1-On-1 With Duke Star, NBA Prospect Kyle Filipowski

By David Glenn

North Carolina Sports Network

More than 100 NCAA basketball players jumped to the professional ranks this past spring despite remaining college eligibility, but Duke star Kyle Filipowski — who had a far better 2022-23 season, as a freshman, than most of those departing — opted to stay in school.

There were several reasons for Filipowski’s decision to remain with the Blue Devils. One is that, despite accomplishing many of his individual and team goals last season, he did not realize his #1, life-long basketball dream: winning the NCAA title. Another is that he simply loves college life, his teammates and playing for second-year Duke coach Jon Scheyer. Finally, Filipowski faced the potentially serious complication of major offseason surgeries — plural — on both hips.

A 7-foot, 248-pound prep All-American from Westtown, N.Y., Filipowski is listed as a center but is very comfortable initiating offense from the perimeter, which is among the many reasons he’s considered a likely 2024 NBA lottery pick.

Filipowski, who turned 20 years old on Nov. 7, had a sensational freshman year for the Blue Devils, leading them in scoring (15.1 points per game) and rebounding (8.9 per game), becoming an ACC champion and the ACC Tournament MVP, and earning both ACC Freshman of the Year honors and the Kyle Macy National Freshman of the Year award.

To say that Filipowski is from a basketball family would be an understatement. His father, Dave, played collegiately for Slippery Rock, a Division Two program in Pennsylvania. His mother, Becky, played at the Division One level, for Long Beach State. An uncle, Randall Hagerdon, played at Boston College. An aunt, Beverly Hagerdon, played at Dartmouth. Kyle’s twin brother, Matthew, plays at Harvard.

Amidst his television visits with the ACC Network and his podium time in front of the assembled media in attendance at the ACC’s recent Basketball Tip-Off event in Charlotte, Filipowski took time for this one-on-one visit with David Glenn of the North Carolina Sports Network.

DG: Our next guest is only a sophomore, but he was last year’s Kyle Macy National Freshman of the Year. He was the ACC Freshman of the Year. He was the ACC Tournament MVP. He was All-ACC and, of course, he was an ACC champion.

Kyle Filipowski, welcome to the David Glenn Show. How are you?

Filipowski: Thank you. I’m good. How are you doing?

DG: I’m doing well. I’m about six feet tall and 185 pounds, and I was in Italy this summer. The showers were too small for me. The doorways were too small for me. Again, I’m six feet tall; you’re seven-feet-ish and much bigger than I in other ways. Is it more fun or more often a PITA to be your size?

Filipowski: I’d probably say it’s more often a PITA. I think in certain situations, you know, like large crowds and stuff, it definitely comes in handy, with seeing over the crowds and stuff. But that’s probably one of the reasons why I never really travel abroad, is because those countries don’t have many things that I can work with.

DG: Well, if I were your buddy at Duke, and we wanted to meet up, and it was a chaotic crowd or whatever, you could just say, DG, look for the tall guy. I like that; you’re looking at the plus side. How about airplanes, beds, showers, stuff like that? Again, the shower head in Italy hit me in the head, and you’re a foot taller than I.

Filipowski: No, I mean, I’m basically in a defensive stance when I’m showering. It’s that difficult. And don’t even get me started with the airplanes.

DG: Last year, you averaged about 15 points and nine rebounds per game, leading your team in both of those important categories. A lot of folks saw you as an NBA first-round pick if you left Duke after one season. Simple question: Why come back to the Blue Devils rather than realizing that NBA dream in 2023?

Filipowski: It’s just, I don’t want to ever get ahead of myself and look too far in the future, where it messes up what I want to do right now. And I think I just want to do what made me happiest, and that was to stay here for another (season), you know, doing that. I know I still have a lot more to accomplish here at Duke while I’m still here. Even though I may have these predictions of what I can do in the NBA, I know not to get too ahead of myself.

DG: You hear the phrase “hip surgery” all the time with senior citizens. Even your buddy Mike Krzyzewski, right, could tell us about hip surgeries. You’re a young man, right around 20 years old. Remind us why you needed hip surgery, who advised you to go forward to that, and then how close to 100% you feel right now, which is what, roughly six months after your surgery?

