Commentary

His blue heaven

Scheyer relishes United Center homecoming

Updated: January 7, 2010, 10:05 AM ET
By Scott Powers | ESPNChicago.com

[+] EnlargeJon Scheyer
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images Duke's Jon Scheyer said he was unusually nervous before Wednesday's game at the United Center.

CHICAGO -- Jon Scheyer started downplaying his return to Chicago as soon as it was announced months ago that Duke would play Iowa State at the United Center. As friends and family began texting and calling him about it last week, he continued to think little about it. Even the day before, he stayed on an even keel. He told himself over and over it was just another game.

Then, on Wednesday, not long before he was to play in the actual game that he repeatedly said wasn't a big deal, it hit him -- it was a big deal. He was going to play for Duke before his personal home crowd.

Just like that, Scheyer wasn't his cool self anymore.

"Before the game, I got the most nervous I've been for any game this year," Scheyer said. "I don't really get nervous like that too bad."

No one would ever notice. As soon as the opening tip occurred, Scheyer was Scheyer again. He calmly ran the offense, he calmly knocked down 3-pointers, he calmly scored in the lane, he calmly distributed the ball, and he calmly led Duke to an 86-65 win over Iowa State.

Scheyer had placed no expectations on himself before the game other than to get Duke the win. But afterward, he couldn't have imagined his homecoming going any better. He played the way many in the crowd remembered, the way he played at Glenbrook North High School. His final line wouldn't be much different than what he used to put up only miles away from the United Center at the Proviso West Holiday Tournament. He scored a game-high 31 points, was perfect on all seven of his free throw attempts, sank four 3-pointers, dished out four assists, grabbed three rebounds and picked up two steals.

"I can't complain one thing about playing here at all," said Scheyer, who was congratulated afterward in Duke's locker room by former Blue Devil and current Chicago Bull Luol Deng.

Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski felt just the same.

"Jon had a spectacular game," Krzyzewski said. "That was a neat thing for him coming back and being able to play like that."

The neatest moment of the night for Scheyer, his parents and Krzyzewski came when Scheyer came out of the game for the first time. With 1:39 remaining, Jordan Davidson subbed for Scheyer. Once the Duke fans recognized it, they rose from their seats and applauded. When Scheyer got to the bench, Krzyzewski embraced him with a hug.

"I love Jon," Krzyzewski said. "Jon's right there as one of the special young men I have had an opportunity to coach. His family is fantastic. In today's day and age to have a family that says, 'Here's our son. Do whatever you want to do to not only make him a good player, but develop him into a man.' That's more old-school where teacher, parents are on the same page. When the kid is on the same page, too, holy macro. Let's have a party. That's a cool thing. I've loved being with that kid."

Scheyer said, "It was really special. That was a moment I'll cherish. There are a lot people here who meant a lot to me. I don't want to disappoint them. I wanted to give them a win. That's all I wanted to do. It was a special moment in the end."

Jim Scheyer, Jon's father, wasn't sure if the night had sunk in yet.

"I think what's going to happen is we're going to go home tonight and sit down and go, 'Wow,'" Jim said. "It's really a one once-in-a-lifetime situation to come home like this. It wouldn't be the same if he played here all the time. It'll be something we'll always remember."

Scott Powers covers high school and college sports for ESPNChicago.com and can be reached at spowers@espnchicago.com.

Scott Powers is a general reporter for ESPNChicago.com. He is an award-winning journalist and has been reporting on preps, colleges and pros for publications throughout the Midwest since 1997.