DURHAM, N.C. – Senior Quinn Cook and junior Amile Jefferson have been named team captains for the 2014-15 season, Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski announced Tuesday. Cook and Jefferson are both first-time team captains for the Blue Devils, who will hold their first practice of the season Friday afternoon.
“As a team and as a staff, we could not be happier to have Quinn [Cook] and Amile [Jefferson] as our co-captains,” said Krzyzewski. “They’re two veterans, returning starters. They know us, they know what we want to accomplish and their personalities just fit in so perfectly with the development of teamwork on our team. We’re very excited about having them as captains.”
Cook, a third team All-ACC selection in 2013, enters the year averaging 9.4 points, 2.4 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game for his career. The Washington, D.C., native is 27 points shy of becoming the 64th player in Duke history to score 1,000 career points. Last season, Cook averaged 11.6 points and 4.4 assists per game while making a career-best 65 three-point field goals.
“The first word that comes to mind is – blessing,” said Cook of being named a team captain. “It’s an honor to have that title. It means you have earned the respect of the staff and your teammates. There’s been a lot of great players who have had that title here and they have done some tremendous things. I’ve been fortunate to be on some teams where I have had great captains, so I want to set the example for the younger guys and the whole team. I want to leave my mark as being another great captain here at Duke.”
Jefferson is one of the leading returning rebounders in the ACC after corralling 6.9 rebounds per game a year ago. He also averaged 6.5 points per game on an efficient 64.4 percent (94-of-146) shooting from the field.
“It’s the ultimate honor to be named a team captain,” said Jefferson “To think about guys like [Shane] Battier and [Jon] Scheyer, those captains who led the team — Mason [Plumlee], Ryan [Kelly]. Just guys who knew how to set the ship and how to make the team go the way they wanted it to go. So for me and Quinn [Cook], it’s a big honor and it’s time for us to be leaders. It’s time for us to demonstrate our leadership on and off the court. It’s something that I’m going to cherish forever.”
Duke will play the annual Blue-White Scrimmage Saturday, Oct. 25 as part of Countdown to Craziness as well as exhibition contests against Livingstone (Nov. 4) and Central Missouri (Nov. 8) before opening the season Nov. 14 at home against Presbyterian in the opening round of the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic.
There has been no shortage of hype surrounding the incoming freshman class that Mike Krzyzewski assembled. We all know that Jahlil Okafor is the top rated player in his class and there is little doubt that Tyus Jones will play a significant role from day one. And Justise Winslow? He is quickly earning the reputation as an all around talent and a player who can contribute in multiple ways.
But what about Grayson Allen? I will go ahead and fill you in on something early on. Allen can play and he will be a surprise to many in that he is the least celebrated player in the stellar class.
It’s not hard to fly under the radar when other players in your class received constant hype on the AAU circuit. Allen started out playing for the Douglass Brothers AAU team which resides on the border of Florida and Georgia. That team played their games at smaller events and not on the main shoe company circuits that high major coaches regularly attend.
Allen hails from Jacksonville, Florida where he played for Providence High School. He was slow to climb the rankings of the many recruiting services where exposure plays a key role but that would not be the case as time passed.
Allen’s AAU Douglass Brothers team attended the Peach State Classic in Aiken, South Carolina. This is an off shoot event which took place at the same time of the Nike Peach Jam. The Peach Jam was one of the more celebrated events which drew the nation’s top collegiate coaches in droves in North Augusta, South Carolina. It has since changed it’s name to Nike EYBL Peach Jam.
While covering the aforementioned event. I got a tip from someone that a kid named Grayson Allen mentioned Duke often and that he’s been playing well in Aiken. It was the first time I’d heard his name but it wouldn’t be the last.
The next day, I somewhat reluctantly decided to stay put in that Duke gets more than their share of prospects reaching out to them and most simply do not meet the lofty talent standards or have the ability to play at a high major level.
Much of the Duke staff at that time had duties with USA Basketball, so despite what some have said recently about supposed recruiting advantages, Coach Mike Krzyzewski could not take in the last days of the recruiting season that year, which are often times critical to success.
