Coach K talks recruiting, one-and-dones

Duke NC State Basketball

Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski reacts during the second half of the team's NCAA college basketball game against North Carolina State in Raleigh, N.C., Saturday, Jan. 6, 2018. North Carolina State won 96-85. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)


Sports Writer

Monday, January 22, 2018

On Saturday night, while Duke basketball was wrapping up a blowout victory over Pittsburgh, a high-flying 17-year-old was on national TV, announcing his decision on where he’d play college basketball next season.

Zion Williamson, all 6-foot-6 and 280 pounds of him, chose Duke University, joining fellow high schoolers R.J. Barrett and Cam Reddish. The addition for the Blue Devils means they now have the No. 1, 2, and 3 prospects in ESPN’s Top 100 for next year’s freshman class.

Williamson’s decision came as a surprise to many; the Salisbury, S.C. native was believed to be leaning towards Clemson as early as this month. His six finalist schools were Kentucky, Kansas, North Carolina, Duke, Clemson and South Carolina.

He joins an overtly talented new crop of talent headed to Durham this fall, all of which will be replenishing a starting lineup with one senior and a few presumed one-and-done players.

On Monday, about 36 hours after Williamson picked the Blue Devils, coach Mike Krzyzewski opened up about the recruiting process and what’s changed and what’s stayed the same in the age of one-and-dones.

“You’re always adjusting. Four decades of recruiting, there are a lot of things that have to change, that you have to adjust to along the way,” he said. “The biggest thing in the last decade is the one-and-done.”

Many notable one-and-done players have come and gone over the last handful of years, including Kyrie Irving, Jayson Tatum, Jabari Parker and Brandon Ingram. Freshman Marvin Bagley III, who is averaging nearly 22 points per game to go with 11.5 rebounds this year for No. 4 Duke, will likely join that list this summer.

As Krzyzewski said on Monday, though the time a player is on campus has been greatly diminished, the type of person he and his staff look for has not changed in his more than 37 years at Duke.

“We’re still looking for kids who can really play, who are good academically and who are really good kids. That profile for the guys in our program hasn’t changed since the early ‘80s,” he said.

“But how long you have them and what you try to do — especially if they’ve committed to you — to establish even a stronger relationship before they get here and then work at it while they’re here, because you’re condensing a four-year relationship into about a 10-month relationship with the youngster on campus.”

The aura of Duke — the five national titles, the continuity, the NBA players — doesn’t hurt either, Krzyzewski said, in selling a program.

“We’ve been good. We’ve produced really good players,” he said. “Guys have come in here with talent and gotten better. We have a lot of pros and a lot of success. We have quite a bit to talk about with a youngster.”