november 5, 2021
K’S CURTAIN CALL
COURTESY OF MAY FU
the chronicle’s 2021-22 men’s basketball preview
2 | FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 5, 2021
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sportsstaff sports staff
The Krzyzewskis Family has been at the center of Coach K’s life on and off the basketball court | PAGE 4
Editor: Jake C. Piazza Managing Editor: Max Rego Features Editor: Alex Jackson Blog Editor: Sasha Richie Assistant Blog Editors: Micah Hurewitz, Jonathan Levitan
NIL...and chicken tenders What has NIL looked like for Duke? | PAGE 7
Big Mark’s big change
Photo Editor: Rebecca Schneid Assistant Photo Editor: Eleanor Mackey
How Mark Williams developed into a preseason second-team All-ACC player | PAGE 8
Associate Editors: Evan Kolin, Em Adler, Jonathan Browning, Glen Morgenstern, Ramona Naseri, Christian Olsen, Cam Polo, Nithin Ragunathan, Joe Wang, Campbell Lawson, Matthew Hawkins, Steve Liu, Cameron DeChurch, Eric Gim
John’s journey Theo John joined The Brotherhood this offseason, after a former Blue Devil brought him here | PAGE 9
Staff Writers: Olivia Wivestad, Sonali Harris, Sam Mickenberg, Juliette Clark, Evan Yee, Babu Chatterjee, Rachael Kaplan, Ana Young, Andrew Long, Elena Karas, Chinomnso Okechukwu, Ella Davis, Molly Honecker, Franck Djidjeu, Jonah Pilnick, Michael Murata, Diya Panjabi, Annaleise V. Linkenhoker
Just how well do Trevor Keels and Jeremy Roach know each other? | PAGE 10
Power of Paolo Duke’s highest-ranked recruit comes in with lofty expectations | PAGE 11
The single senior
Special thanks to: Graphics Editor Evelyn Shi, Graphic Designer May Fu, Editor-in-Chief Leah Boyd, Photography Editor Bella Bann, Staff Photographer Abigail Bromberger, Social Media Photo Editor Lydia Sellers, Associate Photographer Simran Prakash, General Manager Chrissy Beck, Creative Manager Julie Moore
Joey Baker is the last person remaining from his 2018 recruiting class. | PAGE 12
Pressure cooker? Does Coach K’s final season create newfound pressure for this team? | PAGE 14
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COACH K AND FAMILY
46 years of family, on and off the court By Sasha Richie
Mickie recalled how, after moving into their first house in Durham, she had picked a wallpaper for the bathrooms, but when installers came to put it up, they questioned her choice. At first, Mickie was surprised, thinking the men were criticizing her interior decorating taste, but then they explained and it turned out that the wallpaper she’d chosen was Carolina blue. In that moment, for the first time, she understood the gravitas of joining a program like Duke with such rich traditions and realized the long road they had ahead of them. “To all of that, we were a little naive. I was not familiar with North Carolina, I hadn’t ever really been here,” Mickie said in that earlier interview. “We moved in and were just really kind of bright eyed about everything.”
Blue Zone Editor
When Duke men’s basketball head coach Mike Krzyzewski announced his forthcoming retirement in a press conference in early June, he said, “My family and I view today as a celebration.” It was a celebration of an illustrious career, one that has seen five NCAA championships, three Olympic gold medals as head coach of the United States men’s basketball national team and 1,170 collegiate wins, the most of any head coach in college basketball history. However, the day of Krzyzewski’s retirement was also a celebration of a four-decade long tapestry woven with the threads of the entire Krzyzewski family. Duke men’s basketball and the Krzyzewski name have become synonymous, and as Duke faithful everywhere reflect on 41 years of Coach K, it also becomes time for the Krzyzewskis to reflect on the program that they have been so intimately tied to. “For us, there is no greater joy than being part of our players’ respective endeavors through basketball, and more importantly, their lives off the court,” Krzyzewski said at his retirement press conference. “Our family is eternally grateful to everyone who contributed to our career for the past 46 years. So, to the countless members of our extended family, thank you very much.”
‘Part of everything’
Chronicle File Photo
Coach K is entering his 42nd season as Duke’s head coach, and during that time the Krzyzewski family has been as much a part of the program as Coach K himself.
“Mickie” Krzyzewski. The two met when Krzyzewski was still a cadet at West Point, and, though they humorously recall that Mickie was Krzyzewski’s third choice for their first date to a Chicago Bears game, they have been a team for 52 years now, having wedded in 1969. Three daughters and nine grandchildren later, it’s still the two of them ‘Our career’ at the head of the table both in the family and in While the announcement of Krzyzewski’s Duke men’s basketball. imminent retirement sent shockwaves through “It’s always been, for the two of us, our career,” the basketball world, it was really the final step of Krzyzewski said, referencing him and Mickie, at a career that has prioritized family since the very the Blue Devils’ media day in September. “When beginning, even when their family was a small [then-athletic director] Tom Butters, God bless one of just two, Krzyzewski and his wife Carol him, hired me, he mentioned to Mickie, ‘I just
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want you to know, I’m not hiring your husband, I’m hiring your family,’ and that was a really bigtime thing to say to a 33, 34-year-old couple getting ready to take a real big jump into the ACC.” Krzyzewski joined Duke as head coach in 1980 with his wife and three young daughters in tow, a quintet he, according to his grandson Michael Savarino, lovingly refers to as “the starting five.” However, though the Krzyzewskis had each other by their sides, braving a new environment was not all smooth sailing for the young family. Despite Krzyzewski having been head coach at West Point for five years, the Blue Devils were a whole new mountain to climb. In an interview with The Chronicle from 2015,
Beyond the history, simply adjusting to the intensity of the ACC while raising a family was a journey for them, but looking back, Krzyzewski says that, because of his family’s unwavering support, that journey has, “been pretty easy, really.” While Krzyzewski credits his family’s support, Mickie credits Krzyzewski and his proactive effort to bring the family into the program from the start and carrying on throughout his entire tenure at Duke. “He let us be part of everything. When the girls were little and they were on a team trip, they were allowed to ride on the team bus. We still, to this day, go into the coach’s locker room,” Mickie said in the 2015 interview. “Our daughters and our grandkids, we see him as soon as possible after a game and no matter what, win or lose, he’s got a hug and a kiss See K & COMPANY on Page 16
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NAME, IMAGE AND LIKENESS
FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 5, 2021 | 7
Legal (chicken) tender
Blue Devils pursue Bojangles, Cameo and other NIL deals By Glen Morgenstern Associate Sports Editor
The end of the Coach K era comes next April, but a new era of Duke men’s basketball has already begun. The NIL era started when the Supreme Court ruled unanimously against the NCAA in an antitrust case June 21. The court ruled that the NCAA could not restrict education-related benefits to student-athletes. In fear of another lawsuit with harsher consequences and the growing appeal of competitors like the NBA’s G League, the NCAA passed a temporary rule allowing players to profit off of their name, image, and likeness (NIL) June 30. The move triggered an avalanche of corporate partnerships with college athletes. Duke men’s basketball houses some of the most monetizable assets in the country, and players have been quick to jump aboard the prosperitybound NIL train. “NIL didn’t happen when I committed,” said freshman forward AJ Griffin, who committed to Duke back in 2019. “I know the effect it has on players now is huge.”
Rebecca Schneid | Sports Photography Editor
Wendell Moore Jr. signed a deal with Bojangles this summer.
Look under your chairs...
