The Indiana Pacers have pivoted to a youth-centric movement in the last year or so after middling finishes in recent seasons. Chris Duarte was one of the first players to earmark that, with the 13th overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft being the franchise’s first lottery selection since Myles Turner in 2015.
Duarte quickly rose as one of the Pacers’ most exciting young players, eventually bagging All-Rookie Second Team honors last season. Injuries have slowed him down in his sophomore year, but the Oregon standout has been slowly getting his mojo back despite the team stumbling a bit in the standings with key players sidelined.
In his latest exclusive with Whistle in their new original series called Grind Mode, the 25-year-old offered a sneak peek of his Dominican roots, one of his most memorable NBA moments, and of course, the grind of being a bona fide stalwart in the biggest stage of the sport.
Indiana Pacers sophomore Chris Duarte shares his beginnings and his secret to success in latest Whistle exclusive
Duarte admitted to having many doubters — himself included — before making the jump to the NBA. His initial struggles learning English and moving to America, getting cut from the Dominican Republic national team, and his college detractors all became his fuel to successfully make it to the big league.
"A big lesson that I learned growing up was to never give up. We have to hustle, especially me coming from a different country. back home, we didn’t have a lot of opportunity. Nobody thought that I was going to make it this far. When I was in college, people say that I was not gonna be able to do what I did in the league, and now I made it. That tells me that if you dream big and you have faith, you can do it."
Duarte then shared that his favorite part of the game was hitting big shots. That has clearly been his forte with all the buzzer-beaters he’s nailed dating back to last season, but he noted one particular moment that stood out for him: a three-pointer against LeBron James and the Lakers last season to force overtime. The Pacers eventually lost that one, but that was definitely a moment to remember for the then-rookie, especially since The King himself raved about his game.
Duarte also dished on his offseason regimen and training routine that allows him to be in tip-top shape.
"In the offseason, I like working out in Miami. I’m just getting back from my toe injury, doing recovery, watching film, then getting on the court and doing recovery again."
Maurice Baker, his developmental coach, noted that Duarte was already a good rim attacker, so the emphasis for him was to develop his skill as a jump shooter. Nowadays, they are doubling down on catch-and-shoot reps, working on getting him to have a quicker release on his shot which has definitely been noticeable this season.
Chris Duarte’s struggles this season may have blinded some fans. Still, his recent stretch of success post-injury suggests that he’s finding his groove back as one of the core players for the Indiana Pacers not only this season, but for the foreseeable future.
Anyway, before we spill all the beans, watch Duarte’s exclusive with Whistle for yourself here: