“He who is prudent and lies in wait for an enemy who is not, will be victorious.” – Sun Tzu
At fifteen, Tyus Jones, the 6’1″ 175 lb point guard from Apple Valley, Minnesota, has accomplished more on the basketball court than almost all of his peers, utilizing a mix of court vision, change of pace, and advanced perimeter skills.
On a national level, Jones’ coming out party was last April in Dallas when, playing for the Howard Pulley Panthers, he scorched a Seattle AAU team for forty-five points, despite being more than two years younger than his competition. He quickly followed that up by earning a spot on the ultra-competitive USA Basketball’s U-16 team in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Soon thereafter, the self-described “pass-first point guard” helped lead the United States to a gold medal at the FIBA Americas 16U Championship in Cancun, Mexico. Jones broke current Duke point guard Quinn Cook’s tournament assist record, dishing off twenty-eight assists to, amongst others, fellow Duke recruits Jabari Parker, Jahlil Okafor, and Theo Pinson.
Tyus has been playing varsity basketball for Apple Valley, a suburb of the Twin Cities and home of the Minnesota Zoo, since he was an eighth grader. Last year, he missed more than eight weeks (thirteen games) of the season after lacerating his kidney, when he unfortunately landed in the heel of a St. Louis Park player.
This year, the sophomore came back and lead the Eagles to a 23-6 record, scoring more than twenty-eight points per game. For the season, despite being the focal point of a variety of “junk” defenses, the precocious point guard shot an eye-popping 56% from the field, 44% from beyond the three-point arc, and better than 86% from the charity stripe. In addition to earning a MaxPreps All-American distinction and the Star-Tribune’s Player of the Year, Gatorade named the sophomore Minnesota’s Player of the Year, noting his performance on the court, 3.1 GPA, and charitable work with Feed My Starving Children.
In the late winter, Coach Mike Krzyzewski formally offered Jones a scholarship to Duke University. It was an unusually early scholarship offer for the Duke program, but, as a rising sophomore, Tyus Jones first captured the attention of the four-time National Champion and Olympic gold medal-winning head coach at last year’s Peach Jam. Jones has already visited unofficially three Big Ten schools: Ohio State, Michigan State, and his hometown Minnesota Gophers. Tyus told BDN that he will definitely visit Duke in the future.
The sophomore lead guard comes from a tight basketball family. His affable father, Rob Jones, who is 6’6,” played for Proviso East (IL) HS and the University of Wisconsin-Parkside, while his mother, Debbie, won a state title as the point guard for Devils Lake (ND) HS. His older brother, 6’2″ Jadee, played for Furman and Minnesota State-Monkato. Jadee has been Tyus’ trainer and the one he credits for his shooting prowess, working on repetitions and technique.
If anyone thought that there might be a sophomore slump with Tyus, they’ve been sorely disappointed. The shrew lead guard is now at the top of the national leaders in both points (21 per game) and assists (6.55 per game), while exhibiting more vocal leadership skills. His team, the Howard Pulley Panthers, currently have a 5-4 record through the first two legs of the competitive Nike EYBL. This weekend, at the Boo Williams Complex in Hampton, Virginia, Tyus concluded the weekend with a 37 point, 8 assist, and 5 rebound performance in a win over the Bluff City Legends of Tennessee. Throughout the two live period weekends, the Duke coaches have been a constant presence at his games.
After an EYBL game, Tyus spoke with me about, amongst other things, leadership, USA Basketball, pre-game visualization, his use of change of pace, the early Duke offer, pressure to stay home for college, and his family’s support.
You recently won the Gatorade Player of the Year.
It was a huge honor. It’s a humbling experience and feeling. It’s just amazing. It just goes to show that hard work and dedication does pay off and my teammates helped me with that with making shots to help us win games. My coaches setting up stuff, so I just was really proud of that honor.
It’s also a well-rounded award. I was talking to the guy that runs it and obviously basketball is a key criteria, but they’re also looking for people who won’t embarrass their brand off the court.
Exactly, exactly. My parents raised me to be the young man that I am. They keep me grounded and I don’t want to embarrass them.
You’ve been playing varsity since the 8th grade.
