Duke assistant coach and head-coach-in-waiting Jon Scheyer met virtually with the media Tuesday afternoon the day before Duke opens ACC play by hosting the Virginia Tech Hokies.
Amidst much talk of gender reveal and assisted dunking, Scheyer addressed a number of topics.
Among those was the resurgent pandemic.
Scheyer said the team was trying to accelerate the process of getting boosters and was emphasizing the basics of COVID prevention—masks, hand-washing, “those little things we all want to get back to normal so badly, so you let some of those things slide. This has been a good wake-up call for, forget us, the country, everybody that we still need to be safe and handle things the right way. Our guys want to play games and they’ll do whatever it takes in order for that to happen.
“These kids really want to play.”
Scheyer said his team is in a good place. The coaches especially like Duke’s ball-handling and ability to get to the foul line without sending the other team to the foul line.
“What jumps out to me is the way we’ve taken care of the ball. We’ve been really solid and sound with the ball, which has created more open opportunities and scoring has come easier for us.”
Scheyer also praised Duke’s physicality,
“We’ve been a team both offensively and defensively that can be a load.”
But he acknowledged that Duke needs to control its defensive boards.
“I think it’s a mindset. It’s something we’ve drilled a lot, spent many film sessions talking about it. But the reality is we’ve had other times in some of our games when more-athletic teams were able to go up and get it. Virginia Tech’s a good example. [Justyn] Mutts and [Keve] Aluma can go to the boards. So, when a shot goes up, if you don’t get a body on them, they are going to make you pay for it. Our guys have taken responsibility. They know it’s something we need to improve on.”
Virginia Tech comes in with an 8-4. record. But their losses have been against Wake Forest, Memphis, Xavier and Dayton, not a bad loss among them.
And they’re coming off an impressive 86-49 win over a Saint Bonaventure team that was ranked 23rd in AP’s preseason poll.
“He’s a big-time coach” Scheyer said of Tech’s Mike Young. “They always know who they are. They play to their strengths. They’re a team that really makes you work on the defensive end, screening, cutting. We always talk about discipline on the ball but we also have to have great discipline off the ball as well because they make you pay. They put five guys on the floor who can shoot it and they have a player in Aluma that they can throw the ball to and he can really create offense for them.”
Tech is the kind of team that can just rain down 3s. But it’s not just their offense that concerns Duke. Their defensive performance against St. Bonaventure was an eye-opener.
“It starts with how hard they play,” Scheyer said of Tech’s defense. “They play their butts off. They guard the ball. They don’t necessarily pressure you up to half court. But when you’re in the scoring area, they put pressure on the ball. When you drive, there’s defenders to help and they rat at the ball. They force you into turnovers with how they close on the ball so quickly on drives in congested areas. And they’re experienced. They know the rotations, they know the game plans, they can do a lot of things.”
How does Duke counter?
“It’s not like it’s anything different from what we’ve done and what we want to do as a team. We want to play together, we want to play strong. Playing through contact will be a big thing for our guys.”
So, Mike Krzyzewski’s 42nd ACC season, a Duke team “anxious to play,” and the COVID pandemic still looming over it all.
Hang on tight. Should be an interesting few months.