Tag Archives: Coach K

Center of Attention: A Jahlil Okafor Update

6'11" Jahlil Okafor, Photo by Andrew Slater

Hailed as the best big man from Chicagoland since Eddy Curry, 6'11" Jahlil Okafor, the Brobdingnagian sophomore center from Whitney Young, has lived up to the high expectations. Last September, Jahlil was the first player that Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski offered a scholarship to in the 2014 class. It was a particularly early offer from a program that historically has been conservative in both the sheer number and timing of its offers, but clearly the staff felt that Okafor was an exceptional person and player. Jahlil was coming off of a summer where he played a critical role, shooting a remarkably efficient 71.1% from the field and 82.6% from the charity stripe, in leading the United States to a gold medal at the FIBA Americas 16U Championship in Cancun, Mexico.

 

At Whitney Young, the Chicago academic magnet school that includes Michelle Obama as an alumna, Jahlil, a 3.4 GPA student, took on much more of a substantial role this season, while the team travelled all over the country playing challenging contests in California, the Carolinas, and St. Louis against nationally ranked teams like Bishop Gorman and Gonzaga as well as Chicago powers Simeon and Curie. After starting three games on a 20-10 team as a freshman for the Dolphins of Whitney Young, Okafor stepped up his game and made second-team All-State as a sophomore and MaxPreps named him to their Sophomore All-American team. Blessed with a 7'3" wingspan, Jahlil averaged nearly thirteen rebounds, twenty-five points, five blocks, and four steals, while shooting nearly seventy percent from the field this high school season.

 

6'11" Jahlil Okafor, Photo by Andrew Slater

In early December, Jahlil, a pure low-post player who isn't afraid to bang inside, visited the Triangle and took an unofficial visit to Duke University, touring the facilities and also watching the team practice. Twice this high school season, Coach K of Duke University returned the favor, coming to watch the sophomore big man play in person. In the initial viewing at the Beach Ball Classic in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, Coach K observed Jahlil score ten points and grab a dozen rebounds in a 46-44 buzzer-beating win over Prestonwood (TX) and 6'9" force Julius Randle, one of the top players in the 2013 class and a Duke recruit. At the second viewing, Coach K watched Jahlil battle his Mac Irvin friend and fellow Duke recruit Jabari Parker, the Gatorade Player of the Year, in the state 4A Sectionals in Summit, Illinois. Although Jahlil had nine first-half points and helped the Dolphins take a 24-21 halftime lead, eventually the depth and experience of Simeon proved too much on that day, as the eventual state champion Wolverines won 52-42 ending Whitney Young's season with a record of 16-10 against one of this year's most challenging schedules in high school basketball.

 

After splitting his time between the Mac Irvin 17s and 16s last summer, the sociable center is anchoring the paint for the Mac Irvin Fire 17U team full-time this AAU season. This weekend in Dallas, the sophomore Okafor stepped up and had his best AAU weekend to date, leading the Fire to a 5-0 session and averaging over sixteen points, seven rebounds, and two blocks in twenty-one minutes at the third leg of Nike's EYBL. This EYBL season, Jahlil, now 16, has been Mac Irvin's leading overall scorer (165 points in 260 minutes) and has shot an eye-catching 71.7% from the field, helping the Fire to eleven wins in fourteen games. During the early live period, the Duke staff was a constant presence at his Mac Irvin games, including a memorable one at the Boo Williams Complex in Virginia, where the 275 lb strong young man tore down the rim.

 

After an EYBL game, the bass-voiced Jahlil spoke with me about Mac Irvin's passing, his goals for this summer, and his relationship with Jabari Parker, amongst other topics.

Well, first of all congratulations on making all-state as a sophomore in Illinois. 

 It was an honor. It’s something I talked about setting as a goal with my Dad. It was great. 

 

This year you made much more of an impact on the team than you did as a freshman. You had a really competitive schedule. How do you view your season overall?

 Well, we had a couple of our key guys injured early in the season…

 Yeah, Tommy Hamilton.

 Yeah, Tommy Hamilton was hurt and Paul White as well. It put a lot of pressure on me and made me grow up a lot faster.

 

Speaking of that, it looks like you’ve lost some of your body fat. Have you been working a lot on your conditioning this year? I remember that it was something that you wanted to work on the last time I spoke with you.

Yeah, I was speaking with all of my coaches and the thing that they thought that would prevent me from getting to the highest level would be me being out of shape. I wanted to focus on that.

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You guys played a very tough schedule this year, traveling around the country at various showcases and tournaments. How does it help you now and into the future?

It helps. It just helps to play against other top players in the country, you know, and other top high schools. It was just a great experience. 

And you get to experience different places.

Yeah, yeah, definitely 

 

What’s your current size?

I’m like 6’11,” 275.

 

Let's talk about visits. What about some of the visits you’ve taken?

Sure, I went to Nebraska recently. I’ve been up to Ohio State. I visited Duke. I went to North Carolina and Arizona as well. They’re all great campuses. 

Can you talk a little bit about each of them?

