Mike Krzyzewski debuted his 39th Duke team Friday night, at the annual Countdown to Craziness.
Well, he didn’t exactly debut it. Duke played three games in Canada two months ago.
But Tre Jones, Cam Reddish and (mostly) Alex O’Connell sat out those games with assorted injuries.
All three played tonight.
But against their teammates. Not opponents.
So, I’ve managed to confuse myself.
But we did get to see some actual basketball, after a couple of hours of fire, smoke, dancing, three-legged races, yo-yos and noise. Lots of noise.
In other words, it’s not your Dad’s Blue-White game.
White won, by the way, 44-39.
Which tells you nothing.
One 20-minute half. Duke divided the teams into two equal squads. If we assume Javin DeLaurier and Marques Bolden are roughly equal as the fifth starter, then each team had three starters.
The White team had DeLaurier joined by Zion Williamson, Tre Jones, Antonio Vrankovic, Alex O’Connell and Joey Baker, coached by Nate James and Chris Carrawell.
Bolden was joined on the Blue team by R.J. Barrett, Cam Reddish, Jack White, Jordan Goldwire and Justin Robinson. Jon Scheyer and Nolan Smith coached this team.
Mike Krzyzewski sat on the sidelines and smiled.
Why do it this way, instead of the first team against the second team?
“The role players get a chance to play with the key guys,” Krzyzewski says. “We’ll get to see how the first team gets to play against another team Tuesday. It helps the role players get better.”
A lot of what we saw is what we expected to see. There were some sloppy turnovers and the 3-point shooting isn’t dialed in yet.
But the effort was there, the ball was shared willingly and there’s no doubt that the hyped freshmen are hyped for a reason.
Barrett led everyone with 23 points, 9-for-19 from the field. Krzyzewski says Barrett can and will get to the line more than his four attempts tonight.
“He has that herky-jerky move where he can get his shot off and still get fouled. We expect him to get to the line.”
Reddish (13 points), Williamson (14 points, five rebounds), DeLaurier (10 points), and Bolden (six rebounds) all made the kind of contributions Duke will need to beat good teams.
But it’s no coincidence that the team with Jones running the point was the team that ended up winning. Both teams had success in transition and in the open court but Jones’s team was the one best able to run the half-court offense.
He had eight points and four assists.
“He can score but he’s looking for us to score,” Krzyzewski says. “He’s a key for us.”
DeLaurier adds of Jones “Tre Jones is a winner. He’s a really heady player. He almost never makes the wrong play.”
DeLaurier and Bolden went hard against each other.
“We’ve been here for three years,” DeLaurier says of Bolden “and we’ve become really close. It helps us when we can go against each other every day in practice. We feed off each others energy.”
There was one sequence in which DeLaurier rejected Bolden inside, Bolden got it back, missed again, got it a third time and drew a foul.
A small data point, to be sure. But that’s the relentless Bolden Duke needs on a regular basis.
Krzyzewski went out of his way to praise Jack White, who went scoreless but grabbed four rebounds and handed out an assist.
“I thought he played really well. He was on the boards, he played defense. It didn’t distract him that he didn’t get a shot.”
Duke is going to need complementary players and White seems poised to be one of those.
“I couldn’t care less about the scoring,” White says. “I just wanted to help those young guys enjoy the night. Rebounding, defending, being a leader, hitting the open three, being able to play off these guys will help me and help the team.”
Reddish suffered a rib injury earlier in the week but should be fine.
DeLaurier says he felt no ill affects from his foot injury.
Reddish and Goldwire were on the same team but Reddish usually ran the offense. In fact, Goldwire only played 11 minutes, with Robinson seeing 15 for the Blue Team. Robinson had five rebounds.
Look for Reddish to handle the point when Jones sits against top opponents.
Joey Baker joined DeLaurier, Reddish and Barrett with a pair of 3-pointers. But he was the only one of the quartet to not miss a three. Duke was 8-for-26 on 3s.
Zion Williamson can dunk.
But I was impressed by his ability and willingness to do the dirty work, digging out loose balls, setting screens, blocking out.
For the record, Barrett says he drew a charge on Williamson in practice.
And lived to tell about it.