, Scheyer played in the NBA Summer League with the Miami Heat before suffering a severed optic nerve in his right eye. Although he was able to recover and get his playing career back on track in the NBA Developmental League and then in Israel with Maccabi Tel Aviv, Scheyer noted that the injury hurt him mentally as a player.

Monday’s event at the Freeman Center provided Scheyer the chance to discuss several different aspects of his time with Israel’s top basketball team—including being a dual citizen of the United States and Israel and being in the birthplace of his ancestors while the country consistently made headlines around the globe.

“The biggest thing I saw over there is that there’s always something going on,” Scheyer said. “What you see in the news isn’t always reality and I could relate to that being over there and living there.”

After Spiera’s questions, the sophomore opened the floor to questions from the audience. Many wanted to know about Scheyer’s relationship with Krzyzewski, who recruited him as a player and again as a coach.

Scheyer said he had always thought about the opportunity to be a player at Duke, but when his former coach asked him to return as an assistant before the 2013-14 season, he was even more excited to be back in Durham.

The students also brought out Scheyer’s sense of humor, asking him about his favorite laughable moment as a player under Krzyzewski and his current relationship with the first coach to win 1,000 games in NCAA Division I men’s basketball history.

“My favorite part was when someone asked him why he still calls Coach K, ‘Coach,’ and [he responded], ‘If you worked with him, would you call him Mike?’” freshman Rachel Berlowe Binder said.

Mitchell Gladstone | Sports Managing Editor

Twitter: @mpgladstone13

A junior from just outside Philadelphia, Mitchell is probably reminding you how the Eagles won the Super Bowl this year and that the Phillies are definitely on the rebound. Outside of The Chronicle, he majors in Economics, minors in Statistics and is working toward the PJMS certificate, in addition to playing trombone in the Duke University Marching Band. And if you're getting him a sandwich with beef and cheese outside the state of Pennsylvania, you best not call it a "Philly cheesesteak." 


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