Yeah, it helps me because this year we had a young team that is helped because I had some experience seeing a lot of the situations in the games that they hadn’t. I’ve just got to lead and lead by example and be vocal. It’s helped a lot.
Being vocal is an issue I wanted to get to, but I want to wait a bit. Let’s talk about playing in front of your home fans. It can get really packed. Your dad, Rob, said that your home games were almost all sell-outs and obviously it’s been standing room only here.
It was great playing in front of hometown fans, like you said. We’ve got a good turnout, a lot of families have come here. It’s been a good turnout, I think we’ve shown our fans in Minnesota that we can play and we can play at a high level. We can compete and it was good. I’m impressed with how we played.
Sure, I was speaking before with Jahlil about the USA Basketball experience and we were talking a little bit about you. What are your memories of going through that experience about going through the tryouts and winning the gold medal and everything else?
Right, USA Basketball was an amazing experience. It was an unbelievable feeling to put USA across your chest to represent your whole country, the whole nation. It was an unbelievable experience. We built a great bond with our teammates. Credit goes to Coach Showalter and Coach Jones. They trained us and worked us hard and brought us together to become a family. They’re great guys.
Give the audience a sense of the tryouts. I know they were very competitive in Colorado Springs.
The tryouts were in Colorado Springs. They were very tough, very tough. Every single drill, every single play, every possession. It was unbelievable and you’ve got to come to play and you can’t take a play off because you’ll get exposed.
What’s your take on Jahlil (Okafor) and Theo (Pinson)?
They’re two of my good friends and we all in a sense, them included, bonded together. They’re great characters, they’re great students, they’re great basketball players, so everything worked out.
You had a lacerated kidney. What did you learned about yourself and basketball in the time you were unable to play?
Oh, yeah, that was a huge thing in my career.
For the audience members who may not know, how did it happen?
Oh, yeah, I got double-teamed and got pushed into a kid.
If you want to say so.. I fell onto the back of his leg and into his heel. His heel just pushed right up into my kidney and cut it.
Yeah, it was. I cut it and I ended up having to sit out for eight weeks. It kind of made me step back and see…
What did you realize?
It made me step back from the game of basketball and really what I had in front of me and what was really important and just kind of cherished the game more and just cherish everything more because the game can just go away from you. In a split second, it can be gone.
Who do you try to model your game after?
I try to take bits and pieces from, you know, all the great point guards in the NBA. Guys like Chris Paul, I think he does everything well and I try to just take as much as I can from him. And Rondo, you know he sets up his teammates incredibly well and…
He’s a great defender.
Yeah, exactly, and he anticipates and everything like that. He anticipates everything well on the floor. And then there’s Russell Westbrook..
Well, by the way, you might shoot a little better than Rondo at this point.
(laughs) With Russell Westbrook, I love to see how he uses his explosion and just gets his team where they need to go. And there’s all kinds of little things you can take from different point guards’ play because they’re in the NBA for a reason.
You come from a bit of a basketball family. Your father, your mother, and your brother all played at various levels. How do you think that helps you and differentiates you from other players?
Yeah, it helps a lot because any one of my relatives I can go to and talk about basketball just like they’re all behind me and support me in any way I need and whatever I do. They’re all there for me. So, you know, being born and raised in a basketball family, it’s helped me love the game and just pushed me.
Does it make you more competitive when you’re growing up in a family like that?
Yeah, definitely. I was trying to compete with my brother, my cousins, everyone who was older. I just was always trying to compete with my brother in everything. I was just trying to hang with them as much as I could and I think it just helped. It really turned me into a competitor. Yeah, now that I’m older I can hang with them. We’re much more competitive.
You guys must kill with two-on-two at the local YMCA.
(laughs) It’s competitive. We always go back and forth.
What was it like when you first beat one of your older relatives?
It kind of just told me that I was getting there. I was getting bigger, I was getting older.
It was a first step.
Right, right. It felt like a big deal.
In terms of leadership, what was it like being the captain of the team this year as a sophomore?
Being captain was a good honor. It was big being named leader of your team and you’ve got to set a good example. I think I do that well and guys are looking for you to lead and you just got to be on point and you’ve got to be ready to lead them.
You wanted to be more vocal this year. You mentioned it a little bit earlier as well.
