When Ricky Price enrolled at Duke in 1994, he thought he was on a path to the NBA.
Price was a McDonalds All-American high school basketball player. He couldve played at virtually any university in America. He could not have foreseen how injuries, academic probation and a personal falling out with Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski would greatly affect his college career. He never could have guessed that his NBA dream would not materialize.
But Price never gave up on basketball.
For me, he said, basketball is what I know. Im not an architect or a writer. Im a basketball player. Im an expert in the game. I know it. I know all the nuances of it. Basketball is how I want to make my living.
So Price, 36, is living in Charlotte using his history and his ability to teach the game. Hes started a company, Game Ready Skills and Development ( gamereadysd.com) and is teaching kids how to play and working with companies as a motivational speaker to show how basketball-style teamwork is important in the corporate world.
Its staying around the game, Price said, but also using the game to promote everything that Im doing.
Price said basketball has taken him as high, and as low, as he couldve ever expected to go.
From Dennys to Duke
Price was an only child who grew up in Compton and Carson, Calif.
By the time he reached high school, Price was a big-time college recruit. He remembers the first day he could get a phone call from a college coach during his junior year. Under NCAA rules, coaches had to wait until midnight of the first day of recruiting. Price says then-Kansas coach Roy Williams, now at North Carolina, called at 12:01 a.m.
By his senior year in high school, Price was ranked as high as the countrys fourth-best player. He remembers he and his dad went to Dennys and had a $3.99 Grand Slam meal to discuss picking Duke or Kansas.
Price chose Duke because it was considered the nations premier program, and it didnt hurt that on his official visit his favorite player, Grant Hill, was his host.
I just knew I would love it there, he said.
Cutting a corner
Prices first year was the 1994-95 season when Krzyzewski only coached 12 games before leaving the team for back surgery and to recover from exhaustion. Price averaged 8.1 points. The next season, he averaged 14.2 points and made the All-ACC team. He briefly thought about turning pro.
But he returned to school and broke his little finger before his junior season. He had tendonitis in his right knee. His scoring dipped to 9.4 points. And at the tail end of his junior year, during Dukes NCAA tournament run in March 1997, he made a decision that still haunts him.
Instead of writing a paper that was due for a dance class, Price turned in one that his girlfriend had used for the same class a year earlier.
He was caught and was placed on academic probation. He had to sit out the first semester of his senior season, missing several games in what he felt was a final NBA audition.
It was a boneheaded move, he said. I look back at what happened, and it was just a kid being stupid, trying to cut corners.
Price couldnt go to class or work out with the team, so he worked out at the YMCA and spent some time at Durhams Hillside High School and Lakewood Elementary, tutoring and advising kids on the importance of academics.
He rejoined the team Dec. 21, 1997, in a 126-64 win over Mercer. He made 4 of 7 shots and punctuated a 10-point night with a 360-degree dunk. That was the high point of his senior year.
Before his academic troubles, Price started 54 games and averaged 10.4 points. He averaged 2.7 points in his final season as a Blue Devil. His relationship with Krzyzewski frayed.
I was upset I got myself in the situation, Price said. I couldve transferred or redshirted. I wanted to redshirt. I felt like (Krzyzewski ) had destroyed my career. For the first five years (after I left), we didnt speak. I was reluctant to come to Cameron (Indoor Stadium).
Prices best friend, former Duke teammate Chris Carrawell, persuaded him to come back around campus. One day, Price and Krzyzewski saw each other in Cameron. They talked in the locker room. Price said they each apologized. They came out friends again.
He thought that he could come in (after missing the first semester) and play right away, Krzyzewski said in an email, and I should have intervened and told him the guys he thought he was better than at that time actually had four months of preparation and were ahead of him. Not totally, but at that point in time, they were ahead of him. It would have been better to sit out. Thats one decision I would have liked to change. We both have responsibility for making the wrong decision at the time.
Finding a lane
After his playing career at Duke, Price finished his degree with a major in sociology and a minor in history. He played nine years of pro ball overseas. He had several NBA tryouts and played in four preseason games.
After playing, Price became an agent for overseas players and dabbled in TV and radio. Then he found his niche with his new company. Carrawell said hes never seen his friend this happy.
Today, Price is active in Dukes basketball camps and its corporate-education program through the Fuqua School of Business. Krzyzewski said hes as close to Price now as any of his former players because they see each other so often.
I thought he was a really good kid, but hes a better man, Krzyzewski said, Hes a better man having gone through the experiences he has. Hes intelligent. He gets along so well with people. Hes a team player. Were very close right now.
Price said hes using a lot of the lessons Coach K taught him when hes trying to help others. He said he can see bits of himself in the kids with whom he works.
That personal touch struck a chord with Joanne Campione, who took her 15-year-old son, Chris, to Price several months back.
Chris didnt make the Charlotte Catholic junior varsity last year, but his mother said Price has helped transform his game and his outlook.
Ricky gives a great workout, but its also a mentoring-type thing, Campione said. Hes very encouraging. Hes helped Chris with his confidence as much as his game. Rickys very good, but hes also very genuine.
Chris said: Ricky has brought the best in how I can play. He never wants you to give less than 100 percent. He said that works in life, too. In education, he said you have to give everything youve got. Hes just a great teacher and a role model.
Role model. Price hears that and laughs. He wants to coach someday, thinking he can instill values in the next generation. Krzyzewski believes hed be perfect.
He understands the game well, Krzyzewski said. Hes still young enough that he can demonstrate it. Hes had real highs and real lows in his career, so he can have great empathy with a youngster trying to get better. And he loves kids.
Carrawell said his best friend has finally found his lane, that this new start has affected Ricky Price in the best way possible.
You gotta be happy in life and you cant be disappointed and point the finger, Carrawell said. If you live with what-ifs, youll never move on. Hes moved on. Thats my best friend, and Im proud to say it. Hes where hes at today, doing what he wants to do and making a difference in kids lives and being an asset to the community.