As it turned it turned out, nobody from the Duke staff made it over to see Allen, but his play was stellar and word travelled quickly of his keen interest in the Blue Devils program. Being short-handed on the recruiting trail stalled the process of what would soon be a budding relationship.
Allen’s coach at Providence, Jim Martin, put in a call to Duke, stating his players interest and that he felt he was worth their time to check him out.
Shorty after that, Duke Assistant Coach Nate James caught a red-eye from Florida to Richmond, Virginia for a smaller tournament held at Virginia Commonwealth University. It was the first live view that a Duke coach had of Grayson Allen and James came away impressed.
“He was phenomenal at that time,” said James, who got word back to Mike Krzyzewski that this kid could play and was worth a look. It would take a bit longer for Krzyzewski to get look in that he was coaching up USA Basketball.
For those who aren’t familiar with the Duke recruiting process, offers only come after Krzyzewski gets a first hand view of a prospect.
At the time of the Allen recruitment, the NCAA rules were different. James had started the recruiting process with Allen on the social media forum, Facebook. James saw Allen as a solid athlete and he passed information on to current Marquette Coach Steve Wojciechowski or Wojo as he was most often known at Duke. Wojciechowski was quick to pass on a second recommendation to Krzyzewski that Allen had some serious talent.
Allen had been a Duke fan since the seventh grade. He dreamed of playing for Duke and would emulate the players he coveted while hooping it up on Florida courts.
Allen had early interest from some Florida schools but Duke scooped him up as word started to get out on his talent. When the Blue Devils started recruiting young Allen, he was not even rated in some of the more popular services top 100. When the dust cleared he was a consensus top 30 player.
A season after his Peach State performance, Allen joined the Southern Stampede on the Nike circuit for the Peach Jam for more exposure. It wasn’t a match made in heaven for they brought him off the bench and it was clear other prospects were not getting him the ball.
“I don’t really see it,” said one well-known recruiting guru as he watched the Stampede hang on to a win where Allen tallied just six points in limited action. What he failed to see was that they were not using Allen properly.
There was another man in attendance that day who had a different take. “He’s the best player on the court,” said a person who should know, with a straight and direct face towards me. I am not privy to share who the quote was from, but let’s just say that they knew exactly what Duke was getting and long before his ascent in the rankings.
Allen started to play well in various AAU events in his final season and began to earn a reputation for flamboyant dunks. During the NBA Top 100 Camp, he would gather with a group of the nations best prospects, all taking their turns with show time dunks.
I sat in the stands and watched his demeanor while others caught said dunks on film that day. What I saw was the confident, can-do attitude he exudes, while remaining humble. Think about that, for it is a rare combination. As confident as Allen is on the court, he remains a team player and is a hard worker.
Allen has a good all around game. He moves his feet well and they’re big feet for sure. I could not help but joke with him about his at the time size 16 shoes during an interview at the NBA Top 100 event. At the time, his doctor said he could grow to 6-5, and he is already 6-4 per sources.
Allen claims to have learned the game of basketball on his own. While many Blue Devils past can point to fathers who played the game well and such, that wasn’t the case for Allen. “All I can say is that it was God-given because my parents weren’t big athletes,” said Allen.
Once a prospect gives a verbal commitment to Duke, Mike Krzyzewski and his staff begin to work with them. “They want me to work and try to be a lock down defender and guard multiple positions including the one, two and possibly the three because I will really have to do that at the next level while keeping an aggressive mind-set,” Allen told me during the NBA Top 100 Camp.
“He’s a guy who we think can be a defensive stopper,” said Duke Assistant Coach Nate James. He elaborated further on Allen, “He’s probably the least talked about of the freshman right now, but once everyone sees how athletic and dynamic his game is, he will be a crowd favorite.”
Allen electrified the crowd at last seasons McDonald’s All American Game Dunk Contest and he rocked a Duke jersey while doing so. By the end of the prestigious event, Allen was no longer young man many haven’t heard of. He was the guy who jumped over his future teammate Jahlil Okafor for a dunk.
