We talked a bit lately about the four Duke-Maryland games in the 2001 season and Jason Evans is beginning a special series on the 2001 series as well.
So since Nate James is about to move to Austin Peay to be the next coach of the Governors, we thought we’d link to what we think is his greatest moment as a Duke player.
As a Blue Devil, James was never a star but he was always a reliable teammate who played with fundamental soundness and, always, toughness.
A native of Maryland, he was not treated well by Terrapin fans after signing with Duke. They nearly made a serious mistake by provoking his father, a product of the Marine Corps, and obviously a guy who can take care of himself.
In 2001, as Jason will get into in his new podcast, Duke and Maryland had some ferocious games. In the ACC Tournament semifinals, the game was tied 82-82 after Maryland hit a three with 8.3 left.
Duke got the ball and Jason Williams drove, but shot too high and the ball bounced high.
James followed him to the basket and no one from Maryland seemed to think to block him out and James got the tip-in.
But what most people forget, if they noticed it, is that after he tipped the ball in, James had a crucial defensive play:
Terrence Morris tossed the ball in to the very dangerous Juan Dixon. Dixon caught the pass near half-court but James came after him and affected him just enough to help jar the ball loose. Dixon had to lean forward to get it before collecting himself for a three point shot that just barely missed.
If James hadn’t stayed alert to the last second, Dixon may very well have hit that shot.