It seems like every Blue Devil wants a piece of the NIL pie. Griffin signed with CAA Basketball, the sports agency that represents Zion Williamson. So did superstar Blue Devil freshman forward Paolo Banchero. Banchero was ranked the No. 4 prospect in the nation last year by ESPN and No. 2 by 247 Sports. For Banchero, a player many believe will be drafted first overall in the 2022 NBA Draft, NIL profits seem like easy pickings. In September, Banchero became the first college basketball player to appear in the NBA 2K series. “[2K Sports] had reached out to my dad,” Banchero said. “My dad asked me if I wanted to do it, and I was like, ‘Of course.’ No hesitation.” The video game series is known worldwide and sells about four million copies each year. Despite Banchero’s ingame presence, Griffin asserts that he is the best NBA 2K player on the team. “It’s me. Sorry, I’ve got to,” Griffin said. “I lost a few, but I also won like 10 in a row. Second-best is between Jaylen [Blakes] or Paolo [Banchero].” Banchero then signed a multi-year trading card deal with Panini America later in September. He became the first college basketball player to sign such a deal with Panini. It’s not just the headliners like Banchero who are jumping in on the NIL action. Junior forward Wendell Moore Jr. and senior guard Joey Baker, both captains and North Carolina natives, signed deals with beloved fried chicken chain restaurant Bojangles. “I grew up eating Bojangles all my life, so I was happy to take that when they approached me,” Baker said. It seems like a prudent decision on their part in the era of the fried chicken sandwich. However, the financial details of the endorsements are murky. When Baker was asked whether he receives free chicken sandwiches from Bojangles, he laughed and replied, “Nah.”
It does seem that they received a tender other than the chicken variety, though. “Obviously it came with some compensation,” Moore said of his deal. “It also came with some company gift cards and stuff like that. So I guess I got free money to go to Bojangles.”
Moore announced in July that he had made a profile on Cameo, a website that allows celebrities to send personalized video messages to their fans—for a price. Four other Blue Devils also signed up for Cameo. A personalized message from either freshman guard Trevor Keels, sophomore guard Jeremy Roach or graduate transfer Theo John costs $40. You’ll have to cough up $45 for a video from Moore and $50 for one from sophomore center Mark Williams, though. “I love interacting with people,” Keels said. “Cameo was an opportunity I took full advantage of. I love doing them, interacting with fans is great. I wish I had that when I was younger.” Those five players organized a special Duke men’s basketball Cameo event Oct. 28. A two-minute video call with one of the players costs a hefty $25. This means that each player made a whopping $282 in just half an hour, while Cameo took the rest. That’s nearly 80 times the minimum wage in North Carolina. Not bad.
A deal with the Devils
But do Cameo appearances and NIL deals mean it is worth forgoing the G League? The answer doesn’t seem clear for the top-tier talent that Duke attracts. Players like Banchero probably earn tens of thousands of dollars with their NIL deals—maybe even See CHICKEN TENDER on Page 15
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‘Be conﬁdent’: The making of Mark By Jonathan Levitan Assistant Blue Zone Editor
Mark Williams soared for the rebound, controlled the ball into the paint and rose up for the two-handed slam. After hanging from the rim for a split second, the breakout star came down to Earth, turning toward the Blue Devil bench and unleashing a cry of emotion. In that vindicating, fulfilling moment, it felt as if Williams was only just getting started. But less than 24 hours later, Duke’s season would come to an untimely end. Facing off against Louisville in the second round of the ACC tournament in March, the Blue Devils found themselves in a desperate bid to keep their NCAA tournament hopes alive, needing an improbable conference title to do so. Enter Williams. The four-star freshman’s lateseason rampage—a five-game stretch capped off with a 13-point performance in the tournament’s first round—helped the Blue Devils get to that point against Louisville in the first place. That all paled in comparison to his performance against the Cardinals, as William stunned with careerhighs of 23 points and 19 rebounds. The generally reserved Williams’ authoritative second-half dunk—the final basket of his freshman season—felt like the definitive moment of a campaign filled with patience and growth. Williams may have been at the top of the mountain that spring night in Greensboro, N.C., but it took him the better part of the 2020-21 season to get there. “When we first saw [Mark] to recruit him, we felt that he was going to be at some time a player of—a high-level player, and then the maturation process of a big guy can take a while,” head coach
Mike Krzyzewski said that night after the win. “His has sped up in an amazing fashion in the last month.” “I’m proud of him. He’s been working his butt off all year long,” said G-League signee and 2020-21 leading scorer Matthew Hurt after that same game. “There were some stretches that he wasn’t playing well, wasn’t playing, but he just kept working, working with Coach [Nate] James. I’m so proud of him, our teammates are so proud of him.” Williams’ maturation pushed Duke onto the next round, but when news of a positive COVID-19 test within the program arrived the following morning, he never got his big-game opportunity. Instead, Williams’ breakout showing proved to be an ironic end to his freshman season, not a fresh start. “You realize the game can be taken away in a second,” Williams said at the team’s preseason media day Sept. 28. “That was a prime example of that. So just playing every game like it’s your last, going out there and being as aggressive as you can, just try to be the best you can be.” It has been a long offseason since Williams’ emphatic arrival with that dunk against the Cardinals. Today, one year older, stronger and wiser, the second-year man from Virginia Beach, Va., looks set to be a leader for the Blue Devils and to truly play every game like it’s his last. After an eventful year in Durham, he feels that he knows as well as anybody what’s at stake. “Honestly, I think just knowing what we went through last year, there’s nothing that didn’t happen last year,” Williams said in response to a question about stepping into a leadership role. “We lost, COVID hit and stopped our season, so it’s honestly just being vocal, just letting them know that you know the stakes, like you know what
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Aaron Zhao | Staff Photographer
Big man Mark Williams went through a midseason transformation last year and is now ready to show it off in full effect. we’re going into.” Williams does know, better than most, what sorts of trials and tribulations await him and his team this season. To better understand how and why, we have to turn the clock back even further to the very start of Williams’ freshman season.
A look back
Williams came to Duke as an upper echelon recruit but ended up taking a backseat early on in Krzyzewski’s rotation. As Hurt emerged as the team’s offensive focal point at small-ball center, Williams stayed rooted to the bench. With the exception of a 15-minute showing in a blowout win against Bellarmine in December, the freshman center did not see double-digit minutes until late January. When he did finally see the court, Williams
settled in fairly quickly for Duke. With help from associate head coach Nate James, who was renowned for his rapport with Duke’s big men over the years, the center became a near-instant mainstay in the rotation. Williams played a key role in the team’s late-season four-game win streak and kicking off his own torrid stretch with an 18-point, 11-rebound performance against Syracuse for his first career double-double. All of a sudden, it seemed as if he had figured it out. “I think it was just more of a confidence thing,” Williams said about his sudden success. Williams’ newfound confidence made him an exciting player to watch down the season’s home stretch, but it also made him an intriguing See TRANSFORMATION on Page 15
FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 5, 2021 | 9
How ‘The Brotherhood’ brought Theo John to Duke By Micah Hurewitz Assistant Blue Zone Editor
One of the newest members of Duke men’s basketball has some history woven into his jersey. He thinks he has what it takes to exceed expectations. The date is Feb. 28, 1998. It’s senior night at Cameron Indoor Stadium and Duke has just completed a roaring comeback against North Carolina. After the horn sounds, Steve Wojciechowski, number 12 in white, dashes straight for head coach Mike Krzyzewski for a memorable and now iconic embrace between player coach. Twenty-three years later, Duke hauled in graduate transfer Theo John, one of Wojciechowski’s players from his time coaching at Marquette. The full circle of studying and playing for that once ecstatic senior, Wojciechowski,
and then-sophomore Chris Carrawell at Marquette, to now playing for Krzyzewski and Carrawell at Duke is certainly one that defines the lifelong ties formed within the Duke men’s basketball program under Krzyzewski. And since John wears the same number as Wojciechowski, maybe another white number 12 jersey will be giving the head coach a bear hug following both of their final Duke-North Carolina games at Cameron this March.