Every prospect has their own unique story but for Allen, his is about to really begin. Let’s face it, breaking into the Duke rotation with ten players who can all play on a talented roster will be not be easy.
Still, with a player who can take the ball down the lane, stroke a good jump shot and be active on defense, he will almost certainly earn some immediate burn.
“Grayson doesn’t back down from anything or anyone, ” said James.
Allen made it to his dream school and you can see him for the first time by attending Countdown to Craziness.
There are plenty of reasons for excitement when talking Duke Basketball in that the program constantly maintains excellence. It’s nothing new for Duke to have a banner class of freshman coming in where they will be molded by Mike Krzyzewski into a unit upon his return for duties with USA Basketball.
Having covered the AAU trail for many years and the young men coming in ad nauseam, the one thing that stands out to me is the overall maturity of this bunch. Many times, it’s hard for the fan base to realize that these guys are still teenagers and until they’re on campus it’s hard to get a really good feel for how they might react to the new and faster game speed and all the other intangibles with concern to adjustment.
Duke will get an immediate infusion of talent from their incoming class and we take a look at what some of these adept newcomers bring to the table which are all the opinions of one man who saw them play multiple times.
Tyus Jones - When I started covering Tyus Jones heavily during his rising junior season, the one thing I remembered from seeing him at a younger age was that he knew how to win. Jones was not especially flashy, so there was no early grab in my mind’s eye when he was a rising sophomore. As I continued to watch him I saw a cool customer and a player that would stuff the stat sheet in a steady manner. It was like, did this guy just do all that while I was watching when looking down the box score. That led me to realize that this young man was a true point guard and one who made everybody around him better. In short, he’s a winner. Jones has a knack for controlling the game and he helped his Howard Pulley AAU team over achieve in that they had little around him in comparison to other teams on the Nike circuit. Jones is not going to jump out of the gym or go down the lane for a flamboyant dunk. But what he will do is find the open man and help them to have the flashy play. At Duke, Tyus Jones will have a lot of weapons around him and that should make his acumen for dishing assists even more impressive. Another thing you will see when watching Jones is that he remains emotionally stable at all times. He moves on to the next play and that puts him in position to always help his team. Jones draws the defense in at times but he is also adept at slithering through the lane for an easy lay in when others are looking for the kick out and he has the ability to knock down the jump shot. Jones will need to work on his on ball defense at the college level, but Duke got the best pure point guard in the class and a kid you will fall in love with for his commitment to his teammates and winning.
Justise Winslow - Known by the nickname of “Chief Justise,” Justise Winslow brings a very solid skill set to the court. What you will first notice about young Winslow is his toughness and his ability to guard multiple positions. Winslow has the ability to pull his defender out or take them to the rack and he can easily post up smaller defenders when mismatches come his way. Winslow has a good handle and you can bet that the Duke coaching staff will use him as a defensive stopper early on. Like Jones, Winslow stays level when playing the game, but he has a fiery can-do side and he’s physically mature for his age. Winslow can shoot the jumper with good range or power in the lane on offense and he likes to mix it up. His value to this coming years team will likely be on the defensive end where his footwork is ahead of the curve. On the offensive end, he can draw some mismatches and like all the Duke freshman, he can run the floor. Winslow is one of the more versatile players I have seen coming into Duke and you will love his confidence which is a vital part of his game.
