To bring the Countdown to Craziness festivities to a close Friday night, Duke basketball head coach Mike Krzyzewski introduced a new tradition for the Cameron Crazies.
After urging the crowd at Cameron Indoor Stadium to imagine the possibilities for this season, Krzyzewski asked the fans to stand up, put their fists out and help break the huddle with the team.
“And let’s count to three, and when we break together and then we come back here next Saturday afternoon and start the journey… let’s see what we can imagine together,” Krzyzewski said. “One. Two. Three. Together.”
Following the annual Blue-White scrimmage, Krzyzewski began his speech by introducing a three-minute video of past Blue Devil teams.
The montage provided a compilation of the highlights of the Duke program that emphasized the team’s values. Although Krzyzewski reminded the audience that Duke cannot live in the past, the clip provided a reminder of what made past years so successful.
Explaining that the Blue Devils break the huddle with “together” rather than “win” or “get ‘em,” Krzyzewski emphasized his team’s philosophy of “five guys playing as one.”
“This is a theme we’ve been saying since the summer,” freshman guard Rasheed Sulaimon said. “Together. It’s not just the team. It’s the coaches. It’s the managers. It’s our fans. It just represents that every time we put on this jersey we’re playing for something bigger than ourselves. We’re representing a lot of people—our families and all the Duke fans across the nation.”
After a year in which Duke finished 202nd nationally in assists per game, playing well as a unit will be very important to the team’s success.
In the scrimmage, the Blue Devils already appeared to have a strong team dynamic. In the 20 minutes of scrimmage, the Blue and White teams combined for 19 assists, with returning point guards Tyler Thornton and Quinn Cook recording five and four assists, respectively.
For three of his assists, Thornton connected with Sulaimon as part of an 8-2 scoring run.
“My teammates put me in great, great positions to score the ball in the second half,” Sulaimon said. “Fortunately I just knocked down shots. I credit all this—all this goes to my teammates Tyler [Thornton and] Mason [Plumlee]. All those guys made great plays to get me in a good spot.”
Although the importance of team unity is a fundamental part of the players’ philosophy, Krzyzewski emphasized that for the program, the sentiment of working together does not end at the sidelines. The players agreed that the Blue Devil fans play a vital role.
“They are what makes Cameron, Cameron,” senior Mason Plumlee said. “Plus, winning is a part of that, but they’re just as important because they create the atmosphere that’s famous. People want to come to our games. Opposing teams don’t want to play here. And without them, we don’t have that. They had great fan support in all those [film] clips, so we’re looking for the same thing this season.”
After student attendance numbers had dropped during the last five years, the team hopes that emphasizing the fans’ importance to the basketball program may help to recreate the level of support experienced by previous teams.
It certainly did not take long for Duke’s student fans to incorporate Krzyzewski’s tradition into their arsenal.
A day later, the Blue Devil football team, having given up a 14-point lead, trailed North Carolina 30-26 with a little more than three minutes remaining. With its first bowl berth since 1994 and an eight-game losing streak to the Tar Heels on the line, Duke faced fourth down, still five yards out of the end zone. As the Blue Devils lined up for the snap, the Duke students raised their fists in unison.
Showing their faith in the team, the students kept their fists high in the air as the clock wound down, only breaking pose to cheer as Jamison Crowder caught the game-winning touchdown.