Duke

Former Duke walk-on Nick Pagliuca gets in the game on senior night

Duke senior Nick Pagliuca on getting into the game on "Senior Night"

Senior guard Nick Pagliuca, a former walk-on, talks about what it was like to hear Cameron Crazies chant his name on senior night.
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Senior guard Nick Pagliuca, a former walk-on, talks about what it was like to hear Cameron Crazies chant his name on senior night.

As the final seconds ticked down to No. 17 Duke’s 75-70 win over No. 15 Florida State, the Cameron Crazies began to chant.

“Nick! Nick! Nick! Nick! Nick!” they yelled.

It was senior night, and senior guard Nick Pagliuca would be playing his final game at Cameron Indoor Stadium Tuesday night.

Seconds later, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski sent Grayson Allen to the scorers table. The chants quieted.

With only 20 seconds left in the game, up nine points, it looked as if he wouldn’t get in. But Krzyzewski seemed to make a last second decision, and sent the former walk-on to the scorer’s table. The crowd erupted.

It was the loudest it had been all game, even louder than when freshman guard Frank Jackson knocked down his fifth 3-pointer in a row early in the second half. Prior to the game, Pagliuca had played only eight minutes all season.

“It was great,” Pagliuca said. “It was the loudest I ever heard them chant about me, so it was a good feeling. It’s just the best fans and they reward you for being loyal to the program.”

Pagliuca took off his warm up shirt and entered the game. As he walked onto the court, and fellow senior guard Matt Jones walked off, they hugged. They told each other they loved one another.

“Because I felt like those were the only words that would suffice,” Jones said. “In that moment, all that we’ve been through, Nick is a great player, and obviously a great brother. To come in together and leave together is special.”

Pagliuca only played for 14 seconds before he was subbed out again. But he said it was a special night.

“They wanted me to get a shot up but there wasn’t enough time on the shot clock for that to happen,” Pagliuca said.

The 6-3, 195-pound senior has played in five games this season. His last action came in a 110-57 win against Georgia Tech on Jan. 4. He has not scored a point yet this season.

But graduate student Amile Jefferson, who was also recognized at senior night, said Pagliuca has “been nothing short of great,” while at Duke.

“He’s always making us better in practice,” Jefferson said. “And he doesn’t take it easy on anyone. So when we’re scouting, and he’s a player whose really good. He’s getting up in you, he’s shooting in your face, and he’s making the team better. And then off the court, he’s making sure guys are doing the right thing.”

At the conclusion of Tuesday night’s game, all the seniors grabbed a microphone and gave a brief speech. Pagliuca was last. He thanked his teammates, the fans and his family.

And he had one last parting shot to North Carolina, who Duke will play on Saturday.

“Go to h*** Carolina,” he said.

The crowd went wild.

Jonathan M. Alexander: 919-829-4822, @jonmalexander

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