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Coach K On Covid Recovery, Virginia Tech And His Players

Some good news on injuries

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-East Regional Practice
 Mar 28, 2019; Washington, DC, USA; Duke Blue Devils head coach Mike Krzyzewski speaks in a press conference during practice for the east regional of the 2019 NCAA Tournament at Capital One Arena. 
Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports

Duke opens a three-game road portion of its schedule tomorrow with a trip to Blacksburg to face the very dangerous Virginia Tech Hokies of Mike Young. Mike Krzyzewski discussed that game in the weekly ACC Zoom.

But before we get to that, first things first. Krzyzewski said that daughter Debbie and grand-daughter Emmie are doing better in their bout with COVID-19

“My daughter and grand-daughter are feeling better. . . . My daughter especially had a little bit of a tough time but they’re doing better.”

Krzyzewski also provided an update on injured Blue Devils Jalen Johnson and Patrick Tapé.

Johnson did some individual workout Sunday and “felt good this morning. He will go on the trip and he will suit up against Virginia Tech. I’m not sure we’ll play him yet. We have a little bit of time after this game to get him into condition.”

Krzyzewski added that Tapé isn’t practicing yet but that Duke hopes to get him back sometime this month. Tapé’s back injury should not require surgery.

“We really miss [him]. We don’t have any big guys. . . . He keeps showing improvement. . . . He does not have the flexibility yet.”

Now about the Hokies. Tech is 9-2 and ranks fifth in ACC in point differential, outscoring opponents by 10.4 points per game. Some pretty good Duke teams have gone up the mountains to Cassell Coliseum and come back with a loss.

“You have to defend them,” Krzyzewski says. “They’re an outstanding team on both ends of the court. There’s not one guy you have to stop. They can score the ball and they don’t just score it from one position. And they can rebound it from that end. We have to play good defense. We have been playing really good defense but this is more of a challenge because they have more guys who can score the ball. Mike’s [Mike Young] teams have always been outstanding on the offensive end. He’s very creative and he puts his guys in high-percentage situations to take advantage of the talents of his players.”

When Duke has the ball?

“We have to take care of the ball. We’ve been doing a better job of that. It can’t just be Matt Hurt. It has to be everyone. Against Wake Forest we had four guys in double figures and that helps a lot.”

“They’re a really good team,” Krzyzewski summed up. “They play hard and play together. They do that on both ends of the floor.”

Speaking of Hurt, the sophomore post is leading the ACC at 20.3 points per game and leading Duke with 8.1 rebounds per game.

Krzyzewski said Hurt’s development comes from maturity and hard work.

“He wanted to get better and he has. He’s gotten better and we’ve tried to put him in situations where he can show that improvement. He’s kind of followed the natural course of what an outstanding player has to do to become an outstanding player.”

Hurt’s classmate Wendell Moore has struggled but Krzyzewski sees some positive trend lines.

“Wendell’s always understood his role. Wendell is a great young man who wants to do everything he can to help the team. He was not playing well and part of that was he was beating himself up. You’ve got to get on to the next play, the next game. . . . You have to play the game you’re playing. He’s a real team player. . . . I thought the Wake Forest game was a key game for him because he was not hitting his shots but it did not affect the rest of his game. He was our leading rebounder. He had to play at the 4, our second big, because they went small. He helped us a lot during that game. . . Any player who defines himself by whether he hit a shot or not will not be a good player. Player means you make plays not shots. . . . and he made a lot of really good plays for us against Wake Forest.”

Duke is going to need Hurt and Moore, indeed all hands to be on deck to maintain its undefeated ACC status.

Tip-off Tuesday night at 7.