After gaining experience as a reserve in 33 of Duke's 34 games last season, sophomore Joy Cheek is making a splash on the Blue Devils' roster. A 2006-07 All-ACC Freshman honorable mention selection, Cheek is averaging 10.3 points and 5.1 rebounds per game and is second on the team in total scoring in the current campaign. Cheek's resume is an impressive one that includes selection as a McDonald's All-American and to the Parade, Street & Smith's and EA Sports All-America teams as a senior in high school.
How did you get started playing basketball?
My little brother started playing first. When he started playing, I thought, "I can do that!" I was eight (at the time). I started going to a clinic every Saturday morning and kept playing.
What other teams have you played on leading up to your college career?
I lived in Maryland before I moved to Charlotte, and in Maryland there were a lot of rec centers. I played on a team at the rec center up the street from my house until I left at (age) 12 to go to Charlotte. I (also) started playing AAU when I was 10. Once I got to Charlotte, I played for the Queen City Jewels for a year and moved on to the Charlotte Fire, another AAU team. I played with them until I was (about) 14, and then I started playing the exposure stuff with Team Unique, which is a team out of DC. (I met) a lot of the players from Wake Forest, and also (current teammate Wanisha Smith). That's really where I got all my exposure.
What is your greatest accomplishment as an athlete?
Getting this far! Just making it to a top program like Duke. Before Duke, I was so excited to (be named) McDonald's All-American. That was the highlight of my senior year, but getting to Duke was probably the biggest accomplishment this far.
What do you still hope to accomplish?
Win a national championship here. Also, I want to be a player here that people remember.
What do you think needs to be done to accomplish the goal of a national championship, especially after coming close in recent years?
Holding each other accountable and pushing each other to do better in all aspects - on the court, off the court, in the weight room - and to get better every day.
Who is your most influential role model?
Felicia Allen, who was the Director of Basketball Operations at the Charlotte Sting. When I first moved to Charlotte, my cousin introduced her to my mom. When I met her, I was only 12 and she critiqued me a lot. As a 12-year-old, it was hard to take, but she had played at Iowa under C. Vivian Stringer so I knew she had played at the level that I wanted to get to. I looked up to her because she is so successful. In the future, I want to do something with women's basketball, (either with) the WNBA or NCAA, and I want to be where she is.
Can you talk more about those plans for after graduation?
I want to play basketball for as long as I can play, but I want to be a coach, too. The WNBA started when I was still in Maryland, so I would hop on the Metro and go to the Mystics games. I was one of those little girls who had to go to every game. It's always been a goal and dream of mine to play at the next level and be a professional player, but when my knees give out, I want to coach.
What is the best advice you've received from a coach?
My high school coach always used to say, "Players make plays." That means that at the end of the day, we have to do it. The coach can only coach so much, but in the end, (it's the players) that need to take control. That helped me a lot with my leadership - learning to take charge (on the court).
What is your most memorable moment in sports?
Making it to the McDonald's All-American game as a senior in high school.
Why did you choose Duke?
I kept in mind that if I got to school and got hurt, I wanted to be at a good school. I wanted to go somewhere that has a top program in basketball but is also a top school academically. I thought that with Duke, I couldn't go wrong. It's also not far from home. My final two schools were Notre Dame and Duke and they're both good schools, but I knew my mother wanted to see me play. Duke is only two hours from Charlotte, so she can come to every game.
Can you talk about some of the differences between last year and this year and the transition to playing for a new coach?
Different personalities, for one. Different systems, different philosophies. It's been an adjustment, but I look at it as changing coaches as you go to the next level. In the professional world, you're going to have a new boss sometimes. You don't always stay with the same coach or same boss. It was tough at first, but it's pretty smooth now. I'm enjoying it, and I think the team is enjoying it now that we grasped what Coach (Joanne P. McCallie) is asking of us.
What is it like playing every day in a conference like the ACC?
It's great. That was another reason for my choosing Duke. I hear about players from other schools who talk about having a tough preseason schedule, but we have a tough regular season schedule. It's great to play against Maryland, Carolina, and all the other great schools in the ACC. They give you good competition and beating them is beating one of the best. That's a good feeling.
Any thoughts about heading into the ACC portion of the schedule?
We have a tough schedule ahead, but we're ready to go out, play hard, and get some wins.
Is there anything that the team is taking into ACC play after having gone through the non-conference schedule?
It's almost like a new season, like those preseason games don't really matter. We're looking to win the ACC tournament and the national championship, and it's going to start with these next conference games.
Joy Cheek and the Blue Devils return to the court tonight (1/11) as they host Florida State. Duke travels to Maryland for a key match-up on Monday (1/14).