Social media is a big part of the modern sports world. Twitter in particular is an excellent way to get a little insight into the minds of athletes, coaches and journalists. In effect, very little about sports is not outside the fan’s purview if you know where to look.
So who are the five people that every Duke fan absolutely must follow in order to get the most complete picture of Duke basketball?
Well, there’s me—@DantzlerSmith—so that’s one. But if you want actual information instead of witty quips from a freelancer with a philosophy degree, there are people other than myself to attach your Twitter account to.
Of course, if you have any Twitter people you think I’ve missed, please feel free to alert me and everyone else to them in the comments.
First of all, I opted to only include actual people in this top five list. That means that blogs and things like the official Duke Basketball Twitter account didn’t make the cut. The second thing to mention is that I don’t follow players.
There’s something I find strange about being long since graduated from college, following an 18- to 22-year-old on Twitter. If you don’t have the same hang-up as me, then Duke of Hoops has a great list of current and former players and their Twitter handles (here's the list).
With that established, I’ll use the honorable mentions to give shout-outs to blogs or organizations that are worthwhile to follow as well as people that didn’t quite make the cut for the five must follow tweet-ers.
Duke Men’s Hoops @Duke_MBB: Obviously.
Duke Blue Planet @dukeblueplanet: An excellent resource for stories related to Duke.
Duke Football @Duke_FB: Don’t be one of those fans that only likes the basketball team. Seriously, you can’t appreciate the greatness of the hoops program unless you’ve suffered through all the football failures. #0-11
Grant Hill @realgranthill33: Even though he’s riding off into retirement, his Twitter feed lets you look see the amazingly interesting life he’s leading. Live vicariously as he meets celebs, fellow NBA players and politicians.
Shane Battier @ShaneBattier: He uses social media to give away freebies to fans and offer a glimpse of NBA life. His tweets are often indicative of his intelligence so it’s like following basketball’s version of The Economist (@theeconomist).
Jay Williams @RealJayWilliams: Not only is he a Blue Devils great and an excellent analyst on ESPN, he’s laudably earnest. His Twitter feed is as insightful as it is thoughtful.
Mike Gminski @gman43duke: The Duke legend is now an excellent broadcaster. His Twitter commentary is as good as his television commentary.
Bob Harris @bluedevilsvoice: How could you not follow the voice of Blue Devils athletics? Too bad you can’t hear him narrate his tweets.
Face it, Coach K is never going to have a Twitter account. Yes, you could follow the players to get a feel for what’s going on inside the locker room, but they’re 18- to 22-year-old guys and mostly use Twitter to congratulate each other.
So your best bet for insight into the bench huddles and practices is Associate Head Coach Steve Wojciechowski.
Of course, it isn’t like Wojo is giving away state secrets via Twitter. You’re not going to learn what the coaching staff is seeing when they break down film or if a player is secretly hurt. Instead, following Wojo on Twitter gives you a little taste of what a Duke coach watches and thinks about outside of the gym.
Wojo’s Twitter feed is a mesh of well-wishes to former players, commentary on NBA games and inspirational quotes.
Again, following Wojo on twitter won’t alert you to breaking news, but it certainly does add a human face to a guy celebrated as a player and respected as a coach.
For my money, Jay Bilas is the voice of college basketball. For starters, he’s intelligent. His analysis is spot on and he certainly doesn’t disrespect the audience by dumbing down his observations.
Beyond that, it’s blatently obvious that he loves college basketball. It’s that love that leads him to offer honest opinions even if they strike out against the NCAA and Tom Emmert. Bilas succinctly and poignantly points out both what is great about the sport and what is tearing it apart at the seams.
But don’t think his Twitter feed is a stream of tirades against the NCAA (although those are some of his best tweets). Through everything, Bilas shows off a sense of humor. His various ‘Gotta go to work’ tweets are rap lyric daily affirmations that are worthy of a Twitter follow in and of themselves. He’s like a 6’8” lawyer version of Eminem.
Ultimatley, Bilas is exactly the sort of mind you’d want access to on a regular basis. His Twitter presence provides that kind of intellectual surveillance and he’s a must-follow not only for Duke fans, but fans of college basketball in general.
For folks outside the Southeast, Laura Keeley works for the Raleigh News & Observer. For that newspaper (yes, they still exist), she’s the Duke beat reporter.
Keeley is a must-follow for Duke fans because she is a wealth of information. Her access to players and coaches allows for interviews and the sort of insider information that knowledgeable Duke fans crave.
Through her Twitter feed you’ll get links to her articles that appear in the newspaper as well as the things she writes for her blog. The blog, which is run through the News & Observer, is a great resource as she often uses it to aggregate interesting links or tidbits about what’s going on at Duke.
Of course Keeley isn’t just limited to Duke basketball. Via Twitter you’ll get updates on what’s happening throughout the ACC. Just for the sheer volume and quality of information she provides, Keeley is a must-follow. The icing on the cake is that she’s an excellent writer. So for Duke fans that want the latest news and well-articulated arguments, insights and interviews, Keeley is the go-to source.
Be forewarned, Ben Swain isn’t for everyone. Swain is a graduate of NC State and an alumni of the Duke Basketball Camp who writes for ACC Sports. So whatever your opinion of him, it’s hard to question his ACC credentials.
Where Duke fans might object to categorizing him as a must-follow relates to the fact that he often makes fun of Duke despite being a Blue Devils fan.
But here’s the thing, sometimes you need to laugh at your team and yourself. Sports fans, particularly Duke fans, are prone to taking things far too seriously. What you’ll get from following Swain isn’t necessarily insight or analysis, but rather humorous reminders that it’s all just a game.
Swain’s Twitter comments cover a wide range of issues. From the awkwardness of the Plumlees to the triumph of making it to the Belk Bowl to him referring to Duke’s lacrosse team as the “Bro-Devils,” it’s all commentary couched in comedy.
Best of all, the Walk-Ons podcast, which he does with a Kentucky fan/journalist and Louisville fan/journalist, is free on iTunes and a great way to learn about basketball and which universities have world-weary looking women (answer: the University of Cincinnati).
So Swain is a must-follow for his in-running commentary that reminds Duke fans that it’s less expensive to make jokes about poor officiating than to throw your remote at the TV.
Remember the website Seth Curry Saves Duke? Well Shane Ryan started that, which has since evolved (or devolved considering I’ve written a couple of articles for it) into Tobacco Road Blues. He’s also a writer for Grantland on ESPN and was formerly a part of the Walk-Ons podcast with Ben Swain.
In fact, there’s a bit of overlap between Swain and Ryan, but there’s reason to follow each individually.
For one, you can’t really read Swain’s articles unless you subscribe to ACC Sports. Ryan, on the other hand, can be read for free at Granland. In those articles, Ryan tends toward the sort of verbose, funny and pop culture-referencing articles that the site’s forefather, Bill Simmons, made popular.
So for fans interested in long reads interspersed with references to good indie bands, preferably with a North Carolina connection, Shane Ryan provides a steady stream of lengthy love letters to college basketball.
His Twitter feed is valuable because it provides links to his work for Grantland, his work for Paste or tips on bands music aficionados might enjoy. For a Duke fan, it’s an excellent example of a writer’s life from a Duke perspective. He doesn’t provide as much Duke-centric content as anyone else on this list, but for Blue Devil fans that want to broaden their sports horizon, he’s an invaluable asset on Twitter.
What you get by following Ryan and the other four people I’ve mentioned is information, thoughtful commentary and a well-rounded view of Duke as well as the sports world in general. For those reasons, these are the five people that fans of the Blue Devils should consider must-follows.