Following a 15-year stint as an assistant at Duke that included two national championships, four Final Fours and nine conference championships, the 37-year old Steve Wojciechowski finally got his shot at head coaching in 2014. Hired by Marquette University, which had made the NCAA tournament eight of the previous nine years, Wojciechowski inherited a Golden Eagles team that struggled to maintain the same level of competition it had years before. In 2016, three-star recruit Theo John signed on to join Marquette as a 6-foot-8, 200-pound power forward after a dominant career at Champlin Park High School outside of Minneapolis. Theo John wasn’t even born until six months after that iconic senior night moment for Wojciechowski when the topranked Blue Devils sank the Tar Heels in front of a raucous Cameron crowd, but his path to Duke was just beginning when he became a Golden Eagle. Fittingly, also on the coaching staff with Wojciechowski from 2014-18 was Carrawell, Winnie Lu | Features Photography Editor who was a sophomore playing for the Duke Theo John likened his playing style to former men’s basketball team that February night NBA players Ben Wallace and Kevin Garnett. in 1998. Carrawell reunited with his former
teammate on the bench during a reboot phase for Marquette. “Wojo, when we started, we was trying to rebuild Marquette. And so the guys we were recruiting, it was not... like a select few. At Marquette it was recruiting databases,” Carrawell said of the wide range of players Marquette was recruiting, including John. Carrawell specialized in working with bigs at Marquette following a playing career that had him bouncing from one city to another around Europe, Australia, Venezuela and the NBA’s Developmental League nearly every season. They didn’t know it yet, but between Wojciechowski, Carrawell and John, a strong “brotherhood” connection had been formed with Krzyzewski as the anchor of it all. “His freshman year was my last year there. We kind of built a really good relationship,” Carrawell said of Theo John from their overlapping season at Marquette. Carrawell would go on to be the very first person John heard from when he entered the transfer portal.
The build up
During his freshman year, John played in nearly every game and averaged a modest 3.9 points and 2.3 rebounds per contest while acting as a defensive stalwart with 26 blocks on the year. He was never a big scorer since he only reached double-digit points 22 times over his 124 games at Marquette, but his defensive numbers shot up as his career progressed. “I love guys like Ben Wallace, Kevin Garnett, guys who dog…hard-nosed dogs. Like I’m gonna do what I got to do…. I’m trying to run games,” John said of his playstyle, which is
Courtesy of Reagan Lunn/Duke Athletics
Chris Carrawell was an assistant coach during John’s freshman season at Marquette. now buttressed by his large frame. By the conclusion of his senior season at Marquette, John had accumulated 191 blocked shots, good for second in program history. But alongside scoring whiz Markus Howard and Sam Hauser, Marquette reached the NCAA tournament just once with John on the roster, only to get eviscerated by Ja Morant-led Murray State in a first round upset loss. Four years at Marquette wasn’t all bad for John, who averaged eight points and five rebounds last season, as his future in a Blue Devil uniform was still coming into shape. During a trip to play North Carolina in Chapel Hill last winter, Wojciechowski took his team to Durham for a practice at his old home, Cameron Indoor Stadium. In his practice jersey, John and the Marquette head coach spoke with Krzyzewski at the edge of the court. It was merely a prognostication of what See ROAD TO DURHAM on Page 17
10 | FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 5, 2021
SEARCHIN From high school and AAU to Duke, Jeremy Roach and Trevor Keels have formed an unbreakable bond By Jake C. Piazza Sports Editor
Jeremy Roach and Trevor Keels already led their school to one championship. Now they’ll try to do it again. When Keels announced his decision to become a Blue Devil back in the spring, it became the second time he chose to play basketball at the same school as Roach, who is one grade above him. The two have played together since their middle school days and made up the backcourt of the St. Paul VI’s boy’s basketball team in Chantilly, Va., as well as both playing for Team Takeover in AAU basketball. They won a state championship at Paul VI in 2019-20, and each had their pick of a number of quality college basketball programs. Roach and Keels both landed on being Blue Devils, with the former using the latter’s love for Duke to bring him to Durham despite a rocky season last year. “I’m just trying to keep giving him confidence about like, ‘Yo, we’re gonna be great. We’re gonna be special next year, we’re gonna do the same thing we did at [Paul VI], do the same thing we did on Takeover,” Roach said during the team’s Sept. 28 media day of how active he was in recruiting Keels. All those years and hours at the gym later, and the two have a bond unlike most other backcourts in the country. “I’ve been learning from Jeremy since I’ve been at [Paul VI], since I’ve been a freshman, so still learning from him is unbelievable,” Keels said during the same media day. “Our bond is crazy.” It’s not hard for others in the program to see that the two guards move in symphony. “There is a chemistry there and both those guys are really well-coached. I give Coach Glenn Farello a lot of credit and Keith Stevens, their AAU coach,” associate head coach Jon Scheyer said Sept. 28. “They’ve been coached hard and they’ve been through tough times together, they’re really battle-tested. They’re not afraid, they both play off one another very well.”
Blue Devil fans learned of Keels’ commitment in an April 2 Youtube video. The camera panned left to a shirtless Keels sitting on a table. The tattoo needle buzzed while Morgan Freeman’s voice filled the air, and the artist finished writing the phrase that Keels remembers when he plays: “Keel Mode.” It’s a play on words, since “Keel” and “kill” sound similar, and it’s something that his dad coined when Keels was a sophomore in high school. Now it has a permanent spot stretching across his shoulder blades.
“Jeremy is so much more athletic,” Krzyzewski said at the team media day. A reason for the transformation could be the time Roach spends with Krzyzewski “Our connection learning more about the schematics is crazy and we of basketball and feed off one watching film. Or scrimmaging with another.” his teammates and Jeremy Roach reminding himself Duke men’s basketball’s that he can play sophomore guard basketball at a high level. For Roach, the way he sees the game has been a catalyst for the confidence boost. “The transition from my freshman to sophomore year is pretty drastic, I mean, at least for me, everything comes at you so fast as a freshman and then as a sophomore, everything starts slowing down, you start seeing things more. And you just get more comfortable,” Roach said. “That’s really the big thing, and your confidence rises.” The Blue Devils have loads of talent, but without a poised floor general the season could go down as a what-could-have-been. The comfort and newfound confidence of Roach is crucial, and his new attitude may be the difference between Winnie Lu | Features Photography Editor sending Krzyzewski away with a storybook Jeremy Roach and Trevor Keels won a Virginia state championship together in 2019-20. ending and not. His teammates believe he’s the right guy for the role. “Be yourself, but be in attack mode at the same Roach can say he’s played with Keels the “He’s a real elite guard, he controls the pace time,” Keels said of what his tattoo means. longest, but he’s not the only Blue Devil who of the game, and he’s in the gym every morning Attack mode for Keels looks like a blend has a history with him. working on his jumper, everything, so I think of downtown shooting, versatile defense and “I’ve been playing against Trevor since he’s a perfect lead guard for us,” senior a pull-up that he can wield from wherever he eighth grade,” fellow freshman Paolo captain Joey chooses. And all of that comes packaged in a Banchero said during Duke’s media day. Baker said. 6-foot-4, 221-pound frame, giving Duke a “We’ve battled many times growing up so I All year, physically mature guard built for ACC play. know what kind of player he is and he was at Roach will have “I’ve noticed that he’s really good,” the time so I wanted Trevor real bad because his old buddy Krzyzewski said at the ACC preseason media one—he’s a dog. And two—he’s real skilled, alongside him in the day. “He’ll make me a better coach, especially if he knows how to play.” backcourt, a reminder of all the two have already he can hit his three, so right now he’s having a little problem hitting his three.” Ready to Rock & Roach accomplished together and The battle test that is the conference slate Roach committed to Duke May 8, 2019 all that’s still in store is still months away. Keels’ first obstacle with a theatrical video of his own, though for the future. upon his arrival to Duke was equally as his freshman season—and no one else’s for “Me and Trevor relatable to the Duke students who spend that matter—went as expected due to the are great friends off their time playing and cheering in Cameron COVID-19 pandemic. the court…. Our He endured the typical ups and downs connection is crazy Indoor Stadium—he missed starting his days with a hug from his mom. But Keels of a first season of college basketball, and and we feed off one another,” Roach said. “If has wanted to wear Duke blue for a long all of that was compounded with the other one’s hot we go to him, if I’m hot then he’ll come time, and he adjusted to being away from stresses that COVID-19 protocols brought to me so we definitely know each other real well.” his family while learning to juggle basketball along. Now Roach won’t have to be confined Krzyzewski won’t have any chemistry and school. The balance between his sport to the walls of his Washington Duke Inn issues to worry about between his backcourt and class has been difficult, but Keels says hotel room, and he’s free to display all he’s duo, but deciding which one brings the ball he’s enjoying the process. worked on this offseason. So what can be up the floor may be tougher. “Being with this team is just unbelievable,” expected from the point guard? Roach isn’t worried though. Keels said. “It’s always been my dream to “My role is pretty much the same—lead the “If he gets the ball on a break I’mma let come to this school and now I’m living my team, get guys involved, just be me, play confident, him bring it up…,” Roach said. “It doesn’t dream. It’s amazing.” play free,” Roach said. really matter, we’re gonna do the same Keels has only played in a Duke jersey in He’s worked on a wide range of skills, from thing that we did through [Paul VI] and the public eye in Countdown to Craziness technical basketball maneuvers to the mental side just watch the success come. I love playing and in the Winston-Salem State exhibition of his game, and that’s led to his coaches noticing with Trevor.” game, but his buddy has the Blue Devil faithful a different player from last year. With both of their NBA draft stocks rising “Jeremy is just so much more confident. For entering this season, it’s unlikely that this twocovered with the scouting report. “One of the main reasons I love playing with me, in basketball confidence is everything,” Smith part series is going to be made into a trilogy. Trevor is he just does whatever it takes to win,” said during the Sept. 28 media day. “And you’ve But for now, it’s Roach and Keels together seen him take a big jump in his confidence.” Roach said in an Aug. 11 press conference. in the backcourt, one more time.
FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 5, 2021 | 11
G FOR SIX Paolo Banchero headlines a talented recruiting class. Can he be the guy to lead the Blue Devils to their sixth ring? By Max Rego Sports Managing Editor
Six-foot-10, 250 pounds. A locomotive in transition and a skillset that NBA general managers crave. An understated, yet confident demeanor. A desire to take the torch of his city’s basketball lore and run with it. This is what defines Paolo Banchero. As the No. 4 recruit and a candidate for the top pick in next year’s draft, Banchero will be the second-most followed storyline in Blue Devil land this season—I think you can guess the first. But without the breathtaking highlight reels or stunning reclassification a la Zion Williamson or Marvin Bagley Jr., it almost seems like Banchero is flying under the radar entering the season, as ridiculous as that sounds. So let’s pull back the curtain on the preseason second-team AllAmerican, starting with an atypical recruitment.
Back in August of last year, when Duke got the golden ticket in the form of Banchero’s commitment, recruiting analysts were, quite frankly, shocked that the Seattle native turned down his home-state school of Washington, where the Banchero name holds some considerable weight. His dad, Mario Banchero, was a tight end for the Husky football team, while his mom, Rhonda Smith-Banchero, scored 2,948 points and snagged 803 rebounds en route to becoming the first Washington player to enter the WNBA. With that type of legacy at a place so close to home, no one would have blamed the 6-foot-10 forward for keeping his talents in Seattle. But once Duke, Kentucky and Tennessee came calling, the decision ended up coming down to the wire. “I’m not gonna lie, for a minute, it was like a four-way tie, like I couldn’t decide where I wanted to go for a long time,” Banchero told Duke men’s basketball alum Andre Dawkins of the Field of 68 podcast network. As the summer before Banchero’s junior year became crunch time for his schools of interest, the continued push from head coach Mike Krzyzewski, associate head coach Jon Scheyer and the rest of the Duke recruiting team eventually paid off. “Towards the end of July, they really started to separate themselves from all the other schools, and I kinda had my mind made up,” Banchero told Rivals.com on the timeline that led up to his late summer decision. “And my parents, they were happy with my decision, and they told me just to wait, just two weeks to think about it some more and whatnot. I waited, thought about it, and my mind didn’t change, so I committed.” While the latter stages of the process were even more complicated thanks to the pandemic forcing visits to become virtual, Banchero was ready to announce before his senior season even got started, committing to the Blue Devils on Aug. 20. Now he’s here, ready to try his hand at leading Duke back to the Final Four and giving Krzyzewski
a shot at one last title. Despite that daunting task, Banchero is well-equipped to handle everything that comes with this unique and expectationladen journey.
When Jason Kerr, a 29-year veteran of the Seattle high school basketball coaching scene, first met Banchero, the latter had not even started middle school yet. But even then, when it came to the basketball court, the young gun showed that he was special. “I was working out one of my former players rehabbing from the knee injury, and Paolo was in the fifth grade, and so his dad just kind of hit me up and said, ‘Hey, can you jump in the workouts?’ And I said, ‘Sure.’ So he came through a series of workouts and, even all the way back to then, didn’t behave, or play to what his age was, he was able to pick up on techniques and instructions and things at a pretty high level,” Kerr told The Chronicle. Kerr, now the head basketball coach at O’Dea High School since 2015, coached Banchero there for the last four years, with the two securing the 3A state championship in 2019. Throughout that time, Banchero, whose fairly laid-back nature masks his competitive drive, showed his coach how much the game truly meant to him. “Winning takes priority over everything,” Kerr said of Banchero’s internal motivation. “It’s what makes him a team first guy, it’s what makes him a really good leader. It’s what makes him the first one at the gym and the last one to leave. He’s driven to be successful, and whatever it is, even if it’s, ‘I’m trying to be a good friend to my boy over here.’ He’s gonna be the best version of that because it’s just kind of what motivates him.” Some of the traits that define his basketball makeup, particularly the ability to get back up off the mat, he learned from his time as O’Dea’s backup quarterback his freshman year. On 36 attempts, Banchero threw for 191 yards and three touchdowns and was part of an Irish club that captured the state title. Despite the limited stats, that year on the high school gridiron still went a long way for the freshman. “I learned a lot of things. Football was my favorite sport growing up, for a long time, and I would just say toughness, really,” Banchero said during the team’s September media day on what he learned from his first love. “Basketball, no one can actually come out here and hit you.” After a growth spurt, though, it became all hoops, and the accolades soon started to roll in. The Washington native put up 20.4 points, 10.7 rebounds and 4.0 assists per contest across his sophomore and junior campaigns, landing him on the radar of every top program in the country and earning him recognition as the Gatorade National Junior of the Year in 2020.
Aaron Zhao | Staff Photographer
Paolo Banchero is a potential No. 1 overall pick in the 2022 NBA Draft.
