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  • New York City Hoop Star Dukes it Out

    by M.C. Cohen

    Life is so sweet for Andre at Duke. Or is it?

    For first year “Dukie” Andre Sweet, something of a second-line New York City high school basketball star, life as a Blue Devil has been bitter-sweet so far. The versatile 6’6” guard-forward did win three city championships during his stellar career at powerful Rice High. Still, as a freshman on the number one ranked college team in the nation, Sweet has to adjust to life on the bench—a place he’s never been before.

    “I just don’t take losing real well,” says Sweet when asked why he choose Duke over schools where he could have played right away. “I knew if I went to Duke I wouldn’t play immediately, but I knew I’d be getting better every day working with great players all the time.”

    Shane Battier, Duke’s superstar senior forward, believes Sweet made the right choice. “I think Andre has a knack for basketball,” says the national College Player of the Year candidate. “He knows the game. Right now, at 6 foot 6, he is making the transition to perimeter.”

    But when he gets in, he makes plays. “You can’t underestimate that,” adds Battier. “It’s tough to come to a place like Duke, North Carolina, or Kansas and play right away with an impact. You could see him improve his game the first two months.”

    Sweet possesses the qualities of many of the great city players before him: he’s athletic, tough, and hard-working. Still, to succeed at the highest level of college basketball, where the game is quicker and players are bigger, Sweet needs to develop his skills further. Plus, in high school Andre played inside, now at Duke he will need different skills: improved ball-handling and outside shooting.

    Sweet, considered to be a smart player with a good attitude, no doubt will meet the challenge. “Some of the intangibles he brings to the game are priceless,” says former Duke great and assistant coach Johnny Dawkins. “He has some natural instincts that you can’t teach, like a nose for the ball. He’s a winner. He comes from a great program in coach Hicks (Rice). We know if he continues to work and develop he’ll become a good basketball player for us.”

    While collecting his trio of titles at Rice, Sweet played alongside some of the finest players in the country. Four of his teammates are currently playing Division I basketball: Kenny Satterfield (Cincinnati), Andre Barrett (Seton Hall), Kyle Cuffe and Anthony Glover (both at St. John’s). With all that talent and all those big games, someone had to calm the team down when things got a tad hectic. According to coach Hicks, it was the easygoing Sweet who kept things, well, sweet. “He’s the best,” says Hicks who is one of only two coaches in the city’s history to win both a public and Catholic school title. “He’s level headed, low maintenance, and very coachable.”

    Perhaps being the son of a coach had something to do with this. Andre’s mom, a basketball player at Utica College, is a teacher and a coach in Harlem where Sweet grew up. Understandably, she stayed on him to do his homework every night—and to always play the game hard.

    Seems like Mom did her job just right. Eventual star or “just a student,” Sweet can’t go wrong going to Duke. #

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