Jahlil Okafor - Duke got their man of choice in the middle in Chicago native Jahlil Okafor. Coach Mike Krzyzewski is not one to guarantee a starting role or playing time to any prospect, but he’s already said that the offense would look to run through and around the best post player during last years recruiting class. Okafor has good hands and like the aforementioned two incoming freshman keeps his cool on the court rarely getting too high or too low. He was a beast on the AAU courts last summer and he has a long running relationship with Tyus Jones which will provide immediate chemistry. Okafor knows how to use his frame and get a player on his hip and he has good court vision. The Duke staff has obviously been working with Okafor on nutrition and in the weight room and the budding star has reshaped his body or frame. It’s a little harder for me to project Okafor in that I have yet to see him play with a trimmed down frame, but common sense says he is likely to be even quicker on his feet which is vital as the college game is much faster than AAU ball. Okafor is the most likely of the freshman to be one and done, so Duke fans should enjoy him while they can. Having a true post player to play alongside Blue Devil veterens like Marshall Plumlee will help to give the team the ability to get out and press or trap more in that they have a man to slow down the break aways in the post. And Okfor will certainly help to develop Sean Obi, the big man transfer from Rice who will be eligible the following season.
Grayson Allen - During the annual Nike Peach Jam, Allen sent word to Duke that he was playing in an event just down the road called the Peach State Classic. Allen grew up a Duke fan and was playing for an AAU team that was not on the national radar. It didn’t take long for Mike Krzyzewski to take a look after word came back from assistant coaches that he can play. At the time, Allen was ranked in the top 100 at best but as more evaluators saw him and Duke offered he entered the top 25’s of many. Allen is one of those “Did he really just do that?,” kind of guys. He can throw down some impressive dunks which belies his look test at first glance and smile while doing it. Allen can also drain the ball from deep and has the ability to become a fan favorite with his dunks. Many may remember Olek Czyz exciting crowds at the N.C. Pro AM years back, with his dunks but Allen does similar things with an all around game in tow as well. Allen enjoys playing the game and that is important and he takes a joke well. He was quick to give me a smile when I joked with him about his size 17 at the time flappers or show size. Maybe that’s why he has such surprising up’s.
Collectively, this is one of the more impressive classes the staff has been fortunate enough to land. There is balance in that there is a true post player, a true point guard, a versatile wing and an explosive wing. But in the end it will come down to how they integrate with the Blue Devils veterans players. This seasons Blue Devils will be a mix of very young players and some guys who have seen the ACC wars. We’re not that far off from seeing these kids first hand and what they look like after the capable coaching staff has worked with them. The public will have a chance to see this years version of the Duke Men’s Basketball team on October 25th for Countdown to Craziness. Tickets are currently available through the Duke ticket office.
During today’s press conference, Duke Basketball Coach Mike Krzyzewski started by saying he would not address a spiteful article from Adrian Wojnarowki. The article sparked a lot of talk right after Team USA won another Gold Medal. As the conference continued, he altered his earlier statement and had his say.
Who can blame him.
Fresh off another Gold Medal effort where he led Team USA to the FIBA Championship, he was lambasted with more of an opinion piece from one who ignored several obvious facts.
Among the things Krzyzewski supposedly did, per Wojnarowski, was that he purposefully posed with self-serving intent for a picture with Paul George.
Indiana Pacer star Paul George, suffered a horrific and untimely injury during the USA trials. It was a freakish accident that sparked talk of whether the NBA should send their stars to USA events.
Krzyzewski waited until the end of his press conference to address the one thing that seemingly disturbed him the most. “That was a really bad thing to bring up on Paul George,” said the Hall of Fame Coach with concern to the controversial article which posted at Yahoo Sports.
Krzyzesski went on to say that he went back to the hospital secretly in that ESPN had camera’s were stationed in front of the hospital. He ended up going through the back entrance and made his way to Paul’s room where he spent time with the George family.
Krzyzewski said he did not take any pictures, but Paul’s sister was one who he thought took and tweeted a picture out in an emotional moment when he hugged the injured player.
“To say that I orchestrated that and used Paul George is really wrong. And if you want to think that, you’re a bad person,” said Krzyzewski.
“For somebody to put it out that way? Well, you’re really reaching.”
Who wouldn’t be upset when somebody thinks they know your intent? After all it was Krzyzewski who was instrumental in immediately stopping the scrimmage game after the tragic injury.
The assertion obviously did not sit well with Krzyzewski. He lost a spirited player who was to have been one of Team USA’s leaders and he clearly cared about the young stars well being.
