Here is what Paolo Banchero and AJ Griffin had to say after Duke defeated Virginia Tech 76-65 in a hard-fought game in Cameron Indoor Stadium.
ASSOCIATE HEAD COACH JON SCHEYER
On improving the team’s defensive rebounding:
“I think it’s a mindset. It’s something we’ve drilled a lot. We’ve spent many film sessions talking about it, but the reality is we’ve had other times in some of our games where we’re more athletic or able to go up and get it. Virginia Tech is a good example – [Justyn] Mutts and [Keve] Aluma, they go to the boards. If shot goes up and you don’t put a body on them, they’re going to make you pay with it, not only for put backs but for kick-out three’s. Our guys, they’ve taken responsibility. They know it’s something we need to improve on. For us as a coaching staff, we need to do a better job of coaching it and teaching it. That’s something hopefully tomorrow night, we show some improvement in that area.”
On what the team is focusing on for its matchup against Virginia Tech on Wednesday:
“[Mike Young] is a big time coach. They have a great coaching staff. Virginia Tech – they always know who they are and they play to their strengths. They’re a team that really makes you work on the defensive end. They do a great job of passing, screening, cutting. We always talk about having discipline on the ball, but in this game you need to have great discipline off the ball as well because they make you pay. They put five guys on the floor that can shoot it and they have a player in [Keve] Aluma who they can throw the ball to and he can really create offense for them. It’s a great challenge. I have a lot of respect for Coach Young and what he’s done. I think our guys are anxious to play our first ACC game.”
On if the team has taken a new approach in reaction to games around the country being canceled due to COVID-19:
“I think it’s made us all more aware for our interactions and just being as safe as possible while still living our life. For our guys, masking up, washing our hands – those little things. We all want to get back to normal so badly, so you let some of those things slide. This has been a good wakeup call, forget about for us but I think for our country and for everybody that we need to still be safe and handle things the right way. Our guys want to play games. They’ll do whatever it takes in order for that to happen, and we’ll continue to stay diligent in that.”
On what the coaching staff saw in graduate-transfer forward Theo John when recruiting him:
“We all felt like we knew Theo so well – C-Well [Chris Carrawell] the best, coaching him at Marquette. For me, I watched Theo play since he was in high school playing with Tre Jones and Gary Trent and these guys. We felt like we knew him really well, and then of course having a close relationship with Wojo [Steve Wojciechowski], following his progress at Marquette. Just the physical presence – I think last year, we really felt like we got hurt by that, getting beat up on the boards and not having a physical presence down low. The defense, the rebounding and just the game experience. When we found out that there was a chance that we could get Theo, Coach literally almost got out of his seat. He jumped at it. I think we all felt that way, it was unanimous. The thing that’s been so great about Theo is what a great teammate he’s been. First of all, he doesn’t really sit down much when he’s on the sideline, but he’s always in Mark [Williams’] ear, pushing him, telling him to keep going, to get better. The guys look up to him like a big brother. He’s been terrific for us. The biggest thing we had to make sure is that he was healthy. That’s something we still keep an eye on, but his body is in a really good place and he’ll continue to make a big impact for us.”
On what aspect of the team has been improved the most from last season:
“What jumps out to me is the way we’ve taken care of the ball. We’ve been really solid and sound with the ball, which has created more open opportunities and the scoring has come easier for us. I think that’s where it starts. We have four guys on the floor – no matter who it is, really – that have made good decisions. That’s translated into shots, it’s also translated into getting fouled more. Then, just the physicality of our team. We’ve been a team defensively and offensively that we can be a load, just because our perimeter is strong and big, and then obviously inside we start the game with Paolo [Banchero] and Mark [Williams] and you come off the bench with Theo [John] or an AJ Griffin – that’s pretty good for college. Those two things have really stood out to me.”
