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A Pilgrimage Unlike Any Other

Our Wisconsin pal looks back on his 10 games — 10! — in Cameron

Elon v Duke
DURHAM, NC - DECEMBER 18: Mark Williams #15 of the Duke Blue Devils is fouled by Chuck Hannah #1 of the Elon Phoenix in the second half at Cameron Indoor Stadium on December 18, 2021 in Durham, North Carolina.
Photo by Lance King/Getty Images

Note: Jerry has been hanging out here a long time. A Wisconsin-based journalist, he’s a Duke fan and wanted to write about his experiences in Cameron. Enjoy.

By Jerry Karpowicz

What might you call a guy from Wisconsin who makes trips over 30-plus years specifically to see Duke play 10 games in Cameron Indoor Stadium, THE cathedral of basketball?

Unusual? Sure. Extraordinary? Perhaps. Some wise-guys might label it crazy.

Since the guy from Wisconsin is I, let’s cut to the chase. I will admit it. I plead guilty. I am the crazy one. Crazy about Cameron. Or, if you prefer, Cameron crazy.

I have seen Duke in person about two dozen times in addition to the 10 times in Cameron. I have observed the Blue Devils in Madison Square Garden and the late Kingdome in Seattle. In South Bend and St. Petersburg and Charlotte. In Dallas and Kansas City and Chicago and Greensboro. And in the “apolises” — Minne and Indian — where I have been fortunate to witness four of Coach K’s national championships (please don’t ask why I missed the fifth, in 2015, in Indianapolis, despite attending the semifinal victory over Michigan State).

None of those venues come remotely close to how I feel about Cameron Indoor Stadium. The old-time charm, outside and in. The intimacy. Brass railings. The Crazies. The teams are darn good, too.

My first visit to Cameron was sometime in the fall of the mid 1980s. I was visiting a former University of Wisconsin classmate in Raleigh. Those days, you could park within 20 feet Cameron’s front door and walk right in. Pretty sure that’s what I did. No questions asked. Seemingly nobody around to ask any of me. It looked cozy inside, but I wasn’t all that interested in Duke and didn’t see any need to be there for a game.

My interest in Duke began at the 1986 Final Four in Dallas. The team was walking through the lobby of its hotel the day after beating Kansas in the semifinals and the day before losing the championship game to Louisville. I was impressed by the fact they were wearing suits. Looked classy.

The first visit with the stands full came in November, 1990. First game of the season. First game that counted since the thrashing at the hands of UNLV in the 1990 NCAA championship game. The most recent visit was Thursday, Dec. 16, for Appalachian State.

While doing research for this story, it has been fascinating to watch the numbers accumulate on the imaginary Coach K tote board.

Following are my thoughts and memories of the 10 games I have had the great pleasure of viewing in Cameron Indoor Stadium.

Wednesday, November 14, 1990

No. 6 Duke 87, Marquette 74

Coach K victory 120 in Cameron, 232 at Duke, 305 overall

Long before the Zion Williamson Nike shoe blowout came one on the right shoe of Marquette’s Ron Curry with 41 seconds to play in the game that was part of the Dodge NIT. Marquette was wearing L.A. Gear shoes. By 1990, L.A. Gear boasted sales behind only Nike and Reebok. Pretty sure Duke was an “adidas school” then.

My trip was so I could to do a free-lance story on the Crazies for the Los Angeles Times. I had read “Home Court — Fifty Years of Cameron Indoor Stadium” and cribbed off that for a free-lance story for the Milwaukee Journal that was published the day before the game.

Among the Crazies I spoke with was Glenn Coleman, a senior from Wilmington, Del., who wore a basketball and rim get-up on his head as part of a tradition started by Air Force ROTC cadets. I had seen the getup on TV; it was hard to miss, and you saw it many times during play.

I also spoke with Mickie Krzyzewski, and, had a one-on-one with Coach K in his little office in Cameron.

The game might have been closer if not for 30 Marquette turnovers; 15 in each half.

“Hey, if we turned it over a little bit more, we could start a bakery,” Marquette coach Kevin O’Neill said.

Marquette outshot Duke, which was not quite the well-oiled machine it would become on the way to its first national championship.

“We like to play like we’re in a disco,” Coach K said. “We like to fast dance. But we have to learn how to fast dance, slow dance, whatever we face.”

Christian Laettner led Duke with 24 points, a total matched by Marquette’s Curry. Curry was not seriously injured went his shoe gave out.

Saturday, November 23, 1991

No. 1 Duke 90, Russian Junior Olympic Team 70 (exhibition)

Pretty much an exhibition in name only. NBC televised, with Don Criqui and Al McGuire on the call.

My not-yet wife, Ellen, and I were on press row, across from the Russian bench.