But reaching is nothing new and Wojnarowski implied that Coach K had an unfair recruiting advantage by coaching Team USA in his article as well. Never mind, there was no mention of Billy Donovan, Jim Boeheim or the many others who coach and have access to players.
If you follow USA Basketball closely, you know that there have been many involved with players they may end up recruiting. One local outlet made mention of comments made at a recruiting event where it was said that Billy Donovan struggled to see his son play where he supposedly mentioned it to someone.
Well, guess what? A lot of the coaches whine at these events about one another in the decade plus I have been covering them. But in fairness, most do so tactfully. Duke has won big under Krzyzewski, so he is an obvious target of these kinds of things as are the likes of Kentucky head man John Calipari and the way he handles his recruiting affairs. If you seek out this kind of stuff or negative comments, they are not hard to find.
One of the things Krzyewski alluded to today, should have been clear to any Captain Obvious. Krzyzewski has earned his position with USA Basketball through winning. It’s no secret, that winning certainly has it’s advantages and that should not come as a surprise to anyone.
He earned the job in the eyes of Jerry Colangelo and together, they righted the ship which had sailed into embarrassingly rough seas when he took over. Embarrassing in that the USA Basketball program had taken major steps backwards.
When Krzyewski inherited the Team USA program in 2005, the talk was whether anyone could bring players together to focus on the job at hand. All you heard was that the world had caught up to USA Basketball and it had. And nobody would complain about the thought of the team starting to thump it’s competition again at that time. Instead, there was a definitive thirst for victories.
Many want to take their shots by saying anyone could win that with the talent at hand, but why didn’t they before? Some folks memories from 2005 are long gone as is the fact that Krzyzewski dismantled the then used concepts and implemented a new vision alongside Colangelo. And now, the new way of doing things is obviously a winning one.
Lost in the criticism from some circles, was that Team USA won with players that many felt could not get the job done. Instead of struggling, they came together and won all their games by twenty or more points.
USA Basketball is now on as solid a footing and that was the hope all along. Most celebrate this, but some are always looking for a way to post their snarky comments. And most who do that kind of thing have not done their homework nor rely on actual facts or quotes, but assumptions or the views of a few.
Many fail to see how much time Krzyzewski has actually lost in recruiting with his USA duties. There have been times when he could not go to key AAU recruiting events and sent assistants instead, at times getting down to the head of basketball operations for one of the past Nike Peach Jam event.
You see, Duke is allowed three team representatives out at a time per NCAA rules. When Krzyzewski had an assistant in tow for USA duties, he missed being seen at major events in the July sessions. And to think that doesn’t possibly hurt in the last few events of the recruiting calendar is to ignore hard facts.
Krzyzewski has actually lost road time with his USA duties and if you add that time up — it pales in comparison to his implied advantage of having access to the USA teams. During his entire tenure with USA Basketball, Krzyzewski claims to have gone to see the younger players on two days.
It only makes sense that Krzyzewski keeps up with the USA Basketball program as a whole. His job is to not only coach his players but to help to evaluate talent for the future and to establish a base of stability.
Have USA Basketball duties benefitted Mike Krzyzewski? Of course it has. He’s won Gold and the big games and coached some of the best players in the world. When prospects see that, it helps with those who buy into the patriotism aspect and want to follow in the foot steps of their idols.
Oddly, for those with short memories, some in the Duke fan base and media types felt his duties would hurt and this was not that long ago. They made the point of his time away from his team would be a detriment and that really makes the self-serving assertions look even more shallow if true on any level.
In the end, everything is all about opinion and perception, but opinions are by no means facts. The bottom line is Coach Mike Krzyzewski took a dream job and who wouldn’t have?
What many fail to see is the sacrifice said decision required. There is no bigger patriot in the coaching than Krzyzewski. My opinion, is that his joining USA Basketball was and is a match made in heaven. His accomplishments should be celebrated and not picked apart in a pithy manner, but that is again, just another opinion.
The man took on the job on as coach USA Basketball and getting the program back to where it once was, as the clear leader and best hoops in the world.