Duke held an open basketball practice Saturday at Cameron Indoor Stadium, and the Blue Devils found a fun way to end it.
Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, who was mic’ed up for the practice, said 4:15 would be put on the clock and the challenge was to make 120 baskets before the buzzer. The Blue Devils sped up and down the court in threes, each group allowed one layup and taking two outside jumpers. As the time began to dwindle, Duke fans were into it, cheering and urging the players on.
With 1:30 left, the Blue Devils had made 77 shots. At the one-minute mark, 88 shots. With 15 seconds left, the count was 111 and the noise level building.
Just before the buzzer, senior reserve guard Nick Pagliuca drained a shot from the key for No. 120, the crowd erupting like it was the winning shot in a January ACC game.
While the Blue Devils were shooting away, junior Grayson Allen watched restlessly from a stationary bike. He did not practice Saturday, nor did freshman Harry Giles.
After a hard practice Friday, Allen was said to be held out Saturday to stay fresh. A late arrival to practice, and drawing a big hand when he came out dressed as if to practice, Allen sat on a bench next to Giles until heading to the bike.
Giles will be closely monitored as the 6-foot-10 post player continues to recover from the ACL injury suffered at Oak Hill Academy, with the hope of having him ready for the Nov. 11 opener against Marist.
But there was more than enough talent on the floor to keep the fans’ interest. Krzyzewski was active, often stopping practice on “Coach K Court” with whistles to give instruction — a defensive pointer to freshman Javin DeLaurier, some pump-fake advice to freshman Frank Jackson.
Duke may have the best freshman class in the country and could be a national contender. But the making of any championship team, as Krzyzewski knows so well, begins in part on the practice floor in October.
During a practice scrimmage, the Blue Devils had Jackson, freshman guard Jayson Tatum and freshman center Marques Bolden with senior Matt Jones and Amile Jefferson, now a graduate. They were facing a team of sophomores Luke Kennard and Chase Jeter, DeLaurier and freshman Jack White, and Justin Robinson, a redshirt freshman.
Tatum had one behind-the-back pass bobbled for a turnover but later knocked down a 3-pointer at the end of the shot clock. Kennard hit a couple of baseline shots over Jackson, who later had Allen in his ear during a water break.
There were the usual signs of a Duke practice. Kennard picked up some floor burns diving for a loose ball, drawing a lot of pats on the back. The ball movement was good and the defense sound.
All that was missing by the end of practice was someone to hit a last-second shot. Pagliuca provided that and the fans soon were filing out of Cameron, many headed to the Duke-Virginia football game at Wallace Wade Stadium.
“We practiced hard,” Krzyzewski told the fans. “Thanks for coming and let’s beat Virginia, all right?”