"I think my wiring is different than that of most people," Battier says. "I'm driven by this almost manic desire to please everyone around me."
Krzyzewski saw that side of Battier almost from the moment Battier joined the Blue Devils in the fall of 1997. He was so eager to please that he dove after balls that were well out of bounds, prompting an incredulous Snyder to turn to Krzyzewski one time and ask, "What's he doing?" Early in his career Battier got so pumped up for games that he made himself sick. Several times he walked out for the jump ball, retreated to the bench, threw up into a towel and returned to the court.
Once the games began, he displayed a clinical, old-school style. "Shane's game has absolutely no soul," Keener says. "He has an ego you can fit in a thimble, and he doesn't think in creative terms on the court because he's never been interested in making the highlights."
In fact, Battier's calling card is drawing charges. He holds the Duke record with 85, and last season was named the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) defensive player of the year for the second straight season (sharing the honor with Cincinnati's Kenyon Martin). In Durham he's billed as the Minister of Defense; the rest of the ACC sees him as Eddie Haskell. "Most of his charges are really flops, but he's a charmer who can do no wrong in the refs' eyes," says North Carolina forward Kris Lang. "He gets away with murder."
Battier was slower to develop at the other end of the court. Calling himself "an offensive hermit" who was intimidated by the thought of failure, he averaged fewer than five shots as a freshman. The next season, opponents often left him wide open, daring him to shoot. His breakthrough came on the eve of a home game against Maryland on Feb. 3, 1999, when he watched a Discovery Channel program about the Shaolin monks of China and their ability to focus their inner strength, or chi. The following night Battier credited improved chi for his career-high 27 points. Still, despite starting the majority of the games, Battier was only sixth on the team in scoring with a 9.1 average.
The summer before his junior season the 6'8", 220-pound Battier received several phone calls from Krzyzewski, who kept asking him, "Have you looked in the mirror and told yourself you can be the best player in the ACC?" Though that designation ended up going to his teammate Chris Carawell, Battier led the conference in three-point percentage and finished third in scoring and free throw percentage, and fifth in field goal percentage, blocks and steals. "He's not the strongest player or the most athletic, but he may be the smartest," says Wake Forest senior guard Robert O'Kelley. "He's like a chess master who knows he's going to beat you, no matter what moves you make."
Battier led Country Day to three consecutive state Class B championships, including one his senior season, when the Yellow Jackets were 24-0 with him in the lineup and 1-3 when he sat out with a broken right elbow suffered while drawing a charge—in practice. He lost only 11 games in high school and 11 during his first three seasons at Duke. Meanwhile, he's been a part of 98 Blue Devils wins and is likely to break the men's collegiate record of 122 victories, held by former Duke star Christian Laettner.
Battier even aspires to be the nation's top player after the game. He has vowed to conduct an entire season's worth of interviews without uttering a clich�. "One of Shane's great joys in life is shattering stereotypes," Snyder says. "He loves to answer the tough questions, and you can almost hear him snickering to himself when he shocks some unsuspecting reporter."
Says Battier's roommate, forward Mike Dunleavy, "When writers talk to Shane, he creates this image of an odd guy with a million interests. His secret is that he's a lot more normal than he appears."
After duke's Blue-White game on Oct. 28, Battier sat in the locker room surrounded by notepads. He spoke about the need to become more selfish, about how Krzyzewski was imploring him to shoot more and about how Coach K still has to remind him not to let his quest to be perfect get in the way of being good. After having spent the previous two summers doing internships on Wall Street and at a Chicago advertising firm, Battier remained in Durham last summer to work on his ball handling and shooting off the dribble. He will try to maintain his 3-5 average despite a torrent of interview requests that have led to his granting more than 100 before this season has started.