Rasheed Sulaimon: Well, my dad and I, we really enjoyed ourselves. Even though we took a loss, it was just one of those games where nothing seemed to go right for the team. When you are missing shots and the other team is playing so well, it's just one of those games that teams go through from time to time. But I was still able to spend a lot of time with the team and with Coach K and the coaching staff and with Shabazz and Amile, so it was a still a great time, reminded me of how excited I am to get down there this year and start being a Duke Blue Devil.
You've been to several Duke games now, is it a different experience from when you first visited or is still the same?
Absolutely. I mean, I loved my visit to Duke, the fans are great, even when the team was down and it didn't look they were going to be able to come back, those fans were still loud and passionate right to the end, supporting the team. The thing that really hit me in my heart was listening to Miles Senior Speech, you could just tell his passion for Duke, for the team, for the university, for the coaching staff, I really felt for him, but it was very special to get to experience that moment.
What was your itinerary?
My father and I got to Duke Friday afternoon, probably around lunchtime or so, and I started hanging out right away with Shabazz. I got a chance to talk with Coach K and Coach Capel and the rest of the staff, it was really great getting to see them again, we got to see a practice, it was all good.
How was it to reconnect with Shabazz?
It was great because we are really good friends, I mean, we've known each other for several years now and we talked about the possibility of playing together.
How did that come up?
Well the thing is, he's a really big name and he knows guys at every school that's really recruiting him, so I brought up to him how great it would be if we could play together and Amile and some of the guys that we know at Duke already like Alex Murphy and Quinn and many other guys. He was very receptive of that coming from me, he told me how great it would be to play with a talented guard like myself.
I know since the staff has been recruiting you they've talked about you being part of a good sized class with several guys. Now, since you've been the only signed player with them from the fall signing period, how do you feel about how the recruiting class is shaping up?
I think to be honest, it's worked to my advantage because I've gotten to be extremely close with Coach K and the staff and the players, I mean, I've been able to talk with Coach K like twice a week for awhile now, so we've gone to a new level of trust in our relationship and it's given them the opportunity to make clear to me what they expect of me.
So what do they expect from you?
The big thing is that they expect a lot out of me because they view me as a player who can make an impact in the program in a variety of ways. Defense is going to be a big part of what they want me to concentrate on, both with on ball defense and also being a leader in communicating with my teammates about where we need to be on defense. They also want me to be a ball-handler for the team, and they have trust in me that I can play with a variety of guards with whoever they have. They trust me to create for myself and for my teammates because I can play off the other guards. Overall, they want me to do a lot of different things, which is great.
How much, if any, have they talked about with you about what Austin Rivers is doing and what your role might be if he stays for a second season?
They haven't really talked much with me at all about what Austin is doing, but I know that if he stays, I'm absolutely comfortable playing with him because he's such a dynamic player who can score, I can play off him, he'll make me better if I have the opportunity to play off him.
The other variable in play with the backcourt is the possibility of Shabazz coming to Duke. if that happens, how do you see yourself fitting in with him?
I think like with Austin, it's the same situation with Bazz. He's such an amazing player, my role would be different if he was on the team, but I've told him personally and he's expressed to me that we think we both can play together and make a big impact if we were to play together, so I don't see any problem in playing alongside either Shabazz or Austin or both if they are both at Duke next year.
You just brought up probably the dream scenario that Duke fans are hoping for… having both Austin Rivers and Shabazz with you and the rest of the Duke guards. Is that something that either Austin or Shabazz has talked with you about?
Yeah, I mean, if that were to happen that would be really amazing just because of how good Austin and Shabazz are as players. I haven't really heard anything from either one of those guys in discussing that possibility, but I know all of us know how great it would be to play together, but those guys are each going to make their own decisions, which is fine.
Turning back to the visit, you spent time with Shabazz and Amile Jefferson. What was the general mood between you three since you'd all known each other for a while?