Yeah, I mean, you can never communicate too much.
Particularly with a young team.
Yeah, exactly, especially on a young team, you’re being just vocal and communicating, it makes it a lot easier for everybody. Than if you are being quiet, just being vocal it starts up top and everybody else communicates.
Are you loud or more quiet by nature?
I would say I’m more laid back and quiet by nature. So it’s just something that’s out of my element to be more vocal. You know, I’d rather lead by example, but I just have to be more vocal. It’s something that I have to constantly work on and have to step out of my comfort zone and be vocal.
Another important issue with point guards is leadership. We talked before about you being named captain, but how would you assess your leadership skills at this point?
Leadership is obviously important. You’re the leader on your court at all times and I’m just a point guard and just try to take that and go with that.
We talked before about all the fans showing up to support you in high school and here. Would you say there’s a lot of pressure for you to stay home for college?
There is. There’s been a lot of pressure to stay home, but I’ve just got to take it in stride. You just go through this once and you just have to have fun with it.
I was at your game last year in Dallas where you scored over 40 points (45 points). Shooting is obviously one of the things you do relatively well. How do you account for your shooting and what is your shooting regimen?
Oh, yeah, I just try to put up as many shots as I can in the off-season, just work on repetition. You know, you can never put too many shots up. There’s never too much repetition.
How did you learn how to shoot originally?
My older brother was a tremendous shooter and he worked with me a lot and, you know, it just worked its way out.
You try to mentally and visually prepare before the games. That’s something unusual for a kid your age.
Oh, yeah, I just kind of get into my own zone and where I want to go with the ball and how I want to pass it. A lot of guys are just different. I don’t know. It’s the way I feel I need to get ready for the game and it’s worked for me. Some guys goof around, some guys are very serious, and some guys are off on their own. It’s a matter of trying to be comfortable with how you feel.
What about your use of change of pace?
Oh, yeah, definitely change of pace is very important to me. I’m trying to work on my change of pace because it makes it hard for guys to try to stay in front of you.
It’s kind of like in baseball where if you’re a changeup pitcher, it makes your fastball look a lot faster.
Yeah, that’s a good example.
What do you view as your strengths and weaknesses right now?
My strengths are just seeing the floor and being that true point guard out there. My weaknesses are, you know, you can always be a better defender. I’ve just got to work on the little things, like being a good leader out there. Those little things are always very important.
You get a lot of junk defenses thrown at you, particularly in high school ball. How have you adjusted to the different defenses?
Oh, yeah, I think I’ve seen them all. It just comes with the territory from our team’s success. You know, when we get success, you just have to go with it and figure out a way for your team to win.
Do you watch a lot of basketball? I know Rubio is another popular point guard around here. Do you watch a lot of college or pro basketball?
I do. I watch as much basketball as I can, both college and pro.
What about being a passer versus scorer? You’re sort of known as being a scoring point guard with your AAU team, but for USA Basketball, you were much more of a facilitator as a passing point guard.
I actually think I’m a pass-first point guard, but I just try to take what the defense will give me. If the defense gives me points, I’m going to take it, but if the defense gets up on me, I’m going to pass it immediately and I’ll hit the open man. I love to set up my guys. It just makes it fun, it makes it easier. I love to just, you know, get your team going.
So, all things being equal, you like to have a great pass over a great jumpshot?
Who do you turn to for guidance whenever you make big decisions?
My parents, they’ve been there since day one and they really have my best interest at heart.
You’re quite lucky to have both parents.
Yeah, I’ve also got my grandparents, as you can see right behind you. My grandparents are right here, my aunts are right there, they’re all here to support me. I’ve got a great core group of people. I feel very comfortable with them. I really like to listen to their thoughts on things.
I mentioned before about that forty-five point game. That game sort of helped to put you on the map to a degree. What was going through your mind and what do you remember about that day?
It was just one of those days where I was just feeling it and our coaches are always like if you’re feeling it, just go with it. Don’t let up. They just say that if we’re feeling it, just keep going with it, so I just kept putting it up and it just kept falling. It was just incredible.
In terms of a timeline, when would you like to decide by?
I’m waiting, I’m not trying to rush into my recruitment or anything. I’m not looking to give an immediate commitment. I’m looking to survey things and looking deeply into everything. So it’ll be just a little while.