Ellen remembers the Crazies welcoming the visitors during pregame introductions.

“Hello, Igor. Hello, Sergei. Hello, Vladislav,” they said, continuing through the lineup.

My memory was what took place in front of the Russian team and behind us. Six guys stood side-by-side, spelling out G-O D-U-K-E, the blue letters painted on their otherwise bare chests. What could the Russian players have been thinking?

Purely coincidence, I am sure, that 15 days after Duke beat the Russians, the USSR would formally dissolve.

Bought a great shirt that had a caricature of President Mikhail Gorbachev holding a basketball in a Duke uni, a Blue Devil on his forehead underneath some Russian words. Below Gorbachev was a line that read: “CAMERON INDOOR STADIUM.” Below that: “The Cold War’s Over But the Rivalry Continues.”

The shirt is part of a quilt that resides in my son’s closet.

Thanks to DBR poster Truth&Justise, who started a thread about the game on March 20, 2020, and provided the info about the USSR breakup. And a tip of the hat to chrishoke, who posted that freshman Cherokee Parks had “20 points, nine rebounds and multiple blocks.”

Monday, November 25, 1991

No. 1 Duke 103, East Carolina 75

Coach K victory 136 in Cameron, 264 at Duke, 337 overall

The first official game as reigning NCAA champions. A lonely national championship banner graced the north end of Cameron.

Ellen and I were glad to be among the spectators and not the press. Because, you know, no cheering on press row. My ticket, which measures 4 1/2 inches by 2 inches and is printed with black ink, reads:


Section 19 Row C Seat 59

Behind the Scorer’s Table




Duke was No. 1 in the preseason Associated Press media poll. It would hold the top spot wire-to-wire as it win its second national title.

Not sure why the box score showed it was “Robert” Hurley that had 20 points. Freshman guard Marty Clark — remember the “Marty doesn’t foul” chant? — added 17 points. Christian Laettner did not play.

Sunday, January 27, 2002

No. 1 Duke 94, No. 7 Virginia 81

Coach K victory 272 in Cameron, 551 at Duke, 624 overall

This is the game where traveling to Cameron became a pilgrimage. To honor and paraphrase Jim Nantz, “A pilgrimage unlike any other.”

It had been more than 10 years since the previous visit. I had seen Duke a lot in various locales during those years, but realized NONE matched Cameron (NCAA championship games, no matter the venue, are not an applicable comparison; hey, this is MY story).

It was four and a half months after 9/11. This was my first plane trip since we were attacked in our own country. I was more than a little apprehensive about being on a plane.

That had changed by the time the 30-seat regional jet neared landing at RDU. Once we were on the ground, I didn’t wait for permission to unbuckle my seat belt. I bounded down the stairs like I was a child. I was 46.

My first ACC game. Top-ranked Duke against seventh-ranked Virginia. ACC Sunday Night Hoops.

There were two preliminaries.

Two nights earlier, I caught Duke commit Shavlik Randolph in what I described in one of two pieces for as a routine 31-point game while he and his Broughton teammates won at Wakefield.

At high noon Saturday, it was Temple at N.C. State. John Chaney’s Owls were no match for the ’Pack, falling, 80-61. I had seen Marquette play at Reynolds Coliseum in 1991, and what was then the ESA couldn’t match the experience of a game in Reynolds.

There were now three NCAA championship banners hanging in Cameron. Duke’s victory was a fabulous climax to the weekend.

Jason Williams scored 27 points and Carlos Boozer added 25 for the Blue Devils (18-1 overall, 6-1 ACC). It was their third straight victory over a visiting ranked ACC foe; a 99-78 point pummeling of third-ranked Maryland coming 10 days earlier and a 103-80 rout of 14th-ranked Wake two days after the Terps were swamped.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

No. 2 Duke 92, Miami (Fla.) 71

Coach K victory 333 in Cameron, 673 at Duke, 746 overall

Could be my favorite game in Cameron. I had made an arrangement to attend this game well before it would be the game J.J. Redick had a chance to pass Johnny Dawkins and become Duke’s all-time leading scorer. He needed 30 points to pass Dawkins, and that’s exactly what he finished with. Thanks to Mike Cragg, who was the Sports Information Director during my first visit in 1990 and worked his way into the position of Associate Director of Athletics/Director of Legacy Fund, for taking care of us on a night where tickets were in high demand.

When I write “us,” I mean it was the first Cameron game for my seven-year-old son, Joe. We had prime seats three or four rows behind the Duke bench.

“Honestly, the only thing I can remember is that you put me on your shoulders so I could see J.J. make the record-breaking basket,” Joe said. He was at a height disadvantage then, and I do not know how I was quick enough to boost him to my shoulders so he had a clear view.

