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Capel can empathize with Rivers' emotions

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As Austin Rivers comes down from his adrenaline rush of a Wednesday night, the person who may have the best idea of how Rivers’ one shot will affect his Duke legacy is Jeff Capel.

It’s conceivable that Rivers’ game-winning 3-pointer was the Blue Devils’ most memorable shot in the series with North Carolina since Capel hit a running 30-footer at the end of the first overtime of the teams’ Feb. 2, 1995 game.

There are differences between the two buzzer-beaters, with the most notable being that Capel’s effort didn’t win the game for Duke – North Carolina ended up outlasting Duke 102-100 in double overtime.

So in that sense, Rivers’ heroics were even more magical for the Blue Devils.

“It’s something that he’ll be able to tell his kids about it,” said Capel, who is now an assistant coach for the Blue Devils. “It’s something that his team will always remember, too – everyone that was associated with it.

“The game will probably be known as the Rivers shot.”

The Capel shot game has taken on a life of its own and become something of an urban legend. Many people, Capel said, have only seen highlights of his shot and do not realize it only tied the game.

That doesn’t bother Capel so much as the final score still irritates. With Mike Krzyzewski on leave with an ailing back, that was the season everything went wrong for the Blue Devils, and in some ways the loss to UNC encapsulated the entire season.

“It would have meant more to me and would mean more to me know if we would have won the game, especially if that would have been the game winner,” Capel said.

Nonetheless, Capel enjoys his place in Duke-North Carolina lore.

Capel said he still gets asked about the shot – with the Tar Heels up three, Serge Zwikker missed a free throw before Cherokee Parks rebounded the ball and passed it to Capel, who dribbled twice and took two steps before letting fly from a spot halfway between the top of the 3-point arc and the half-court line – all the time.

“For a kid that really understands this rivalry, to have a moment that will always be remembered in this historic rivalry – it’s something that’s very special to me,” Capel said. “I know Austin didn’t grow up in this state, but Austin’s a student of the game. I know it’s always going to mean something to him and for him to always have a moment like that.

“He’ll always have this moment and it’s always something that people will remember and identify him with. Hopefully, there are many moments like that for him. But certainly around here and in college basketball, people will always remember that.”

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About the blogger

Jack Daly is the Duke University beat writer for the News & Observer and Charlotte Observer.
Follow Jack on Twitter at @_JackDaly or @accnow.