 Yeah, Duke speaks for itself. Meeting Coach K. it was just beautiful. It was great to talk to Coach K and look at their facilities. And North Carolina had a great team.

 Did you get to see any games in person this season?

When I went to Arizona, I went to a football game. I had a fun time there and the weather is always nice.

 

What were you looking for on those visits?

I’m looking to see how happy the players are on campus, how the players and coaches respond to each other, and then other students and how they interact with the team.

I remember that you said that you went to Whitney Young, not because of the basketball, but because it had the reputation for being the best school in Chicago. 

Yeah, absolutely, that’s right. 

 

You’re originally from Arkansas, can you talk a little bit about your background?

Yeah, I’m originally from Arkansas, but I moved to Chicago in the fourth grade.

I know you also have a Nigerian heritage. Was your father born in Nigeria or your grandfather?

No, my grandpa was born in Nigeria, but my father was actually born in Chicago.

 

In terms of roles, what was your role for Whitney Young and what do you feel your role is for this team? 

With Whitney Young, pretty much I had to do everything this year. I had to rebound, score inside, and block shots. On this team, I pretty much have one role: to be a dominant low-post man and rebound. I have a bunch of help on this team.

I was looking through my notes and saw that you wore your dad’s number. 

Oh, yeah, I wore #32, I didn’t even know it was my dad’s number, but, then, I wore #15 for my Olympic jersey, but I knew that was his number.

 

In terms of your recruiting timeline, how far along do you think you are? When do you think you’ll decide on a school?

I probably won’t decide on a school 'til my senior year.

 

Since you mentioned Tommy Hamilton before, what’s it like to play with him now that he’s healthy? Have you ever played with his father (7'2" Thomas Hamilton)? He used to be a good player and a massive guy.

No, I’ve actually never met his father in my life, but Tommy and I complement each other perfectly well out there on the court. I like playing with him. 

 

Just out of curiosity, do you have a rivalry with Cliff Alexander (a 6'10" fellow sophomore from Curie HS in Chicago)? They seem to talk up on in the Chicago papers from time to time. He's about your size and age.

Yeah, Cliff’s a really great friend. And I have a rivalry with Jabari and Cliff, but we’re all great friends.

 

Can you talk about that last playoff game against Simeon? It was your second time seeing those guys (lost in December at the University of Illinois-Chicago Pavilion) and you lead at the half. For your sake, I was sorry.

Oh, yeah, that was a heartbreaker against Simeon. I walked away feeling like we should've won that game. There were a couple of plays here and there, but we're really excited about the team that we'll bring back next year.

You've got a good shot next year.

Yeah, I think so too.

 

(Interrupted by 6'10" sophomore Dakari Johnson)

Now, he's a rival.

Yeah, Dakari's a rival (laughs)

 

This year, you'll be playing against seventeens exclusively. What did you gain last year from facing players that were two age groups up in the EYBL?

Yeah, everybody's got better ball skills at the seventeen level. They're more developed physically. It's a challenge, game in and game out in the EYBL. 

I spoke with you after you played in your first game and you had just faced Elijah Macon, who was shorter than you, but built like a bull. You said he was the toughest guy that you had guarded at that time.

Oh, yeah, I remember.

 

One of the unique things about your game is that you're a back-to-the-basket player in an age where there are a lot of big guys that want to face up or play away from the basket.

Yeah, it's just something that I'm real comfortable with. I've been doing it since I've been in seventh or eight grade. It's helped and now I have a lot of confidence with my back to the basket.

 

I know that you read some of your articles. What goes through your head when you see some local scouts saying that you're the best Chicagoland center or big man since Eddy Curry?

Oh, yeah, I've read that, but..

You just go about your business.

Yeah, I don't feel like I've achieved anything yet. I'm hungry.

Well, that's a good attitude. You've got those big, "soft" hands. How much of an advantage does that give you over your fellow bigs? Also, how do you account for having soft hands?

(Mac Irvin teammate throws a fake mouse)

Sorry about that. Yeah, everybody always talks about having great hands. I think it's a pretty big  advantage. Well, at least, mentally, you know, knowing that you have them.

 

One dimension that you've worked on this year is your face-up game..

Yeah, my coaches are always telling that I've got to continue to perfect my low-post game, but I've also got to extend my range and expand my game.

I remember that was you wanted to add a jumper and be able to finish around the basket with either hand at the end of last summer.

Yeah, exactly, both of those things.

 

One things that helps you differentiate yourself from some of the softer big men is that you don't mind contact at all.

Yeah, no, absolutely, it's something that I actually enjoy. I love to get in there and mix it up. I love to be aggressive. 

And then you can knock down your free throws to help your team too.

Absolutely, you've got to take advantage of those free throw shots. You can win or lose sometimes by just a few shots, here and there.

 

You guys lost Mac Irvin over the offseason. He was obviously a major figure in Chicago basketball over the past few decades. He was always nice to me, but can you tell the audience your thoughts on Mac Irvin's passing?

It was sad. You know this year we're going to try to put our egos aside and just try to win the Peach Jam for him and in his memory. He was a very nice man.

