Sports

Though Marshall Plumlee soldiers on at Duke, a fraternal dynasty nears its end

Chances are you don't like Marshall Plumlee.

If so, it's probably because of his brothers. And if you dislike his brothers, it's probably because, like Marshall, they both played and won at Duke.

And everyone dislikes Duke.

Few siblings have come to symbolize a college basketball program like Miles, Mason and Marshall Plumlee have the Blue Devils, who will play Oregon in an NCAA tournament West Regional semifinal at the Honda Center on Thursday.

At least one of Perky and Leslie Plumlee's three sons has started in 193 of Duke's last 293 games, spanning eight seasons. Each has won a national championship.

"I'm mad at Perky and Leslie for not having more," Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski joked. "Imagine, three 7-footers in one family."

The Plumlees' Duke dynasty will be ending soon. Marshall Plumlee is in his final season. So Thursday could offer the final glimpse at the bizarre psychological effect the Plumlees seem to inspire among rival fans.

Each season, no matter the players, Duke finds a way to inspire ill will. But Marshall Plumlee's case is especially interesting because he offers few reasons to dislike him.

After he graduates, Plumlee plans to make an attempt at the NBA, where both of his brothers play. After that, he'll join the Army.

"I'm really proud of Marshall," said Krzyzewski, a West Point graduate.

Plumlee's interest in the Army began when he was a junior in high school and, with his USA Basketball team, he played at an Army base in Germany. There, Plumlee met Gen. Robert Brown, who played under Krzyzewski at Army.

"We were talking about how rewarding it was to be a part of something bigger than yourself," Plumlee said. "He said, 'If you truly want that feeling, there are two places you can go. You can go to West Point. Or you can go to Duke and play for Coach K.'

"That was probably the biggest piece of advice that swayed me to committing to Duke. More so than my brothers."

While at Duke, Plumlee mulled whether he should pursue the Army. To examine the option further, Plumlee visited Brown at Ft. Benning, Ga., where officers took him to play paintball.

"I got lit up," Plumlee told Duke's student newspaper, the Chronicle. "It goes without being said, I'm a big target."

Plumlee was too tall for the Army, which has an 80-inch maximum height requirement. Plumlee exceeded that by four inches and had to request a special waiver.

Last year, the waiver received, Plumlee took his Army ROTC oath during a ceremony before practice. Forward Amile Jefferson and guard Quinn Cook held the American flag. His teammates said they were honored to be invited.

In many ways, Plumlee has come to represent Duke. He is the team's oldest player. He is unflinchingly loyal to the program. He gushes earnestly about the joys of competition.

"Nothing feels better than going and competing and putting it all on the floor and coming out on top," Plumlee said Wednesday during an interview at the Honda Center.

His intensity incites strong feelings among rivals. Plumlee hasn't taken a jump shot all season, according to Synergy Sports. That means most of Plumlee's scores are dunks — not high-flying dashes into the lane, but in-your-face, two-handed power slams.

Afterward, he immediately sprints down the floor, limbs flailing. Often, he's screaming.

"I've always tried to play with passion for the game," Plumlee said. "I will say, the Army, my time with them, and spending enough time with Coach K, has ramped that up."

Plumlee is not Duke's best player. That tag would go to either freshman Brandon Ingram or leading scorer Grayson Allen, who arguably is subject to even more scorn from opposing crowds than the Plumlees.

(One Internet meme even made its way into the Washington Post, which proclaimed "Duke's Grayson Allen looks a lot like a young Ted Cruz." Allen was taken aback. "I don't see it," Allen told the Raleigh News & Observer. "I asked my parents, and they don't see it either.")

Krzyzewski called Plumlee "our most important player."

Said guard Matt Jones: "Marshall's our anchor."

When Duke upset rival North Carolina on the road earlier this season, Tar Heels Coach Roy Williams said Plumlee "was the reason they won the game."

Plumlee's matchup against Oregon may be the game's most intriguing. He'll go against Oregon's Chris Boucher, one of the nation's best shot blockers.

The crowd, Duke expects, will be on Boucher's side.

"There is going to be a section of Duke fans, a section of Oregon fans, and then everyone else is rooting against us," Allen said.

By now, Plumlee is used to that.

"It's flattering in a lot of ways," he said.

zach.helfand@latimes.com

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times
A version of this article appeared in print on March 24, 2016, in the Sports section of the Los Angeles Times with the headline "Plumlee soldiers on - His days with the Blue Devils are nearing an end, but the Army awaits" — Today's paperToday's paper | Subscribe
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