Have you taken any visits?
I’ve taken unofficials to Ohio State and to Michigan State.
And probably Minnesota too.
Yeah, and to Minnesota as well.
What would you like the audience to know about you away from the court?
I’m just a laid-back kid, I like to have fun. I’m not trying to draw a lot of attention to myself. I’m trying to be laid-back and do the right thing. I’m not one of those kids who is a trouble-maker or anything like that. I’m just pretty laid-back and I keep to myself.
You’ve grown up in Apple Valley.
Yeah, I grew up in Apple Valley. We have the Minnesota Zoo. It’s a nice community to grow up in.
What’s your current size?
I’m about 6’2,” 175.
Before we were talking about change of pace and I remember reading that one of the reasons you wanted to add that to your game was because you may not be the fastest guy…
Yeah, I’m definitely not the fastest guy, so I felt like if I could just add that to my game, I’d just be a lot more difficult to try to stay in front of, rather than if I rely on my straight-forward quickness.
Lastly, can you talk about the Duke offer and what you know about the program?
Yes, Duke has offered me a scholarship. I’m very grateful to them for that. Coach K is a legendary coach and he’s an unbelievable coach and Coach Wojciechowski and Coach Capel are great guys. I saw the Duke coaches watching. They’ve coached a lot of great players. It will be interesting to see what happens with this recruiting period.
Were you surprised by the offer? It’s much earlier than they usually give players scholarship offers…
Yeah, actually, I was. I guess it was earlier than they traditionally do offer kids. I just feel very blessed and I just feel very humbled that they’re even recruiting me and I never thought that I’d be recruited by any of the big-name colleges and so I feel very blessed to have them even interested in me.
Any thoughts on visiting them in the future?
Yeah, eventually, definitely. I want to take an unofficial there.
What are some future tournaments you will be playing in for fans who want to catch you? Obviously EYBL…
Yeah, EYBL at all of the locations, then at the end of the month, I’ll be in California.
Lastly, what are you hoping to show coaches this year?
I’m just hoping to show them my hard work and just the little things, like boxing-out and getting on the floor and just the little things.
Day Two of the Nile EYBL Session II is in the books and it was a long one where the coaches were in the gym all day and night. It’s hard to figure out where to start tonight in that my head is swimming from information overload. Let’s start with Tyler Ennis who is still [private] on the radar and while he is listed as a PG, he shows off more shooting guard skills to me despite being just 6-3. I spoke with him after his game. And then there is Andrew Wiggins who if NBA rules allowed would go straight to the league. Of course Duke has interest but this will not be an easy get, so I would call that interest somewhat luke warm in that they know it would be quite the battle.
I was impressed with Wayne Selden (2014) today and he’s going to be a good one, I secured a video chat with him. Duke has a lot of interest in him but it is too early for them to concentrate on that class which includes Theo Pinson. The interest is there for Pinson but they know he is a long ways from making his decision.
Boo Williams continued their slide and will likely not make it to the Peach Jam or the EYBL finals, dropping to 2-7 with a loss to Mokan. Al Freeman has not been impressive in the event which I said from day one and I have yet to see him use his potential in a good way. When his offense struggles he allows it to effect his whole game and while he had a good game tonight shooting the ball, his other stat totals were again, non existent. I don’t think Boo uses him right. Anthony Barber is good, but not good enough to earn an offer at this point. He is a PG that cannot really pass that well and the chemistry with Freeman ia average at best. And Try Williams continues to regress with many questioning his work ethic.
Julius Randle improved his stock and that is hard to do when you are ranked 2nd in your class. His handle is nice for a big man and he dominated when he did take it to the paint. He told BDN he had so many triple teams he decided to take his game to the perimeter and it seems to be working. Yes Matt Jones is better and he told BDN he is now 6-5 but the same weight. I have vid interviews with both.
I spoke with ex ACC official Larry Rose for a good long time and what a chat we had. He is head of MEAC officials now. I laughed at him being ragged in Cameron back in the day.
