After almost a week of settling in on campus, the Class of 2021 received a warm welcome Saturday from a Duke icon. 

Grant Hill, Trinity '94 and former Blue Devil basketball star, drew on his personal experience at Duke for a speech at the Chapel that closed orientation week.  As a student, Hill double-majored in history and political science. Outside of class, he became a two-time NCAA champion,  NCAA All-American and ACC Player of the Year. 

Hill reminisced on the everyday struggles of adjusting to college life—including learning to manage his time and living with a roommate as an only child.

"It's hard to believe that 27 years ago, I was going through exactly what you are going through now," Hill said. "What you experience this week and this year, I think, will last you the rest of your life."

For Hill, what ultimately distinguishes Duke as an institution is its people. He credited the University's excellence to its superior leadership, including its new president, Vincent Price.

He also noted that Duke had undergone significant enhancements to its physical infrastructure since his graduation, thanks to the continued support of the University's alumni.

"I’m sure you’ve had the chance to visit the West Union, which is obviously a great fine dining [venue]. When I was here we just had a cafeteria which we called 'the pits,'" he joked.

Hill emphasized that Duke's students are most responsible for making the University great.

"It’s you—it’s the students," Hill said. "You guys are achievers, you guys are the best of the best, you chose to come here, you chose to contribute to the culture of this place and make it better."

Based on his experience under Duke men's basketball coach Mike Kryzyzewski's "legendary" leadership, Hill discussed three learning points which he said Krzyzewski both lived by and demanded from Hill's fellow teammates. He called on the audience to practice "love of the game" and of each other.

"If you love something, you will value it, you will nurture it, you will do everything you can to protect it—whether it’s on the court, the relationships, the excellence you demand from one another or whether it’s here on campus as a student," Hill said.

He further emphasized the importance of being honest with oneself and exercising collective spirit and responsibility. Illustrating the latter principle, he used a metaphor to stress teamwork. 

"If you strike too hard you may hurt yourself," he said. "But if you bring your fingers together into a fist, now you can do some real things together. We try to live by that."

Hill also encouraged students in the year ahead to 'be a rainbow in somebody else's cloud,' quoting poet and civil rights activist Maya Angelou. 

Students in attendance said they appreciated his brief but inspirational address to the class.

"He's really an icon," said junior Xinchen Li, a transfer student from the University of California at Los Angeles.

First-years Ted Choi and Sam Kim added that Hill was an inspiring speaker. 

"I'll have to say that the speech was very intriguing, and certainly something I thought could reach into the hearts of many," Choi said. "At the same time, the man was bomb, and I hope to hear from him again."