DURHAM, N.C. -- Believe it or not, the most protected numbers on the Duke University campus are not 31, 32 and 33, the retired jersey numbers of Shane Battier, Christian Laettner and Grant Hill. Duke guard J.J. Redick's new cell phone number is so guarded that some of his teammates and closest friends don't know it.
"My little brother doesn't even have it yet," Redick said.
Duke guard J.J. Redick is often the subject of scorn from fans of opposing teams.
(Ellen Ozier - Reuters)
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Redick said he took the cautionary measures after a Maryland basketball fan obtained the number to his cell phone last year and started passing it among friends at parties and bars. Redick estimates he received 50 to 75 calls a night from Terrapins fans before he changed it. He had to change the number again a couple of weeks ago, after some North Carolina fans found out what the number was.
About halfway through last season, Redick's parents, who live in Roanoke, had to change their phone number to an unpublished one because fans of other schools were calling their house so often.
"I think J.J. guards his cell phone number and his privacy with his life now," said Duke assistant Steve Wojciechowski.
On Duke's campus, Redick is as popular as anyone who has played for the Blue Devils. When Redick makes a three-pointer during games at Cameron Indoor Stadium, half of the fans sitting in the Duke student section chant "J-J," while the students sitting across the court scream, "Red-ick!"
But when the No. 7 Blue Devils play on the road, Redick hears much different chants. He often is the target of obscenity-laced tirades from fans, including many that question his masculinity. Some fans just get to the point, constructing signs that say, "I hate you J.J."
Clearly, during his three seasons at Duke, Redick has become Public Enemy No. 1 among fans of other ACC schools, and his coaches and teammates aren't sure why.
"I don't know what it is," Wojciechowski said. "He looks like the common man. For whatever reason, those guys over the years have gotten the brunt of fans' enthusiasm."
For some college basketball fans, players such as Redick represent what they believe Duke embodies: a rich private school with a privileged student body. From Danny Ferry to Laettner to Bobby Hurley to Wojciechowski, Duke's white players have often received the brunt of fans' bile. Many of Duke's great black players, such as Battier, Johnny Dawkins, Jason Williams and Hill, seemed to be respected by fans of opponents more than they were hated.
The white Duke players "seem to be so every-guy-like," said Peter Roby, director of Northeastern University's Center for Study of Sport in Society. "Guys sitting in the stands might say, 'What gives you the right to play like that when you look so much like us?' "
Roby, who is black, was the basketball coach at Harvard and an assistant at Dartmouth, Stanford and Army. He said Redick's competitiveness and success probably have more to do with fans' attitudes toward him than his ethnicity.
"I wonder if it has anything to do with the fact that the guy can shoot it like heck," Roby said. "He's been shooting like that since he was a freshman. Maybe people resent the fact he's so proficient and they want to see him fail. When you go on the road and you're shooting 93 percent at the foul line, fans want to see you miss so they have something to cheer about. I think Redick is very, very confident and that confidence shows on the court. Sometimes, people resent that because they perceive it as arrogance."
Redick said fans don't hate him because of the color of his skin. He says fans hate him because he plays for Duke.
"I don't take it personally," Redick said. "I think if I played for another school, and still played the way I play, I wouldn't get it as bad. I get it from fans because it says 'Duke' on my jersey. I'm not really sure why it's white guys. I know people didn't really like Chris Duhon and Dahntay Jones. They got it bad on the road, and they're not white. "
Florida State Coach Leonard Hamilton, whose Seminoles lost to Duke, 88-56, in Tallahassee on Jan. 22 after Redick scored 31 points and made 8 of 11 three-point attempts, says Redick has become a victim of his success.
"I think it's a compliment to Duke and Redick, as much as anything else," Hamilton said. "In our society, you want to see people have success, but when people have too much success, we want to see the underdogs do well."
Hamilton said when fans heckle Redick, they only make him want to play harder.
"All it does is motivate him and cause him to be even more focused, and that's a dangerous thing to deal with," Hamilton said. "I think people should just leave him alone."
Even Redick says silence might be an opponents' best defense against him.
"I think the best way for the fans to handle me would be to be silent," Redick said. "That would probably bother me more. [The heckling] doesn't bother me. To be honest, it's something I look forward to. I'm a competitive person and I'm able to internalize all the hateful things that are said to me, and it gets my competitive juices going."
Nik Caner-Medley, who considers himself a good friend of Redick, said: "I think it's a respect thing. I think a lot of fans of other teams, if you really ask them, are fans of him. He goes in the gym and they taunt him. But if they saw him walking the street, they'd go up to him and want to shake his hand and tell him how great he is."
Redick, 20, figures to hear plenty tonight from Terrapins fans. During Duke's 68-60 victory in College Park last year, fans in the Maryland student section showered him with obscenities. The fans' chant of "[Expletive] you, J.J." was picked up by ESPN's microphones, and some fans' T-shirts with profanities printed on them were broadcast.
In June, Maryland officials adopted voluntary guidelines to discourage vulgar behavior by fans at basketball and football games. Fans cannot be ejected from sporting events for vulgar behavior; rather, the policy encourages good behavior through meetings with Coach Gary Williams, cleaner cheers and sign contests. Maryland officials were so concerned about fan behavior, in particular about how Redick was treated, that they sought the advice of Maryland Assistant Attorney General John Anderson to determine how much authority it had in limiting bad behavior, without violating fans' constitutional free speech protections.
According to the Diamondback, Maryland's student newspaper, students have traded last year's T-shirts for a somewhat gentler version. Williams wrote a letter to the newspaper this week encouraging good behavior, and the school will have police in riot gear ready to respond to any incidents.
Maryland fans will find less of Redick to hate. He lost about 25 pounds during the offseason and his conditioning is so much better that some college basketball analysts have called him the most improved player in the country. Redick was a second team all-ACC selection last season, averaging 15.9 points and making nearly 40 percent of his three-point attempts. He goes into tonight's game averaging 22.6 points, shooting 42.3 percent on three-point attempts and 93.5 percent on free throws.
"You can tell he worked on his body," Miami Coach Frank Haith said. "I think he's quicker because of the improvements he made on his body."
Even Williams, unlike most Terrapins fans, includes himself among Redick's admirers.
"I like the way he works hard the whole game," Williams said. "Obviously, he might be the best shooter in college basketball. But the thing people might miss about him because he's such a great shooter is his work on the defensive end. He doesn't let up."