 

Speaking of your Mac Irvin team, what's your relationship like right now with Jabari (Parker)?

Oh, you know Jabari is just someone that I've known since seventh grade and he's just somebody that I can always talk to.

He's, sort of, going through some of the same things that you are, but just a year ahead.

Yeah, exactly, we're experiencing a lot of the same things with the college coaches and the fans and everybody coming at you, but it's just nice to have Jabari.

 

The next one I was going to ask you about, but, unfortunately, I couldn't confirm if it was true. Someone said that before you visited there, that Coach K said something to the effect that you could've started or played for him this year. Did he actually say that to you or this just an urban legend?

Oh, wow, no, I didn't hear that. If he said that, then it's really humbling to hear, but I don't believe that. I couldn't have. It's still good to hear.

You mentioned about five schools before that you had visited. Have you cut down or reduced your list at all?

No, I haven't reduced my list just yet.

Who are some of the schools that you're interested in?

Pretty much everybody. I'm hearing from Ohio State. I'm hearing from Duke. Who else? Illinois, Michigan State, DePaul, Arizona, and UConn.

 

In the Chicago papers, they've written a lot about that Illinois job and the hiring process. As I recall, you were a Sun-Times guy, but did you pay any attention to the various articles about potential coaches or Coach Groce?

I did a little bit. I spoke with the Illinois coach soon after he got the job.

Well, I'm sure that you're a major target. He ought to be after you.

Yeah, well (laughs)

 

Lastly, let's just close by talking about what you hope to accomplish this summer. 

Sure, well, first, I'd like to win a championship for Mac Irvin. That's my top goal. Then, personally, I'd like to play hard for the majority of each game and keep my conditioning up. I've been trying to work on my conditioning and, hopefully, it can pay off.

 

I remember last year around this time you were focused on winning the gold medal. That was what you were targeting.

Yeah, well, we won the gold medal.

I was proud of you.

Thanks.

I saw that picture that you put up of you, Coach (Mike) Jones, and Tyus (Jones) in Mexico.

(laughs) Yeah, well, that was a great experience. Now, I just hope that I can make the team again.

Thanks for your time, Jahlil.

Oh, sure, no problem.

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Annual Coach K Academy is upon us

DURHAM, N.C. - Over 30 former Blue Devil basketball players, including four former greats (Mike Gminski, Christian Laettner, J.J. Redick and Jason Williams) that have had their Duke jerseys retired, will serve as team coaches this summer to headline the 10th annual K Academy, May 30 – June 3, at Duke's historic Cameron Indoor Stadium. The camp staff will also feature 14 players/coaches (Clay Buckley, Marty Clark, Chris Collins, Nate James, Greg Koubek, Laettner, Reggie Love, Eric Meek, Casey Peters, Jon Scheyer, Nolan Smith, Jason Williams, Steve Wojciechowski and Brian Zoubek) that won a National Championship at Duke.

The current Duke National Championship coaching staff of Steve Wojciechowski, Chris Collins, Jeff Capel and Nate James will join Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame head coach Mike Krzyzewski to host and coach in K Academy X - a camp for adults aged 35 and above. In addition, Duke Basketball stars from the 70's, 80's, 90's and 2000's will also coach again at America's first and top-rated college fantasy basketball camp.

The K Academy brings team-building techniques into an once-in-a-lifetime experience for the ultimate Duke or college basketball fan. Every camper will spend five days in Cameron and in the premier practice facility in the country - the Krzyzewski Center for Academic & Athletic Excellence - where they'll go from opening day tryouts to Sunday's championship tournament. Along the way the campers will play games on Coach K Court in Cameron and learn the inside scoop on Duke's four-time national championship program.

A lively social program, including a charity auction benefiting Durham's Emily Krzyzewski Center, completes the experience. All campers reside in the four-star Washington Duke Inn & Golf Course on the Duke University campus.

The enrollment tuition for the K Academy continues to be $10,000. The Academy is partially tax-deductible as profits go to the Duke Basketball Legacy Fund. The camp has limited enrollment of 88 participants - 80 playing campers and eight non-playing bench captains.

There are limited playing spots remaining, interested parties can register online at www.kacademy.com; contact the Duke Basketball Legacy Fund office at (919) 613-7501; or email Associate Director of the Legacy Fund, Rachel Curtis, at rcurtis@duaa.duke.edu.

Me and Mr. Jones: The Tyus Jones Interview

 

Point Guard Tyus Jones, Photo by Andrew Slater

"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. 
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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. 
 
 
Cheap shot?
 
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. 
 
 
That’s terrible. 
 
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?
 
Yeah, exactly.
 
 
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. 
[/private]

Nike EYBL Session II Day 2 – The Duke angle

Coaches look on

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]

Who better to lead you into March than Coach K?

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.

BDN Post Game – Duke defeats Wake, Coach K post game video

Mason Plumlee and Duke leave Winston Salem with a win. Duke is the fourth ACC team to go 8-0 on the road and first team since 1999-200

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 -