1-On-1 With Duke Star, NBA Prospect Tyrese Proctor

By David Glenn
North Carolina Sports Network

Like the National Basketball Association, college basketball has become an international phenomenon.

Just in the Atlantic Coast Conference this season, there are key players from England (Wake Forest guard Cameron Hildreth), Finland (Pittsburgh center Federiko Federiko), France (NC State forward Mohamed Diarra), the Netherlands (Boston College forward Quinten Post), Nicaragua (All-ACC Miami forward Norchad Omier) and Spain (Florida State forward Baba Miller), among other distant lands.

Duke point guard Tyrese Proctor is from Sydney, Australia, which is almost 10,000 miles away from Durham, N.C.

Proctor’s father, Roderick, is an American and a former professional basketball player. (He met Tyrese’s Australian mother, Melissa, while playing in Australia.) At the college level, Roderick played Division Two hoops for Mississippi College in Clinton, Miss.

After initially planning to play for Duke starting with the 2023-24 (current) season, Tyrese Proctor — who was already 18 years old at the time — moved his plans up a year in June 2022, roughly two months after long-time assistant Jon Scheyer officially succeeded legendary Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski.

As a freshman last season on a team that won the ACC championship, Proctor started 34 of the Blue Devils’ 36 games and joined teammates Kyle Filipowski and Dereck Lively II (now in the NBA) on the league’s five-man All-Freshman squad.

A 6-foot-5 point guard, Proctor led the Devils with 119 assists, was their third-leading scorer (9.4 points per game) and led them in free throw accuracy (87.1 percent). His 2.05 assist-turnover ratio was third-best nationally among freshmen competing in power conferences.

Before this season, Proctor became just the fourth sophomore in Duke basketball history to be named a team captain, joining Greg Paulus and Josh McRoberts in 2007 and Tre Jones in 2020.

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, Proctor took time for this one-on-one visit with David Glenn of the North Carolina Sports Network.

DG: Tyrese, welcome to the David Glenn Show. As a young person in Australia, you tried cricket, basketball of course, but also soccer and baseball. Be honest. Were you good at all of them right away?

Proctor: Cricket? I wasn’t the best; I can’t lie. Basketball, soccer and baseball, I was definitely tossing up between those three, but I just fell in love with basketball and stuck with it.

DG: I know your father played college basketball in the USA, then professional basketball in Australia. Is that how and where he met your (Australian) mom?

Proctor: Yes.

DG: Was your dad’s influence what pulled you toward basketball, or was it more growing to 6-foot-5 and falling in love with the game yourself?

Proctor: I mean, I was definitely around when dad was playing and always at a stadium, always had a ball in my hand. He never really forced it on me. It was always just natural and just something that I grew up playing and loving and continued to play. And then the height came with it, so it added a bonus, for sure.

DG: So your mom is Australian and your dad is American. How did they meet, and then how did they decide whether to put down roots in Australia or the USA?

Proctor: So, they actually met at a party, and then, you know, they lost contact for a bit. He went back to America for a little bit, and then he ended up coming back out (to Australia), and they got back in touch and sort of have been with each other since.

DG: Two years ago, you attended something called the NBA Global Academy. What is that, and what did you learn there?

Proctor: Yes. So, the NBA Global Academy, it’s a program that’s under the NBA, NBA-sponsored and all that. There’s a couple different ones around the world. There’s one in India, Latin America, China, Africa, and the global one is in Canberra, in Australia.

It’s pretty much, you know, we select the best out of all the players from all the other academies and have a team. There’s five Australians on the team — the rest are international kids — and we travel around the world and play. And, I mean, for me, it was really good. Just leveling up my game, you know, playing against guys older than me and more physical and stuff like that.

There’s also just the exposure piece, obviously, being in Australia, and not having AAU (American-based amateur basketball) and all that type of possible exposure. So, just playing around the world. I played in France, Hungary, and I was in America a lot. Just getting the exposure was really good for me.

DG: I know the NBA has become a global game, so that was probably on your radar as a young guy. Is college basketball also a big thing in Australia?

Proctor: Yeah. I feel like it’s developed over the years a lot more.

There’s many different routes that kids in Australia are taking now, whether it’s professionally right away, the NBL (Australia’s professional league), the G League. I mean, (going) straight to the NBA is a choice as well.