I watched a bit of Jahlil Okafor and his game is about the same as it was a year ago in that he needs to be more aggressive. A ton of folks really pick my brain about Duke now and I found myself giving disinformation to a couple of the more obnoxious types:)
Semilore Ojeleye. Semi is pronounced Shimi. I sat with Coach for part of his game and he like him a lot as do the assistants. I was tipped off they thought he could be offer material on Friday and had a brief chat with him on video. Great kid. His game? Nice. Great stroke from 3, solid, strong finisher on dunks. Listed at 6-7, but said he is 6-6. And guess who he pulled for when he grew up but don’t they all;(. Anyhow, love his game and want him in royal blue. Unique player with incredible background, smart, solid student — the whole package.
Ish Wainright is a defender supreme who can guard almost anyone and wants all challenges. Coach wants to see more offense from him. He was a beast tonight and hit a three point shot at the buzzer and Team Takeover finally won and that meant we got to talk to him, yay. Yes, that was sarcasm in that his coaches are a trip an then some.
Coach was upset about the injury to Derrick Rose and spoke of the challenges in filling the Team USA roster. Of course. Dwight Howard is out too but all the studs are expected to play. He’s been on the road non stop and came in late from Arkansas where he saw Austin Nichols score 35 points, grab 15 rebounds and swat 7 shots away in a single game. Yeah, he’s good.
Okay, that’s all I have got off the top of my head but I have yet to get to my notes. I will close it out tomorrow before taking that four hour ride back, so do not expect a whole lot on Sunday evening. However, the video interviews will balance well with Andrew and the many interviews he still has. [/private]
Is there anybody you would choose to lead your team onto the battlefield of March Madness other than Coach Mike Krzyzewski? During today’s press conference, Krzyzewski was relaxed and focused on the job at hand, stating, “I don’t look at the brackets or look ahead. Our focus is on Lehigh, they’re a good team.”
He then stated to any possible disbelievers that it was true and that he doesn’t lie and while some from afar still might think, he has taken a look past Greensboro, I can assure you that he hasn’t. It does no good to worry about anything past Lehigh and scout Notre Dame and Xavier for there is simply too much you cannot control.
Krzyzewski holds the highest NCAA winning percentage with a 96-31 record which translates into a .756%, so if he chooses to focus on one game at a time, then so be it for it has worked for him in the past. A further testament to his prowess is the fact Duke has been a #1 or #2 seed in the tournament 14 of the past 16 years and who can find any fault in that?
With 927 wins, the most of any coach ever to be at the helm in college basketball it can sometimes be overlooked by fans just how lucky they are. Krzyzewski is a living legend and that is sometimes hard to realize amongst an increasingly spoiled fan base.
In 2010, he guided his team to the National Championship when nobody gave them a chance. Duke was called to unathletic and a team without a true point guard but they managed to find ways of using their teams strengths and brough hime his 4th national championship.
And that is why I feel confident that Coach Krzyzewski will tweak this team a bit more, one which is certainly battle tested and good, but a team with a smaller margin for error than some of his past teams.
It’s not easy adjusting to injuries in the middle of the season and I am of course referring to Ryan Kelly who missed the ACC Tournament and possibly the game this Friday. While the Duke defense picked it up recently, the offense struggled and the man in charge recognized that and said that his team would get back to what they were doing earlier in the season.
Adjustments have been a huge part of the Duke program, one which takes every teams best shot. Krzyzewski has been a master at taking his talent and molding them into a team and I am of the opinion that this years edition has been one of his best coaching jobs in Durham.
This years team doesn’t have the upperclassmen leadership as some of the recent Duke teams. but who is betting against him pushing the right buttons to get the most out of what he’s got?
The Blue Devils are in practice right now and Coach Krzyzewski is planning his teams way. You can bet that he will try to push each players buttons to get the most out of them, be they in a slump or just hitting a wall.
Counting the Blue Devils out in March is simply something that should never be done under the man known as Coach K for he has a knack at getting the most out of all his teams. Duke needs three wins for a fourth straight 30 win season, but the 28th win is all Krzyewski has on his mind at this time.
While March Madness is tense as it can be where teams are one and done with a loss, Duke fans should feel good about having Krzyzewski on their side. History shows us that Krzyzewski is the winningest coach in the NCAA Tournament and that is something no other school in all the brackets can claim.
