Duncan is leaving his legacy


Photo credit: Jordan Rodrigues

Everyone’s dream is to leave their mark on history, but very few, if ever, get the opportunity to do so. In sports the opportunity is always present but it is up to the athlete to leave their mark in one way or another, whether it be by winning championships or breaking records. Chico State senior guard Robert Duncan can rest easy knowing he’s left a big mark in the Wildcats basketball program history.

Duncan’s one of two Wildcats with 1,000 points, 200 assists and 100 steals in program history. As the reigning California Collegiate Athletic Association Player of the Year and an All-American selection, Duncan has been part of three straight NCAA Championship Tournament teams and won back-to-back CCAA Championships. Duncan was also part of the Wildcats team that won the program’s first ever NCAA Championship West Regional Title. The Wildcats also have a record of 87-29 when Duncan plays.

This season, Duncan became the only player in program history to earn three consecutive First All-Conference selections and was player of the week for Jan. 3.

Photo credit: Jordan Rodrigues

Duncan’s journey to Chico began with an elementary school basketball flyer. This flyer for organized sports set the wheels in motion for Duncan and gave him his love for the game.

“There were sign-up sheets for basketball, so I brought it home to my dad and asked him if I could play,” Duncan said. “He was like ‘yeah.’ He signed me up and ever since then I’ve been rolling with it. So, I’d say I’ve been playing since fourth grade.”

Prior to picking up the ball, Duncan never had a favorite team or player. But once he began to play, that quickly changed. His love for the game made him idolize one of the best players to ever play and to root for a team with 16 championships despite living in an area that was home to their rival.

“I wasn’t as into it until I started playing it that I became a huge Kobe Bryant fan. I really like Kobe because of his passion for the game and how he represents the game. Hard work pays off,” Duncan said. “So, I guess I pull for the Lakers. I rooted for the Kings when they weren’t playing the Lakers. They were fun to watch back then.”

Photo credit: Jordan Rodrigues

Duncan, a Sacramento native, moved quite a bit before arriving at Chico. He attended a few elementary schools in California and Tennessee, before moving back to California during his junior year of high school to attend Granite Bay High School in Granite Bay. Duncan led the team to a Sierra Foothill League title during his senior year and was a two time All-SFL selection.

Before leaving high school, Duncan was heavily recruited by two schools: Chico State and the US Air Force Academy Preparatory School in Colorado Springs, Colorado. He chose the Air Force over Chico to begin his college career but left soon after as it was not what he was looking for.

“I ended up going to the Air Force out of high school because it seemed like a good opportunity I wanted to try it out and see what it would be like. I ended up not liking it, and like I said Chico recruited me heavily out of high school, so I decided I would love to go to Chico,” Duncan said. “Chico was always there when I was making my decision straight out of high school. Chico State and the Air Force were the two recruiting me heavily so I knew it would be one of the two.”

Photo credit: Jordan Rodrigues

His decision to leave was not only influenced by his experience at the Air Force or the Chico’s basketball program, it was also influenced by the city itself. “I really liked it. I liked the college town feeling. It kind of has that home away from home feeling,” Duncan said. “I like all the scenery.”

Since his arrival at Chico State, both Duncan and the basketball program has improved.

“I think it’s been good. It has taught me a lot,” Duncan said. “Coach Clink has taught me a lot about being a good person and how to grow as one. He showed me that hard work really does pay off. I have enjoyed the program a lot.”

Duncan’s hard work was rewarded by earning a player of the year award for the 2015-2016 basketball season. Duncan gives all credit to coach Clink for his award, as it was he who challenged Duncan to step up and be a leader for the team that year.

“It means a lot because in the beginning of the year, coach challenged me to come out and try to lead the team. It felt good to have coach challenge me to do something like that and then for it to pay off,” Duncan said. “It felt good to know all the hard work I put in during the summer and during the season really paid off.”

Although Duncan has several awards and championships to his name, he cherishes the memories he has made on and off the court with his teammates. As he looks back on previous games, there are two memories that stand out: Jalen McFerren’s half-court buzzer beater and a Sweet 16 game against Stanislaus.

“I have never seen or been on a team that has had a half-court shot go in like that at the end of a game. For McFerren to make that, I would say that was amazing,” Duncan said. “Another game I remember was when we were playing in the Sweet 16 against Stanislaus. We were down in that entire game and in the last two minutes we made an unbelievable comeback. It was an amazing feeling to watch the guys do that and be a part of it.”

Duncan admits that he does not remember much of what happened leading up to and immediately after McFerren’s shot. He was too caught up in the excitement of the moment to recall exactly what happened other than watching McFerren take the shot and the reactions after it went in.

Since this is Duncan’s last year on the team, he will now have to begin thinking about his future and whether he will continue to play basketball professionally overseas or pursue his dream and open a business. He has not had the time to focus on that aspect of his life yet because he still has work to do before the year is over.

When asked about his legacy at Chico State, Duncan responded:

“It’s one of those things where I never really thought of it, I got lost in the game. I looked up and saw what I did. It feels good, I made my mark. I have a legacy here at Chico State, but to be honest I never really thought about it.”

Carlos Islas can be reached at [email protected] or @cislasreports on Twitter.