Duke senior Josh Hairston named basketball tri-captain
Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski named two captains when practice began in late September while keeping an eye on a third unofficial one ever since.
By this week, he had seen enough from senior Josh Hairston to make things official.
With the season-opening game with Davidson set for Friday (7 p.m., ESPNU), Krzyzewski announced Wednesday that Hairston will captain the Blue Devils along with senior Tyler Thornton and redshirt sophomore Rodney Hood.
“Josh is certainly deserving of being one of our captains this year,” Krzyzewski said in a statement. “He has been an excellent player for us and a leader during his first three years. He is someone that has supported his teammates about as well as anybody and our players look to him for that support. With Josh joining Tyler [Thornton] and Rodney [Hood], we have three youngsters that form a great leadership team.”
Hairston and his teammates learned of the decision Tuesday night in the team’s post-practice meeting. Krzyzewski lauded the leadership Thornton and Hood had shown, then surprised Hairston by complimenting him.
Hairston said he’ll never forget how Krzyzewski let him know about the captaincy.
“He said he loves when his guys cross the bridge and become men,” Hairston said. “That’s when he said `Son, I’m naming you a captain tomorrow.’ I actually almost got a tad bit emotional. I felt like that was my moment with coach. Not everybody has those moments with a legend.”
Junior point guard Quinn Cook said Krzyzewski grew emotional as well.
“Coach kind of teared up when he was telling us that (Josh) was going to be captain,” Cook said. “Just to see the joy on Coach’s face and Josh’s face, it was great.”
Hairston admitted that he was disappointed to not be named captain in September when Thornton and Hood got the nod. At the same time, he didn’t let it affect his outward actions.
“He still did everything that a captain would do,” Thornton said. “He was still a leader. He brought it every day in practice, every day in workouts. I told him that everything would work itself out and the end of the day and it did.”
Hairston called his parents back home in Fredricksburg, Va., and thrilled them with the news. He also spoke to a former Duke classmate, Cleveland Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving. Hairston, Thornton and Irving were Duke’s incoming freshman class back in 2010 and they remain close even though Irving jumped to the NBA after one season.
“He had talked to coach as well,” Hairston said. “He called and congratulated me. We had a long conversation. Me, Tyler and Kyrie as still as close as when we walked in here.”
One of Hairston’s projects as a team leader and now captain, has been to get the newcomers ready to the rigors of big time college basketball. That includes, most notably, forward Jabari Parker.
Krzyzewski is counting on a big season from Parker, the celebrated 6-8 freshman from Chicago.
“I take a lot of pride in it,” Hairston said. “A lot of us know how skilled Jabari is and a lot of us feel we won’t be around him too long, probably just this season. I try to make him work the best as I can.”
Hairston has only started eight games for Duke over the last three seasons. His career averages are modest — 2.3 points, 1.6 rebounds per game. Still, his vocal leadership and commitment to hard work impressed Krzyzewski and his teammates.
“I’m truly honored,” Hairston said. “This is something I’ve dreamed about since I’ve been here. To help lead these guys is something that I’ll remember forever.”