Coach K: ‘I’m in the best health I’ve been in about 10 years. I’ve had every body part replaced.’
One of Duke basketball’s goals is to better prepare role players to contribute around, or in place of, its star players this season.
On Wednesday, Blue Devils coach Mike Krzyzewski cited juniors Jack White and Javin DeLaurier as two players who are benefiting from this new initiative.
But one of them, the 6-10 DeLaurier, is dealing with an injury that has halted his progress.
A projected starter, DeLaurier is sidelined with a stress reaction in his foot.
“Javin is out right now,” Krzyzewski said during a speech to the Durham Sports Club’s meeting at Croasdaile Country Club. “We are keeping him out for about 10 days.”
The Blue Devils held a game-like scrimmage, complete with ACC game officials, on Tuesday. DeLaurier didn’t participate.
The good news, Krzyzewski said, is that DeLaurier is expected to be back at practice next week. Fall break for Duke’s students begins Friday night and classes don’t resume until Wednesday morning.
The Blue Devils held their final practice prior to fall break on Wednesday and won’t be on the court together again until Tuesday night. But Krzyzewski said DeLaurier’s foot “should be OK when we come back.”
DeLaurier played in 33 games, with five starts, last season when he averaged 3.3 points and 3.9 rebounds.
When Duke toured Canada in August and played three exhibition games against Canadian university teams, DeLaurier averaged 7.3 points and 5.7 rebounds.
Krzyzewski said “he has really done well” during the offseason and early practices prior to his injury. Krzyzewski projected DeLaurier as a starter along with four freshmen -- Zion Williamson, R.J. Barrett, Tre Jones and Cameron Reddish.
While Barrett, Williamson and Reddish will be called upon to handle the bulk of Duke’s scoring and Jones’ job as point guard will be to facilitate them, Krzyzewski said it’s important for players like White and DeLaurier to embrace their roles.
Last season, Duke went 29-8 and made the NCAA tournament’s elite eight round on a team led by freshmen Marvin Bagley III, Wendell Carter, Gary Trent, Jr., Trevon Duval and senior guard Grayson Allen. All five players have moved on to professional basketball.
Krzyzewski and his staff felt the Blue Devils could have been an even better team last season if role players had a better understanding of their importance.
So the staff is working on that heading into this season.
“We’ve tried to celebrate, during the summer, the value of the role player,” Krzyzewski said. “I didn’t think we had that last year. The bench didn’t really contribute as much. We were kind of a short team. A really good team, but we needed to have more players play.
“So one of the things we’ve done in the offseason is take a look at our value structure. One of the things that I came up with is I need to celebrate the role player.”
DeLaurier and White are Duke’s top role players so far, Krzyzewski said.
“They’ve become really good players,” Krzyzewski said. “Really good players. They both could be starters. On a team, you don’t want only five guys to think that they are starters. Or only three guys or two guys to think that they are the best players. You want guys that have egos and great self-esteem working together to develop a team. That’s carried over to practice.”
Sophomore guard Alex O’Connell has also impressed the coaching staff with his play in a reserve role. O’Connell suffered a broken orbital bone in his face two minutes into Duke’s first game on its Canadian tour and missed the final two games.
After having surgery in August, he’s healed and his returned to practice. Reddish (groin) and Jones (hip) missed all three games with injuries but are also back practicing.
Junior center Marques Bolden is another player who could fill the final starting job along with the four freshmen. But Bolden, while healthy, only played 39 minutes combined in the three exhibitions in Canada and failed to score a point.
When asked about the 6-11 Bolden on Wednesday, Krzyzewski first said he was doing “good” but indicated Bolden has work to do with his consistency.
“We’ll see how good he does,” Krzyzewski said. “He didn’t have a good tour of Canada. But that doesn’t mean he’s not good.”