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Former Duke men's basketball stars Bilas, Hill and Henderson return to campus for Els for Autism charity golf event

The trio also discussed Coach K and the 2016-17 Blue Devils

<p>Gerald Henderson signed this offseason with the Philadelphia 76ers but was back in Durham for a Els for Autism&nbsp;charity golf event Monday afternoon.</p>

Gerald Henderson signed this offseason with the Philadelphia 76ers but was back in Durham for a Els for Autism charity golf event Monday afternoon.

As Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski was landing at Raleigh-Durham International Airport Monday morning, former Blue Devil stars Jay Bilas, Grant Hill and Gerald Henderson were traveling to campus. But they weren't at Duke to congratulate Krzyzewski on a historic third Olympic gold medal.

The trio was part of a group of Blue Devil community members that participated in an Els for Autism charity event Monday at the Duke University Golf Club. Els for Autism was established by South African golfer Ernie Els—a four-time major champion—and his wife Liezl in 2009 after their son Ben was diagnosed with autism.

As part of the event, the foundation invites notable Duke figures to play in the golf event and tour the Duke Center for Autism and Brain Development. 

Before Monday afternoon's event, Bilas, Hill and Henderson met with reporters to discuss the foundation, their thoughts on Krzyzewski's accomplishment and Duke's 2016-17 season. Highlights from the conversations can be found below:

Involvement with Els for Autism and touring Duke's autism center

Bilas: The highlights were dealing with the doctors and other medical professionals that were explaining to us all of the different things they were doing on the research and clinical side to be able to treat autism and to not only try to develop on the drug side, but on the clinical side just the cognitive things that they are doing with measuring where your eyes go while you’re trying to pay attention to something.

Hill: It’s great to know that Duke is sort of leading the way here in terms of clinical studies, research, learning and understanding more about autism, particularly with child behavior, child development.

Henderson: They’ve really got some good things going on over at the hospital. I went over there, did a little tour, and you see how many sophisticated things they have going on, things that are really worth thinking about to get data from kids and get some information, so I’m really pleased with what’s going on here.

Coach K's latest gold medal

Bilas: Just when you think Coach K has done it all, he does it at a different level. We’ve got more of the best players in the world than any other nation, but you can only put five of them on the floor at one time. It’s remarkable that we say Michael Phelps is the most dominant swimmer—he’s not winning by the length of the pool every time, he’s winning by a touch and by hundredths of a second. The United States had a few close games and we threw our hands up that something’s wrong.

[Silver medalist] Serbia lost three games in pool play. They were 2-3 and the United States didn’t lose any. And while the games were closer than some might have wanted, I don’t know why we would expect to watch any basketball game because basketball is not a game that teams win by 30 every time out. I never felt that the United States was threatened, but still for this team to do what it did and do what it did in the medal round was remarkable.

USA Basketball holds every championship on every level in international basketball and in a time when we had said in 2004 that the world has caught up, to win 76 straight games, which no USA team has ever done, and to go 88-1 over that period, and now no one is reasonably saying the world has caught up.

Hill: It’s pretty amazing what Coach K has done with Team USA. You go back to 2005-06, where the program was, his commitment to turning it around, making it a successful program and having guys want to be a part of it and bringing up through the grassroots, Select Team process and just really instilling pride—you see that. 

You see the commitment to excellence, the commitment to really representing your country and it's had a positive impact not just on the Olympics, but also the NBA. These guys have learned a great deal and benefited from the experience and playing for Coach K.

Henderson: It doesn’t surprise me that he’s on top. He’s obviously a great coach and been great at being able to coach both college players and NBA players. He’s won three gold medals now, five national championships, so it’s hard not to make the case that he’s the best coach of all time.

Expectations for this Duke team

Bilas: Duke is going to be the best team and they’re going to have the most talent. Duke is looking at potentially now a season like Kentucky had a couple years ago when they can win every game. Doesn’t mean they will, but they can. It’s not just the incoming talent they’ve got. They’ve got returning talent that not many teams have. It’s been an extraordinary year and as long as this team stays healthy, you know it will stay together and have good leadership from the player side. It can do extraordinary things.

Hill: I haven’t seen the guys, Jay might know a little bit more than I do if I’m being honest. On paper, this team has a chance. I want to see what happens with the point guard position. In college basketball, that’s hugely important.


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