Coach K talks Duke Basketball post-Zion, RJ

dukeQ. Question for Coach, but the players can chime in. Duke averaged more than 82 points a game last year, led the league in scoring for a lot of the year. What does it take offensively and defensively to score that many points in a league where so many teams are comfortable playing in the 60s, and can this year’s team push the tempo in the same way with Tre back?
MIKE KRZYZEWSKI: That’s a long question. Well, I think it starts with defense, and we think we have a chance to be a good defensive team, and defense hopefully can force a tempo and force some turnovers, which give you a numerical advantage. So that adds to offense. Offense, we’ll play a fast style of play.

Our team this year is very balanced, so we’re going to need not just balance in whatever the starting five would be, but really from 1 through 10. We can play that many guys. I think you can get greater consistency then because you have more guys playing.

Q. Coach, just what you can say to expand a little bit more on the return of Tre Jones, what he does for the team, and then the leadership from your senior group that you have.
MIKE KRZYZEWSKI: Well, Tre is a key guy for us because he’s going to have the ball most of the time. Last year he got the ball especially designed and RJ. Now he’s going to have to distribute it to a number of guys. His ball pressure gets things going.

But as important as he is, the two guys on the podium with me are extremely important. Our three captains, these two guys with the experience they have, and they both become better players, I think those three guys have to be solid for us, and I think will be.

Q. Jack, you’re a senior now. How did that happen?
JACK WHITE: I guess I’ve been at Duke for a few years. But I mean, the time has gone by as quick as anything. I can’t believe it myself sitting here about to start my senior year. But yeah, I’m just excited to get started with this team we have this year and get to competing, and yeah, I just can’t wait.

Q. You guys lost four of your best players. The whole league, though, has lost a lot of players, no first or second team players are back from the whole league. Have you had a chance to look at the entire league and how do you think it shapes up this year?
MIKE KRZYZEWSKI: You know, really I have not, but I know those things. I thought we really had five teams last year that by the end of the year could have been National Championship teams. This year I think it’s wide open. It’ll be — to go to 20 games, and I think the league will be more balanced, and as a result there will be some great basketball throughout. There aren’t the veteran teams that we had last year, so I think staying healthy and how — like for us how our young guys develop will be two keys for us.

Q. Coach and players, to play off what you just said, what is it like to lead a program and play in a program where Final Fours and championships are the expectation?
MIKE KRZYZEWSKI: Is that our expectation? Are you putting expectations on us? No, we want — our program has been one of the best ones, and it’s not the only one, but it’s one of them, and I think if you’re going to have an outstanding program you have to have high expectations. When you don’t do it, then there will be big disappointments. But you’re dealing at that level. Each year we have a different team.

But I like my group. Not that I didn’t like my group last year, but this group is — they really like one another, and they — there’s not the separation that we’ve had from our starting five to our bench like we’ve had in the last few years. The balance and togetherness hopefully will produce something really good for us.

JAVIN DELAURIER: Just speaking on expectations, I don’t think we really look at it in that way. For us, it’s more of us setting goals and knowing whether or not we can achieve them, and for the guys who have come back, we’ve been on some teams where we’ve been a play or two away from that Final Four.

And so whether or not we lived up to expectations, I don’t think we look at our season as having been that. We look at it for the body of work that we’ve done. But at the same time we carry that disappointment and we think about it every day.

JACK WHITE: Yeah, pretty much echoing what Javin said. I feel like anything from the outside, outside of our team, outside of our group, coaching staff and players, in terms of the expectations that are put on us, we don’t really pay too much attention to it. It is what it is, but at the end of the day, I think as a group we have a collective goal to win a National Championship every year, and that’s what we’re focused on, in our preparations for the season and throughout, that’s our focus.

Q. Javin and Jack, what you can say about being a part of this senior class and just the leadership that you both bring back to this team this year and, secondly, what you think about the freshmen coming in?
JACK WHITE: Well, I think first of all, coming off a leadership role from last year, I think it’s helped us feeling comfortable coming into our senior year with that same role, and obviously with a fresh group of guys coming in, just really excited to learn from them, learn with them, and compete with them. I think our experience last year is going to help us with that.

In terms of — what was the other part of the question?

Q. Just leadership-wise for you and Javin —
JAVIN DELAURIER: Jack sort of touched on it earlier. It’s crazy how fast time flies. Being a senior now, really just trying to emulate what the guys who were in my position when I came in as a freshman, what they did for me in terms of reaching out and being a good leader and trying to help me on my path.

We try to do that with the freshmen because we know how difficult that transition can be. ACC basketball is no joke, and so just trying to prepare them in every way that we possibly can before we get into the thick of things.

Q. Similar question for Javin and Jack; you’ve been through this a few times now, a new team forming. Can you talk about the process with the new guys, summer, preseason, during the season, when you feel good about it, how it’s starting to come together, this new team?
JAVIN DELAURIER: Well, this team, it’s been fairly seamless in our transition between last year and this year in that the freshmen have come in, they’ve worked really hard and they’re eager to learn. We also just have more vets than we have in years past, and so having that continuity has really helped us transition into becoming a team.

JACK WHITE: Yeah, I think obviously we’ve touched on the balance of our team already with a few questions, and I think that’s definitely helped us create — I don’t know how to say it, but it seems like we’re all on the same page in terms of what we’re all trying to do in coming in every day, trying to compete, and we’re just making each other better.

I think because we’re so balanced, guys look to one another to challenge them or whatever it may be, guys are keeping each other accountable. So I think it puts a bit more ownership on us as players to really control our destiny in a sense, and obviously you put Coach into that equation, we’re on the right track.

Again, you know, just excited to get started.

Q. Coach, you touched on it a little bit, but I wanted to also get some more of your thoughts on the 20-game schedule this year and how some teams have the opening night game and then while you guys aren’t as early, you do have an early December conference game, as well, so how that changes the league?
MIKE KRZYZEWSKI: Well, you know, college athletics should always evolve. Our conference, with the network, 20 games comes at a good time, more content. I think you’re coming closer to having a true champion, still like when we had a round-robin where you played everyone twice.

But in order to fit it in you have to do the whole year, and I think that that’s going to be good overall. And we’re going to make it good. What’s happened — this is my 40th year, so I’ve seen the league change quite a bit, and it’s exciting for the league to take this step forward with the network and with the 20 games.

We’ll see how it all works. I wasn’t a big — and still am not a big fan of — we’re in the Champions Classic, so we have a tough game, but it’s not a conference game. I’d like to see us have a little bit of time before you get into conference.

But you adapt to what’s being done, so I think it’ll be great.

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