CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — When Rasheed Sulaimon was in fifth grade, he was carrying a low B average in math, which is one of his best subjects.
His parents, Mutiu and Angela Sulaimon, wouldn't stand for it. They displayed the type of discipline that has helped the Duke commitment become one of the best students among the elite basketball players in the class of 2012.
Sulaimon was required to sit out a game his club team played in the Kingwood Classic tournament. His parents made him write a letter of apology to them and to his teacher for failing to put forth his best effort.
By the time the year was over, Sulaimon had pulled the grade in the class up to an A.
"I'm just thankful for everything my parents have done for me," Sulaimon said last week at the NBA Players Association camp at the University of Virginia. "At the time, I didn't really understand it. But now I know they really helped me get a good head on my shoulders."
With Sulaimon, Duke has a commitment from a 6-foot-4 player who can play shooting guard or point guard. Sulaimon ranked 10th in scoring at 12.2 points per game last week at the camp, which featured many of the top prospects in the nation.
Sulaimon said he needs to work on his speed, strength and lateral quickness, but he impressed recruiting analysts with his play at the camp, especially Friday.
"He was making incredible 3-point shots," All-Star Sports recruiting analyst Bob Gibbons said. "How many 3-point shooters does Duke need? But they've got another one. He is a legitimate top-20 prospect and should be a strong candidate to be a McDonald's All-American. He's a very talented player."
Shaped by the past
Sulaimon said his parents' struggles in life motivated him to do his best in everything. His father is a Nigerian immigrant who grew up playing soccer barefoot and still sends money back to family members in Africa.
Angela Sulaimon came to the United States from Jamaica as a small child and lived for a time in a crowded, one-bedroom apartment in New York, Rasheed said.
"Growing up, they always told me about their struggles and things like that, and it just really motivated me," he said. "They always told me if I had the opportunity I could be something bigger than what I am."
He is off to a good start. He said he carries a 3.79 grade-point average at Strake Jesuit in Houston, and he will have a chance to play on scholarship at his favorite school.
A fan of former Blue Devils guard Jason Williams, Sulaimon has fond memories of Duke's famous comeback from a 10-point deficit in the final 54 seconds of regulation to win in overtime against Maryland in 2001.
He used to cry when Duke lost, and he remembers jumping out of bed with joy when Sean Dockery made a shot from just inside halfcourt to defeat Virginia Tech at the buzzer in 2005.
Sulaimon committed to Duke shortly after the game against North Carolina on Feb. 9 at Cameron Indoor Stadium. The Duke-UNC game is a huge recruiting opportunity for the Blue Devils' staff. They showed Sulaimon how much he meant to them by making him the only prospect they invited to visit for the game.
"It meant a lot," Sulaimon said. "It's the biggest game of the year, Duke vs. Carolina. And for them to want me to come out there, and for me being the only recruit at that time, it just really showed me that these guys are really genuine."
Despite that demonstration of commitment from the staff and the atmosphere at Cameron that night, Sulaimon said academics were one of the main reasons he chose Duke.
His parents wouldn't have it any other way.
"It just started from an early age, and it's ingrained in me now," Sulaimon said. "I get upset with myself if I get an 89. It's just little things they taught me growing up that made me a better student and a better person."
email@example.com or 919-829-8942