But I feel like college basketball is becoming a lot more common, especially with guys in the academy. A lot more guys are committing to Division One schools that I’ve seen, that I was in the academy with. So I feel like now it’s really starting to take off with Australian basketball, and a lot more people are playing college basketball.

DG: Duke point guard Tyrese Proctor is joining us here on the David Glenn Show. It seems cool to be able to represent Duke; you walk around with that name across your chest. It also must be cool to represent your country, right? I know you were not only a part of, but one of the stars on, the Australian National Team at the FIBA Asia Cup, so you’re now a gold medalist for your home country. I know you’re happy to be an ACC champion, as well, but everything’s a little different. What’s it like to be that champion for your home country?

Proctor: Yeah, it was huge.

That was really my first first big Australian tournament, just because of COVID and all the stuff that happened with that, I wasn’t able to to travel (prior to the 2022 FIBA Asia Cup). But, I mean, it was a blessing. We went to Indonesia.

I was with a lot of the, you know, the Boomers (nickname for the Australian National Team) that play on the Boomers today. We had a training camp before and went over and won a gold medal. We were undefeated in that tournament, and like you said, I was a key guy on that team and played a big role coming off the bench. I knew my role and finished games the way I needed to, and I just had a good time overall.

It was a really fun experience and something I’ll never forget.

DG: A funny part of your bio is that you were on the preseason list a year ago for the Jerry West Award, which goes to the best shooting guard in NCAA basketball. Well, here you are, you’re a point guard with a two-to-one assist-turnover ratio. Even at 6-foot-5 or so, don’t you view yourself as a point guard, both at Duke and at the next level?

Proctor: Yeah. Definitely.

I think it was a big thing last year, when Jeremy went down in that Purdue game, and I sort of had to take over the point guard position. I’ve played point guard my whole life, and it just comes naturally. My dad was a point guard, and obviously Coach Scheyer was a point guard, so, you know, we always communicated on that.

I just feel like it’s my natural position, it’s what I’m best at.

DG: How do you get to be an 87-plus percent free throw shooter?

Proctor: I mean, I think it’s just reps. It’s time.

Knowing how important free throws are … my dad would always emphasize how important they are. So that’s something that I always remembered and took really big pride in. You know, free throws win games, and that’s just how it is. So, it’s just making sure I’m a elite free throw shooter.

DG: I mentioned earlier that Duke has asked only four sophomores in the history of the program to be a team captain. We might have guessed that Jeremy Roach and Ryan Young, a senior and a graduate student, would be captains this season. What did that mean to you, that you get to wear that jersey but also have that captaincy?

Proctor: No, it’s an honor. I’m very honored to be named captain by my teammates and coaches.

Whether I was titled captain or not, I was still going to have to be a leader on the team, being Duke’s point guard and having to be that vocal leader on the court, running the team, you know, being in the back of Scheyer’s ear and us communicating on the court.

So, you know, I’m honored, but regardless of captain, non-captain, I was still going to be a leader on this team and help us this year.

DG: You were very good last year, but you were much better at the end of the year compared to the beginning of the year. What did you and Coach Scheyer circle as your offseason focus for improvement?

Proctor: Yeah. Just getting a lot more reps up, shooting off the dribble, catch-and-shoot, just really drilling my jumpshot. The mechanics are all good. It’s just getting reps up now. The confidence is always there, so just keep getting a lot of reps up.

Another big thing was just my ball-handling, getting the speed up to date. Those are the main two things.

DG: You missed the greatest coach of all time by one year. Is Mike Krzyzewski a part of your life, even though he’s not your head coach?

Proctor: Yeah, for sure. Coach K is always around the facilities — at practices, you know, might bump into him in the hallway, or walking around campus.

He’s given me some great advice, especially last year, just speaking to him here and there. You know, he’s Coach K, so he’s been through it, he’s been through every level of basketball. So just, you know, picking his brain and just talking to him about what I can do better.

DG: As we let you go, a couple of your Duke teammates last year, Dereck Lively and Dariq Whitehead, became first-round NBA draft picks. I don’t know if they send you any messages about life in the NBA, but some people see you as a possible lottery pick next spring. Do you view this as your last year at Duke?

Proctor: I mean, you know, the NBA is my goal. That’s always been my goal.

Whether it’s my freshman year, whether it was last year, this year, next year, whether I stay four years, you know, I just want to win and I want to be a winner, be known for being a winner.

I’m a big believer in my time will come, whether it is this year or next year. I’m just happy to, you know, just see my growth as a player, and I just want to win games.