Coach K talks recruiting philosophy, one-and-dones in wake of Zion Williamson commitment | Zagsblog
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Saturday / December 9.
  • Coach K talks recruiting philosophy, one-and-dones in wake of Zion Williamson commitment

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    One intrepid reporter tried to get Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski talking about the newest addition to the Duke brotherhood during the ACC conference call on Monday.

    When the reporter asked Coach K to comment on the addition of Internet sensation and dunking phenom Zion Williamson, Coach K politely said, “I’m not going to make mention of that right now until…You’re not allowed to do that until you get…He’s not signed.”

    Hey, it was a nice try but coaches can’t comment on prospects until they sign their National Letters of Intent. For the 6-foot-6, 270-pound Williamson, that will come later this spring.

    Still, his commitment on ESPN2 on Saturday night was still sending shockwaves through the college basketball and recruiting worlds on Monday morning.

    In R.J. Barrett, Williamson and Cam Reddish, Duke now has the Nos. 1, 2 and 3 prospects in the Class of 2018, per All three figure to be in the mix for the top draft picks in the 2019 NBA Draft. And that doesn’t even include Tre Jones, the No. 12 prospect per

    With Duke seemingly having passed Kentucky for supremacy in the recruiting world (at least for now), I asked Coach K if his philosophy on recruiting has changed in the one-and-done era.

    Since 2011, Duke has had five top-3 picks and all have been one-and-dones — Kyrie Irving (2011), Jabari Parker (2014), Jahlil OKafor (2015), Brandon Ingram (2016) and Jayson Tatum (2017). That doesn’t include other one-and-dones during that span like Justice Winslow and Tyus Jones, who played with Okafor on the 2015 NCAA championship team.

    Duke could have several more one-and-dones this year with Marvin Bagley III, Trevon Duval and Wendell Carter Jr. The 6-foot-11 Bagley is in the mix for the No. 1 pick this year.

    “As far as recruiting, I think you’re always adjusting,” Coach K said. “In four decades of recruiting, there are a lot of things that change and you have to adapt to along the way. Obviously the biggest thing in the last decade is the one-and-done but also the number of transfers and especially the graduate transfer.

    “So guys are recruiting now not just high school players, they’re recruiting college players. Or trying to find out if kids are available and that will go to an even much higher level if they bring about the thing with immediate transfer, which will create another amazing level of change for our sport.”

    Duke is always going to be in the mix for the top players, but in the last several years they’ve really brought in a slew of guys who were projected as one-and-done, which means Coach K and his staff are only with the players for about 10 months and also have to recruit more often than they did in previous eras.

    “We’re looking for kids who can really play and are good academically and are going to be good kids,” he said. “That profile for the guys in our program hasn’t changed since the early ’80s. But how long you have them and what you try to do during the year, 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 once you get the youngster on campus.”

    When it comes to attracting the top kids, Coach K knows he’s selling a “great product.”

    “I’m not saying we’re the only ones who have a great product,” he said. “But one of the great schools in the world, Duke University and we have a global student body. It’s a great student body. And then we’ve been good. We’ve produced really good players. Guys who’ve come in here with talent have gotten better and we’ve had a lot of pros and we’ve had a lot of success. So we have quite a bit to talk about with a youngster and pretty much a proven track record. I’m not saying we’re the only ones who do that, but we’re one of them so we should be able to recruit good players.”

    Another school recruiting good players, but perhaps not good enough for its rabid fan base is Kentucky. Confronted with his perceived recruiting shortcomings Monday, Kentucky’s John Calipari answered back.

    “I don’t sell, like, ‘When you come here, the university and the state will take care of you the rest of your life,’ ” Calipari said, per Kyle Tucker. “You may buy that, and I’ve got some great property in some swampland down in Florida to sell you, too.”

    As Tucker reported, in April of 2016, when Kentucky freshman Hamidou Diallo was a 5-star recruit, Calipari said, “Duke’s pitch was if you come to Duke, you’re going to be set for life.”

    Who knows how the next few recruiting cycles will go, but in this age of one-and-dones, Coach K and Caliparie are going to use the NBA’s age minimum rule to his advantage.

    “What they do, they just establish their criteria along with the Players’ Union and the Players’ Association, and then they determine whether it’s one-and-done or if there’s going to be any change here in the future,” Coach K said of the NBA. “And that’s all they’re responsible for, which is fine.

    “We need to react to what they’re doing and if they want to change that to where a kid could come out of high school, then their G League, which is getting better, would have to get even better. So it’s a work in progress all the time. We just have to deal with what’s going on right now. But the NBA’s doing what they should do. They’ve established that you have to be 19 and one year out of high school, and we’re the ones who have to adjust.”

    So far, Duke seems to be adjusting pretty well.


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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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