Ask Cardinals junior guard Asia Durr to talk about herself and her sensational season and you won’t get very far.
Ask her about her teammates and she won’t stop talking.
For Durr, arguably the standout on a roster full of superb players, the individual accolades don’t mean as much as the goals of the team.
“I don’t play for awards,” she said. “I play because I love the game of basketball. I play because I love my teammates, my coaches and my family. I don’t really worry about what award I’m getting; I tune all that out. I’m very grateful, I’m very thankful for it, but when the ball is up in the air, it’s time to play.”
And play she does.
Although Durr tunes out the hype on the court, the basketball community has taken notice. She was named ACC Player of the Year. She was named to the USA Today All American first team and the ESPNW All-America second team. In February, Durr was named to the John R. Wooden Award Late Season Top 20, a list of student-athletes still in the running for the Wooden Award and the John R. Wooden All-America Team.
As of February, Durr ranked second in the ACC and 32nd in the country with an average of 20 points per game. She had a 46.6 3-point field goal percentage, which led the ACC and ranked fifth in the nation. She was the ninth leading scorer in school history with 1,618 points as of March 1. She scored a school-record 47 points in a victory over then No. 5 Ohio State in November.
Ask about that record-breaking performance, though, and Durr demures before immediately pivoting back to her teammates.
“I have great teammates. Especially through the Ohio State game, they noticed I had the hot hand and kept on feeding me the ball,” she said. “You know, that speaks volumes about the type of people they are, and it’s pretty cool. Just to have teammates like that, that bring you confidence, that tell you ‘do your thing and have fun.’ It doesn’t get any better than that.”
The confidence boost is a two-way street, according to senior forward Myisha Hines-Allen. “I have so much confidence in Asia, once she has the ball in her hands and it goes up, sometimes I just want to run back down the other way, but I know I’ll probably get in trouble if I do that.”
Coach Jeff Walz isn’t surprised by Durr’s performance on the court or her gracious responses to questions about her play. That’s just who she is.
“She wants to be a great basketball player. She stays in the gym and she works on it. That’s why she has been so successful,” Walz said. “But, she’s also a great teammate. She’s constantly praising her teammates for finding her in spots to score the basketball.”
Her teammates and her coaches are what brought Durr to Louisville after a stellar playing career in Douglasville, Georgia. “When I first came here, it was the family environment that stood out to me,” she said. “They made me feel like I was at home. They made my parents, my brothers, feel like I was at home. Everything just seemed like we fit right in.”
A basketball court has always been where Durr fits in. Durr doesn’t remember her first time holding a ball, but the story has become family lore.
“My dad tells me the story to this day,” she said. “My dad was outside — he was actually training my brother because he had a game coming up that weekend. And I just picked up a ball and started bouncing it through my legs, behind my back. And he stopped training my brother and just started watching me play.”
She was three years old.
Since then, her parents, three siblings and grandparents have supported every move. Her brothers followed her to UofL, where her younger brother, TJ, is a manager for the team. Her mom drives up from Georgia for nearly every Cardinals home game.
Durr’s first brush with stardom came when she was in fifth grade and plucked from a group of young players to star in a commercial for the WNBA’s Atlanta Dream. Ask about her starring role in the commercial and she even manages to loop her teammates in on that.
“I think people in my high school knew about it, but I didn’t really bring it up here,” she said. “Coach Sam [Williams] found it on the Atlanta Dream Instagram page, posted it and that’s how everybody found out. My teammates tease me about it. It’s just amazing to see how much I’ve grown since then. I was a little baby, but now I’m all grown up in college.”
Her TV highlights didn’t stop with one commercial. Durr was one of six players selected by ESPN to do national media in preparation for the 2017-18 season.
It should be no surprise by now, but if you ask her about that experience, she circles back around to other players.
“That was fun. I got to see Kalani [Brown] from Michigan and Sabrina [Ionescu] who were on the same (U23) team with me when we went to Tokyo,” Durr said. “I got to meet Morgan [William] from Mississippi State. It was cool to see people you watch; you respect each other’s game. It was a great experience to be around such great coaches and players who are well-respected.”
Those coaches and players also respect Durr. Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw called Durr the best player in the country after Durr scored 36 points in the Cardinals 100-67 rout of the Fighting Irish.
And, of course, in the press conference following the regular season game, Durr gave all the credit for her performance to her teammates.
Encouraging her teammates to be the best, to play strong, to be in top shape, and to keep positive is where Durr truly shines. All season Durr counseled freshman point guard Dana Evans. She kept up freshman guard Lindsey Duvall’s spirits after Duvall suffered an injury. She pushed freshman Loretta Kakala to stay in shape even when she isn’t getting playing time on the court.
“I’m just trying to stay in their corner with positive things,” Durr said.
It’s good training for Durr’s future, which includes plans to become a coach or trainer after playing professional ball. “I would maybe like to be a high school coach or something like that, teaching kids the game of basketball. I just love to teach people the game and see how they can grow.”
A born leader, but always refreshingly humble. If Durr won’t acknowledge her leading role on the team, her teammates certainly will.
“Playing with her at USA Olympic trials, I really got to see what Asia is capable of doing and now everyone is seeing what she is capable of doing,” Hines-Allen said. “I think she is the best player in college basketball, and I’m just happy she is on my team.”