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Jim Sumner on K's Presser

Mike Krzyzewski met the local media today in a wide-ranging question and answer session.

Not surprisingly, much of the press conference focused on the upcoming Olympic games. Some highlights.

The team will be finalized this Monday morning. A press conference will be held in Chicago to announce the team. Krzyzewski claims that having to pick twelve players from a core group of 33 is “the toughest decision that USA basketball has had to make since the introduction of NBA players. The players have made a commitment and given time and effort. People we’ve coached will not be on this team. That’s what makes it so difficult.”

The team will gather in Las Vegas, break up and come back for good on July 20. From then until August 24, there will “be no interruptions. The team will be fully committed, in shape, and ready to represent the United States in basketball.” There are five exhibition games planned, including several in Shanghai. The team should hit Beijing around August 5 and opens play August 10, against the host team.

Krzyzewski was very complimentary of the entire National-Team-Experience. He says that players were advised early on that there were no guarantees as to playing time and that players were told they might have to be 12th man or play a different position or fill a different role. The usual response was “whatever you want.”

Krzyzewski says that this team has a chance to be “incredibly unique” because of the way it was put together. The resources committed by the United States show how much respect we have for the game of basketball and the competition. The team “understands the level of pressure“ that comes from being the favorite. The pressure can inhibit you or excite you and Krzyzewski strongly feels that his team will be excited.

Krzyzewski also discussed the state of college basketball. Noting the large numbers of players on the Olympic Team with no college experience, he expressed his opinion that players should be allowed to go directly to the NBA out of high school. However, should they go to college, they should not be eligible for the NBA draft until two seasons had passed. He feels that the current one-season rule makes it too easy to ignore academics. “While they’re in college make sure they’re taking classes that lead to a degree. We’re not here just to play basketball, we’re educational institutions. It will eventually erode relationships between academics and athletics” if it’s not corrected.

He also was asked about the trend to accept commitments from younger and younger players and stated emphatically that he would never offer a scholarship to an eighth-grader. Furthermore Duke shouldn’t let him even if he wanted to. In his opinion, it that is much too early to evaluate whether a recruit is suitable for Duke.

Krzyzewski argues that the window between announcing for the NBA draft and withdrawing is “not healthy for college basketball” and should be shortened. He thinks the NBA and the NCAA need to talk and refine the process.

The session inevitable turned to the current and future state of Duke basketball. Krzyzewski commented on how chaotic this off-season has been. He thinks the changes will be for the good but admits that it has been tiring. Duke is still looking for the best way to utilize Chris Carrawell and Chris Spatola.

He laughed at speculation that he would retire after the Olympics. He says that when the time comes, he’ll know “when I don’t have the passion to teach and coach and can’t give these kids the time they deserve.”

He also denied that Johnny Dawkins or anyone else has been anointed as his successor. Krzyzewski would like some input when that time comes but he doesn’t think he or anyone who doesn’t own the company should be able to name their successor. He did suggest that his successor should be someone who has played or coached at Duke because they had “equity” in the program.

When asked about whether the withdrawal from the NBA draft of the UNC-three made next season tougher, Krzyzewski responded “I’ve been in tough. I wasn’t going into next year’s season thinking it was going to be easy.” Players all across the ACC are working to get better and we shouldn’t take anything for granted.

What does his team need? “Health. The last two years, at the end of the year, we had at least three major operations. We think we’re going to be pretty good. Just be healthy and go after it.”

The end of last season? Krzyzewski doesn’t think Nelson was all that sick, but he wanted to do well and pressed. He also recognizes that Singler wore down and places much of the blame for that on Zoubek’s foot problems. “Zoubek would have given us either a starter or 20 minutes a game and that would have helped Kyle not be worn down at the end of the season. We had enough inside go to a certain level but no further.”

Speaking of Nelson, Duke remains in close contact with him. Nelson is healthy and has had good workouts. Krzyzewski thinks he can be a good pro if he lands in the right situation. Krzyzewski was very complimentary of Nelson’s role on last season’s team.

Krzyzewski was asked how he would respond to a recruit who told him flat out that he was looking to go NBA after one season. He refused to categorically rule out recruiting such players. “We would discuss that. What would make you think that? Take all the courses and understand that it may not work out that way. Unpack your bags, be a student and an athlete and we’ll go from there.”

Krzyzewski briefly discussed his incoming freshmen. He says that Czyz is “still learning the game. He‘s a tremendous athlete who reminds me a lot of Danny Meagher.”

Plumlee is “6’11”, 230. He can run, he can be a really good player.” Williams is “versatile, mature, and can defend. He will be a very good player.” The quality of Williams’ high school should make his transition to Duke easier.

Next season. “We have enough depth and talent to be really good. Next year will be our most talented team of the last four years.” But right now, Krzyzewski is concentrating on other games.