Filipowski: Yeah. Well, I mean, I’m only getting better by the day, and I’m already feeling right now, I would say I’m feeling 100%. I’m feeling better than what I felt like last year, before the surgery, so that’s why I would say 100%.

But at the same time, maybe I don’t even know what 100% is yet, because I haven’t gone there. But all I know is that it’s better than what I was before. So it’s a great feeling.

I talked over it with my agent and my coaches, knowing, trying to figure out what was best for me, just because I had a restriction in the range of motion for my hip. So I needed to get my bone shaved down to where the ball fit in the socket and it wasn’t more of a football shape.

DG: I’ve heard Duke has some talented, skilled medical people. You’re probably in good hands there.

Filipowski: I am, yeah.

DG: You are from a family of basketball players — aunts and uncles, your brother plays at Harvard. Your dad, Dave, and your mom, Becky, also were both fairly high-level college basketball players. How have they helped your basketball journey over the years?

Filipowski: Yeah, I mean, they definitely helped me with taking me to AAU (games), all those nights, long road trips and stuff. But it’s been good because being here, I’ve been able to kind of just thrive on my own in the college life and college situation. So I’ve been able to really be independent and grow here on my own, which has been pretty cool.

DG: We didn’t know you at 12 or 15 years old, but I assume you were always somewhat tall for your age. There was a time, years ago, that if you were the biggest kid, you would be told by your coaches to get down low, catch the ball near the basket, be a traditional post player, et cetera.

Has the basketball world changed enough that even when you were younger, assuming you were always big for your age, that some coach or maybe mom or dad said, no, my son’s going to be allowed to play on the perimeter, even though he’s the biggest guy?

Filipowski: Yeah, I think what helped me the most was having a twin that was a little bigger than me. He was always a little bigger than me, so it was hard, because he was kind of the one getting stuck underneath the hoop more than me. And, I mean, growing up, I just naturally was getting comfortable around the perimeter shooting threes and stuff, and I’ve always had that part of my game for some reason and just kept it with me.

DG: Mom and dad must have been either smart themselves or helped you guys with the academic side of this whole endeavor, because for those who don’t know, Kyle’s twin brother Matthew is at Harvard right now. Do you guys discuss basketball more, or could his classes be harder than yours or vice versa?

Filipowski: This is the first time we’ve really been away from each other, so we’ve been able to kind of have our own spotlights, which has been good for us. But I mean, no, we don’t really talk much about classes or who’s the smarter one. We had plenty of those discussions growing up.

DG: When I introduced you, I listed a lot of things that I would have on my checklist to achieve as a college basketball player, and you’ve already achieved all of them, with the exception of a national championship. How do you view that goal this season, when — even if you haven’t decided officially — people are assuming that this is going to be your final year of college basketball.

Filipowski: Yeah, the national championship is #1, without a doubt. It’s been a dream of mine since I was a little kid. That’s probably my first dream since playing basketball — winning a national championship in college; it wasn’t to play in the NBA. Obviously, that’s still a dream of mine, too, but the first one that I can remember was the national championship.

So just that (an NCAA title). And, obviously, the individual accolades will come along, too, hopefully with that, with ACC Player of the Year and National Player of the Year, things like that.

DG: I’m old enough to have covered your coach, Jon Scheyer, back when he was a player at Duke. He wore #30; you wear #30. Remind us, is that just coincidence, or is there a lot of meaning behind that in your eyes?

Filipowski: No, there’s definitely some meaning behind it. I wanted to wear a number that meant something to me, and I think just being Coach Scheyer’s first commit for him as a head coach, that was definitely something special, and it’ll stick with me for the rest of my life, and I’m sure with him as well. I just wanted to have some significant meaning behind it.

DG: Last thing for Kyle Filipowski. A lot of basketball people consider Mike Krzyzewski the Greatest of All Time, and you missed him by one year. He’s still around, though, so how do you get to enjoy Coach K, even though he’s technically not your head coach?

Filipowski: I get to listen to his jokes when he’s around. He’s a pretty funny guy, and he just enjoys being able to kind of lay back and observe. And there are times when he definitely does give some advice, but he tries to make it joking, as well, so it’s not as serious.

DG: Kyle, thanks for letting us enjoy you for one more year as an ACC basketball player, and thank you for the time here on the David Glenn Show.

Filipowski: Absolutely. Thank you for having me.