IN THE CROSSHAIRS

In the Crosshairs: Young Blue Devils figuring it out

Ken Cross

December 28, 2017 at 1:17 pm.

Dec 20, 2017; Durham, NC, USA; Evansville Purple Aces guard Blake Simmons (50) drives to the basket as Duke Blue Devils forward Marvin Bagley III (35) defends during the second half at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Photo Credit: Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

Dec 20, 2017; Durham, NC, USA; Evansville Purple Aces guard Blake Simmons (50) drives to the basket as Duke Blue Devils forward Marvin Bagley III (35) defends during the second half at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Photo Credit: Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

When you recruit the elite one-and-done players like Mike Krzyzewski and John Calipari, there are still components that these 18 and 19 year-old players need to be successful. That’s a huge reason why they are tougher, in some cases, to coach as that lack of experience is a major factor. There has to be a learning curve despite the elite talent.

Potential All-America candidates like Marvin Bagley, III, Wendell Carter, Jr., Gary Trent, Jr., and Trevon Duval are learning all the intricacies of the minutia of becoming a solid team. Krzyzewski says there is no recipe of where these players should be vs. where they are. Where the players should be is really the epitome of a hypothetical question.

“I don’t spend time trying to figure that out,” said Krzyzewski after the Blue Devils rolled past Evansville, 104-40, “I am interested in where we are now. Nobody knows where they are supposed to be. I have never tried to figure that out.”

The impressive thing about Krzyzewski is that he never loses sight of dimension and the diversity of each player on all of his teams. He analyzes philosophically based on his experiences and with what he sees in his players. That dynamic alone could be a huge intangible in how he has five National Championships and 12 Final Four appearances at Duke plus six gold medals as the head coach of the USA Basketball men’s national team.

“They’re kids; They’re human beings,” he postured, “Where are we ? Are we good? Are we getting better? I can see we are better than we were against Boston College. It’s all new for them. They have played 13 games.”

The rigors of the ACC season can be a concern even though Duke seems to always be the favorite. Louisville, Notre Dame, North Carolina, and Miami all have seasoned veterans who have experience. Many times that experience wins out over great talent that hasn’t been through those ACC wars.

“They have to experience it and they did it at Boston College,” he noted of the early December loss in Chestnut Hill, “I thought we were a real tired team and played a real fresh team and a really good team. We have a team that has to learn through experience whereas a lot of teams have experienced players.”

Carter proved that idea as he took what was there against an outmanned and undermanned Evansville team that was missing three starters. He came in averaging 12.6 point per game, but finished with 27, including four triples. Carter was finding wide open shots on the perimeter rather than going into the post with Bagley and trying to exploit the physical mismatches.

“He’s a good shooter and we work on those shots everyday,” said Krzyzewski, “Yesterday and today, Coach Capel was working with the big guys on trailer threes and what you do afterward, whether it is DHO, a dribble handoff, or follow with a wing ball screen – just so our guys are comfortable with the ball.”

He was finding lots of openings around the top of the key in transition and in the half-court as was Trent and Grayson Allen. That’s part of the learning curve. Taking a game plan, sizing up the opponent on the floor and then implementing what is in the game plan that plays to the player’s strengths.

“What I liked was when he was hitting, our guys kept wanting him to shoot,” said Krzyzewski of the communication and team building, “You could see there was a lot of joy there. He had a really good performance. The thing I am most impressed with was how we shared it and how we defended it. That was really good.”

Now Duke is working on combining it’s talent as ACC play begins next Saturday at home against another rising team in Florida State.

“Talent is one thing, but experienced talent is the best because you have already been through it,” said Krzyzewski, “We are going to have a long road. We know that, but as long as we are at out best in March and we qualify, thats my goal.”

 

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