On what challenges Virginia Tech presents defensively:
“I think it starts with how hard they play. They play their butts off. They really guard the ball and they don’t necessarily pressure you all the way out to half court, but when you’re in the scoring area, they put pressure on the ball. When you drive, there’s defenders to help and they ratted the ball. They’re actually one of the leaders in the country in terms of turnovers. It’s not necessarily with steals, but it’s turnovers that they force you into with how they close on the ball so quickly on drives in congested areas. It starts there, and then they’re experienced, so they know their rotations, they know game plans, they can do a lot of different things, different coverages, so it’s a great challenge for us. It’s not like it’s anything different from what we’ve done, what we want to do as a team. We want to play together, play strong but especially first ACC game, playing through contact will be a big thing for our guys.”
On how important freshman forward AJ Griffin being in the rotation is for the team:
“It’s huge. AJ – I can’t say enough about his attitude, first and foremost. He went over a year without playing, so I think naturally there’s some rust that he had to shake off in practices. But he stayed with it. When AJ is on the floor, we look different as a team. He just brings a physical presence, his shooting and scoring ability, and I think you guys have had a chance to see this past week how good of a passer he is. He makes really good passes, hitting open men for three’s. We need to keep him in there, keep him going because I think the strides that he’s going to take from this point in the season to the end of the year will be tremendous.”
GREENSBORO, NC & ROSEMONT, IL & SAN FRANCISCO, CA – The Atlantic Coast Conference, Big Ten Conference, and Pac-12 Conference today announced the completion of an initial series of student-athlete focused Alliance initiatives, which took place over the past several weeks and include efforts in the areas of civic engagement; student-athlete leadership and welfare; sustainability; social justice; diversity, equity, and inclusion; and mental health.
The Alliance hosted a student-athlete leadership webinar that served as the first official touchpoint and collaboration for student-athletes throughout the Alliance. The webinar began with the three Alliance commissioners discussing the vision and mission of the Alliance and the importance of having student-athlete input and leadership across all areas of collegiate athletics. Following the discussion with the commissioners, the group welcomed guest speaker, Nneka Ogwumike – former Stanford Women’s Basketball player and current LA Sparks player/WNBPA President. One of the major topics Ogwumike spoke to the group about was the power and weight of advocacy. The webinar concluded with student-athletes leading breakout discussions about topics and initiatives that are meaningful to them.
The Alliance also hosted two education webinars for student-athletes on the topics of social responsibility, civic engagement, and impact. Entitled “#AllVoteNoPlay”, the webinars took place leading up to the NCAA required day off for civic engagement, and focused on what civic engagement is and why it is important to student-athletes. They also empowered student-athletes with information about how to exercise their power through the act of voting. Webinar speakers included Georgia Tech men’s basketball associate head coach Eric Reveno, who hatched the original idea for the mandatory day off for student-athletes, and Jamil Favors, an experienced attorney and advocate for voter empowerment.
