April 4, 2006 DURHAM -- J.J. Redick and Shelden Williams shared the basketball court for the last time in Duke uniforms on March 23, when the Blue Devils lost to LSU in the Sweet 16 at Atlanta. With nine seconds left on the clock and the game lost, coach Mike Krzyzewski pulled his two stars together.
"It was just to make sure our fans -- and not just our fans, but basketball fans -- to say, Thanks,'" Krzyzewski said, when asked about the gesture. "It was obviously a very appropriate thing to do."
Appropriate, maybe, but the timing could have been better. The final seconds of a gut-wrenching, career-ending loss is not the best time to celebrate two of the best players in Duke -- and ACC -- history.
Quite a few of the league's all-time greats have endured similarly painful exits -- from Ralph Sampson (upset by N.C. State in the NCAA Elite Eight), Michael Jordan (stunned by Indiana in the Sweet 16) and Tim Duncan (bounced in the second round by Stanford), to the greatest of all, David Thompson, who saw his collegiate career end in an ACC title game loss to North Carolina.
Redick and Williams soon will have a chance for a more fitting career appreciation, at the school's basketball banquet later this month. They'll do it again sometime next season, when it appears that Duke will retire Redick's No. 4 and Williams' No. 23 jerseys.
How should they be remembered?
Writers and commentators throughout the season tried to define Redick's place among the ACC's all-time greats. Their efforts were premature and ignored the unique relationship between his career accomplishments and those of Williams, who arrived at Duke with Redick in the fall of 2002.
In hindsight, you could build a pretty good case that Redick and Williams are the most dynamic duo ever to grace a single ACC recruiting class. Between them, they combined for 4,697 career points, barely edging the former Duke combo of Johnny Dawkins and Mark Alarie (4,692 points) as the top-scoring classmates in ACC history.
But it's more than that. Redick and Williams both were voted consensus first-team All-Americans this season (Redick for the second time). That's just the second time in ACC history that two players from the same recruiting class achieved that honor. Duke's Elton Brand (1999) and Shane Battier (2001) also did it, but not in the same year.
Together, Redick and Williams formed the backbone of four successful seasons at Duke. They were anchors for Blue Devil teams that went 26-7, 31-6, 27-6 and 32-4. Those four teams won two ACC regular-season titles, three ACC Tournament titles, appeared in one Final Four and reached the NCAA Sweet 16 in four straight seasons. Only six players in ACC history have played in more winning games.
NUMBERS SUPPORT REDICK, WILLIAMS
Taken individually, Redick certainly has a case as one of the ACC's all-time best players. Statistically, his numbers stack up with almost anyone:
His 2,769 career points are almost 200 more than the Dickie Hemric record that stood for more than a half-century. It's the 16th-highest total in NCAA history. And while his career average of 19.9 points per game has been surpassed by a number of ACC players, it's worth noting that Redick finished with a higher per-game scoring average than such undisputed greats as Jordan, Sampson, Duncan, Phil Ford and Christian Laettner.
His 457 career three-pointers were 44 more than Curtis Staples' old ACC record and 22 more than the second-highest total in NCAA history.
His 91.2 career percentage from the foul line is the best in ACC history, smashing the 87.3 record set by Wake Forest's Charlie Davis three decades ago. It's the best career free throw percentage in NCAA history for a player with 600 or more attempts.
Redick also accumulated an impressive collection of awards:
He was a two-time consensus first-team All-American. Placed in the context of ACC history, Thompson and Sampson were the only three-time picks. Redick is one of eight ACC players to be honored twice.
Redick won the Rupp Award as the national player of the year in 2005 and added the Associated Press award in 2006. That made him just the fifth ACC player to win a major national player of the year award in two or more seasons.
Redick is a two-time ACC player of the year. Again, Thompson and Sampson won that award three times. Redick is the eighth player to win twice.
Redick twice won the Case Award as the ACC Tournament MVP. He's just the fourth player to win it twice. He could have won it a third time, scoring 23 of his game-high 30 points in the final 10 minutes of the 2003 title game. He scored more points in ACC Tournament play than anyone in history.
Redick's success in the ACC Tournament stands in sharp contrast to his lack of success in NCAA Tournament play. For his career, Redick averaged 19.9 points and shot 40.6 percent from the three-point line. But in 14 NCAA Tournament games, he averaged 15.9 points and hit just 33.9 percent on 115 three-point attempts. He was 2-of-16 from the floor in Duke's 2003 Sweet 16 loss to Kansas, 4-of-14 in the 2004 Final Four loss to UConn, 4-of-14 in the 2005 Sweet 16 loss to Michigan State, and 3-of-18 in the 2006 Sweet 16 loss to LSU.
That's certainly a huge hole in Redick's resume, and reason enough to drop him from the very top rank of all-time ACC stars. But don't drop him too far. He's not the only ACC superstar to wear the NCAA collar. Still, while Redick is not one of the top five players in league history, it's hard to get past the top 10 without bringing his name into the debate.
Williams also has an impressive career resume. He's one of 48 ACC players to earn consensus first-team All-America honors. He was a two-time ACC defensive player of the year and the 2005 national defensive player of the year. He finished his career fifth on the ACC blocked shots list and sixth in rebounding.
Those are impressive accomplishments, but in a league that has generated so many great players -- and with Redick's more gaudy accomplishments stealing the limelight -- it's very possible that Williams' achievements will be overlooked by history. That prospect appeared to bother Krzyzewski, as he talked about his stalwart big man after the 2006 ACC Tournament.
"The guy on our team who is, I think, as good a player as I've ever coached, has been Shelden," Krzyzewski said. "Shelden is our pillar of strength. He'll never get the credit, but for me, I just want him to know it. That's why I'm saying it right now. I love Shelden. There's no kid I enjoy more. He really doesn't want anything. He just wants to help everybody. That's the spirit that helps permeate through our team. He's been our guy."
That's a pretty good legacy.