That’s a pretty good memory for Joe, yes? Me, too, and Duke fans everywhere.

The record-breaking point came on a three-pointer from deep on the left wing with 4:13 to play. J.J. was under the basket.

J.J., his back to baseline, motioned with his right thumb to point guard Greg Paulus that he was going to head right. J.J. faked to his left, went right, got the pass, and the rest is history. Dawkins, Duke’s associate head coach, stood and applauded after the shot swished through and presented J.J. with the game ball during the postgame ceremony.

There is an excellent YouTube video that runs 9 minutes, 58 seconds. Google “J.J. Redick breaks Johnny Dawkins’ Duke scoring record.” The great pairing of Tim Brando and Mike Gminski were on the call for ACC Sunday Night Hoops, with Charles Davis as the sideline reporter.

Fabulous quote from J.J. during his postgame interview with Davis. In part: “I feel very lucky and I feel blessed and honored for Coach Dawkins to do that [present him the game ball]. He’s the greatest player, I think, in Duke history. He really helped turn the program around under Coach K, and without him I probably wouldn’t be here. So, thanks a lot, Coach Dawkins. … My emotions are all over the place. Part of me wants to just smile, part of me wants to laugh, part of me wants to cry. I’m not really sure. But this has been one heck of a ride, and hopefully we can keep it going.”

J.J., who had 22 during the first half, finished 10-for-15 from the field, including 6-for-9 from three-point range and made all four of his free throws as Duke improved to 25-1 overall and 13-0 in the ACC.

Kudos to Joe for noticing while watching the video that recruit Kyle Singler was sitting a row in front of J.J.’s parents not too far behind the Duke bench.

Monday, December 19, 2011

No. 7 Duke 90, UNC Greensboro 63

Coach K victory 418 in Cameron, 837 at Duke, 910 overall

With Joe playing elementary school basketball and me not wanting to miss his games, my priority was watching him in person and catching Duke on TV.

I was happy to be able to make it back to Cameron, with Joe, almost five years after our previous appearance. Cragg took us on a tour of Coach K’s office and the locker room, where I snapped a picture of Joe in front of the FOUR national championship trophies. That picture remains on the home screen of my iPhone.

Freshman Quinn Cook scored each of his season-high 14 points in the second half. Mason Plumlee had 15 points and 13 rebounds for Duke (10-1), which hadn’t played since Dec. 10 and which would not play again until Dec. 30.

The Blue Devils won their 41st straight game in Cameron Indoor Stadium, their 91st consecutive home victory against nonconference foes and their 85th in a row against unranked opponents in front of the Crazies.

Greensboro was coached by Cheats alum Wes Miller, who took over for Mike Dement early in the season and was then a perfect 0-2.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

No. 2 Duke 88, Delaware 50

Coach K victory 430 in Cameron, 862 at Duke, 935 overall

A welcome breather at the end of an eight-day stretch during which Duke beat second-ranked Louisville on Nov. 24 to win the Battle for Atlantis in The Bahamas and fourth-ranked Ohio State on Nov. 28 in Cameron in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Both victories were by five points.

Seniors Mason Plumlee and Ryan Kelly each scored 18 points as the Blue Devils improved to 8-0. Freshman Rasheed Sulaimon added 14 points and had made such an early impression in the season that one Crazie often held up a sign that read “Holy Sheed.”

While the game was not competitive, that did not matter a bit to me. When I see a team I like, I want it to not just win, but win big. Blowout. Every time. Can’t win by enough.

Monday, December 29, 2014

No. 2 Duke 86, Toledo 69

Coach K victory 465 in Cameron, 921 at Duke, 994 overall

Twenty-six days earlier, the then-No. 4 Blue Devils, in their eighth game of the season, were in Madison, Wis., to face second-ranked Wisconsin. The starting lineup, as it would be through the Toledo game and beyond: senior Quinn Cook, sophomore Amile Jefferson and FRESHMEN Tyus Jones, Jahlil Okafor and Justise Winslow. That final: Duke 80, Wisconsin 70.

Against Toledo, Okafor scored a then season-high 27 points on 12-for-15 shooting. That raised his season field goal percentage to .669.

Showing uncommon maturity for a freshman, Jones, who would become known by some as Tyus STONES for his clutch shooting, on what Duke had to do to respond when Toledo cut the lead to three points in the second half:

“Just had to get to the basics, had to lock in, first on defense, forcing the tough shots and complete possessions by rebounding. There were a couple of possessions that we didn’t complete. Loose balls, they were getting some 50/50 balls, so we just had to lock in on the defensive end and do the little things.”

Maybe Cook could sense what was ahead for Tyus.

