Before being dubbed Coach K’s “Original High Flyer,” former Duke All-American Robert Brickey was known as “The Night Crawler.” As a child growing up near Murchison Road in Fayetteville, NC, Brickey would sneak through the gym windows at Fayetteville State University to play basketball with friends. “I wasn’t thinking of consequences,” he said. “All I know is I had an insatiable desire to be on the court with the ball… day and night.”
While occasional entries through gym windows helped harness his ability to shoot the ball, playing with two older brothers also played a pivotal role in Brickey’s ball-handling skills. “They were mature players. They challenged me to be tough and help me develop character,” said Brickey. “We played street ball which instinctively brings out the toughness in you.”
In addition to playing with his brothers, Brickey would often venture to nearby Fort Bragg. “It was fun playing with those guys. They were from diverse backgrounds and handled the ball in different variations,” Brickey said. “I learned a lot from that. They introduced me to the art of playing freestyle basketball. It was more formal than street ball but just as valuable in helping me become the basketball player I aspired to be.”
Brickey also aspired to be a model son for his parents. He was raised in a military-friendly household in Fayetteville. His father is prior military personnel who “didn’t tell you twice,” Brickey said. “He was a stern disciplinarian but not in a dictatorship kind of way. He and my mother instilled a sense of pride in our family. They were very nurturing in that way.”
The nurturing of Brickey didn’t end at home. It extended into high school, where Brickey’s coach Ike Walker propelled him to be a leader on and off the court. “He would send me to people’s houses to deliver flowers for the deceased and render heartfelt condolences,” Brickey said of Walker. “I didn’t get it at the time. You never do when you’re that age. But in hindsight, I realize he was preparing me to be humble and genuine in all I do. He groomed me, molded me, into the giver I am today.”
On the brink of a Duke era
Already a standout athlete at E.E. Smith, in 1986, Brickey was listed on the Top 50 High School Players. Suddenly, his mailbox was flooded with letters from a plethora of colleges that wanted him to play for them. Brickey was ecstatic. He couldn’t believe the offers that now permeated his every thought. “All I could think was…wow…I’m actually going to get an opportunity to play ball on the collegiate level,” Brickey said.
He spent several months pondering which school to attend. And it wasn’t until a fateful meeting with legendary Coach K that Brickey made a formal decision. “I decided to attend Duke because Coach K was genuine and sincere with his approach,” Brickey said. He didn’t promise I would get to play. He said that if I worked my tail off, I would get to play. So that’s what I did. I worked.”
Brickey suited up for Duke in 1987 and remained with the university until 1990, the year he was Team Captain. During his tenure at Duke, Brickey built quite an impressive stat sheet: 1299 points, 649 rebounds, 146 assists, 90 blocks and 115 steals. He played in the 1990 NCAA Title Game between UNLV and Duke. UNLV would go on to win the title that year. When asked about that night, Brickey said, “We just didn’t bring our top game. It was an humblingexperience for me and my teammates. But hey, UNLV played a heck of a game. Those guys deserved it.” Brickey was particularly happy for his basketball camp roommate UNLV player Stacey Augmon. “Despite the loss, it was a special moment,” Brickey said.
An injury prevented Brickey from playing in the NBA, (though he played a stint with the semi-league Fayetteville Flyers). Upon graduating with a degree in Political Science, Brickey used his basketball expertise to enter the world of advising and coaching. He has worked at numerous colleges across the country.
Today, Brickey is the head coach of Canada’s National Basketball League the Oshawa Power. In addition to coaching in Toronto, a city Brickey says is “extremely culturally diverse.” And sometimes that’s difficult to handle considering basketball is fifth on the list of most popular sports in Canada. But Brickey doesn’t mind that basketball isn’t on the top of the list, his team still garners a large following.
Off the court, Brickey spends his time wearing many hats. Philanthropist, mentor and father. He gives to numerous organizations throughout the community, mentors young men with the K Academy, a basketball camp for men ranging in age from 35-77. The most important role to him is fatherhood. His daughter, he says, “is everything to me.”
Brickey said, “To be a good dad and have a great relationship with my daughter. That is a legacy I want to have."
Please feel free to ask Robert a question by commenting on this post. Thanks
Beverly Vereen: Social Media Editor. Feature Writer. Sports Analyst. Photographer. Publicist. And a Jack Daniels connoisseur. She graduated from the University of North Carolina and is a native of North Carolina. She currently resides in Charlotte.