If this were professional basketball, Grayson Allen would be shut down for a couple of weeks.
Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski realizes his college team, on a seven-game winning streak, has forced itself into the bigger picture and a healthy Allen is necessary.
At this stage of the season, even an unhealthy Allen is necessary.
Allen, who played through turf toe and lingering foot issues before dislocating his pinky against Miami, rolled his ankle in Duke’s 65-55 win over Virginia on Feb. 15. In Duke’s latest win, 99-94 over Wake Forest on Saturday, Krzyzewski could tell the ankle was bothering Allen.
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Krzyzewski doesn’t have two weeks to get Allen back to 100 percent, so resting the Blue Devils’ star junior and allowing him reps before No. 10 Duke (22-5, 10-4 ACC) faces Syracuse on Wednesday will be a delicate balance.
About 10 minutes before Krzyzewski’s slot on the ACC coaches teleconference Monday morning, he said the 6-5 guard was feeling fine.
“That doesn’t mean they’re completely well,” Krzyzewski said, including graduate student forward Amile Jefferson, who’s been playing through a bruised bone in his right foot that caused him to miss two games in January.
When they know they’re going to be in the playoffs in the pros, part of it is I’ve been coaching the pros for 10 years, there’s no question I would not have them play.
The two Duke veterans have been limited in practice. They are expected to play on Wednesday and practice leading up to Syracuse (16-12, 8-7).
“We gotta be careful not to use that up in practice but to have them more game ready,” Krzyzewski said. “This week for Syracuse, you’re playing a really tall, hungry, good team that plays all zone. So we’ve not played against a team like that, so they’re gonna need some reps, even walk-through. They’ve been veterans, so they can pick up the stuff pretty well.”
Allen went without practice for a stint earlier this season. He had a career-high 34 points against UNLV on Dec. 10 following his first day with a complete practice at that time.
He missed Duke’s ACC opener at Virginia Tech on Dec. 31 to a one-game suspension for tripping an Elon player and returned as Duke’s primary point guard.
Allen leads Duke with four assists a game to accompany 15.2 points. Since his reinstatement, he’s averaged 4.5 assists.
Freshman Frank Jackson came in to relieve Allen in Saturday’s game with Wake Forest, giving the Blue Devils an essential boost.
“Thank goodness we have that versatility on the perimeter,” Krzyzewski said.
Duke missed Jefferson’s inside presence in the two games he was sidelined, giving up a combined 92 points in the paint in losses to Florida State (Jan. 10) and Louisville (Jan. 14).
Krzyzewski emphasized the importance of Allen and Jefferson setting a standard for the team’s youth, especially the younger big men.
“They’ll play, we just have to watch out for them,” Krzyzewski said. “They’re not 100 percent. I think as we’re getting better here, it’s important to have them on the court.”
Jessika Morgan: 919-829-4538, @JessikaMorgan