Duff takes the reigns

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Duff takes the reigns

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Devon Greene, Assistant Sports Editor

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Western Illinois University Leatherneck sophomore guard C.J. Duff took a backseat to former Leathernecks Garrett Covington and Mike Miklusak last year, but this time around, he is looking to define his own legacy.

Duff grew up in the Waukegan, Ill., part of the Chicago Metropolitan area. Duff grew up playing basketball, and the sport became one of his first passions.

“It’s always been a part of my life.” Duff said. “My family all played, my dad played junior college basketball and my mom played in high school. It’s really become a tradition in my family.”

Duff praised his dad, Christopher Sr., for his influence on his basketball career.

“He always taught me to work hard for what I want in life and has constantly pushed me to be the best I can be,” Duff said.

Duff has worked hard to improve on his game as he’s advanced in his career. Before he got to Western, Duff started to take form in his junior year at Caramel High School in Waukegan. He averaged 21 points, 6 rebounds and 3 assists per game in his junior year. The tremendous season earned him All-State Honorable Mention and Lake County News-Sun All Area First Team. He finished out his high school career averaging 19 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 steals per game. This performance was enough to be named an All-East Suburban player.

In his first season here at Western, Duff started all 28 games. He was third in 3-point percentage behind then junior Dalan Ancrum and Leatherneck alumni Mike Miklusak. He was also fourth in scoring behind Covington, Miklusak and Ancrum. With Covington and Miklusak departed and signed with professional teams overseas, Duff is going to take a bigger role this year.

Duff has worked hard to improve his game this offseason to prepare for his bigger role on the team.

“For me, it’s being more assertive, being a two-way player,” Duff said. “I’m a slasher on offense and kind of have the role of guarding their best player on the opposite team on defense. For me, it’s getting better on the defensive end and also scoring more efficiently and becoming a consistent scorer on the offensive end to help my team win.“

With all of the starting experience that Duff obtained last season, he is expected to be a leader in the locker room. Being only a sophomore, he’s tried to learn from last season and draw from all of the lessons he found himself in and put them into effect this year to become a strong influence on his teammates.

“That’s something I’m working on, being more of a vocal leader,” Duff said. “And that’s something that I’m going to need to do this season. I’ll be expected to score the basketball more this season. And also, getting my teammates open will be another huge part of my focus this year.”

Duff doesn’t just focus on the offensive side of the ball, he is one of the Leathernecks’ best players, on both offense and defense and has tried to model his game to players that reflect that.

“I try to be like a Marcus Smart type player,” Duff said. “He’s more of a defensive player but also I can score the basketball on the offensive end too.”

Duff has also looked at former Los Angeles Laker Kobe Bryant as a strong influence on his mentality and the way that he plays the game.

“Kobe is also a guy I really admire,” Duff said. “The legacy that he has left on the game is amazing. The amount of work that he put in daily motivates me to do the same.”

Duff has placed a lofty goal for himself going into the 2017 season.

“I’m really trying to be a strong defensive player this season. I’m trying to be First Team All-Defense.”

Duff has high hopes for his sophomore season and thinks the team has a great chance at surprising the Summit League with all of their
new additions.

“We have a lot of new pieces, so I think people are doubting us and just don’t know what we have,” Duff said. “It’s all about being consistent and making sure we stay stable, and if we do that, we have a great season ahead of us.”

Twitter: devondeadlysins

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