Duke Basketball Embarks On Unique NIL Event In Chicago

Duke Basketball Embarks On Unique NIL Event In Chicago

It’s a brave new world in college basketball, and Duke basketball is navigating it in a clever way.

Its three-day trip to Chicago will include an outside-the-box fundraiser.

“We always want to be on the frontlines of being creative and innovative to figure out what opportunities we can provide for our guys at Duke,” Duke head coach Jon Scheyer exclusively shared. “This felt like a unique chance to make the most of our brand.”

For $2,500, fans can attend the 312 Run on July 29 in Chicago, which includes a 45-minute pick-up game followed by a meet and greet, cocktail hour and dinner with the Duke team and staff.

About 50 people are expected to have purchased tickets by Saturday, and the revenue generated will be shared by the players — something that wasn’t possible until players recently were able to profit from their name, image and likeness (NIL).

To keep it intimate and exclusive, no media will be in attendance, and the program is trying to keep the exact location secret.

Chicago, which has the local area code of 312, was a logical destination. It’s not only a major city, but Scheyer also grew up in the Chicago suburb of Northbrook, Ill.

“That had a lot to do with it,” Scheyer said. “Chicago is a special city for me and has a lot of meaning, and I wanted to share it with our team.”

Per NCAA rules, Scheyer and his staff can’t actually coach or be at the pick-up game, which will be led by the players, because it takes place in late July.

As of last week, Scheyer was still figuring out how he’d spend that time.

“(We’ll see) if people want to hang out with me,” Scheyer joked.

Though the trip is likely too packed for Scheyer to have extensive time reuniting with family and friends, it does represent a homecoming for center Ryan Young, who played at Northwestern before transferring to Duke, and guard Jaden Schutt, who grew up in the western suburb of Yorkville.

“He’s excited,” Scheyer said. “I know he’s happy to be going back close to home.”

Retired Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, who also grew up in Chicago, will not be in attendance, but several former players will be there.

The entire 2023-24 team will be there as well, though not everyone necessarily will participate in the scrimmage. For example, last year’s ACC Rookie of the Year, Kyle Filipowski, is not expected to play as he continues to recover from offseason hip surgery.

“It will probably not be everybody,” Scheyer said, “but we’ll have most of our team.”

Although Saturday will be the major fundraising event, activities are planned for the players for the rest of the weekend, including a Brotherhood/CEO program, where former Duke alums and executives will teach the players about business, finance and branding. There will also be a day at the beach along Lake Michigan, featuring boating, and, of course, a deep-dish pizza outing.

The event was created in conjunction with Intersport, a Chicago-based sports marketing firm, and the trip was the idea of Rachel Baker, who was hired in 2022 to the newly-created position of general manager of Duke basketball. The former Nike
executive is in charge of strategic partnerships and NIL opportunities.

“She is the brains behind it all,” Scheyer said. “My job is just to say yes.”

Scheyer enthusiastically supported the idea because it gives his players an opportunity to interact with different fans away from its campus in North Carolina, profit from NIL and bond as a team.

It’s the first trip of its kind for Duke, but the program expects to travel to other destinations in the coming years.

“It speaks to the brand of Duke,” Scheyer said, “where hopefully this can be something we do in other cities as well — not just Chicago.”