Sean Obi: It's very exciting, and it feels really good to be committed. It's very relieving for me to have it over. The process, once I decided to transfer, started with a lot of schools going through my high school coach, which was great. He helped me with that, and once we started seeing what schools were interested I was able to tell them that I wanted a top academic school as a part of my decision, and so he helped with me that. I started talking with the coaches of schools that I had interest in because every school is a good academic school, but he helped me focus on schools that I was more interested in.
What was it like for you having all the options you did?
You know, coming out of high school, a lot of people didn't think that I could play at this level, and I only had a few schools interested in me like Rice and others. I made the commitment to go in and work hard and try to be the best player that I could be at Rice because I really didn't know what to expect going in, but I knew that I could control working hard and just staying humble. Once I opened things up and some of the top schools in the country starting expressing interest, I knew I wanted top academics and top basketball.
Your mom mentioned that Duke was a school you had strong interest in, even before they started recruiting you, what was it about Duke that had you so interested early on?
Well, they are known for having the best combination of basketball and academics and it's not even a question with that, it's just a great, great program and they have a great coach in Coach K. When I got to meet Coach K in person, it was special to me and even moreso when I started talking with both Coach K and with Coach Scheyer. When I was on campus, I just fell in love with the coaching staff and the players and the whole environment, it's ridiculous in a good way, and it's just a special place because it's Duke and I've always been a big fan of Duke, so there's just no way I could miss out on this.
It was a little weird talking with them initially because I was such a big fan of them even before we started talking, but once we did, it was great. I was watching them some like when they played at Madison Square Garden and I'm a big fan of Jabari Parker, it's like everything is different there, the way they go about things, it's different. Like when I got calls from Coach Scheyer and then from Coach K, I was like "wow, that's Coach K and it was very special and very different and it's a dream come true". I already have a great relationship with Coach Scheyer and with the rest of the coaching staff and the team, it's just a great fit for me.
What stood out to you in your interactions with Coach K and with Coach Scheyer?
Yeah at first they didn't approach me just as a basketball player, they approached me as a person first, which was great and I was talking with Coach Scheyer and Coach K about life at Duke and then I visited and it was so special for me. I met with the academic advisor and even the managers were great, I was enjoying myself and I just loved it there. There's a bond there that is special that will last for a lifetime and the players there are very unique and they really believe in each other.
Once you setup the Duke visit--what was going through your mind as you got closer to getting on campus?
Honestly, I wasn't thinking about it too much but then I got on campus and I saw Coach K and Coach Scheyer and we all got a tour and we met with the players and the managers, but I didn't think too much going into the visit, I was more just excited for the visit.
Can you take me through the visit's itenerary?
We had a very nice breakfast to start, Coach K was talking and then they showed me a very special video that they like to show to their recruits. I liked that too and then I spent some more time with Coach K. Then we met with the academic advisors who were very impressed with my grades and where i was and then they talked about being able to get into Duke which they said I would be able to do because of how impressive my grades were. After that, we had lunch with the coaches and then I was able to have a workout with one of the players, Amile Jefferson, who is just a great, great person. Then we went back to the hotel and relaxed a bit and then we went out to dinner and then I was able to hang out with some of the players like Jabari, and it was great.
Then the next day, at breakfast, they took me through campus and it was so beautiful but overall, it was like other official visits, but Duke is just a special place. What makes it special in part is just who the coaches are, their relationship as coaches with the players, it's just really amazing. I really liked that and the family thing, and it goes on forever in that program. Coach K, he's an amazing guy, and Coach Scheyer, he's just an amazing person, we just have a very unique relationship and he's a great guy. The players too, they are all really great, and it's interesting how they will have a whole new roster next year with all the freshman coming in along with myself, it's just a whole new situation but i was also able to really connect with some of the returning guys like Matt Jones, Amile Jefferson, Semi, they are great people.
When I was hanging out with Jabari, I didn't get to spend a whole lot of time together with him, but he was very humble, just a very nice person and very different. I was actually shocked when I walked in and he was there and when we were able to talk, I really enjoyed it, he was very honest with me about his experience and he's just a really nice guy and he had a really great season and he just encouraged me to keep working hard and to always do what I needed to do to improve to help the team, he was just great to be around.
