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Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
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Friday / April 12.
  • Coach K Must Figure Out the One-and-Done Thing

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    TyusIt’s hard to argue that Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski doesn’t have a recruiting advantage as the head coach of the U.S. National Team.

    He does.

    And it’s also hard to suggest that Coach K isn’t one of the greatest basketball coaches of all time.

    He is.

    The man has now won four NCAA championships, two Olympic gold medals and two World Championships. He has guided Team USA to four straight international titles — the 2008 Olympics, the 2010 World Championship, the 2012 Olympics and the 2014 FIBA World Cup.

    Now after returning from Spain — amid a massive takedown by Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports — Coach K will face his next challenge.

    He has to figure out the whole one-and-done thing.

    Duke has had three one-and-dones since the 2010-11 season and during that time the Blue Devils are 2-3 in the NCAA Tournament with those players.

    In that same span, Kentucky is 15-2 in the Big Dance.

    In 2011, after Kyrie Irving (the point guard on Coach K’s 2014 World Championship team) returned to the Blue Devils from a toe injury in time for the NCAA Tournament, Duke was blown out by Arizona in the Sweet 16.

    In 2012, with one-and-done guard Austin Rivers, Duke lost to Lehigh in the first round.

    And in 2014, with Jabari Parker leading the way, the Devils were stunned by Mercer in the first round.

    Mercer.

    Here’s what John Calipari and Kentucky did in that same window with one-and-dones:

    In 2011, with freshmen Brandon Knight, Doron Lamb and Terrence Jones, the Wildcats reached the Final Four.

    In 2012, with Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist leading the way, Kentucky won the NCAA championship.

    And this past season, with a slew of freshmen including Julius Randle, Andrew and Aaron Harrison, Dakari Johnson and James Young, the Wildcats advanced to the national championship game.

    This year’s college basketball season figures to have Kentucky and Duke 1-2 in many preseason polls.

    And while Calipari must balance playing nine McDonald’s All-Americans and another crop of one-, two- and three-and-dones, Coach K must prove he can win with stud freshmen leading the way.

    Duke’s roster for 2014-15 doesn’t have just one potential one-and-done player, it has three.

    Center Jahlil Okafor is projected as the No. 1 pick in the 2015 NBA Draft by DraftExpress.com.

    Small forward Justise Winslow is projected at No. 8.

    And point guard Tyus Jones is predicted to be the No. 14 pick.

    Yes, all these players met and bonded through USA Basketball, and yes it probably didn’t hurt Duke’s chances with them that Coach K was the National Team coach.

    But keep in mind that other college coaches are associated with USA Basketball and benefit from that association, too.

    Florida’s Billy Donovan was the head coach of the 2013 U19 World Championship team that featured Okafor, Winslow and Jones.

    And though he didn’t end up with any of those players, Florida did make Winslow’s final list even after the school was barely recruiting him during his junior year.

    Donovan opted to keep Winslow, then 17, on the roster, played him and then spent invaluable time with him on the team.

    This is not to say that Donovan did anything wrong, only that other USA Basketball coaches can benefit from their positions, too.

    “It is an advantage for Coach K — but it would be an advantage for whoever is in that position,” one prominent AAU coach told SNY.tv.

    Meantime, other prominent players have used their time with USA Basketball to discuss packaging — and all those packages don’t necessarily involve Duke.

    Diamond Stone, Malik Newman and Ivan Rabb all won gold with the USA U17 team this summer at the World Championship in Dubai — and Rabb told me two other powerhouses were being discussed as a landing spot for all three.

    “The two biggest ones are Kentucky and Kansas,” the 6-foot-10 Rabb told me at the Peach Jam in July. “Those two are on all our lists so that’s kind of why. We just talk about those.”

    Stone and Newman may package somewhere (UConn perhaps?), but Duke isn’t even recruiting Newman so it seems unlikely they will both land there.

    Down the road, Coach K might end up with some combination of 2016 stars Harry Giles, Jayson Tatum, Seventh Woods and Dennis SmithUSA Basketball stars who have talked of playing together in college — but that is still a long ways off.

    For now, as Coach K returns to Duke from Spain, the immediate question is this: Can he translate all his success on the international stage into success with three potential one-and-dones this coming season?

    The ideal situation, Coach K told me last November, is to have a blend of one-and-done talent and experienced upperclassmen, which is exactly the recipe Calipari and Kentucky used to win the title in 2012.

    He appears to have that with Okafor, Jones and Winslow complemented by players like Quinn Cook, Rasheed Sulaimon and Amile Jefferson.

    “Oh, there’s no question about that,” Coach K said. “Our freshmen this year and our freshmen next year are great kids who have never crossed bridges in college before. They’ve never done it. So if they’re with good players who have crossed those bridges, then the process of becoming a team quickens, and the process of developing a deeper team of character, not just talent, is deeper as a result of the character and the talent that those older guys bring.

    “And then when you have good kids with as much or more talent and you blend them, then that’s dangerous for other people.”

    If the Blue Devils become dangerous and make it to a Final Four next spring, expect a lot of ink and Internet space devoted to retelling the story of how Okafor, Jones and Winslow met — and cultivated their friendship — through USA Basketball.

    But if Duke fails to make a deep run despite all this talent, well then, expect more stories about how Coach K still can’t quite figure out this one-and-done thing.

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    Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle. A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013. He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.

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