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NBA threat sets training facility in motion

It took a serious look at the West Coast to get the ball rolling on a basketball training facility in Coach K's backyard.

Just weeks after men's basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski entertained an offer from the Los Angeles Lakers, the athletic department is in the definitive planning stages for a new $10 million practice building for the men's and women's basketball teams.

"I don't think the concept or the design changed. I think the timing is the only thing that changed," said Chris Kennedy, senior associate director of athletics. "It accelerated.... It probably moved it up to within the year from 'let's see when we can do it' status."

The basketball training center would serve as the primary practice, workout and game preparation facility for the two elite programs. The complex would cater not only to current athletes, but also to Duke's extensive network of professional players who wish return to Duke to practice.

Krzyzewski, Athletic Director Joe Alleva and President Richard Brodhead discussed plans for the facility when they met in February, before Brodhead took office, but Krzyzewski and Alleva first began discussion about two years ago. The training facility was again a topic when the three met for dinner June 29, at which point Krzyzewski was mulling a potential head coaching offer from the Lakers.

"One of the things that we worked on was building a practice facility, and I think that is something that we should do, and the president agrees with us," Alleva said.

The building--which would be adjacent to Schwartz-Butters Athletic Center--would likely cost about $10 million and house two courts, a workout room and a theater/meeting room for film viewing. Schwartz-Butters, completed in 2000, will continue to hold the programs' offices and locker rooms.

To accommodate the needs of former players who return to work out, the facility will likely have an auxiliary locker room.

"I think it is a big attraction for us to have this building for pros to come back and train for their profession and stay connected with Duke," said Mike Cragg, the assistant athletic director who handles men's basketball. "We would rather them do that here. It is part of the long-term commitment of them coming here."

The building would also allow the program to expand its use of video and computer technology in coaching. Cragg said that when Schwartz-Butters was planned the program underestimated the need for such extensive equipment. The department is also considering adding a student-athlete dining area to the training facility. At a minimum, the complex will have an eating space for the basketball teams, but a larger venue for all student-athletes may become part of the plan.

Limited by the existing space in Cameron Indoor Stadium and Card Gymnasium, the two basketball programs often cannot practice simultaneously. They also struggle to hold closed practices because Cameron functions as an office building and Card doubles as student recreation space.

"We also have problems at Cameron that you can't shoot free throws on the side. It is not a good practice facility," said Susan Ross, associate director of athletics in charge of development.

The training facility has been on her agenda for the past few years, but major fundraising has not yet begun. The project will compete for money with an effort to further endow Duke's athletic scholarships, but the campaigns draw from somewhat separate donor pools.

"I think you find donors who are more driven towards scholarship where others are more driven to helping a student-athlete," Ross said. "There are other people who say, 'Hey, I can put my name in or on a building.' You have to look specifically for the donor."

The center would be the final piece of a major facilities upgrade by the athletic department, which recently built the $21 million Yoh Football Center and numerous less expensive stadiums and facilities for non-revenue sports.

The basketball training facility will help other programs--including the volleyball and wrestling teams, which both use the space as a game venue--by freeing up Cameron.

"The point of the facility isn't that it would only help the basketball team," Brodhead said. "It would be designed to help men's and women's [basketball] first of all and take pressure off some facilities."

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