Did you see your feelings changing about Duke as the visit progressed?
You know, it really started as I was getting to know the coaches better and being able to see who they really are, not just who they on TV, and the more I saw, the more I felt like nobody could really talk down about the place because they have the best basketball, the best academics, it's a great place because of that combination and I just couldn't pass it up, it's a dream opportunity for me.
Once I was able to see that and to spend time with the coaches and the players, that's what did it for me, they are all great guys. This one was very special, I really liked it and it just grew gradually, we spent a lot of time together, that's what made it unique.
What were your thoughts on the vision Coach K and the staff presented to you if you were to become a Duke player and student?
Oh, that blew me away too. It was just a different level from what I had seen. It's a very high level and they were able to tell me what they thought of me as a player and how they really needed a player like me. Also they made sure and did a great job at telling me how Duke would be my home in a sense, both as a player and a person.
One of the thing we heard was that playing against a guy like Jahlil Okafor was a selling point for you, is that correct?
Oh, yes. I'm so excited about that! He's so talented, he's a real big man, which is something you don't see all that much - a big who is so skilled and so very talented. I'm so excited because I'm going to work very hard in practice everyday and I'm going to make him better and he's going to do the same for me. I'm looking forward to it, it's going to be really good for us.
Your mom mentioned that Duke presented an opportunity through the challenges that are there that you would be able to grow as a person and a player...
With the way basketball is there, I've always loved challenges growing up and to me, it's very exciting. I love doing the best I can and I love working as hard as a I can and just being the best player I can be. Coach K and I discussed it a lot, and I just really love the potential challenges that are there, because i'm going to get better as a player there. I love the physicality of being a big man and I'll have an opportunity to play that style there.
What did you think about the academic setup?
Well, it's a little similar to Rice in that they are all top academic schools, but it's just a different level at Duke, and it's a great situation for me. I'm pretty high on that, they keep you on a high level there at Duke, so that'll be good for me.
What was it that turned you from considering Duke to wanting to commit?
I can't really say generally, but when I was able to get on campus and to meet with the coaches and with the players, I just knew that was it. The honesty and the relationship with Coach K and the players and the coaches and the way things are done, the family there, its very unique and it's like I was telling my parents, I just loved everything about it, the campus, even the managers felt like teammates and I just loved it. It was what I was looking for.
How did the phone conversation go with Coach K when you called him to offer your commitment?
I called him and said, "Coach, I've thought about it and I've always known it since I got there, but I'm ready to commit to you and to Duke University. I'm ready to commit to my teammates and I'm just ready to come in and work hard everyday in practice and in games when I earn the opportunity, and I'm just ready to come in and help us win a national championship"
What was his reaction?
Coach K, he was so excited. I actually spoke with him a few moments ago and he is so happy for me and the relationship we have, it's already great. We talked just a little while ago today how excited we are, he was checking on me to see how I'm doing because this Friday, which is actually the last day of classes at Rice, and then we have final exams, so he was calling to make sure that I was doing OK. He was letting me know that I'm doing well with school and he also asked what he thought might be a different question that if i was still happy and I told him that of course, I am still very happy and very excited and I can't stop being happy. He's very excited and very happy, and that he wanted to check on me was very cool.
When are you planning on getting to Duke initially?
Getting to Duke should be sometime in June, mid-June. From now to then, it's going to be intense workouts with my coaches, a lot of running and lifting. I'm really working hard on getting stronger and to also work on improving all aspects of my game that I can, including my ballhandling, my shooting, just everything.
Is there any thought process towards submitting a waiver request to the NCAA for you to see if you could be eligible to play this year?
I honestly don't know. I haven't thought about it at this point, so I honestly can't say at this point what we'll do.
In closing, any message for your future fans?
Tell them I can't wait to get them more excited about our team and our program. It's very exciting for me to be able to go there and I'm looking forward to getting the Crazies even more crazy. Also, thank you to them for all their support, it really means a lot already and I'm really happy about being a Blue Devil.
NOTE: Premium subscribers will get a look behind the scenes of the Obi recruitment, the visit, and much more this week with the second part of our interview series.
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