neighborhood with an enrollment of just 507 students and an insulated environment compared to the grueling nature and bright lights of bigtime college basketball, has produced just three pro basketball players. But the five-star is not only ready for the adjustment, he’s actually looking to thrust O’Dea, and Seattle, further into the spotlight, despite being tucked in the northwest corner of the country. “Seattle’s a [basketball] hotbed,” Banchero said. “Me, Nolan Hickman, Jaden McDaniels, Kevin Porter… we’re like the newer generation. But as you know, there’s Jamal Crawford, Nate Robinson, so many other pros that have already played. So we just trying to carry on that legacy, and best believe there’s a lot of players behind us too.” In heartbreaking fashion, Seattle lost its NBA franchise when the Supersonics left for Oklahoma City in the summer of 2008, but hoops is still a high priority in the Emerald City. Recent standouts include Porter of the Houston Rockets, Denver Nuggets’ ascending star Michael Porter Jr. and former Gonzaga sharpshooter and current Washington Wizard Corey Kispert, not to mention retired NBA veterans such as Crawford—the three-time Sixth Man of the Year—dunk-contest legend Robinson, Brandon Roy and Aaron Brooks. Despite this admirable list, if you ask a casual fan which cities produce the most NBA talent, they might bring up New York, Chicago or Philadelphia. Those are all suitable choices, but Seattle also deserves some love. “For those of us up here, some of us would maybe say out loud that, ‘Hey, we deserve more credit,’ but I think those that are a little more tightly associated to it already know what we’re doing, and we’re just gonna keep doing it,” Kerr said. Those aforementioned Seattle natives, active and retired, have all accomplished a great deal in the sport, but Banchero, well, he has a chance to one day outshine them all. Deemed a “mismatch nightmare” by Sam Vecenie of The Athletic, and someone with “an ability to push in the open court”—a trait that very few 6-foot10, 250-pound players have—by Mike Schmitz ‘Carry on that legacy’ of ESPN, the ceiling for the 18-year-old is Committing to Duke meant committing to apparently limitless. moving all the way across the country. O’Dea, “I’m versatile. There’s nothing I can’t do, is a Catholic all-boys school in Seattle’s First Hill what I would say,” Banchero said when asked
about his skillset. Banchero was aided in the journey toward that repertoire and the sterling accolades by his parents, with mother Rhonda in particular providing some tough love. A former coach herself, in addition to her past on the court, the matriarch of the family kept things in perspective for the budding superstar. “She’s always been the one to just be there to humble me,” Banchero said. “Like I said, never too high, never too low. If I ever had a good game, she would always give me stuff that I have to work on even though I had a good game. Just growing up, she still critiques me on a lot of stuff, so she’s always gonna be there.” Now that Banchero is here, though, don’t expect him to stray too far from his roots. The camaraderie that has been bred in the Seattle basketball community is real, as former local stars often take the up-and-comers under their wing and show them the path. “Down the road, he’s going to be that older guy I already know that is gonna reach backwards and grab that next young talent and kind of get them up there,” Kerr said. When asked about who he models his game after, Banchero typically mentions his appreciation of Lebron James, but he acknowledges that his skillset is not a facsimile of the future Hall-of-Famer. Carmelo Anthony, Ben Simmons and Anthony Davis are all players that the former five-star has picked traits from, showing that while he may put up similar statistics to a lot of previous potential top draft picks, he arrives at them in unique fashion. That gives Krzyzewski, in one of his final strategic balancing acts, a plethora of options on how to deploy his greatest weapon. “His versatility is tremendous, and we’ve had a lot of success in the past three decades or more of using a very versatile big in different parts of the court, and he can do that,” Krzyzewski said. “He’s smart, and he’s easy to play with.” All the hours spent watching tape and all the ways that he is utilized on both ends notwithstanding, when push comes to shove, it’s his ability to still have that kid-like passion that keeps basketball as enjoyable as when he started. “I’ve been going to the gym every day since See BANCHERO on Page 17
12 | FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 5, 2021
Captain Joey: From Fayetteville to fourth year By Evan Kolin Associate Sports Editor
Just taking it day by day. If you ask Joey Baker what his mindset is going into this season, that’s what he’ll probably tell you. That’s what he told virtually everyone at Duke’s preseason media day, and that’s what he told virtually everyone at the ACC preseason media day. It may sound like a repetitive non-answer, but for Baker’s senior season it’s a mindset he needs to have. A senior season coming off of two consecutive heartbreaking endings. A senior season coming off of a year of empty Cameron Indoor Stadium bleachers and the worst record Duke has had in over two decades. And, of course, a senior season coinciding with head coach Mike Krzyzewski’s final ride. “For it to be my senior year and Coach’s last year, too—I mean, that’s incredible,” Baker said. “And I think this season, it’s just perfect. The way last season ended—it wasn’t the season that we wanted to have—so having one more shot at it with Coach and with fans back and everything, we’re just gonna approach every day, work as hard as we can and try and be prepared.”
A rollercoaster ride
Baker’s had an interesting Duke journey to say the least.
First, there’s the well-documented reclassification. After initially committing to the Blue Devils in Oct. 2017 as one of the top high school juniors in the country, Baker announced the following May that he would be joining Zion Williamson, R.J. Barrett and company in Durham that fall. Baker was giving up a lot to come to Duke a year early—becoming a McDonald’s All-American, a potential run at a third state title at Trinity Christian School, etc.—and had many people scratching their heads at the decision, especially as the 2018-19 season went on and it appeared he wouldn’t have a major role on the team. But Baker and Duke’s coaching staff both saw the reclassification as an opportunity for him to develop as a player, as well as give the former a chance to “be a part of something special.” For the vast majority of the season, Baker practiced with the team but remained a healthy scratch come gametime, presumably redshirting. Then, “Shoe-Gate” took Williamson out of the Blue Devils’ lineup down the stretch, which sent Krzyzewski on the lookout for an offensive spark. So, he sent Baker on the floor in a late February contest against Syracuse, burning the freshman’s redshirt with just five games remaining in the regular season. The move didn’t pay off—Baker played just five minutes that day against the Orange, scoring no points, and notched just a single 3-point field goal in 13 total minutes for the rest of the season. That wasn’t the only bump in the road
Aaron Zhao | Staff Photographer
Senior Joey Baker was named a captain alongside Wendell Moore Jr. this offseaosn. throughout Baker’s first three years in Durham, though. The Fayetteville, N.C., native saw relatively consistent playing time as a sophomore, averaging five points during the regular season while shooting 41% from the field and 39% from three in 12.1 minutes a night. And with the real season—meaning ACC and NCAA tournament time—on the horizon, his childhood dreams were unfolding right in front of him. “It’s something you dream about as a kid,” Baker said. “Playing in the driveway, playing for Duke and being in big games,
big moments.” But then, everything came crashing down when the COVID-19 pandemic cancelled the remainder of the 2019-20 campaign. Throughout last season, as Baker struggled individually and the Blue Devils endured their worst season since the turn of the century, it seemed like things couldn’t get much worse. Then came March 11, when COVID-19 once again ended Duke’s season just as it was starting to reach its potential. “I think the hardest moments were definitely the way that my sophomore and See YEAR FOUR on Page 18
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Should Coach K’s last season create added pressure? Of course, it’s Coach K’s retirement campaign Entering the college basketball stage is a tough task for any player. But add on the final season of your legendary coach’s career, and now you are playing with fire. It is becoming increasingly clear that this season becoming the capstone of head Alex Jackson coach Mike Krzyzewski’s career has placed an added pressure on his team to win. And given the severity of this season and everything that’s at stake, I believe the team should be facing more pressure to succeed. Krzyzewski has nearly reached the end of his stellar 46-year career, but he is taking one last trip around the sun in the spotlight before he officially calls it quits. The news of possibly the greatest coach of all time retiring did not go unnoticed by the nation, but with a full year ahead for the Blue Devils, expectations are riding high, and with good reason. After a disappointing season last year, Duke fell somewhat out of mind for those debating the powerhouses of college basketball. But with Krzyzewski’s sudden news, all focus turned to the Blue Devils. How would Krzyzewski be sent off? A Cinderella story ending with the elusive sixth ring finding its way onto his hand? A stunning loss in the NCAA tournament like the 2018-19 season? Or a second straight year of not even dancing come March?
