Will the Olympics help Duke Basketball?

When the best high school basketball players in the nation compete in national tournaments and camps this July, the most high-profile coaches in the country will be visible in the crowd. One familiar face, however, might be absent from the bleachers-Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski. No face-to-face contact with recruits is allowed in July, but the mere visibility of coaches is essential in the later stages of recruiting. Of course, Coach K won't be missing most of the action without good reason, as he will be preparing Team USA for the Olympics later in August. But with all the hoopla surrounding Krzyzewski's new squad and its quest for the gold medal in Beijing, the fact remains that the months of July and August are a crucial time for Coach K's other team, the Blue Devils. Perhaps you've heard of them. "He's a face that won't be there," said Dave Telep, scout.com's national recruiting director. "Whether it makes a difference-that's another story." And although Krzyzewski might be visible to recruits during the first half of July, there is no denying that he has other things and other teams on his mind this summer. Duke's past two early exits in the NCAA Tournament certainly don't help the argument that Krzyzewski's Team USA duties have taken nothing away from his commitment to his primary job. The uproar was a little softer, you may remember, when Coach K took over the national team in 2005. At that time, Duke had two returning All-Americans in J.J. Redick and Shelden Williams and was the consensus preseason No. 1. Now that the Blue Devils haven't reached the Sweet 16 the past two seasons, the question of whether Coach K's committment to Duke has shown its effects in recent recruiting and on-court success is valid, if unpopular. But since Redick and Williams graduated in 2006, Duke has not maintained a strong presence in the paint to balance its depth on the perimeter. Josh McRoberts was the highest-rated big man in the Class of 2005, but his two-year career at Duke was underwhelming at best. (For the record, Duke fans were then ecstatic they landed McRoberts over Tyler Hansbrough.) Eric Boateng, Jamal Boykin and Taylor King have all transferred, and junior Brian Zoubek has battled chronic injury problems. There is no doubt that the Blue Devils have missed out on some big name posts in recent years-Greg Monroe, Brandan Wright and Patrick Patterson, to name a few-but are Coach K's responsibilities with Team USA really to blame for it? "I don't think Duke has any worries in the world when it comes to recruiting," ESPN analyst Dick Vitale said. "The fact that Coach K is coaching Team USA with guys like LeBron and Kobe-kids see that and say, 'If he can coach them, he can coach me.'" Vitale and former Blue Devil Jay Bilas argue that Krzyzewski's Olympic tie brings positive energy to the program and that his associations with the best players in the world certainly can't and won't hurt the Blue Devils. They could be right. There are plenty of potential benefits for Duke, and it's foolish to believe that the coaching staff hasn't formulated a plan to compensate for its Team USA responsibilities. If Coach K stands on the podium with the NBA's best players, the Duke program will become more attractive to potential recruits. That's undeniable. But it's also possible that a high school stud could enroll at North Carolina because Coach K didn't show him enough love this summer and in that case, we might reflect and say Krzyzewski should have put his full focus on his Blue Devil squad. After all, it's certain that almost every other college coach is focused on one team, not two.


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