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The La Salle Falconer

The student news site of La Salle Catholic College Preparatory.

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The student news site of La Salle Catholic College Preparatory.

The La Salle Falconer

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Diehard Duke Fan: Mr. Kain

John Pham
“I was raised on Duke basketball [and] Duke sports since I was a kid,” Mr. Ryan Kain said.

Since around middle school, science teacher Mr. Ryan Kain has been a strong supporter of the Duke Men’s Basketball team. Mr. Kain’s dad played soccer for the Duke Blue Devils, from which his fandom grew.

While Mr. Kain followed Duke occasionally as he grew up, the first team that he followed on his own without his family’s influence was the squad from the 2010 National Championship run. He enjoyed watching upperclassmen like Kyle Singler, Nolan Smith, and Jon Scheyer develop together as a unit throughout the season. “That class was the first one that I really followed,” Mr. Kain said. “That nucleus is super special to me.”

Mr. Kain also loved watching the 2015 National Championship team which had a relatively young roster. As opposed to the older 2010 squad, the dominant 2015 team was “the exact antithesis to this old veteran team,” Mr. Kain said.

Mr. Kain’s first memory of watching a Blue Devil game in-person was when they faced off against the Oregon Ducks at the Rose Garden (present-day Moda Center) just one year removed from that beloved 2010 National Championship team. That matchup was special because Singler was facing off against his brother, EJ Singler, who played for the Ducks. “It was super cool, they had a bunch of those posters with the half-Oregon, half-Duke because the Singler family was there,” Mr. Kain said. Duke ended up winning the family feud 98-71, due in large part to Kyle’s 30-point performance.

More recently, the Duke men’s basketball team played in Portland for the 2017 PK-80 Invitational and the 2022 Phil Knight Legacy tournament around Thanksgiving. Each of these tournaments featured talented fields and exciting matchups for basketball fans in the Portland area. “It’s been fun watching them come through Portland for the PK tournaments, [I] got to see a bunch of Duke basketball there,” Mr. Kain said.

Just a couple of years ago, Mr. Kain got the opportunity to watch the electric and jaw-dropping Zion Williamson at Cameron Indoor Stadium — Duke’s home court. Mr. Kain attended the game with his dad, who was being celebrated with the rest of his soccer squad. “They had a reunion for the men’s soccer team and so we actually sat in the student section for the game,” Mr. Kain said.

Of all his time as a Duke men’s basketball fan, Mr. Kain’s favorite player is Kyle Singler, who played high school basketball at South Medford. Singler played in a lot of local tournaments including the Les Schwab Invitational. “Being able to see him play in high school and then [at Duke] was pretty awesome,” Mr. Kain said.

Beyond Singler, there are a number of other players who have donned the Duke jersey that Mr. Kain loves. Even though they were a bit before his time, Mr. Kain is drawn to players like Jay Bilas, Christian Laettner, and Shane Battier due to their love for the program and success they had after their time at Duke. In the past decade, Mr. Kain has also become fond of brothers Tyus and Tre Jones, who each left their mark on the Duke men’s basketball program.

In addition, Mr. Kain has a specific reason as to why he likes center Wendell Carter Jr., who averaged 13.5 points per game and 9.1 rebounds per game in his only season with the Blue Devils in 2017-2018. “What I liked a lot about him is when he was looking at colleges he came down to Duke or Harvard,” Mr. Kain said. “[He] almost came back for a second year just to continue his education, and I really appreciate that obviously as a teacher.”

Looking ahead to the current Duke men’s basketball team, second-year head coach Jon Scheyer seems to have National Championship aspirations, coming into the preseason AP Top 25 poll ranked second only to Kansas. Mr. Kain is especially excited about the veteran players who are returning. “There’s a good chance a lot of those kids will do well this year,” he said.

With head coaching legend Mike Kryzewski retiring after the 2022 season, Jon Scheyer has had big shoes to fill. “It’s interesting because there’s a lot of big changes,” Mr. Kain said. Since Scheyer’s hiring, Mr. Kain has noticed two big shifts. First, Scheyer has made adjustments to how the staff is hired, taking in more candidates from other schools — something Coach Kryzewski never did. Second, Scheyer has created an environment where players seem to be staying longer and developing their skills in college, rather than going ‘one-and-done’ to take their chances at the next level in the NBA. “It’s neat to see some of those guys stick around and come back,” Mr. Kain said.

Of the players on this year’s team, there are a couple that stand out. “Kyle Filipowski’s a beast,” Mr. Kain said. “His ability to space the floor and get his own shot is going to be really important…he’s just so talented.” On top of Filipowski’s raw talent, the Blue Devils also have a veteran guard who has been on the roster for a couple of years. “Jeremy Roach is going to be a fourth year senior … we have a guy who’s been in the system and is the guy,” Mr. Kain said.

Duke looked nothing short of unstoppable in their first game of the regular season on Monday, Nov. 6, winning 92-54 in dominant fashion over the Dartmouth Big Green. Kyle Filipowski led the way with 25 points on an efficient 10-12 field goal shooting. Jeremy Roach also contributed a steady 14 points. Duke stacked up an impressive 35 bench points, with both Caleb Foster and Jaylen Blakes scoring in double figures.

Looking ahead to the non-conference matchups, Mr. Kain has Duke’s meeting on Nov. 10 with the Arizona Wildcats circled. This summer, the Wildcats welcomed former North Carolina Tar Heel star Caleb Love. In the 2022 Final Four rivalry matchup between Duke and North Carolina, Love couldn’t be stopped, racking up a team-high 28 points on the way to a 81-77 Tar Heels victory. None of those points were more important than the long-distance three Love had with 24.8 seconds remaining to extend the Tar Heel lead to four, essentially putting the nail in the coffin. “Wrecking Arizona would be super nice,” Mr. Kain said.

In other non-conference games, Duke has a tough task in a top five matchup with the Michigan State Spartans on Nov. 20 in the Champions Classic. In the ACC/SEC Challenge, Duke faces the fourteenth-ranked Arkansas Razorbacks on Nov. 29 at Bud Walton Arena. Finally, Duke plays the twentieth-ranked Baylor Bears on Dec. 20 at the famous Madison Square Garden.

For conference play, the Duke Blue Devils have two difficult opponents in the ACC, with both the Miami Hurricanes and North Carolina Tar Heels each putting together formidable rosters.

With a Duke men’s basketball team that is overflowing with talent and experience, Mr. Kain is “really excited” to see what this squad can accomplish next.

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