Winston Salem, NC -The Duke Blue Devils had little trouble in disposing of the Wake Forest Demon Deacons 79-71 in Winston Salem on Tuesday evening. With the win the Blue Devils for to 26-4 overall and 13-2 in the ACC. The win sets up the battle for the regular season title with North Carolina this Saturday.
Once the Blue Devils gained control and held a huge working margin for most of the game but Wake mounted a late comeback to make the game interesting. Duke once held a 65-42 lead and were outscored 43-40 in the second half.
There were times in the game when you could hear only Duke fans chanting “Let’s go Duke,” and the Duke players all mentioned this in the locker room after the contest.
The Blue Devils were led in scoring by Ryan Kelly with 23 points to go with 8 rebounds. He was followed in scoring by Seth Curry with 15, Mason Plumlee with 12 and Austin Rivers with 10 to round out the double figure scorers.
Once again, the three ball was kind to Duke as they knocked down 10 of 20 which translated into 30 of their 79 points. The Duke bench outscored the Deacons by a 21-10 margin and the Blue Devils held a 39-29 advantage on the boards.
Duke moves to 11-10 in games played in Lawrence Coliseum and Coach K is now 41-23 all time against the Deacons. But the most impressive stat is the fact that Duke is one of four teams to go 8-0 on the road in the ACC this season and that earned the praise of Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski in his post game press conference.
Another positive in this game was Mason Plumlee going 8 of 9 from the free throw stripe. Here are two BDN Videos for you to hear Coach K’s comments –
The Duke Blue Devils coasted past Boston College last evening setting up a huge rematch against Florida State this week and BDN Monday Musings takes a look back and ahead.
Duke too much for Boston College
After a slow start, the Blue Devils waltzed past the Boston College Eagles 75-50 and that kept them in a three way tie for first place. A tremendous 45-21 rebounding edge and pounding the offensive glass gave Duke the win but this game is less than memorable after the Blue Devils have won a couple high profile and talked about games. But Duke took care of business and returned to snow dusted Durham healthy and well. The 25 point margin was the larger in the series for Duke who holds a 14-2 edge in the series. Duke held the hapless Eagles without a field goal for a 14 minute plus stretch. Folks point to the Blue Devils defensive numbers being down this season and this game will help those numbers but has anyone taken into consideration the Blue Devils strength of schedule his season and that they haven’t played the sisters of the poor? Just sayin’
If you’ve been paying close attention to the last few games, the Blue Devils are getting improved chemistry from it’s guard tandem of Seth Curry and Austin Rivers. This is a good thing for Duke in that the two have become the top two scoring options on the team. You will continue to see Rivers with the ball in his hands at crunch time and Curry has a constant green light to shoot on the offensive end. Both will need to show up big against Florida State in Tallahassee this week.
Coach K on the Dan Patrick Show
Duke Basketball Coach Mike Krzyzewski appeared on the Dan Patrick show today where he addressed “Linsanity,” an this seasons team. When asked which president he’d have a drink with if he could, Krzyzewski responded that he’d like to have a glass of wine with George Washington or Abraham Lincoln, the founding fathers. Patrick asked, but what if Washington was a UNC fan tongue in cheek. Krzyzewski responded by saying, “He’s not a Carolina fan or he wouldn’t be after a few bottles of wine.” Kyrie Irving was also on the show and spoke of keeping up with Josh Hairston and his happiness that Rivers shot beat the aforementioned rival North Carolina.
ESPN GameDay is coming to Durham for UNC-Duke Game
The GameDay crew of Reece Davis, former Duke player Jay Bilas, former coaches Digger Phelps and Bob Knight and former UNC player Hubert Davis will broadcast live from Cameron Indoor Stadium during the North Carolina at Duke game on March 3rd. Former players and guests will appear. More details to come from BDN as the event nears. In the past, some fans just come for the atmosphere and then watch the game locally. Tickets to a Duke and UNC game are next to impossible to obtain in Cameron without giving away your first born or a large section of your wallet.
Another reminder for Greensboro
The first round of the NCAA Tournament in Greensboro will feature Duke and North Carolina and tickets are still available, so go to ticketmaster and get them now and show off your royal blue colors in an effort to move the team on.
