Men’s Basketball: ‘Brothers’ Chris Collins and Jeff Capel to face off Wednesday

Charlie Goldsmith, Reporter

Men’s Basketball

Chris Collins still swears he could beat Jeff Capel in one-on-one if he was in his prime, but he knows Capel well enough to know they won’t agree on that. Almost 30 years ago, when they were the two starting guards at Duke, they would feud on the court like brothers.

Since their college careers ended, Collins and Capel have both become established college coaches, and for the first time in Collins’ coaching career, he’ll face one of his former Duke teammates. When Northwestern (3-2) faces Pittsburgh (5-2) on Wednesday in the Fort Myers Tip-Off Championship, Collins and Capel will be coaching on opposing sidelines.

“You never want to play against people you care about because I cheer like crazy for him,” Collins said. “If it has to happen, you want it to be at this stage in the championship game in a tournament. We’ll see what happens. I know my guys are going to be ready to go and so will his. It should be a fun game.”

Collins says he talks to Capel almost every day. Their wives and kids are close friends. It’s that kind of friendship.

It started in 1993 when Capel started his freshman season at Duke. Collins was a year older, but they were paired together right away. They might have specialized at getting the ball to Grant Hill, but Collins and Capel played pivotal roles in Duke’s run to the 1993 national championship game.

The two guards had some special moments in the three years they played together, but Duke’s Elite 8 win over Purdue that first season still stands out to Collins. Despite being a true freshman playing in the biggest game of his life, Capel had a team-high 19 points to lead the team to the Final Four.

“I remember he had the game of his life,” Collins said. “He and I were just jumping around like little kids because he and I were going to the Final Four. He and I have a lot of memories together.”

Wednesday’s game between the Wildcats and the Panthers won’t have the same national relevance, but it still means a lot to the two coaches. Collins and Capel spoke before the Fort Myers Tip-Off about what it would be like to play against each other, and Collins said he was just happy it would be in the championship game instead of the third place game.

Collins met up with Capel after arriving in Florida this weekend, and he expects to see him around the hotel before they face off. Collins didn’t say whether or not he’s been talking smack, but he knows it will be different coaching about someone he knows so well.

“We’ll both compete like crazy, like brothers would,” Collins said. “For those forty minutes, he’s going to have his team ready to go, our staff is going to have our team ready to go. It’s fun that we both get to play in a championship game.”

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