This truly has become the season of big questions and this Duke squad is finding itself at the heart of them all. The undeniable truth is that all eyes are on the Blue Devils this season. No matter how highly they rank or how low they fall, they will constantly be the subject of talk shows and radio programs. That stuff is great if you’re doing well, but can be detrimental if you stumble at all. Paolo Banchero, Trevor Keels, AJ Griffin and Jaylen Blakes are all extremely talented basketball players, there’s no denying that, but they’re also all just 18-year-old freshmen who are trying to grow up. Even the older guys on the team are subject to the pressure. None of them have played in front of fans for at least two years and as much as Duke fans would like to picture them as superheroes, they’re still just college athletes. Facing the media can be one of the hardest adjustments when entering the collegiate basketball scene. The flashing lights, difficult questions and publication of every word you say can make focusing on the game a challenge. I don’t underestimate the rookies’—or the veterans’—abilities to field questions from the media, but when every other reporter asks about your coach retiring and what that means for this season, it can become overwhelming. All the pressure Duke is already facing just See POINT on Page 17
No, his legacy is already cemented All eyes are on Duke this season, but that shouldn’t mean there’s more pressure. Winning a national championship is the goal every season, but as we turn the page on the Coach K era, this season is about more than what the Blue Devils Sasha Richie accomplish. There’s over 40 years of history to reminisce, so let’s take some of the weight off Duke’s shoulders and enjoy the ride. Ever since head coach Mike Krzyzewski announced in June that this season would be his last, the Blue Devils have been the center of the college basketball world’s attention. Everyone wants to watch arguably the greatest college basketball coach ever take his last lap, and with more eyes comes more pressure to perform. It makes sense. Every season at a premier program like Duke carries some degree of pressure to bring home a championship, but this season in particular, the Blue Devils welcome one of their most talented and athletic lineups in recent memory. Between the prowess of freshmen like Paolo Banchero, Trevor Keels and AJ Griffin, and the dominant emergence of returners like Mark Williams and Wendell Moore Jr., the college basketball world has turned its head toward Durham, thinking, “These guys
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Should Coach K’s retirement announcement put added pressure on this year’s team? have a chance to win it all. Especially as the team looks to rebound from last year’s disappointing finish—Duke missed the tournament for the first time in 26 years— the time seems ripe for the Blue Devils to raise their first banner since 2015. Now, throw in the fact that it’s Krzyzewski’s final season, and the pressure is on. Everyone wants Krzyzewski to get a fairytale ending, riding off into the sunset See COUNTERPOINT on Page 18
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TRANSFORMATION FROM PAGE 8 NBA draft candidate as the clock ran out on Duke’s season. For a time, it certainly seemed as if his season-ending dunk against Louisville could have been the last made bucket of his Blue Devil career. But “Big Mark,” as he is affectionately known by his teammates, decided to return to Durham for his sophomore season and continue his rise. “Obviously just be yourself, be confident,” Williams said. “I think confidence is probably one of the biggest things because basketball is going to take care of itself.”
A look forward
In his second year, the suddenlyexperienced Williams has the unique opportunity to lead a talented and diverse frontcourt trio with immense potential. Sixfoot-10 Marquette transfer Theo John and superstar freshman Paolo Banchero account for the other two-thirds of that equation, combining to present the Blue Devils with seemingly limitless opportunities down low this season. “We feel like we should have the best frontline in the country,” said head coachin-waiting John Scheyer. “Those two guys are incredibly unique, to have two guys at their size that can be ball-friendly, that can share the ball. And their defensive versatility… takes our team to a different level because of the defensive versatility in addition to the offense.” Banchero, recently named the Preseason ACC Player of the Year, is a special talent. With both their size and shooting touch, the starting combination of him at power forward and Williams at center gives the Blue Devils a ridiculously large and athletic duo on the blocks. “Paolo’s a great player. He’s a legit 6-10, can move really well, and I think we complement
each other really well,” said Williams. “He does a lot of things on the floor, and then me being able to play alongside him makes my life a lot easier. Hopefully, it’ll make his a lot easier, too.” The possibilities are endless, but the expectations, for the duo and each player individually, are high. While Williams’ preseason outlook in 2020-21 was murky at best, the coaching staff is already asking for more out of their star center this season. Associate head coach Chris Carrawell, for one, expects Williams to be among the nation’s premier shot-blockers and rim-runners. “It’s gonna be different this year, because at the end of [last season], nobody really game-planned for him. Right?...” said Carrawell. “But now they’re gonna be more prepared and ready for him, so he has to bring that edge and that intensity everyday.” A side-effect of Williams’ success—a welcome one, to be sure—is that he no longer has the luxury of flying under the radar. After he was named to the Preseason All-ACC Second Team, the secret is officially out: Williams will not only be a star for the Blue Devils, but a key component to their success this season. Williams hasn’t backed down as the spotlight brightens. Carrawell’s bold shotblocking projection? Williams calls it “totally attainable.” His team’s defensive potential? He believes it’s as high as any other team in the country. In his eyes, Williams has seen it all. He knows what he and his team have at stake, and confidently believes in his own ability. Even though he knows that his next game probably will not be his last, he’s prepared to play like it, both now and when the time comes. In many ways, that time is already here. Delayed far too long, it’s high time for Williams to start anew.
CHICKEN TENDER FROM PAGE 7 hundreds of thousands. Combined with free tuition, room and board (about $80,000 in value per year), playing at Duke leads to a hefty chunk of rewards. The G League is certainly not as endorsementfriendly as Duke men’s basketball. Top 2020 recruit Jalen Green only signed his seven-figure deal with Adidas after completing a season in the league and was projected as a top-three pick. However, scholarship awards and NIL deals don’t seem to keep pace with G League salaries. Green made $500,000 in his lone season in the G League. It didn’t affect his draft status, as the Rockets took him with the second overall pick. Green will earn more than $9 million in his rookie year. Plus, the market value of an endorsement deal with a Duke player is suppressed because the Blue Devils cannot display any Duke logos in advertisements unless approved by the University, per Duke’s NIL policy. In Moore’s and Baker’s advertisements for Bojangles, neither wore or displayed Duke logos anywhere. But for solid players without the star quality of Banchero, like Moore and Baker, picking Duke may have actually been the better option. G League salaries for players who aren’t the crown jewels of their recruiting classes are almost laughable— the base salary is $37,000 this season. The NIL deals combined with the Duke lifestyle and focus on player development may lead to better outcomes for the many players who aren’t college superstars.
The nitty-gritty of NIL
We still don’t know much about the future of NIL. In many ways, this year is an experiment of sorts to see what effect the NIL policy has on the players, Duke and college sports in general. The NCAA’s decision to suspend the NIL restrictions was just a temporary one, and the pendulum
FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 5, 2021 | 15
may swing back the other way if things go south this year. One area of NIL policy that is producing controversy is group licensing. This is where athletes pool their NIL rights and license them collectively as a group. For instance, a company may want to have Moore, Roach and Banchero all endorse their product and would simply negotiate with all the players as a sort of union. Duke’s Tobacco Road rival North Carolina instituted a group licensing policy back in July. The university partnered with The Brandr Group, a licensing agency, to create licenses using North Carolina logos and player images. Duke has not released a group licensing policy yet. This is perhaps because group licensing is a dangerous tool. The Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics, a nonprofit group that emphasizes the education of college athletes, wrote in an FAQ post, “The concern is that group licenses will become a new tool for recruiting college athletes and will morph into a form of pay for play.” Former Duke athletic director Kevin White expressed concern with the prospect of the NCAA allowing players to profit off NIL back in June 2020. Among his many worries with the policy, he feared that Olympic sports and female athletes would receive unfair treatment. White retired in September, leaving current athletic director Nina King under the microscope. Only time will tell whether the NIL policy spells disaster for the Duke men’s basketball program and head coach Mike Krzyzewski’s legacy. King and incoming head coach Jon Scheyer, who have publicly supported the policy, will have to face the consequences together. Maybe money will tear the locker room apart like some commentators have suggested. But perhaps North Carolina players will sign a deal with Popeyes, giving each school a fried chicken identity and injecting some Cajun spice into the old rivalry. We’ll have to cross our fingers, lick our chops and hope for the latter.
16 | FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 5, 2021
Call for Nominations Nominations are now open for the Samuel DuBois Cook Society 2 Awards. 2022 The presentations will be made at the awards ceremony on Tuesday, February 22 2, 2022 2.
Dr. Samuel DuBois Cook November 21, 1928—May 29, 2017
The DuBois Cook Society was founded in 1997 to honor the first African American faculty member hired and tenured at Duke University, and to recognize his contributions as a member of the Duke University Board of Trustees. To nominate a Duke faculty member, employee or student, please visit oie.duke.edu/samueldubois-cook-society. All nominations must be received by November 8, 2021.
