This has been a long and interesting day, beginning with the press conference
and ending with Midnight Madness. All in all a wonderful day in a lot of ways.
We realized something pretty key about Mike Krzyzewski this evening. More so
than any lawyer, or minister, or professional speaker we can think of, Coach K
has the ability to frame the terms of an argument and proceed from there.Â
This works for players, reporters, and most anyone else we can think of. A young
team? It's going to be fun to mold them. Past success as pressure? You want that
pressure.Â Jason Williams untested? We have to let him grow and make
mistakes because he's in Hurley's and Amaker's class.
Half the time, this skill wins the argument simply by presenting the
framework.Â Jeff Capel has a devastating slump and almost wants to quit his
senior year?Â If the worst thing that ever happens to him is he has loving
teammates and family and friends during a slump, his life is going to be great.
It really is a remarkable talent, and one we feel certain he has cultivated
carefully over the years. As a young coach, he often gave in to emotion, like
when Dean Smith banged on the scorers table or when he used to tell reporters
they were asking stupid questions. Now he parries them skillfully, turns the
question into a joke, turns the joke to his point, returns it to the reporter.
It's a fascinating talent and one, which while not wasted on a basketball
coach,Â might find more profound uses in other professions.
We saw the scrimmage today, all eight minutes of it, and while they were
ragged, as first practices almost always are, we saw some things which greatly
- one bit of pressure applied by Williams and James which suggested a
certain chemistry between the two. It was just a glimpse but you could see
they were on the same page.
- Tremendous quickness by Williams. He is at times incredibly quick. He got
a bit cocky at the end, but it's safe to say Duke's never had a guard quite
like him. The last guard who was built that way, in our memory, was Card-Playin'
Joe Cook. Jason is a powerful guy.Â He's also got a certain charisma,
like some great Dukies of the past - Brand, Hurley, Dawkins, among others.
Maybe Vacendak or Verga, when we get in the way-back machine.Â Yet he's
pretty different from those guys too.
- Sanders was a force from the beginning on defense. Yes, he is skinny. Yes,
he is not basketball savvy. Big whoop. Matt Christensen is not skinny and
quite savvy, and we bet he'd trade every bit of it for that skinny body and
those coltish legs.Â Casey can run, and he never really turned on the
jets today, either. He blocked or altered a lot of shots. Used properly, he
can be effective this season.
- Dunleavy is a seriously smart player. We had a running debate with a
friend who hadn't seen him, but heard about him by reputation, and
questioned his ability to compete at this level. Forget it.Â As skinny
as he is, we saw him working tip-ins. We also saw him put the ball where it
needed to be, and we also saw some other serious smarts in action.Â Our
friend, after seeing him, quickly concurred: he's going to be a player. You
could coach for a hundred years and not teach a guy to be that smart. It's a
gift, and not one you can give to someone else.
- Nick "Freddy Kreuger" Horvath, for our money, has already won
the Tedd Mann award for the reserve who contributes most to team morale. In
the press conference, we heard him rattle off his injuries - a broken nose,
(Dunleavy),Â a fractured eye socket (Casey), his front teeth through
his lip (Shane, yesterday). Yet there he was at the beginning, clear face
mask strapped on to protect his various broken bones and his ventilated lip.
And not just that, but the kid plays with heart and passion and guts. We
didn't see the stats
until just now, but he rebounded as well as anyone and played a tough,
physical game.Â Let us say this and be very clear about it: we admire
this kid's guts immensely.Â Not one broken bone, but two. Not two
injuries, but three.Â And yet he threw his face right out there near
elbows, mixed it up, and rebounded well (we think the stats
undercounted).Â You Crazies should support him to the hilt. He's a
wonderful addition. He's gutty like some of the great Duke kids of the past
- Dennard,Â Meaghar, Laettner,Â Brian Davis, David Henderson. The
Freddie Kreuger tag fits well also in that respect - the guy is nuts. Who
plays with three facial injuries? You must be kidding.
- Johnny Dawkins has earned his salary this pre-season. From all accounts,
the training was brutal.Â He has really worked these guys, and they are
showing the results.Â
- The coaching staff has simultaneously matured and been reinvigorated. That
would sound like a slap at Quin Snyder, but not at all. Dawkins and
Henderson have really grown into their jobs, and Wojo brings his relentless
to the game.Â It's a potent group.
We like this group. Last season we said that they didn't seem to communicate
well at first. This group seems much closer, though without the monster talent
level.Â Â But with a superb young point taking the reins, two very
solid freshmen now in Horvath and Dunleavy, and Boozer healing, and Sanders able
to contribute at least defensively, we like the potential.Â These guys can
coalesce into a very tight team by March. That doesn't mean they'll win 30
games, but they'll show up and they'll stick together, and between guys with
serious character like Battier, C-well, James, Horvath, Dunleavy and Williams,
it's impossible not to like this group. We do, immensely, more so than last
year's in fact. They'll struggle some, but so what.Â Their hearts, if not
always their noses, are in the right places.
In another note, which we can only see as a positive, Jared Jeffries spent a
lot of his time filming, and filmed the Crazies as much as the game.Â He
and Boone were both recognized several times and brought to their feet.Â We
only saw their body language, but we liked what we saw.Kurt O' Neill believes a
commitment or two might happen, though he hedges it carefully.
Two other quick notes - despite the off season issues and the talent drain,
the crowd was large and passionate.Â We also liked the new terrace in front
of Cameron - it allows for great socializing. A beautiful addition, and not
immediately obvious until game day.Â UNC should be a major kick.