At first mention of his injury-prone knees, Dave McClure stands and walks over to the wood table in the middle of the room.
After all, his knees-more so than his game-have stolen the spotlight of his college basketball career for the last four years. The fifth-year senior, then, understandably was not about to take any chances.
He took the three short steps to the table for a quick knock on wood-for good luck, and for good measure.
While luck is not something McClure has ever needed given his strong work ethic, it probably can't hurt for his knees. Offseason surgeries on his left and right knees in 2005 and 2007, respectively, have forced McClure to play a supporting role for the better part of his Duke career.
But this year, that show is over. McClure is now able to jump, twist and run full throttle into his final season without even the remnants of a knee brace.
"I try not to think about it, because everything happens for a reason," McClure said of his past injuries. "If you think back on 'what if,' you can live in the past. I'm trying to live in the present."
Sound familiar? It's the same philosophy head coach Mike Krzyzewski has espoused since he returned from leading Team USA to an Olympic gold medal in August.
McClure has naturally adopted Krzyzewski's unofficial team motto, mostly because he seems to embody it perfectly.
He was forced to redshirt the 2005-2006 season, and he missed two games at the start of the 2007-2008 season because he was still directly recovering from his knee surgeries. While he has not been 100 percent physically over the last several years, McClure's intensity and hustle have never waned. The forward has battled through his injuries in the past to play in 88 career games-18 of which were starts-and put up 2.4 points and 2.9 rebounds per game, with a 47 percent field-goal clip for his career.
Last summer, however, McClure was able to leave the past behind and solely focus on training for the upcoming season without the looming shadow of injury for the first time. Instead of working out with physical therapists or staying in Durham for at least part of the summer, he hit the court at the IMG Academy in Brandenton, Fla. with several of his collegiate peers-including Xavier's C.J. Anderson and B.J. Raymond, who he will face Dec. 20, and recent West Virginia graduate Darris Nichols.
"It's very different," McClure said. "For three to five days a week this summer, I was able to push my body as far as I could, just to see that I could make it through the season."
And while the focus this summer was about improvement and the future, the camp was not without good-natured trash talking and school rivalries-especially since Nichols was captain of the West Virginia squad that ended Duke's NCAA Tournament hopes in the second round last year.
"He's kind of a quiet guy, so I didn't have to hear it that much, but it definitely gets brought up," McClure said.
The practice McClure gained this summer has only added to the already-present plethora of game and injury experience he has under his belt. As the oldest member of the team, McClure knows the ropes, and will be one of several guys responsible for helping Duke's three freshmen adapt to college play.
"The biggest transition for a high school kid is knowing that every day is a day to get better-the minute you pace yourself, you'll be exposed," McClure said. "A majority of our guys are older, so it's up to us to bring them along. The guys who know the offense and defense really know it, so it's up to them to make sure [the freshmen] really know it, too. Once they come along, it'll be really be exciting."
That is, forget the past.
For McClure and the Blue Devils, the present and future seem as healthy as his brace-free knees-knock on wood.