‘A special experience’: Graduate students look back on tenting for Duke men’s basketball season tickets

Every year, hundreds of undergraduates stay in tents outside Krzyzewskiville in hopes of seeing the Duke men’s basketball team face off against North Carolina in Cameron Indoor Stadium. Graduate students have a different process. 

If graduate students participate in a campout outside K-Ville for a weekend, they can enter a lottery to purchase men’s basketball season tickets for $300. Beginning with Duke men’s basketball’s exhibition game against the UNC Pembroke on Nov. 1, graduate students who won the lottery and bought season tickets can attend all home games. 

Bertram Ji, a first-year doctoral student studying marine science, Maria Gonzalez, a doctoral student in the physical therapy program, and Lila Lehtola, a second-year master’s student in the physician assistant program, were three of the roughly 1,350 students who registered to camp out from Oct. 6 to 8. The event normally draws anywhere from 800 to 1,200 participants, according to Zach Gude, one of the two head ushers and a fourth-year doctoral student in medical physics. 

The entertainment and activities included a DJ performance, a pickleball tournament, food trucks and a cancer walk to raise money and awareness for pediatric cancer research sponsored by the V Foundation for Cancer Research, according to Gude.

Ushers called check-ins at the Morton Plaza tables, where participants scanned their wristbands to confirm their presence. For each check-in completed, a student received one entry into the lottery. 

Gude says that everyone who participates has a “between a one and two and a one in three chance” to win the lottery. Some weren’t so lucky. 

Out of the 10 people Ji tented with, eight won the lottery and bought tickets, but he was one of the two who lost. This was especially upsetting because he checked in consistently while some of the lottery winners didn’t, he said. 

Despite his loss, Ji said he enjoyed the experience, especially when he met members of the Duke men’s basketball team and took photos with them while tenting. Additionally, the winners of the season tickets have guest passes to all games except the Duke-North Carolina matchup, so Ji can accompany his friends to most games this season. 

After a canceled campout in the fall of 2021 and limited timing and resources for the fall of 2022, this year’s turnout was especially exciting for Gude.

“I'll say that I am really happy with how the weekend went, and the amount of student participation was amazing. This is a strong sign of a really supportive student base, and we're looking forward to it,” Gude said.

Gude emphasized the importance of this event in bringing graduate students together. 

“[Camping out] is some of the most interaction that you're gonna get with people from basically every discipline that the university has to offer,” he said. “[Students are] all in one place while going through this difficult weekend together, but having a lot of fun while doing it and making a lot of really good friendships along the way.”

Lehtola said camping was one of the few opportunities to take a breather, meet with friends outside of a school setting and “relax and play board games and chat in the middle of the day” instead of focusing on academics. 

Lehtola misheard that she was not a lottery winner at the end of tenting, only to realize from an email a week later that she indeed had the chance to purchase tickets. She registered for tickets 10 minutes before the deadline to buy tickets, still in shock. It wasn’t until she received a confirmation email that her tickets were purchased that she registered that she would be attending games this season.  

Gonzalez also participated in the experience, although she had to miss multiple hours of tenting for a Saturday club volleyball tournament. Still, she won the lottery and purchased the season tickets. For her, the highlight was the first night, which she describes as staying up late “just vibing.” 

Gonzalez describes the tenting as part of an integral part of the Duke experience — “something that they’ve done for so many years now that it’s a tradition.” Ji echoed this sentiment, noting that camping out was an opportunity to participate in Duke’s basketball culture, a component that drew him to attend the University. 

“It's fascinating how a school can arrange such a big event, and I think it’s pretty cool because of the culture here. That basketball culture, the sports culture … it's a special experience,” Ji said.

Madera Longstreet-Lipson profile
Madera Longstreet-Lipson

Madera Longstreet-Lipson is a Trinity first-year and a staff reporter for the news department.      


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