“Tyus, he makes everybody better on the team,” Cook said. “He’s a leader and he makes us all better. When we’re together out there, our chemistry is very good. We can get into the lane, and we can also shoot off of each other. I’m fortunate to have a point guard like that. [It allows me] to be a playmaker off the ball.”

Coach K: “We’re in a constant state of learning. We have a chance to be much better.”

Saturday, December 30, 2017

No. 4 Duke 100, No. 24 Florida State 93

Coach K victory 512 in Cameron, 1,011 at Duke, 1,084 overall

Joe was along for this one, two days after his 19th birthday. We had a different view for this one. Up in the southeast corner, a couple rows or so in front of the auxiliary radio position.

I was able to get onto the floor shortly after the doors opened and had a brief visit with CBS’ Carter Blackburn and Clark Kellogg, whom I had worked with.

I got a close look at Florida State in warmups. Wow! The Seminoles looked tall. And strong.

It was easily the tightest, most exciting game I have seen in Cameron. The game was tied seven times and there were 14 lead changes.

It was a great day to be a freshman.

Marvin Bagley III was video game great with 32 points and 21 rebounds. He shot 13-for-17, including 1-for-2 on three-pointers.

Eleven of the boards were on the offensive end.

Wendell Carter Jr. also had a double-double with 14 points and 16 rebounds. Twenty-three of Duke’s 53 rebounds were on the offensive end.

Bagley and Carter’s 37 rebounds between them were two more than the entire Florida State total.

Senior Grayson Allen also had a big game with 22 points and six assists. The third and fourth freshman starters, Trevon Duval with 16 points and Gary Trent Jr. with 13, gave Duke all five starters into double figures. Duke’s only bench points came on a three-pointer by Alex O’Connell. The starters played 181 of the 200 minutes.

Of Duke’s final 12 field goals during the last 10 1/2 minutes, all but one were layups or dunks.

Duke had 56 points in the paint and 28 second-chance points.

“That was an amazing game, because both teams played great,” Coach K said. “We couldn’t stop each other. And the will to win and will to score was evident by both teams. For us to win that game, is sensational for our group. Four freshmen.”

Florida State’s one-two punch of Phil Cofer and Braian Angola had 28 and 23 points, respectively. The Seminoles made 15 three-pointers.

Duval made a twisting layup that tied it at 93, then found an uncovered Carter underneath a possession later for the go-ahead dunk. Carter, playing with four fouls, drew a key charge on Trent Forrest on Florida State’s next possession and Duval made another acrobatic drive two possessions later to make it 97-93.

When Carter dunked off a long pass from Duval — hockey assist to Bagley — with 22 seconds to go to give the Blue Devils a 100-93 lead, the fans — the Crazies were on semester break — almost blew the roof off the place. It was the third consecutive 100-point home game.

“It was an amazing crowd,” Allen said. “For there not to be any students here right now and for the crowd to still be like that is incredible ... they still brought it. They still had it going in there. That was awesome and with an atmosphere like that, you just have to have fun with it.”

As a top-five team in the AP poll, Duke improved to 548-93 all-time.

Thursday, December 16, 2021

No. 2 Duke 92, Appalachian State 67

Coach K victory 564 in Cameron, 1,106 at Duke, 1,1179 overall

For the first time since the Russians got spanked by the Blue Devils a little more than 30 years ago, I was on press row, Crazies virtually breathing down my neck.

Most of the students had left for semester break. Saw parents and young’uns in the student section. One preteen with a sign read “MY FIRST GAME. HOW ABOUT THESE SEATS?!” One of the Crazies behind me said he was a student; the young lady next to him was not.

All were in fine form, chanting “Go to hell Carolina, eat shit,” during “Go Blue Devils, Go;” the “air ball” chant, which should be retired and replaced — c’mon, you people are supposed to be clever — and others. While not unique, I chuckled after an App State turnover when I heard, “You let the whole team down.”

And no Cameron game would be complete without a chant for the Crazy Towel Guy, Herb Neubauer. Of course, Herb got a big cheer when he stood and madly waved his towel from the upper level.

Sophomore guard Jeremy Roach (10 points, six assists, three rebounds) played his freshman season in front of an empty Cameron. For the first six games this season, the students were back. Was it different for App State?

“I think Tuesday and tonight were kind of like the same night,” Roach said. “Lot of parents in the student section. But, I mean, I love the Duke fans; they’re always going to show great love and we’re always going to feed off their energy. Once the students get back it’s definitely going to be crazy, but right now, I love the fans.”

The feeling is mutual.


There you have it. Ten games for me in Cameron. And, you might have noticed, 10 Duke victories. The average margin of victory is 20.9 points, with only the Florida State decided by less than double figures.

By the way, I could be available to be in Cameron on March 5. Just sayin’.