Don't get comfortable: Asia Durr ready to lift Louisville in NCAA tourney

Louisville WBB named a No. 1 seed for 1st time (1:39)

Louisville head coach Jeff Walz explains why his team is excited for the opportunity to be a 1-seed in the NCAA tournament. (1:39)

Asia Durr sometimes stutters. So the Louisville junior did what makes the most sense to her: She signed up for a public speaking class.

She's a horror movie fiend who just watched "The Conjuring" for a third time. Even if it meant keeping the lights on at bedtime for two weeks.

Being uncomfortable is comfortable for the ACC player of the year, whose monster performances -- 47 points at Ohio State, 38 versus Georgia Tech, a robust 41 percent clip from downtown -- have made her the featured performer for the Cardinals (32-2), who earned their first No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament and help open the first round Friday against Boise State (ESPN2, noon ET).

She has done it by following a simple concept: pushing herself beyond normal limits.

It goes back to something Durr remembers from a basketball camp she attended the summer before sixth grade, when Ganon Baker, one of the nation's premier trainers, instructed: "You've got to get out of your comfort zone to be great. As soon as you do that, you know you're getting better."

"That sticks with me," Durr said.

Developing that mindset fueled the 5-foot-10 guard from Douglasville, Georgia, to be multidimensional, able to score through contact, off a mediocre ball screen or stepping back for 3 in the clutch during a pivotal stretch late in the ACC championship game.

Teammate Myisha Hines-Allen didn't hesitate after collecting the offensive board as Louisville clung to a four-point edge against four-time ACC tournament champion Notre Dame. Durr hadn't shot well the whole tournament, didn't have a triple all afternoon and yet ...


That's her Instagram hashtag, also the two words she has said to herself for nearly a decade after burying a big basket.

Only this time it wasn't just any good shot; it was the cushion Louisville needed in a game Durr called the biggest of her career, the game that brought Louisville its first ACC tournament title.

"I thought the offensive rebound kickout was probably the dagger and the game-winning shot," admitted coach Muffet McGraw, whose Irish lost for the first time in the ACC tournament.

"We did something we had never done before," Durr said.

Still, Durr didn't have a memorable three days at Greensboro Coliseum. The ACC regular-season player of the year wasn't among the 10 players named to the all-tournament team, despite a team-high 17 points in the championship.

It was the kind of showing she admits would have crushed her at Atlanta's St. Pius X Catholic High, where her 2,764 career points count as a school record, as do the 53 points she racked up in a single game over the defending state champion her senior year.

Reflecting back on the ACC tournament, Durr said, "I got any shot I could get. My coaches drew up great plays for me; my teammates found me. I just couldn't get my shot to fall. I didn't leave there disappointed. We won. I was disappointed in how I played, but I put my teammates first. It's not about me. It's about the name on the front of the jersey."

It's easy to talk about being unselfish, Louisville coach Jeff Walz said. But according to Walz, it takes a special player to act on it.

"Kids love playing with her," said Walz, who watched a replay of the postgame footage last weekend. "You can see when Myisha was named MVP, Asia's face was on camera and it showed how excited she was for Myisha. She was genuinely excited for her, the first one to give her a hug."

Besides, Durr has taken home her share of accolades. The two-time all-league selection and second-team espnW All-American scored at least 30 points in four games this season, and 20 or more points in 14 contests. The 47 against Ohio State marked a school record, and two more than the men's record set by Wes Unseld against Georgetown in 1967.

"We played them at their place and for the first 5-10 minutes, I thought I was watching Michael Jordan," Virginia Tech coach Kenny Brooks said.

Yet Durr remains her harshest critic no matter her stat line.

On her performance at Ohio State: "I could have gotten to the rim more. I settled for too many jump shots."

After scoring 36 en route to Louisville routing Notre Dame 110-67 on Jan. 11: "My defense wasn't very good."

Horror flicks aside, Durr is a glutton for the film room and the first to walk in the Yum! Center door, a work ethic that dates to the days when she'd leave a two-hour high school practice only to head to a three-hour workout with trainer Dorian Lee, whose client list ranges from Chamique Holdsclaw to Maya Moore.

"You don't train like a great player," Lee barked the first time she showed up.

Lee laughs at the recollection. "I only had to say that once."

"I remember that conversation like it was yesterday," Durr said. "I was training with boys, training with professionals. I thought I was giving it my all. I had another gear in me as a player and that's what he was trying to tell me."

It wasn't just about spending more time in the gym. Rest and recovery had to be part of the process. The McDonald's she would scarf down before their sessions gave way to fruits and veggies.

"I had to bring two shirts because after an hour I was drenched," Durr said. "The first part of my training session would be so challenging, so hard and tiring. Before I even touched the ball, I was so physically and mentally drained, which helped push me to be a better player and get in shape."

Her first year at Louisville was trying. Durr had never been hurt before, but a groin injury limited her from showing just why she was the top-ranked high school senior in the class of 2015. Plus, she was homesick. The third of four children, Durr is particularly close with her brother, T.J., 14 months her junior. For the past two years, he has been a Cardinals manager, a positive influence for the whole team and an extra layer of support for Durr.

"She's always been the nurturer," said Durr's mother Audrey. "I remember when T.J. was little, she'd say, 'Come over here, T.J., let me wipe your nose.' She'd do little things of that nature."

Audrey Durr arranged her work schedule so that she could be at just about every one of her daughter's games. She's a mainstay behind the bench, typically wearing a long-sleeved black shirt that reads "Asia's mom" in bold white letters on the back, with an action picture of Asia on the front. Audrey and husband Terry are fervent Cardinal rooters who rarely miss home or road games.

"This is what I spend all my extra money and all my extra time on," said Audrey, undaunted by long drives even when she has to do them solo. Last year, she neglected to make flight reservations to South Bend, Indiana, so she hopped in the car at 5 a.m., ignoring warnings about pending snow, and some 10 hours later walked into the Joyce Center.

Lots of Durrs will be in Louisville for the Cardinals' first-round game in hopes of witnessing the start of a run to the program's first national title. Louisville has been to two national championship games (2009 and 2013), falling to UConn both times.

They'll also be there to root on Asia, named by her father after he rejected the initial idea of Dasia, deciding he didn't need his daughter nicknamed DD.

But Asia Amaze-ya?

Yeah, that fits.