Coach K post game comments
Here are a few comments from Coach K on yesterday’s game where Terry Rains represented the Nation in these two BDN Vids
DURHAM, N.C. – Duke Basketball Coach Mike Krzyzewski entered a sweltering and packed media room in Cameron Indoor Stadium and he wanted no part of fielding questions about the Blue Devils perceived or real short comings or areas of needed improvement. And who can blame him? His team just pulled off an amazing comeback victory over a game N.C. State Wolfpack team that led his Blue Devils by 20 points with 11:33 on the clock in the second half.
Once again, Austin Rivers hit a huge three point shot with 2:26 left giving Duke a 73-71 lead and one they’d hold onto ending the game with a 78-73 victory keeping them in a three way tie atop the conference. “When we made that run, I could just feel it. I could just feel it. I felt confident. I love those games,” said an elated Rivers.
While he may have liked the outcome, he was quick to say as did other Blue Devils that they cannot keep digging holes and expect to comeback. In a span of eight days, Austin hit two of the biggest shots of the season with one being a dagger to the heart buzzer beater over arch rival North Carolina.
To give you an idea of the ferocity of the comeback, it was the largest in the Krzyzewski era, down 14 in the half. “That was an amazing win,” said the Hall of Fame coach who broke the all time NCAA win mark this season. He continued, “I thought our fans were terrific, they never let us die.”
And Cameron did rock and it sounded like jet aircraft taking off the runway when Rivers nailed the three to put Duke ahead for good. There were times when every fan in the old girl were standing and it has been while since the collective did that.
While it seemed bleak for much of the game, the first 29 minutes to be exact, Duke kept the faith, their heart and never quit which payed off in a most big way. “They thoroughly outplayed us for close to 29 minutes but we thoroughly outplayed them for 11,” said Krzzyewski.
And those 11 minutes were amazing (37-13 run to end the game) for a Duke team that has set the tone for ACC drama of late. A quick look at the message boards, showed a lot of fans giving up, just as they had in the North Carolina game, only to all come back and dine on a crow sandwich as they celebrated another incredible and impossible to script win.
“Heroic,” was the word Krzyzewski used for Seth Curry in the post game and man was he on the mark. The junior went to the sidelines with what seemed like a game ending injury and he was escorted to the training room by Duke trainer Jose Fonsesca. Curry told Fonseca that he didn’t know if he could make a go of it according to Krzyzewski, but he was told he had to and he did and in the process had a story book 2nd half.
Curry dropped 21 of his team high 26 points in the second half in what I feel was his best game of the season. He drew praise from his coach for his strong play with the ball in his hands and he was a match up nightmare for the befuddled Wolfpack team. “That was a heroic performance by Seth,” said Krzyzewski. Duke will scheduled to take a look at his injury today to see if he is a go for Boston College this Sunday.
Now back to Krzyzewski and that hot media room. A mildly flustered Krzyzewski when questioned by media said, “No, no, no,”when questioned about his concerns. “You know what I am concerned with today? A celebration of a great win. Whatever string of things happened, we are 22-4 and ranked in the top five of the RPI all season long. We’re not a perfect team, but we’re a good team,” stated the long time Duke head coach.
And he is right. Far too often the media and especially the fan base expect perfection yet overlook the fact of the seasons accomplishments to date. The bottom line is Duke won and they are winning and they are competing with anyone. Go back and harp on a loss at Ohio State if you like, but this is a better team now and a resilient one at that.
And keep in mind how tired Duke was after starting the season off in China and Dubai, then to Hawaii, New York and then Columbus where they faced a team that had nine days rest and had not played away from home with the Buckeyes. Just sayin’
While there is no take charge leader on this years team, there is a perpetual will to get better and win and the Blue Devils continue to find ways of hanging around in the top five ranked teams in the country. This Blue Devils team is finding ways to win in tough situations and that is the mark of a winner.
Pundits, critics and haters will continue to speak of the short comings of Duke while not recognizing their amazing success and a string of two memorable victories. The media is just like that, some say doing there job, but the fan base should know better and if you haven’t noticed yet, this team is pretty darn good and still learning.
Sit back and enjoy the season as it winds down and leave the nit picking to others. This team has been amazing and it is time to give the Devils their due.