Sometimes, a meeting that shifts the course of your life can happen in the strangest of places.
Like inside a Burger King on East Carson Street on the South Side.
Such was the case in the summer of 2007 as two men shared a meal.
The summit was small in numbers, between Jason Duty and his father, Gary. But that gathering was vast in scope -- as without it, what is happening tomorrow, and what has happened over the course of the past three Duquesne basketball seasons, for one player at least, would have never come about.
"It was pretty simply," Gary Duty said of the fatherly message delivered that day inside the fast-food joint. "I didn't want my son to look at himself in 10, 15 years from now and ask, deep down, 'what-if?'
"I didn't want Jason to live the rest of his life and realize that he might have made a mistake, and then be in a position, because it was too late, to change it."
The younger Duty was coming off an unpredictable-as-ever freshman year. He had gone from someone who was in a rock band and had zero intentions of playing college basketball, to a kid who joined the Dukes the day of their first game as a walk-on, to a freshman guard who saw action in each of the last 15 games.
But, as that freshman year ended, the younger Duty just couldn't shake one question that kept shoving itself into the forefront of all his thoughts.
"Whether it would all be worth it, whether I'd be able to contribute to this program at a high level," he said. "I just didn't know. I was ready to quit after my freshman year, I really was. But my dad, he convinced me that it would be a great opportunity to keep playing."
And what a decision it was -- one that will reach, in some regards, a crescendo Sunday against Dayton before the 1 p.m. game at the Palumbo Center, when Duty is recognized at Senior Day festivities.
He is the lone senior on the Dukes' roster.
A few months ago, Duquesne coach Ron Everhart said of Duty: "He embodies everything you'd ever want a student-athlete to embody; no one can represent this institution better."
It has been well-publicized how Duty is a masterful accounting student.
The story has also been reiterated, time and again when the Dukes play on television -- such as they will on ESPN2 against Dayton -- about how Duty already has accepted a position with PriceWaterhouse's Downtown office upon graduation.
In all of that marvelous academic achievement, sometimes it is forgotten all that this 6-foot-1 guard from Cranberry Township has achieved in the athletic realm.
The Dayton game will mark his 105th career games for the Dukes.
He is currently in 11th place in school history in 3-pointers made with 115, and with two more would thrust himself into the school's top 10.
He had a clear and defined role for this program, as more than 75 percent of his shot attempts came from beyond the 3-point arc.
Not bad for a kid who was questioning everything, for a career that almost ended after a one-year stint as a walk-on. But it didn't. Duty gritted his way through a career in which he earned a scholarship for this season.
"This is something that Jason loves, playing sports, something that he's in his element doing and something that he excels in," his mother, Jayne, said. "I guess, as a parent, you know that it is going to end sometime ..."
Mom's voice then trailed off and Dad jumped in.
"After watching your son compete in athletics since he was 4 years old, there's going to be a void when this is all over," Gary said. "But the last 18 years, I can say, honestly, he's made us proud."
Colin Dunlap: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1459. First Published February 20, 2010 5:00 AM