Sunday, March 05, 2006

Curse of the Hemrino Haunts Duke

This week’s issue of Sports Illustrated features Gonzaga’s Adam Morrison and Duke’s J.J. Redick on the cover.  Blue Devil fans may have feared the worst when seeing that photo of their All-American.  However, Duke’s two losses this week resulted from a far more powerful force than the SI cover jinx.  The Devils were victimized by the vaunted Curse of the Hemrino.



Dickie Hemric excelled on the basketball court for Wake Forest from 1952 through 1955.  He finished his career as the all-time leading scorer in the Atlantic Coast Conference with 2,587 points.  That mark stood for 51 years until last weekend, when Redick passed Hemric in a victory over Temple.  In response to his record being broken, the former Demon Deacon reportedly placed a curse on Redick’s Blue Devils.  Hemric vowed that Duke would not win another game during Redick’s career.



Hemric’s promise appears to be coming to fruition.  In their first contest since the record was broken, the top-ranked Blue Devils were upset 79-74 by Florida State.  However, unlike what you’d see in a run-of-the-mill surprise, strange things were happening in Tallahassee.  The Seminole fans did not bother to wait until the end of the game to storm the court.  Florida State shot 23 more free throws than Duke.  And proving that something completely unexplainable was in the air, an FSU football player was spotted that night in the library.



In its next game, Duke returned home for a showdown with bitter rival North Carolina.  Hemric’s spell worked again, as the Tar Heels captured an 83-76 victory.  Once again, bizarre forces were at work.  The four UNC freshmen who saw action, led by Tyler Hansbrough’s 27 points, outscored the four Duke seniors 55-51.  Redick missed 15 of his final 16 shots, possibly distracted by a group of Florida State fans who stormed the court during the first half.  And the Blue Devils didn’t just taste defeat on ESPN – they lost on three different ESPN channels.  Today the network is labeling Hemric “the worldwide leader in curses.”



Hemric’s efforts caused Duke to accomplish a dubious feat: losing two consecutive games as the #1 team in the nation.  Noticing a promising trend, rival ACC coaches will probably vote to keep Duke in the top spot.  However, only one of them will be fortunate enough to draw the Blue Devils in Friday’s quarterfinals.  Thanks to Hemric, that lucky team’s place in the semifinals is assured.



Even Redick seemed to know that setting the record could lead to disaster.  His performance tailed off the closer he got to the mark.  He scored a season-low 11 points in the record-setting game against Temple.  Selfishly, he decided to pass Hemric, rather than inventing a season-ending injury a few points short.  Now his teammates will suffer the consequences.  Shelden Williams surely wishes that Redick had heeded Hemric’s warning: “Beware the bricks of March.”



Coach Mike Krzyzewski appears to see the writing on the wall.  In an attempt to combat the curse, Coach K attempted to enroll Curt Schilling as a Duke student.  Although K is Schilling’s favorite letter, Krzyzewski’s efforts were unsuccessful.  As a result, the coach will skip future practices in order to make more commercials.  Coach K is always eager to display his sense of humor – best shown when he started Steve Wojciechowski at point guard.



Redick is still certain to be named ACC player of the year.  On the other hand, North Carolina will be sure of one thing if it wins the conference tournament.  Hansbrough may be the Tar Heels’ best player, but Dickie Hemric will be the MVP.