Egolf at No. 1 Duke tonight (Basketball)

December 8, 2010
Bradley Braves

Growing up in Southeast Alaska, 6-foot-9 Will Egolf was a big fish in a small pond.

Now he plays for mid-major Bradley University and tonight he will be a small fish when the Braves travel to Cameron Indoor Stadium for an ESPN game against No. 1-ranked Duke.

Egolf, a starting junior, believes it’s the kind of game that can make his team’s season.

“It’s a huge opportunity for us. As a mid-major program we live for opportunities like this,” Egolf told me. “Take Northern Iowa, Butler and Gonzaga for example. That’s how smaller schools like us get notoriety.”

Bradley (4-4) could use a big win. The Braves have dropped four straight games after a 4-0 start, keyed by victories over Loyola Marymount and Southern Cal.

“Playing on the road is always tough, and winning on the road feels twice as good as at home,” he said. “Every year we try to win every home game taking into consideration that winning on the road in the Missouri Valley Conference is extremely hard. The plus side of winning on the road is it shows were focused, putting all distractions aside and getting a win in a hostile environment shows you’re a mature team. It’s a good test of your team’s character.”

Still, this is Duke we’re talking about; home of the Cameron Crazies.

The rowdy and wild student section is notorious for throwing opponents off their game by showering them with insults and clever chants.

“I believe the crowd can influence a player,” Egolf said. “As players, we feed off the energy of the environment. But you can’t let them influence you in a negative way. Executing your role on the floor has to be your one and only focus. If you’re interacting with the crowd or letting them get to you, you are not executing your role.”

What’s the best way to hush the haters?

“Win the game. Period,” he said. “Nothing you can do during the game is sufficient enough to shut up a crowd. The best feeling in the world is coming into someone else’s house and leaving with their crowd’s respect. No matter how many points you have or how bad you embarrass the person guarding you it will never add up to the respect you get after defeating a team in a hostile environment.”

UPDATE:Egolf made of 5 of 12 shots and scored 11 points during an 83-48 loss. He also collected five rebounds, one assist and one steal. When he was introduced as being from Alaska during the starting lineups, a fan reportedly yelled out “Welcome to America.”

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