For decades, Duke has been a family-oriented program and over the years, some parents have become minor Cameron celebrities: Bob Hurley, Doug Collins, Bonnie Laettner, the Scheyers and the Plumlees, all played big roles at Duke and were loved by Blue Devil fans.
But we’re not sure anyone was identified with the program in quite the way the Hills were.
In some ways, Grant Hill was born lucky. His father, Calvin, was an outstanding football player who graduated from Yale. And his mother, Janet?
Janet, who died Saturday, was something else.
She was, first and foremost, a brilliant and uncompromising woman whose toughness, at times, extended to Grant, even though he didn’t always appreciate it when he was young.
She was a stern woman, even a bit intimidating from a distance. We never met her but everyone we know who did found her delightful. She was highly intelligent, insightful and immensely capable.
The greatest public testimony to Janet Hill though is her son, Grant. He was a superb athlete and is a better man. If you ask Duke fans who most closely resembles the ideals we’d like to see in a Duke athlete, most would either say Shane Battier or Grant Hill.
After his devastating injury history changed the trajectory of his NBA career, Hill adapted and endured, and after he retired, like his mother, he became profoundly productive.
It took a lot of steel for him to overcome all that he did, but if you asked Hill, we suspect (and this is not to diminish his father’s contributions), he would credit his mother for much of his toughness.
Janet Hill was also a trustee at Duke some years ago and the university has lowered its flags in her honor.