Life As A Walk-On With Duke's 1992 National Championship Team

When Billy McCaffrey and Crawford Palmer transferred after Duke won the 1991 NCAA title, the Blue Devils had an opening, and then-senior Ron Burt won a spot on the team as a walk-on. Our friend Alan Siegel spoke to Burt for Slate about the trials and triumphs of unexpectedly earning a bit part on that particular Blue Devils team, which wound up repeating as national champions. On a roster that included four future NBA lottery picks, Burt eventually earned a full basketball scholarship. But not without plenty of struggles along the way:

During one of his first days as a Blue Devil, he sprained an ankle. When a trainer asked why his ankles weren't taped, Burt was dumbfounded—he didn't realize that was mandatory. Practice, Burt recalls, was conducted at a frightening pace. "I could compete well for a couple of minutes," he says, "but Bobby would go through an entire practice then be on the StairMaster for another hour."

For Burt, facing Hurley caused a series of existential crises. "This is pointless," he'd say to himself, "I don't know if they're getting anything out of this." Occasionally, he got dunked on, spurring teammates to start choruses of "Roooooonnnnn!" He also once made the mistake of trying to strip the ball from Laettner, who promptly elbowed him in the teeth.

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