Alex O'Connell (Nike/Jon Lopez)

One on one with Alex O'Connell

After committing to Duke shortly after the Olympics, four star wing Alex O'Connell took an official visit to Durham. We had a chance to sit down with O'Connell to discuss that and more.

Let’s start back in July if we can since it sounds like that was a pivotal time in the Duke recruiting process.  What do you remember about that time and how you were feeling about the Duke recruiting situation then?

Yeah that Peach Invitational was the first time that Coach K had actually seen me play. I had been on campus before for a visit and we had started building a relationship that way, but then they saw me play in the Peach Invitational and started showing more interest. At that point though I was just looking at it the same way as I was with other schools.

So then the Olympics happened… How did you deal with the reality that Coach K was out of the country for awhile and you weren’t having a ton of communication with him at that point?

It wasn’t that big a deal to me because I was staying in touch with all the assistant coaches and they were telling me that they didn’t want to take things to the next level until Coach K was going to be back. I definitely understood that and respected it.

Was there anything particularly helpful that you heard from them at that time?

The big thing was just because Coach K isn’t around, their interest is still really high and that I was one of their top priorities. They were telling me about other guys they were recruiting in my class and that I was one of their high priorities. So I knew the interest level was there and it was still a very intriguing option for me. I was definitely excited that I was being recruited by Duke and was talking with the staff and about possibly being a part of the Duke Family.

What was going through your mind as you were nearing the phone call with Coach K from after he returned from Rio?

It was just good to hear from him after being out of the country for awhile. I was open to hearing what he had to say and wanted to consider all my options, and take everything in that moment.

How did you react on that call when he officially extended the scholarship offer to you?

I was extremely excited. Having all the other offers from the summer, when you have the Duke offer it just lets you know how much exposure you had gotten and how well you had played. It’s tremendous to know that I had a Duke offer and that Coach K was interested in me and wanted me to play for his program. I was definitely excited to see his name come up on my phone screen when he was calling me. He was telling me about the success that this Olympics team had had, then we started talking about me. He had already seen me play and we had had some talks, then he said he offered me and I was really at a loss for words because that doesn’t happen to everybody. I didn’t know what to say at first but I told him thank you Coach for your belief in me as a player and your belief that I can become the best player that I can be. He was very excited when I committed, it wasn’t something that he expected to hear, but it definitely made his day from what he said and it made mine too.

What’s the follow up communication with Duke centered around since then?

It’s been really good. It’s more comfortable communication now since I know those are my coaches for next year and for my time in college. We just talk a lot about everyday, normal things. They’ve told me that they see a very bright future for me and they are really excited to get me up there and be a part of the Brotherhood and they are excited to work with me and help me have the best college career I can.

So what are your expectations for your freshman season?

You know I don’t know, that’s something we can’t tell right now. I’ll get up there during the summer and work my butt off and we’ll go from there.

So then you went on your official visit to Duke, what was that experience like for you?

Oh man it was great. I got to play with the guys a few times and get more comfortable with them and I also got to hang out with the guys a lot. I really started to feel like I was part of the family and I’m looking forward to getting back up there again this season for some games and Countdown to Craziness and all that type of stuff. It’s been great to start building a relationship with all of them. It’s been great and I had a great time on the visit.

How did the pickup games go with the guys? Who did you match up with?

It was good. The competition level is as a high as it gets and the talent level is too, so it was great to see where your game stacks up and it was a lot of fun because I started feeling more and more comfortable every game. I could definitely see myself playing with those guys. It was a sort of mix of guys I played against because it depended on how screens were being switched and all that. Most of the time it was either Grayson Allen or Matt Jones or Jack White. There were even times I was guarding Javin (DeLaurier). I also got to spend a lot of time with the coaches and all the players. In the morning we got to have breakfast at Coach K’s house and I had a lot of time with Coach Capel and Coach James, but unfortunately Nolan Smith wasn’t there due to being at a wedding. Would have been great to see him because that whole staff top to bottom is just outstanding including Nolan.

So what was most memorable for you either in terms of what you saw or heard on the official visit?

Just probably not one certain thing, but feeling closer with the players and feeling a part of the family. It was great to feel accepted into the family by all of them, that was a great feeling that I left Duke with.

Ok last question, is there anything you want to express to your future fans?

The only thing I can really say is thank you to all of you for your support and I can’t wait to be a Blue Devil.

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