Marvin Bagley III's decision to come to Duke was not a shock to fans that followed his recruitment closely, but he did have a surprise in store during his announcement on ESPN's SportsCenter Monday night.
Bagley unveiled a Blue Devil jersey with the retired No. 35, thanking Duke and Danny Ferry for allowing him to wear the number that hangs in the rafters at Cameron Indoor Stadium. It is the first time any Blue Devil will wear a number after it has been retired for an entire season in the history of the program.
"[Associate head coach] Jeff Capel and I had talked about it a while ago, at which time I offered and said I was totally fine with it at some point if they needed to use one of the retired jerseys," Ferry said. "I’m very proud my jersey will still be hanging in Cameron, but I’m most attached to what is best for Duke and the basketball program."
Duke has retired 13 numbers in total, leaving just 23 non-retired numbers available for active players since no college player can have a digit greater than five on his jersey. No numbers have been retired since J.J. Redick and Shelden Williams saw No. 4 and No. 23, respectively, rise to the rafters 10 years ago.
But any future jersey retirements could make assigning numbers to every active player impossible.
"Speaking pragmatically, with so many retired jerseys and the great tradition that hopefully continues, this was going to be an issue going forward for the school at some level," Ferry said. "For it being a high-quality player and a high-character kid, it certainly makes decisions like this easy."
Ferry said he has not met Bagley, but Capel followed up with Ferry after their initial conversation to make sure he would be happy with another player wearing No. 35. Bagley wore the number in high school, and when the Blue Devil coaching staff knew Ferry was okay with it, it passed the message along.
"I had heard he was a wonderful young man through the coaches and felt like he had incredible poise and represented himself and his family very well last night," Ferry said. "I think it’s terrific for Marvin to wear 35 if he desires, and we’ll warmly welcome him to the Duke family. I hope he has an incredible experience at Duke."
Ferry played 143 games at Duke from 1985-89, appearing in head coach Mike Krzyzewski's first three Final Fours. The former 6-foot-10 big man is sixth on the Blue Devils' all-time scoring list with 2,155 points and is one of only four players in program history with at least 2,000 points and 1,000 rebounds. He holds Duke's single-game scoring record with 58 points against Miami in 1988 and won the Naismith Award as the national player of the year for the 1988-89 season.
After a 13-year NBA career, Ferry served as the general manager of the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Atlanta Hawks and is now a special advisor for the New Orleans Pelicans.
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