A new journey began for 6-foot-11, 218-pound big man Juwan Durham this summer after he arrived at Notre Dame.
However, the road to South Bend was quite bumpy and filled with detours.
In the span of over six months or so, Durham’s basketball life changed dramatically as suffered ACL injuries in both knees — one at the end of his junior season of high school and another right before his senior campaign while rehabbing the first.
Programs stuck by him after the first injury and the Connecticut Huskies eventually landed Durham, who ranked as the No. 47 player nationally per Rivals, shortly before the second injury occurred and he enrolled in Storrs ready to get back to the court and make an impact.
Durham played 28 games as a freshman last season, averaging 1.6 points and 1.5 rebounds per game in limited playing time.
Connecticut though was not the place for Durham in the long run and he decided to make a change. It was difficult to leave behind the friends he had made, but he knew a better fit was out there.
“It was really tough because I didn’t want to be put in the same situation I was last year,” Durham told Blue & Gold Illustrated. “Not saying there is anything bad with UConn. I just felt it wasn’t the right fit for me. I wanted to go somewhere I felt I would be welcomed.
“I made a lot of great relationships with my former teammates and a lot of great relationships with the UConn community and other students there. I’m fortunate that the ones that did wish me luck that they did.”
Durham entered the transfer market and the Notre Dame staff moved quickly and landed a visit from the Florida product in early May. He also made trips to Virginia Tech and Villanova during the process.
After those visits, Durham found his future home and the fit he sought accepting the opportunity to play for Mike Brey and the Irish.
“I really felt comfortable with the coaching staff,” Durham said of why Notre Dame. “They really kept in touch with my family. That was really big to me that they did keep in touch because they were going to help me make this decision.
“I really like the players because they kept it a brotherhood and I got that vibe whenever I spent time with them. When I came on visit we all had lunch together and dinner together. I got a good vibe being around them.”
Stepping on the court for an official game in a Notre Dame uniform will not happen until the 2018-2019 due to NCAA transfer rules, but for Durham the next year is about development and soaking in the Irish system.
“Instead of looking at in a negative way, I try to look at it as positive as I can,” Durham said of the next year. “I’m going to use this year to get a lot stronger which I should have done last year. I see this year as me getting a lot strong and getting acclimated with our offense and our defense.
“This year I want to get to at least 235 pounds. I’m at 218 right now, so I’m trying to get to 235 before I leave from summer school.”
Practicing against the likes of Bonzie Colson and others, Durham believes will help elevate his skills on the court.
“I like playing against them,” Durham said. “I get to go against Bonzie, TJ Gibbs and against all the guys. It’s really fun. I see how much better I need to get and how much I can help the team. I’m just trying to help as much as I can.”
Questions about Durham’s knees will likely remain throughout his career, but in the eyes of Notre Dame, he checked out.
“There was,” Brey said when asked if there were some concerns. “I had Doc Yergler come and check the wheels out, but I said we’ve got to get him here. He checked them right there on the press table and said 100 percent, no problem with the wheels. It was full speed ahead.”
Durham, John Mooney and Elijah Burns will man the post in the 2018-2019 season, along with any additions via the 2018 class or transfers, to replace the graduating Colson, Martinas Geben and Austin Torres.