College Sports

Talk about a treat: Midlands high school hosts No. 1 Duke’s practices

It’s not every day you have the No. 1 college basketball team in the country in your gymnasium, but that was the case at Brookland-Cayce High School this past week.

Duke practiced at B-C’s new 43,000-square foot arena on Thursday and Friday in preparation for the first round games at Colonial Life Arena. Teams playing in Columbia had the option of practicing at South Carolina’s practice facility or going off campus at a local high school gymnasium.

The Blue Devils and Ole Miss both chose to practice at B-C, with others practicing at USC. Duke is not only the No. 1 overall seed in the tournament, but they have two of the projected top picks in this year’s NBA Draft in Zion Williamson and RJ Barrett.

“It was a great experience, probably one of top 10 experiences of all-time just being around sports. It was a great for not only for me but Brookland-Cayce High School,” Bearcats boys basketball coach Robert Wells said. “Meeting Coach K, Zion Williamson, RJ Barrett and just seeing how Duke does things on a day-to-day basis was something to see.”

The Duke players came away impressed by the BC gymnasium.

“It was a nice gym, nice setup. I liked the jumbotron, the high school version of the jumbotron they had,” Duke point guard Tre Jones said. “Thank you to them for being able to open up their school for us to use.”

“Their high school has some amazing facilties,” Duke center Marques Bolden said. “You forget you are at a high school if you don’t see the signs to remind you. The facility was great.”

On Thursday, Wells gave Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski a tour of the gymnasium, lockers and weight room. Wells said Coach K was very complimentary of the facility and also spent time taking pictures with sheriff’s deputies and others in attendance.

Wells also talked with Williamson, who he faced in 2015 when Brookland-Cayce faced Williamson’s Spartanburg Day squad in a Christmas Tournament. Williamson scored 23 points and had six rebounds in the 69-67 win.

Wells said Duke was more laid back during Thursday’s practice, but he definitely noticed a change in demeanor in Friday’s walk-through.

“Watching their preparation and Coach K was locked in,” Wells said. “Everyone was focused on the task and every little details.”

Duke defeated North Dakota State 85-62 on Friday in the first round, advancing to face UCF at 5:15 p.m. Sunday on CBS.