Part of Duke’s basketball royalty, Jay Williams returned to campus this week on the defensive.
A national champion guard who has his No. 22 jersey hanging in Cameron Indoor Stadium’s rafters, Williams found himself on the wrong side of his own fan base over a hot-button subject – Grayson Allen.
In December, Williams, a college basketball analyst for ESPN, called for Blue Devils guard Allen to receive a five-game suspension for tripping an opposing player for the third time in his career.
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Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski suspended Allen indefinitely after the Dec. 21 incident but returned him to the starting lineup after the junior sat out only one game.
Williams responded to the suspension by saying the ACC should have stepped in and upped the penalty to three games.
Allen returned to play on Jan. 4 against Georgia Tech, and two days later, Krzyzewski had back surgery to remove a fragment of a herniated disk.
Williams returned to Duke’s campus on Friday as part of his role hosting ESPN’s Gameday show, which was telecast from Cameron on Saturday.
Williams, who played for Krzyzewski from 1999-2002, has yet to speak to or receive a message from his former coach since the surgery. That could be a sign that Krzyzewski is laying low, as his doctors have requested.
Or it could be a sign of where Williams stands with his old school and coach.
This is my home. This is my program. People may disagree with what I had to say but at the same time it’s my job to be objective. I would have made the same comment about any other kid if he went to Carolina or Louisville or any other situation.
“I’ve sent him texts and asked if he is OK,” Williams said. “I pray that he is OK. He’s a Hall of Fame coach. He’s my coach, and I’ll always love him.”
Williams has defended his comments about Allen, who has become a hated player in college basketball, even though many of the fans that cheered Williams as a player feel differently.
“I have no animosity toward anybody here at all,” Williams said. “This is my home. This is my program. People may disagree with what I had to say, but at the same time it’s my job to be objective. I would have made the same comment about any other kid if he went to Carolina or Louisville or any other situation.”
Last Monday, Duke acting head coach Jeff Capel, said the scrutiny Allen is under is unlike anything he’s ever seen for a college basketball player. He said he expected opposing fans to have chants and signs for Allen because that’s always been the case in the sport.
But he said the media frenzy for Allen is over the top.
“Look, the Grayson Allen situation is always going to be what it’s going to be,” Williams said. “I didn’t force anybody to do that so we’re not digging up facts to report, we are reporting on the facts and we have opinions on the facts. I understand how some people can get blown away thinking that ESPN, we push the envelope with different things. I think that is media in general. This is Duke University, one of the top programs in the country and in the world actually. Grayson Allen was a preseason national player of the year. How can that not be a big story?”
Williams did say some other stories, like those of players being involved in committing crimes, should warrant just as much, if not more, coverage than Allen.
“I will say this,” Williams said, “in the big scheme of things there are a lot of other stories that we as a culture don’t take the time to report on as much as a caucasian kid who has tripped someone at Duke University. There have been some domestic violence cases in college basketball. There have been some DUIs that we haven’t really harped on at all. So I will ask for us to be reflective more so in that regard.
“But at the same time. How do you come here and host a show and not address Grayson Allen?”
Williams closed Saturday morning’s show with a peace offering to the Cameron Crazies. He stood up and removed his dress shirt to reveal a white T-shirt self decorated to say “I still love (Christian) Laettner” on the front and “I love Grayson Allen” on the back.