Three Amigos

January 31, 2012
Three Amigos
by Taylor Sisk
The Plumlee brothers revel in college life—and each other's company.
Dunking and driving
Dunking and driving: Miles, Mason, and Marshall Plumlee, from left

Ask Marshall why I'm driving the van," Miles Plumlee '12 suggests, nodding toward his brother, Marshall '15.

"Because somebody pulled an illegal Uturn and hit me," Marshall protests, referring to Miles' previous vehicle, a Chrysler. "Someone wrecked me."

But Miles is having none of it. "Regardless, he was operating the vehicle," he emphasizes, "and now it's no longer in use."

No doubt, life at Duke would be a bit more glamorous for Miles if he were still driving that Chrysler LHS, the one passed down from his grandparents. With that beauty in the junk heap, he's been relegated to a silver minivan, also a hand-medown. Still, even with the soccer-mom ride, the Plumlee brothers—Miles, Marshall, and middle brother Mason '13—are living large. And why not? They're all playing Division I basketball (although Marshall likely won't play until next season). They're learning from the winningest coach in Division I men's basketball history (see story, page 22).

And most important, they're together. The Plumlees grew up in Warsaw, Indiana, where life was good. There were tap-dancing lessons, swimming, snowboarding— and, most of all, basketball. The brothers left to attend Christ School, an idyllic boys' boarding school just outside Asheville, North Carolina, with a burgeoning basketball tradition. Their younger sister, Madeline, is now at St. Mary's School in Raleigh.

Miles was at Christ School for two years, Mason for three, and Marshall for four. Each year yielded a North Carolina Independent Schools Athletic Association state championship.

But the Plumlees made an impression at the school beyond their presence on the court. All three were top scholars involved in myriad activities, and each was selected to serve as a prefect, a high honor recognizing leadership.

"I think they wanted to be known around campus not only as good basketball players, but also as good students and citizens," says Christ School assistant basketball coach and administrator Eric Thorp. "They treated everyone, students and faculty alike, with the utmost respect and just genuine kindness."

"What they have in common is their respect and care for other people, something I believe they get from their parents," says Mary Jane Morrison, chair of the English department at the school. "They are all genuinely nice young men who do well in school, care for others, value their friends, and go out of their way to serve other people."

The remarkable thing is that this goodwill isn't spared on each other. Just listen to the brothers goofing on one another during a recent interview:

Personalities: "Marshall and I are more similar in terms of interests, hobbies, what we find funny," Miles says. "Mason's different.… He's always been a sports fanatic. But when we're all together, we have a lot of fun."

As for Marshall, Miles says, he's "got this personality that fills the whole room."

"He's always been, since he was a baby, the happiest kid in the world," Mason says of his kid brother. He attests that Marshall is the funniest guy on the Duke team.

"He's always been a social butterfly," Miles adds. "For some reason, people like to hang out with him. I don't get it, but girls like him a lot."

"Mason, he's really steady," Miles says, "and honest. He says what's on his mind; he doesn't hold anything back or candycoat it for you. You know, kind of similar to how Coach K can be real honest sometimes? Which is funny. We like it."

"His strongest character trait?" Mason muses about Miles. "Man, he's got a lot of them. He's a strong personality.… He's going to be who he is. Because he's that way, he's a good example for us. Miles is, like, so [go] with the flow. He's just there."

The culinary arts: "I'm really good at scrambling eggs," Marshall says.

Miles interjects, "That doesn't qualify as cooking."

Marshall: "Well, what can you do?"

Miles: "I dabble."

Mason: "I can grill a brat."

Marshall: "We just can't use cooking slang—like 'teaspoon' and stuff."

Miles: "That's not slang. That's English."

Dining out: "We go to Cracker Barrel probably more than any other restaurant," Mason says.

Miles: "It's like our family's breakfast."

Marshall: "We could be on a vacation in a part of the country we've never been to, with a lot of authentic places to eat, and we'll still go to Cracker Barrel."

Mason: "We should probably buy stock in it."

On whether Miles could once juggle while unicycling: "Yes," says Miles. "But that wasn't the point."

Marshall: "What was the point?"

Miles: "To get from Point A to Point B."

Score, rebound, block, or steal?: "Probably a block," Marshall says.

Miles: "I like to score."

Mason: "I'll go with scoring, too."

Which one dunks the best: "I think we're all going to say ourselves," Mason says.

Marshall: "I'm the only one who's won anything here."

But wait. Who won the contest at Midnight Madness?

Miles: "That was Miles."

Marshall: "Oh."

Miles: "You don't remember me jumping over you?"

Marshall: "He needed my help to win."

Honorary fourth Plumlee brother: Reggie King, a teammate at Christ School and now a point guard at Winthrop University. But if yet another slot should open up, it most definitely goes to current teammate Todd Zafirovski '13. "He walks around with us, and everybody thinks he's one of us," Miles says.

Post-basketball: "I think he's a businessman in the making," Miles says of Mason. "He's come into this entrepreneur mindset."

"He's really big into get-rich-quick schemes," Marshall adds. "He's had a couple of business schemes that seemed offthe- wall to me.… He had this idea for a urinal video game. You go into a restroom, like in a bar or something, and you get judged for accuracy. There's a screen, and it keeps the high score."

Just such a game was released recently in the United Kingdom and apparently is a hit.

"I don't know what it's called in the U.K.," Mason says, "but we had the best name for it. We were going to call it 'Urine the Game.'"

Upon hitting it rich, some nice things for Mom: "We definitely have to get her a nice car," Mason says. "Because she drove us a lot; she drove us to practice, school. She'd drive us an hour to AAU practice. She did a lot of driving."

Hopes: "Definitely the NBA," Miles says. Upon retirement, "I always wanted to be in engineering; I came here to do that. It would be fun to get into a business with cutting-edge technology."

"My goal is definitely to play in the NBA," Mason says, "and then my goal after that is to not be one of the 80 percent [of former players] who go bankrupt within five years of retiring."

Dreams: "If you'd asked me as a kid if I thought I'd be doing this, I probably would have said yes," Mason says, "but I don't know if I would have totally believed it."

"The opportunity to play at Duke was unimaginable for me," Miles says. "But I'm glad it worked out."

And what about that minivan, the same one the Plumlees' mother used to tote the boys around? Mason points out it's not entirely Marshall's fault that Miles is stuck with it.

"When [our parents] got the [insurance] check, they said, 'Oh, we'll just keep this; forget the car …"

Miles: "… 'Miles won't mind driving a silver minivan in college.' "

Another day of life in the fast lane of intercollegiate athletics.

—Taylor Sisk Sisk is a North Carolina-based writer and editor.