As he is about to enter his 37th year in Durham, Mike Krzyzewski is Duke’s unquestioned leader. And this summer he has had an opportunity to lead by example in a new arena.
“He was walking almost a week after his knee surgery,” assistant coach Jon Scheyer said. “I do know that he has attacked his rehab like crazy. So, for our guys, he has set a pretty good example of what you need to do if you have an injury. But he looks great. I’m actually really impressed with him.”
Krzyzewski, 69, had total left knee replacement surgery on April 3rd and hernia repair surgery May 9th. As he was walking around talking to former players and the media on Wednesday, less than two months removed from both surgeries, Krzyzewski looked perfectly healthy.
“I’m doing great,” he said. “I’m taller, standing straighter, more energy, so it’s been good.”
Krzyzewski isn’t the only Blue Devil on the rehab route. Redshirt senior Amile Jefferson and incoming freshman Harry Giles are working their way back from season-ending injuries. Jefferson’s broken right foot in December limited him to just the first nine games last season, and Giles’s November right ACL tear cost him all but two minutes of his senior year in high school. (Giles also missed his entire sophomore year with a torn ACL, MCL and meniscus in his left knee.)
“Amile is great,” Krzyzewski said. “He is healed, and now it is a matter of getting to be really good. And he can be.”
Jefferson’s plan is to spend all summer in Durham, working on getting his regular running gait back and getting back to basketball speed.
“When you go such a long time without playing, you lose your feel a little bit, and you’re trying to get back your instincts,” Scheyer said. “He’s been trying to do that, playing as much as possible with our guys.”
Giles isn’t as far along in his recovery. The Blue Devils are being conservative with his workload, and, at this point, he rehabs twice a day. Giles was walking around without a brace on Wednesday, though, and survived a bear hug from former player Quinn Cook that lifted him off the ground. Cook and other alumni of the program, including Jahlil Okafor, Jabari Parker, Rodney Hood, Tyler Thornton, Ryan Kelly, Chris Duhon, Billy King and Danny Ferry, were back in town for the annual K Academy, a $10,000 fantasy basketball camp for adults 35 and up.
It’s too early to say if Giles will be at full speed for the start of the season, Scheyer said. But the fact that he is on campus so early helps. For the first time, Duke has incoming freshmen on campus and enrolled in the first summer session: Giles, Jayson Tatum, Frank Jackson and Javin DeLaurier. Marques Bolden will arrive next week for a summer session that starts June 8th.
For Giles in particular, it’s a good way to get in a rhythm, Krzyzewski said.
“Basically, because of his injury, he was home-schooled this year,” Krzyzewski said. “He didn’t have to get up every morning, get a school bus or ride. So this first six weeks is a lot about just the discipline of doing. Every morning, he has therapy at 9. Then they have breakfast, and then there’s a class, and then they’ll have therapy again, but the therapy will be in water, and then there is therapy up here (on the court). You do that twice a day, learning discipline, it’s a really good thing.”
“Basketball will come for him, but our main thing is to attack the rehab, and he has done that,” Scheyer said of Giles. “He still has to be patient, because we want to make sure we’re going at the right pace with him. But he has done a great job attacking it.”
So it’s a bit of a waiting game for Giles, Jefferson and Krzyzewski, who still can’t lift weights as he recovers from hernia surgery. But soon enough, all three will be back to their regular routines.
And Krzyzewski has no plans to change his anytime soon.
“I guess what I would say is that I don't have plans for the future. I don't have a retirement thing,” Krzyzewski said. “I actually feel younger after getting these things done. I certainly feel in so much better shape and just healthier, a lot healthier.”