Earlier this week, I penned a column on Duke recruiting, arguing, among other things, that the focus of the program's critics should be on the development of players once they arrive on campus and not on who those players are to begin with. That same day, News & Observer beat writer J.P Giglio wrote a blog post calling the Blue Devils' recruitment of Raleigh point guard John Wall a "desperate" move by head coach Mike Krzyzewski.
Giglio was kind enough to answer a quintet of questions about his position.
1. In your piece, you seem to make a distinction between Duke's recruitment of John Wall and its pursuit of guys such as Greg Monroe and Patrick Patterson the last two years. Those players were potential one-and-dones; is it just Wall's outspokenness about leaving after one year that marks him as a different kind of player for Duke to recruit? Or is it something else?
To review, and so everyone is starting in same place on the timeline, Luol Deng left after the 2004 Final Four after playing only one season. Shaun Livingston never got to campus, instead skipping college for the NBA.
Mike Krzyzewski, in subsequent conversations I had with him, said he thought he was going to have Deng for another season and Livingston for at least the '04-'05 season, if not two.
Their twin decisions to leave before the '04-'05 season, disappointed and frustrated Krzyzewski. In '04-'05, a team of J.J. Redick, Shelden Williams, Deng and Livingston would have given Duke a team capable of winning a national title. Coach K understood that.
When Deng and Livingston left, I would infer from Duke's recruiting classes in 2005 and '06, that Coach did not want to sign any players he knew would stay only one season.
In the case of Josh McRoberts ('05), he stayed two seasons. If you remember correctly, he could have gone before college and after his freshman season — and been a first-round pick — but returned for his sophomore season. Clearly there was a conversation that took place between McRoberts and Duke about how long he intended to stay.
In '06, Duke did recruit Brandan Wright, who would play only one season at UNC before leaving for the NBA. We don't know what Wright's decision utlimately came down to. (Did K insist that if he committed he would have to play two seasons?) I will admit since writing my piece, Wright should have to be considered a one-and-done prospect that Duke chased.
I think there was a change after the first-round NCAA loss in '07, which resulted in the pursuit of Patterson (they also recruited Eric Gordon that year), and then again after the second-round loss in '08, which resulted in the pursuit of Monroe.
I make the demarcation in my argument. That K didn't want to dance in '05 and '06 with one-and-doners and then given the postseason results, he changed his tact.
In the case of John Wall, there are two schools of thought:
1) Wall's a fifth-year senior who has been to three different high schools.
2) Wall has a cadre of helpers — coaches, friends, friends of friends — who are steering the recruiting process.
I'm not going to pretend to know the details of every Duke recruit but my guess is that both of those points make Wall a unique case.
2. Was there ever a real gap when Krzyzewski didn't go after one-and-dones? Correct my timing if I'm wrong, but I think Deng left in the spring of 2004, and Krzyzewski went after McRoberts that fall, and even though he did stay two years, there was at least the thought going in that McRoberts might leave after one. The next year, if I remember correctly, Duke went hard after Brandan Wright, who eventually did leave after just one year at UNC. So was there this two-year period where the Blue Devils approached these players less aggressively?
I answered some of this from above but also look at the players Duke signed in '05 and '06. Jamal Boykin, in particular, was a player Duke signed with the express belief he would be with the program for four years and was a player who, given time, would develop into a leader and someone who could bridge the gap between recruiting classes — especially if McRoberts left after two seasons.
The '06 class was the miss on Wright. The big man they brought in was Brian Zoubek, who was not considered a flight risk.
3. Do you think Krzyzewski has been slow adapting to the new recruitment cycle, where considering how long players are going to stay is a big factor in who you go after?
I don't think he has been slow. In my opinion, Mike Krzyzewski is not only the best coach in college basketball but also the smartest. He doesn't do anything by accident. I genuinely believe the Deng and Livingston decisions stung him.
I think his Plan B was signing four-year players like Boykin (in '05) and David McClure (in '04) who could possibly develop into frontline starters and give Duke an experience edge — not unlike the one enjoyed by certain mid-majors in the middle of the decade, George Mason jumps to mind — while other elite teams were scrambling to re-stock rosters and had no continuity.
4. You suggest that a lot of Krzyzewski's motivation in going after Wall comes from the success of Roy Williams in Chapel Hill. Hypothetically, if it's another ACC team -- a Wake Forest type that isn't Duke's chief rival -- having that level of success, do you think Krzyzewski would be less inclined to pursue a player such as Wall?
Well, we don't live in a world where Carolina's not Duke's rival, so there's no answer to that question. I will say that yes, while he is loathe to publicly admit it, Krzyzewski and the rest of the basketball powers at Duke keep track of UNC, not to the detail that media (us) makes it out to be, but when Carolina's in the Final Four in '05, '08 and '09 and you haven't been since '04 — everyone can keep that score.
That's why I used the word desperate with Wall. K's in a spot, like '05, where he knows if he has Wall — with both Gerald Henderson and Kyle Singler — he can win a national title.
For the record, not every connotation of desperate is negative. I'm not comparing him to the guy at the bar at last call.
I do, however, think Wall is a recruit — given his academic history — he would have avoided under different circumstances.
5. Is there a chance the late (in the recruiting calendar) pursuit of Wall is a reaction to a point guard problem Duke had overlooked going into the season? The Blue Devils seemed to think Nolan Smith was a long-term answer at the position, and it simply didn't work out that way this season.
From every indication, Wall is a special player. I think the idea of putting Wall together with Henderson and Singler is the motivating factor, not atoning for any previous recruiting missed steps.
But you bring up a good point with Smith. In most seasons, there's a difference between the top five or 10 players in the country and the rest of the recruiting class, even the other McDonald's All-Americans.
Duke has collected a lot of plumbers, albeit highly-decorated ones, but not enough stars.
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