I think the first thing in talking with those guys is I think Duke has a really good shot at getting both of those guys. They both told me that they loved what Coach K had to say to them and we all got along really well. I was talking with them about how great it would be if we all came in together as a freshman class, and both of them said that Duke has a real shot with them, which was great to hear.
What did the weekend teach you that you may not have known before?
I think with Shabazz, one of the things he was talking with me was about the pros and cons to the different schools that he's considering. He talked about Kansas and Kentucky and Duke and what they are saying to him and how his visits went. We actually got a chance to spend a good amount of one on one time with each other hanging out.
Pros and Cons?
He mostly talked about the visits and what he saw and what the staffs were saying to him. He mentioned that in talking with Coach K, He loves Coach K and he shared how Coach K was very direct with him about what Duke could do for him as a player and how he'd play in the program and how he'd be prepared for the NBA. With Kansas, he mentioned how it was probably the loudest place he's ever seen a game in person before and how much he enjoyed talking with Coach Self.
A lot has been made about Kentucky's pitch to him as well.
The big thing he mentioned was how much he enjoyed his visit to Kentucky. They just rolled out the red carpet for him and he had a really good time visiting their program, said it was neat to see how passionate their fan base was for Kentucky players. He also talked about his relationship that he has with different players at schools he's considering.
He's got several friends who are on the team at Kentucky and he also knows guys like myself and Austin and Quinn Cook here at Duke, and he said it was cool hanging out with Alex Murphy on the visit too.
Did Alex host you guys this weekend?
Yes sir, he was, and we got to hang out a lot with Alex, he's such a good guy, and it was helpful because he reclassified into the current freshman class instead of staying in the same class as me and Shabazz and Amile, so we all knew each other, it was definitely easier to spend time since we all knew each other and had played together before.
Aside from the game and the practices, what did you guys do over the weekend?
One thing we got to do with myself, Shabazz, Alex, Mike Gbinije and several other players was get up extra shots after they were done with practice and we even played like 4 or 5 games of horse.
You'd be surprised, but Gbinije was really competitive and we all had a really good time. For me, I tried the really hard trick shots whereas Gbinije and Shabazz, they were putting up the same shot almost over and over until they got another player to miss, so it was all fun. Being able to hang out with Alex, it was great to see his work ethic, he was the guy who got us organized to put up extra shots and work on our games a bit, it was great to see how hard he works.
You guys had pretty good seats for the game. What were the discussions like during the lulls?
I talked to both Shabazz and Amile a lot. Tto be honest, I was really worried that because Duke was having a rough shooting night and they ended up not winning that that was going to affect their decisions, so one of the things we talked about was his feelings about what we were seeing on the court.
What kind of feedback did you receive?
The big thing is that they wasn't worried that Duke ended up losing. Shabazz made it clear that it doesn't affect his decision in any way. He's making his decision based on other factors. Other than that, we just talked about a variety of things about how the coaches were coaching the players, how different players were making plays, overall it was good that we got to sit together, I was just telling him how great it would be if he could come and join me at Duke.
A lot of people love comparisons when evaluating high school guys. Do you have a player you feel your game compares to?
I think with my skill set, and not that I'm anywhere near as good as this guy is, but I think I compare to Jamal Crawford.
Interesting comparison. Can you shed some light on that?
Absolutely, I think we've both got long arms, so we can play defense and disrupts passing lanes, he's a combo guard like me, so we can create for ourselves and for teammates, we can score in bunches, he's got a really nice pull up that I'm working on developing but he can also get to the rack, I see him doing a lot of things that I try to do on the court.
Has Coach K and the staff compared you to anybody?
Yes sir, Coach K has told me he views me as having a Nolan Smith impact on the program, which those are some big shoes to fill. How do you feel about that comparison ? I think it's a real honor to be compared to him knowing how big an impact he had on the program, but i'm ready to step up and accept the responsibility, it's great knowing how much Coach K trusts me.