K & COMPANY
a leader,” Michael recalled. Then Krzyzewski told him he was putting him on scholarship, and “I just break down crying. I probably cried for about 10 minutes,” Michael said. for each of the grandkids.” Still, despite the bond they’ve formed over three She believes that openness was key to not only years with the Blue Devils together, Michael joked, surviving what could have been a difficult situation, “I’m definitely not his grandson when we walk into the gym, or when we’re on Duke’s campus at all.” but thriving in it. “He allowed our family to be a part of his “When we walk in the gym, he’s ‘Coach.’ When career...I credit him for being smart enough, secure we walk out...he’s completely different. And that enough and loving enough to let us in,” Mickie said. just shows how he can turn it on and off. And not However, while an intentional effort, involving many people can do that,” he said. his family in his career as a coach was also a labor of love, as Krzyzewski got to share his passion with ‘No Duke hanging in the house’ his daughters. It’s that line that Krzyzewski has been able to “Debbie [Savarino] was young, really young, draw between family and basketball that has made and when they used to have Super Eight projectors, the family so strong. Even as the Krzyzewski family I’d be home watching, and she would watch film has grown in and with Duke men’s basketball, with me, and at the end I’d do all those figures on family has always come first. the wall,” he said at the Blue Devils’ media day. “The things that we would hang in our house Years later, Krzyzewski is still proud that all his or on our fridge was stuff that the girls had daughters know the game of basketball, and his accomplished. So there was no Duke hanging in oldest, Debbie Savarino, even serves as an assistant the house. We tried to make sure that they knew athletic director at Duke today. But it all stemmed that they came first to us and that they were more from that early decision to, as Mickie called it, important to us,” Mickie said of drawing that line “open the door” between his career and his family, from the moment they joined the Blue Devils and and that decision has paved the way for a lifelong had to decorate their new home in Durham. To this relationship between the Krzyzewski family and day, Michael says there is “never, ever” basketball at the program. the family dinner table. Still, even as he built a home filled with “lace ‘I just break down crying’ and pink” for his daughters instead of Duke Given how profoundly family has influenced blue, Krzyzewski’s family has guided his career Krzyzewski’s career, it’s fitting that he is sharing his at every step. final season with his grandson Michael. In an interview for Time Magazine in 2001, “I was blessed to be able to grow up around the Krzyzewski said, “Over the years, the girls have program, and I’m blessed to be in it,” Michael said, exposed me to an environment where they share reflecting on his time with Duke men’s basketball their feelings, and I’ve tried to teach my players to since joining the team as a walk-on in 2019. “I feel do the same thing. I tell them it’s not guys doing girl like I know [Krzyzewski] so much better, as a coach things; it’s being a real person—to hug, to cry, to and as a grandfather, just from being around him laugh, to share. If you create a culture where that’s every single day. Like, I literally see him everyday. So allowed, all of a sudden, you have some depth,” having little interactions like that is something I’m speaking on the influence his daughters and family incredibly, incredibly grateful for, and I wouldn’t have had on his coaching. have it if I didn’t come here.” That family legacy continues. Aptly named “The It wasn’t always a given that Michael Brotherhood,” Duke men’s basketball is head-to-toe would join his grandfather at Duke despite a family affair. Aside from the Krzyzewski family’s demonstrating basketball prowess from a involvement at every level of the organization, young age, but when it came time to decide, Krzyzewski has made sure that family is a priority for the decision was obvious. not only himself, but for his players and staff. “I visited a ton of schools. But everything In his interview with Time Magazine, I was looking for was right in my backyard, Krzyzewski said he looks for how recruits like everything I wanted in a school,” treat their parents as a way to discern Michael said. character, and he makes sure that players Now, he’s glad he made that decision, as know they are not just joining a team but the experience of sharing three years with his joining a family. grandfather, including Krzyzewski’s final season, In his book “Leading with the Heart,” has been “bittersweet,” and he points to the day Krzyzewski writes, “As a basketball coach, I before Krzyzewski announced his retirement as have no problem telling a team, ‘I love you being “one of the best days of [his] life,” as it was guys,’” a lesson he says he learned from his a turning point in their relationship. own family growing up. Michael says that on that day, Krzyzewski called Now, with just one more season of him into his office and told him two things: that he Krzyzewski-led basketball, all of the Duke was going to announce his retirement the next day community can reflect on those lessons too, and that he was putting Michael on scholarship. lessons borne out of Krzyzewski’s intense “He just told me how important I was to the and intentional love for his family. team and the role, the specific role I’ve been playing Even as the Blue Devils say goodbye to and how good of a job I’ve been doing and how arguably the greatest college basketball coach he wanted me to elevate that role even more, and ever, they will always carry the legacy of the how I need to be a little more vocal, I need to be Krzyzewskis, every single one of them. FROM PAGE 4
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Michael Savarino, Coach K’s grandson, learned that he would be going on scholarship the same day that Coach K told him about his retirement.
ROAD TO DURHAM FROM PAGE 9 was to come. “You didn’t really have to sell [Krzyzewski] on Theo, and everything that we thought he would be in terms of leadership—the physical inside presence, he’s done that and more. The guys love him,” Carrawell said, now that John has prepared for the season. John said that despite a positive relationship with Wojciechowski and Carrawell tying him to Duke, he was originally set on a professional career after getting his degree in communication studies from Marquette. “Well my original decision was to play professionally. I was set in stone on that and I was riding with that pretty much up until talking with my family,” John said. “They just wanted me to explore all my options and not close any doors that hadn’t opened yet.”
‘Hard to say no’
Duke had a rather dramatic beginning to the offseason which swung those doors wide open. Forwards Matthew Hurt and Jalen Johnson left to pursue NBA careers while Henry Coleman and Jaemyn Brakefield parted from Duke to continue their college careers elsewhere, leaving a massive hole in Duke’s frontcourt depth behind freshman Paolo Banchero and sophomore Mark Williams. After an excruciating 13-11 season, Duke was in reboot mode, and alongside talented freshmen, John was the answer. Carrawell reached out following the conclusion of the season and the student remained committed to his teacher for a final year of college basketball. “Of course [Carrawell] hit me up and it was really set in stone, the relationship we had. He made the transition so much easier,” John said.
“When he originally first hit me up he was just reaching out to see how I was doing, where my head was at, and as soon as I entered the portal he hit me up again, like ‘alright, let’s talk for real now,’” John added. “Just the relationship and how pure it was and how it was already set way back when…and when Coach K called, it’s hard to say no.” Duke has seldom picked up impactful transfers—you have to look back to Rodney Hood (Mississippi State) from the 2013-14 team to find an incoming transfer serving a significant role for Krzyzewski. Patrick Tapé, who transferred from Columbia prior to last season, was disappointing despite his minor role. But entering this season, the 23-year-old John sees room for himself to “dog” inside and help the Blue Devils on both ends. He also earned a spot in the rotation in part due to his monster strength. He shattered the record for bench press during summer conditioning with 26 reps at 185 pounds, and his physical abilities come through on the floor. Notably, a knee injury kept him out of practice for much of his senior year, but he says he is fully recovered and is back to full strength. The graduate student carries a massive weight into this season. His experience has led him into a crucial role for Krzyzewski and Carrawell, as a mentor to younger bigs Williams and Paolo Banchero and as one of the three players on this roster to have NCAA tournament experience. John also told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in April that he wanted to honor Wojciechowski’s impact by wearing his number while at Duke. So this time around, almost 24 years after Wojciechowski’s concluding moment at Cameron, it will be Theo John’s story to tell as he wraps up another prolific career wearing Duke’s number 12.
