College basketball has become a young Duke’s sport over the past decade, as a show for the singles who starred in the Blue Devils then moved on to NBA fortunes.
Jacob Grandison ran counter to that narrative.
Oh, he’s new to Duke, just as all but a few of his teammates are at the Blue Devils this season.
But he’s 24, playing in his third school – surrounded, running and playing defense with 18-year-olds like Derek Lively, Darek Whitehead and Kyle Filipovsky.
He heard the old man joking and knew why. And after…
“Of course, there are jokes and things about age, but honestly, I don’t really…” Grandison, his voice slackened during an interview with The News & Observer, before declaring, “Put this out there. I don’t really want to be asked too much about my age.” Because I’m on my own journey, and I have my own way.”
It’s been a wanderlust, from high school in Berkeley, California, to middle school in New Hampshire. Until then, his only college offering, from Holy Cross, came after middle school season ended.
Now, having earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Illinois after moving there from Holy Cross, he will begin training later this month with the Blue Devils.
“I haven’t had any stars who have graduated from high school,” Grandison said. “I went to a medium and low major. Converted. sat outside. I was dealing with my business. I was, you know, crunching. “
on my journey
Now the grinding has put Grandison into an important role in one of the nation’s premier college basketball programs.
He is grateful.
“I’m just another basketball player on my journey to where I want to be,” Grandison said. “And now I’m in roosters. Thank God.”
He is also grateful to be healthy again.
The striker injured 6-6 in his left shoulder (who did not shoot) last March while playing for Illinois. A starting player before the injury, he missed two games before returning as a reserve to play a total of 13 minutes during the two NCAA Championship games in Illini.
Were it not for that injury, Grandison planned to go professional. Instead, recovery and rehab this past spring meant he couldn’t work with NBA teams.
James Grandison, Jacob’s father, said in an email to The News & Monitor.
Jacob Grandison’s visit to Duke, and the frank answers he got during his conversations with coaches, sold him to the Blue Devils.
“I’ve seen it all,” Jacob Grandison said. “With what I saw you can’t lie to me. You can’t BS me. So it was fair, it was very professional. Like, wow, this is where I need to be.”
Recovering from the injury tied him up during Duke’s summer non-contact practices. But he’s healed now and he’s ready to go. This is a testament to his son’s diligence but also to what he called a “smooth transition” from his California doctors to Duke’s medical staff, James Grandison said.
“They’ve already done the most important work in rehabilitating Jacob’s shoulder to get him ready to compete for this season,” said James Grandison. “For the past three weeks, he’s been commuting away on the Duke University campus.”
When he was healthy last season, he made reliable shots, shooting 45.5% of his shots from the field, including 41% of his three-pointers.
He averaged 9.6 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 2.3 assists as Illinois shared the Big Ten regular season with Wisconsin. Houston eliminated Eleni, 68-53, in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
“I tried to play on my shoulder,” Grandison said. “But it wasn’t realistically something I was able to do.”
Duke coach Jon Scheyer sought out an experienced peripheral scorer to add to his roster dominated by freshmen. What he saw of Grandison, when he was healthy, piqued his interest.
“We love the experience and high-level basketball that Jacob brings to our roster,” said Shire. “He has been battle tested with a high game IQ and very good shooting. What makes him special is his ability to play smoothly on the field with his teammates.”
This last feature is the product of everything Grandison has been through.
A talented athlete who grew up in California, Grandison excelled in swimming and was a late-night basketball player. He was a 6-foot freshman at Berkeley High School, and worked with a coach to change his body and game.
In the end, he worked at the university when he was young but was a backup and did not play his first season.
He played at a base level with Lillard’s team, and despite being an excellent student, he had no college prospects as a player.
When he arrived at Phillips Exeter in New Hampshire in his college year after graduating, he topped Grandison 6-6, scoring 20 points as he led his team to victory in the New England Prep Class 1 Athletic Board Championship game.
However, no college offers came his way. Finally, three days after that match, he offered him the Holy Cross and he agreed.
set of opportunities
Grandison started 50 games during his two seasons at the Holy Cross, averaging 11.5 points per game. But when the coach he hired, Bill Carmody, retired after the 2018-19 season, he decided to move on.
For the first time, Grandison was sought after by the type of major colleges he dreamed of playing in.
“That was one of the first or two years that the transfer window got really big,” Grandison said. I wasn’t really thinking about that. Then I did it and suddenly I had a bunch of opportunities. “
He landed in Illinois where NCAA rules forced him to sit out for the 2019-20 season. Once again, he had to prove himself at a higher level.
In the following season, 2020-21, Grandison averaged 4.6 points while scoring 52.6% of his shots, including 41.5% of three-pointers. He started 16 games as Illinois won the Big Ten Championship.
Now, move on to another Duke challenge, where annual goals kick off by winning the ACC title and competing in the Final Four to win the NCAA Championship.
Grandison is ready to take on this challenge.
“I will do whatever it takes to win,” he said. “I had a different role, a different percentage of responsibility. I had different things I needed to do, and I could show them all. I felt like I kind of slipped under the radar because I don’t like the scene, jumped out of the gym with 100 dribbling moves. But if I looked at my resume, I had a lot of winning.”
This is what the Duke was brought in to do.
“Having a guy like that will help you,” said young Duke guard Jeremy Roach, who is the only player on Duke’s roster besides Grandison to start a game in the NCAA Championship. “He went through it.”
Back in California, his mother, child neuropsychologist Karina Grandison, said that despite everything her son had been through, it was far from over.
“I know, he has more to offer,” she said.