The Alliance additionally hosted a panel entitled “Returning to Reuse on Game Day and Beyond” as part of the Pac-12’s Team Green Initiative annual conference. Panel speakers included athletic, sustainability, and facilities representatives from the University of Southern California, University of Utah, University of Miami, and Ohio State, with the discussion focused on a renewed look at reuse, recycling, composting, and partnership strategies to drive impactful zero waste strategies on game days and beyond. The session examined the successful partnership between campus sustainability and athletic departments as well as facilities operations and green athletics initiatives and showcased a commitment to zero waste and sustainability. For a sample of that discussion visit:
These forums were followed by the recent announcement of the Alliance’s “Teammates for Mental Health” initiative designed to raise awareness about the importance of student-athlete mental health and wellness. This initiative builds upon the work all three conferences continue to do to support student-athlete mental health, including the creation of dedicated task forces and cabinets comprised of mental health professionals on campuses at the 41 world-class institutions that comprise the ACC, Big Ten, and Pac-12 Conferences. For more information on “Teammates for Mental Health” visit: https://pac-12.com/article/2021/11/29/acc-big-ten-and-pac-12-announce-alliance-mental-health-initiative
The initial round of Alliance initiatives was developed by nine working groups comprised of members of each of the three conferences. The working groups are tasked with the development of initiatives in connection with the three pillars of the Alliance: student-athlete support, the future evolution of college athletics, and scheduling. Each working group consists of a minimum of one representative per conference office with additional input from ACC, Big Ten and Pac-12 student-athletes, athletic directors, head coaches and staff members as appropriate. These working groups were formed immediately following the announcement of the Alliance on August 24, 2021, and cover the following key areas:
• Student-Athlete Support & Development• Academics• Social Responsibility & Impact• Governance & Compliance• Communications, Public Relations & Marketing• Football Scheduling• Men’s Basketball Scheduling• Women’s Basketball Scheduling• Olympic Sports Scheduling
“It is tremendously rewarding to see the initial Alliance-led initiatives come to life,” said ACC Commissioner Jim Phillips, Ph.D. “Supporting our student-athletes and administrators in the areas of social responsibility, student-athlete welfare, social justice and mental health will continue to be a priority as we work to provide the best resources possible for our institutions and conferences.”
“These initiatives underscore how student-athletes are at the center of everything we do and are among the reasons the Alliance was formed,” said Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren. “All nine Alliance working groups had a hand in creating, shaping, and bringing to life these panels, forums, webinars, and initiatives, and those groups continue to diligently and regularly collaborate around ways to support and engage student-athletes at our 41 member institutions.” “Engaging with and supporting our student-athletes on essential matters that they care about is at the heart of the Alliance mission,” said Pac-12 Commissioner George Kliavkoff. “These initial student-athlete forums, which are collaborative in nature, will help enable the Alliance to develop initiatives that benefit our student-athletes’ growth and well-being throughout their collegiate experience and beyond.”
The Alliance – which was unanimously supported by the presidents, chancellors, and athletics directors at all 41 institutions – is guided in all cases by a commitment to, and prioritization of, supporting student-athlete well-being, academic and athletic opportunities, experiences, and diverse educational programming. The three conferences are grounded in their support of broad-based athletic programs, the collegiate model, and opportunities for student-athletes as part of the educational missions of the institutions.
The ACC, Big Ten and Pac-12 conferences include:
• World-leading academic institutions committed to the shared values of supporting the next generation of leaders.
• Innovative research that benefits communities around the world.
• 27 of the 34 Autonomy 5 members in Association of American Universities (AAU).
• 34 institutions ranked in the Top 100 national universities by US News & World Report.
• Broad-based athletic and academic programs.
• A long heritage of leadership in diversity, equity, and inclusion.
• Over 27,000 student-athletes competing on 863 teams in 31 sports.
• A combined 1,026 NCAA Championships.
• Longstanding relationships across bowl partnerships, men’s and women’s basketball challenges and Olympic Sport events.
• 194 Olympic medals won in Tokyo by current, former, and future student-athletes.
• Some of the most iconic and historic venues in college sports.
• Hundreds of millions of dollars in direct annual institutional support of student-athlete scholarships.
• Over $15 billion in annual federal research support, nearly one-third of the total across all colleges and universities.
If you haven't figured it out by now let it be known the Duke Blue Devils are really good. In the era of one-and-done players, this season's team is the most together of any group in recent memory under Mike Krzyzewski.
During the recent three-game stretch in six days, the Blue Devils have continued to play together and more importantly unselfish. This is a group of players who cheer for one another and seem hungry to achieve their lofty pre-season goals.
The Blue Devils go into ACC play next week on a roll, sitting at 10-1 and likely the nation's #2 rated team. While ACC teams have struggled to date and some want to paint the coming road as easy one needs to understand that this means every night out will provide a hungry opponent.