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just any other year. And that’s exactly how you’d want it as one of the players, but unfortunately, it is impossible to block out by being on this stage is instantly multiplied the pressure. How the team deals with the gravity of when there is an expectation to perform. Of course the Blue Devils all want to win, but this season is up to them, but one thing is now they need to win. And if you think that sure, it will be feeling it all year long. message hasn’t infiltrated the locker room, you’re dead wrong. This season-long retirement party has the world waiting for the Blue Devils to fail. If they don’t win the ACC, that’s a failure. If they don’t FROM PAGE 11 win the ACC tournament, that’s a failure. If they don’t make the NCAA tournament, that’s I was a young kid, so it’s nothing new to me,” a failure. If they don’t win the whole thing, in Banchero said. “I’m just out here at Duke, some eyes, that’s a failure. with a new great team and coaches, but at the I understand that Krzyzewski’s legacy is end of the day, the work that gets put in every already protected. No amount of “failure” day is the stuff I’ve been doing since I was a this season could tarnish the career that he young kid.” is capping off—this season is just an attempt And if the clock starts ticking down toward to put the cherry on top. But at this point, zero, do not be surprised if Banchero has the it’s about more than legacy. It’s about all the ball in his hands, tasked as the one to make the eyes that are falling upon the Blue Devils key play. After all, his mantra for high-stress and the taste that’s left in the mouth of situations, “kNOw pressure,” is tattooed on his Duke fans as they wish their beloved coach right forearm. The double-entendre signifies the a farewell. need to understand the gravity of the situation, I’m not saying that Krzyzewski doesn’t while simultaneously brushing off any negative deserve the attention, nor am I saying that feelings in the heat of the moment. his players will collapse under the pressure. “Nah,” Banchero says with a smirk when I am simply pointing out the obvious extent asked about whether he tends to feel nerves. to which weight needs to be placed on the “I literally have it tattooed on me…. That’s shoulders of each and every Blue Devil. just kind of the mindset I have. It’s never really The increased attention will follow Duke pressure, it’s all fun. It’s basketball, I’m gonna for as long as it is still playing basketball this go out there, I’m gonna be locked in, I’m gonna year. Just check out this Jason Jordan line from play as hard as I can to win, and usually when I do that, odds turn out in my favor.” Sports Illustrated’s ACC season preview: “Try as it might, Duke won’t be able With this crop of players, it is possible that to escape the ‘win it for K’ storyline this Krzyzewski’s career ends with one last title run season, but Krzyzewski will have to live up in New Orleans. If that is the case, then you can to the GOAT moniker if he’s going to end his bet all the money in the world that the O’Dea career with a sixth national title.” alum will be the conductor of the symphony, Thus far, the players have done an the catalyst of the chemical mixture, the excellent job responding to the hounding producer of the motion picture. of Coach-K-last-year questions. There has That, ladies and gentlemen, is what defines been a consistent theme of treating this as Paolo Banchero. FROM PAGE 14
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YEAR FOUR FROM PAGE 12 junior year ended,” Baker said of the most difficult moments he’s had to overcome during his career. “You work your butt off all season, and it’s for a chance to play in March and to see what happens. And having that cut short both times, it’s tough to describe, but it makes me appreciate having another shot at it knowing that this year we’ll have a good chance at playing in March and taking it a game at a time and then taking nothing for granted.”
‘A special year’
This year, however, is a chance to make up for everything that hasn’t necessarily gone to plan thus far. And the first part of that on Baker’s end is understanding his role on the floor. Baker may not be the do-it-all five-star some projected him “It’s something you to be out of high school. dream about as a But on a team with Paolo kid.” Banchero, AJ Griffin, We n d e l l Joey Baker Moore Jr. and Duke men’s basketball’s he senior captain others, doesn’t need to be. Instead, he just needs to be someone Duke can rely on behind the arc, can rely on for a stop on defense and can rely on to do all the little things role players need to do for a team to truly be a championship contender. “I’m looking forward to him having a breakout year, and to be a specialist for us,” Krzyzewski said in an Instagram video this past April. “He’s gotta knock down those shots, and in order to knock them down, you gotta take
them. And I know he’s ramped up to make sure that he has a great year.” Baker seems to be taking the specialist role in full stride, labeling himself an “energetic, gritty, floor-spacer” in another Instagram video later in the summer. But perhaps just as important as his role on the court will be his role off of it. Last month, Duke announced that Baker and Moore would assume the role of Krzyzewski’s final captains at Duke. It’s a position that undoubtedly comes with pressure, but is also one Baker’s been preparing for. “Being a better leader,” Baker said of what he’s been focusing on during the offseason. “I feel like last year, we were lacking that a bit. So making sure that there’s a voice and a presence, I think Wendell and I have done a good job with that, and then having Theo [John] and Bates [Jones] as older guys has helped a ton.” Furthermore, serving as captain for a team that will garner as much attention as this one will, and has the potential to be among the most memorable in college basketball history, is an opportunity for Baker. It’s not only an opportunity to make up for the disappointment of the last two (or three) seasons, but an opportunity for Baker’s Duke career to culminate in the way he imagined it would on his driveway as a kid. That’s surely a lot of things to think about at once, though. So for now, Baker’s just going to take things day by day. “Obviously, I want the game to start and I want to get competing and stuff, but I’m trying to soak in every moment,” Baker said. “It’s my senior year, last year, and then Coach’s last year. So taking it day by day, and really enjoying every moment with this team, these coaches, because it’s a special year. “Especially after last season, not having fans, just the overall COVID environment. I feel like this season is just a combination of a lot of exciting things. We can’t wait to get going but we’re gonna enjoy every second before.”
COUNTERPOINT FROM PAGE 14 with a sixth NCAA championship ring to cap off a 46-year head coaching career. What better way is there to say goodbye to a beloved coach than cutting down the nets? Objectively, the Blue Devils are likely feeling the weight of this season more strongly than in the past, and that’s a result of the soaring expectations and narratives around this season. But maybe fans should take a step back. Yes, this roster is stacked. Yes, they’ll look to make a comeback. Yes, Duke faithful want to send Coach K off in a blaze of NCAA tournament glory. But should this season really be about what’s on the scoreboard? I don’t think so. First of all, it’s not Krzyzewski’s last year. Well, at least according to him it’s not. Krzyzewski has emphasized all throughout the early parts of this season that he isn’t thinking of this as his last year. Instead, he’s focused on living in the moment. And he has good reason to. The concept of a last season implies a sense of urgency and a sense of unfinished-ness: last season, last chance. But that couldn’t be farther from the truth for Krzyzewski. He has five national championship rings, second-most by a men’s college basketball coach, is tied for the most Final Four appearances and owns the most wins in college basketball history. Beyond Duke, he has three Olympic gold medals and two FIBA World Championship gold medals as head coach of the USA men’s national basketball team. If ever there was a legacy truly set in stone, it’s Coach K’s. Duke could finish this year at the very bottom of the NCAA and Krzyzewski would still go down as one of the greatest, if not the greatest to ever coach a game of basketball. That won’t happen, but my point still stands. With so much amazing history to look back on, why be so focused on what’s at the end of the
road? It’s Krzyzewski’s final season with the Blue Devils, yes, but everyone already knows what his teams can accomplish on the court. This last dance with Coach K is a sentimental affair, though, and now more than ever, Blue Devil faithful should cherish the little moments. Krzyzewski’s last game against fellow Basketball Hall of Fame coach John Calipari, his last home opener, his last Tobacco Road Rivalry game. Beyond the moments, cherish the lessons he’s taught the entire Duke and basketball community, his contributions to the city of Durham and the impact he’s had on countless young men in his 46 years coaching basketball. As for the players, the weight of this season shouldn’t be on their shoulders. Krzyzewski’s legacy is not just a list of accomplishments but one of an exemplary teacher and leader. Maybe there are more eyes, but with Krzyzewski at the helm to guide them through, players should feel comfortable and even excited by the attention, not stifled by excess pressure. According to his grandson and junior guard Michael Savarino, “[Krzyzewski’s] focus for this year is second to none. And I haven’t seen him like this since I was in the stands really.” With a locked-in Krzyzewski focused on living each moment, the Blue Devils should have the freedom to enjoy the season and take each opportunity as it comes. Whether those opportunities manifest in a deep tournament run or even a championship remains to be seen, but Duke, cool, calm and collected led by Krzyzewski, should let the doors open if they open, not bang on them till they’re knocked down. So, while all eyes are watching the Blue Devils this year, let’s not watch for the end result any more than usual. Let’s instead watch and savor every moment of the final chapter in Coach K’s saga to say goodbye to a beloved member of the Duke community and appreciate 46 years of greatness.
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