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January 6, 2006

Fame part of Redick's life

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DURHAM, N.C. - Fame is as much a part of J.J. Redick's life at Duke as his picture-perfect jumper and his uncanny accuracy at the free throw line. Perhaps it's all in the name.

Born Jonathan Clay Redick, he was known to his family as Jay when he was a toddler. When friends would ask his older twin sisters what they called their baby brother, they each responded.

Only it came out, "Jay" and "Jay," and the moniker stuck. Hence one of the most recognizable names in college basketball.

"When I was in junior high, on the first day, I would say my name," Redick said. "The teacher would be like, 'That sounds like a famous name.' It's definitely a good name to have."

Few can match Redick's celebrity, whatever the reason. Certainly, some of it comes simply from being the best player on the No. 1 team in the nation. The Blue Devils are 13-0 heading into Sunday night's game at No. 23 Wake Forest.

Yet Redick also is one of a handful of players who appear to transcend the sport, much as former Blue Devils players Christian Laettner and Grant Hill did before him.

"Being who I am is tough, but I'm not complaining," Redick said. "It goes with the territory. For me, I sometimes get weary of the autograph seekers and the media stuff, but you get used to it."

This season, there is a new phenomenon surrounding Redick. Many of his female fans are expressing their support with colorful posters, including some before a recent game against Bucknell. A few of the more creative ones were:

- "All I want for my birthday is J.J."

- "J.J., will you marry me? My boyfriend says it's OK."

- "J.J., you make my knees weak."

Redick's take on all this?

"I guess I'm getting older, so now it's about that time I start thinking about marriage," he said with a laugh. "I don't see myself as a sex symbol or anything like that."

Of course, not everyone is enamored with Redick. Most crowds away from home take great pleasure in taunting him mercilessly, including one particularly infamous incident at Maryland. He went to the line late in the game with Duke cruising to victory over the Terrapins, and was greeted by sporadic obscenities caught on the live TV broadcast.

No wonder Redick jokingly refers to himself as the most hated player in the country.

"I think part of it has to do with the Duke perception," said ESPN college basketball analyst Jay Bilas, a former player at the school. "There's not a whole lot you can find wrong with the kid. He's a nice-looking young man, who shoots the eyes out of the bucket and writes poetry."

Regardless, Redick is enjoying his best season. He averages a career-high 25.3 points - about four points more than a year ago - which puts him on pace to become the leading scorer in school history.

He sits sixth, 422 points behind current assistant coach Johnny Dawkins. At his present rate, Redick would move to No. 1 sometime during the regular-season finale against North Carolina.

"What J.J. has done, which I think is terrific, is that he's been able to be a great shooter while becoming a great leader," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "It's very difficult to do both, because a great shooter and scorer needs such concentration that he can't pay too much attention to everything else."

Passing Dawkins isn't very high on Redick's list of goals, which starts with the obvious - winning the NCAA title. He and the Blue Devils reached the Final Four two years ago, the only time they have made it that far during his first three seasons.

"My expectations were to have won a national championship by now, and obviously that hasn't happened," he said.

Individually, Redick couldn't ask for much more. He is the reigning player of the year in the Atlantic Coast Conference and the only returning first-team member of The Associated Press All-America team.

He led the ACC with 21.8 points a game as a junior and continued his remarkable free throw shooting. Despite some "struggles" this season - at 87 percent, he's still among the best in Division I - Redick is the career NCAA leader at 92.9 percent.

His touch from beyond the 3-point line gets even more attention. Redick already has the Duke record with 366 career 3s, which is tied for ninth best in NCAA history. He needs 48 to break the record set by Virginia's Curtis Staples, and it should be a formality at this point.

At a career-best 44 percent from behind the line, Redick should move past Staples sometime in late February.

"It's been a crazy time at Duke," he said. "Coming in as an 18-year-old freshman, you don't expect you're going to be on the mountaintop the whole time."

Even so, Redick figures to carry his shooting ability and tireless work ethic to the NBA. He readily acknowledges he wasn't passionate about playing professionally earlier in his life, but during that stellar junior year, Redick rediscovered his commitment to basketball.

"It's something I love, and to have the opportunity someday to get paid to play, it would just be sweet," he said.

Bilas thinks Redick will be a star at the next level.

"If he's not a top-10 pick, then something's wrong with the system," Bilas said. "It's legit to say he's not going to be a defensive stopper, and that's fine. But that doesn't diminish what he can do, and what he does do."

For more coverage of the Duke Blue Devils, check out DevilsIllustrated.com.

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