Perhaps no team will be hungrier for a win than the next opponent Virginia Tech. The Hokies lost a couple of tough contests early and had perhaps underachieved a bit. But the Hokies absolutely drilled St. Bonaventure in their last outing -- a team in every pre-season top 25 as the season began.
Virginia Tech got caught looking ahead or even off guard against Wake Forest in their ACC opener. They responded and they'll fight the Blue Devils hard in Cameron in an effort not to start 0-2 in the league.
The Hokies will likely be an upper-division team by year's end and they should push for an NCAA berth. And that is a warning that many ACC teams Duke will face will seek a resume-building win versus the Blue Devils.
Despite having two coaches out right now in Chris Carrawell and Nolan Smith, the message should get through to their young, but talented group to expect a few fights.
The great news for Duke is that if they play their game, they will be favored over every opponent left on the schedule. The team will hear this kind of thing from the media and that means the mental battle is just beginning.
Can Duke manage the hype and expectations? Probably so, but the grind is here. After a seven-day break between the Virginia Tech and Clemson games the Blue Devils will have no more extended breaks.
While the Blue Devils are clearly the most talented ACC team heading into the meat of conference action it is the mental aspects of the game that must be mastered.
During his post game presser after the win over Elon, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski spoke of many things. But he also said this team is still a work in progress.
While that may be true, Duke is a pretty tight group already. But, yes it is factual that the team can get better. And they will need to get better for there are a lot of good teams in the country this season in what has been an interchangeable top spot in the polls.
Here is the thing. Duke has been great thus far and Krzyzewski knows it. But he is also looking over his shoulder at the suddenness of games being canceled due to COVID-related illnesses.
I mean, things are going close to perfect for Krzyzewski and the program. There is a bevy of players expected to hear their names called in the NBA draft. The team is well oiled with good chemistry for December, they are healthy and the list goes on.
And it is not just the team that is front and center of the college basketball world. Cameron has been solid this season. The Crazies were set to be a serious factor this season for they are a tight group of students and trust me, I have seen many come and go.
There is also a transition going on where Jon Scheyer will take over for the legend next season. And recruiting could not possibly be going any better.
Everything is clicking until it isn't.
There are factors that the team cannot control. There has been little discussion from the ACC or NCAA offices on more uniform testing procedures.
That frustration was evident for Mike Krzyzewski yesterday. It was almost as if his smiles were fighting back tears that the near-perfect path in every aspect for Duke could be altered.
Duke or should I say Cameron is just not the same without fans. As a team Duke has taken great strides with testing. But what good is that if others are not doing the same?
If Duke loses their sixth man it will make for a much longer season with concern to finding that vital game flow before March. And the many fans who want to see Mike Krzyzewski one last time in Cameron could have their desires wrecked.
He didn't come right out and say it but Krzyzewski is wondering what the media was. We could all see these pandemic-related issues coming and there needs to be immediate action to make it so we can somehow play the game as it is meant to be played in front of fans.
All of this falls on the ACC, NCAA, and fans alike and the actions we take collectively. Honestly, I, like many of you are dealing with the emotion of all this as a near-perfect start to a season for Duke could be altered.
The Duke Blue Devils move to 10-1 on the season with an 87-56 win over Elon in Cameron Indoor Stadium. Trevor Keels led Duke with 19 points and Blue Devil Nation caught up to him after the game.
DURHAM – The Duke men’s basketball team will host Elon on Saturday at 4 p.m. at Cameron Indoor Stadium. The game will be televised on ACC Network.
The No. 2 Blue Devils (9-1) were originally scheduled to host Cleveland State on Saturday at 4 p.m., but the game was canceled after CSU announced a temporary COVID-pause for its program. Loyola Maryland was then scheduled to replace CSU, before COVID issues forced the Greyhounds to cancel.
Tickets and parking passes to the originally-scheduled Cleveland State game will be accepted at Cameron Indoor Stadium on Saturday.