It's summer and college basketball is still a few months away, but that didn't stop Duke from assembling in Durham.
Wednesday marked the beginning of K Academy, the week-long basketball camp hosted by former head coach Mike Krzyzewski, and with it came the arrivals of many Blue Devils, from coaches to former players and incoming freshmen. Krzyzewski, head coach Jon Scheyer and several players met with the media to talk Coach K's retirement, establishing chemistry and roster shakeup following the recent Final Four run.
Here are our five takeaways from the afternoon.
Out with the old, in with the new
The coaching staff and the players—some familiar faces but many more new ones—were in attendance for the first day of the K Academy basketball fantasy camp.
For the first time, incoming freshmen Dariq Whitehead, Kyle Filipowski, Mark Mitchell, Jaden Schutt and Christian Reeves were all on campus alongside Duke's recently completed coaching staff for head coach Jon Scheyer’s first year at the helm. Freshman Dereck Lively II could not make it but will be on campus in a few weeks for the start of first-year classes. Plenty of former Blue Devils also were in attendance, including Quinn Cook, Chris Duhon, Gene Banks and others.
Krzyzewski, who started the camp in 2003, was there in a different role—simply running the camp while staying separate from the business of the newly-assembled team.
“Well, it'll be the same, because this was so separate from our own program,” Krzyzewski said about running the camp after his coaching career ended. “It's like a people thing. And we make such good friendships here.”
Despite taking on a new role at Duke off the sidelines, the camp will still be Krzyzewski’s event. Scheyer jokingly maintained that it was “K Academy, not S Academy.”
Campers included some newcomers while some nine-year returnees earned an exclusive get-together with Krzyzewski—the private meeting in his office comes with the price tag of the nearly hundred thousand dollars they have committed to K Academy over the years.
The first day of the five-day-long program was a mixing pot of familiar and fresh faces, as well as transfers able to connect with some of the younger Blue Devils in person for the first time while seeking advice from dozens of other former Duke stars.
Freshmen and transfers look to build chemistry
Jeremy Roach came into last season as a sophomore with promise. He finished it off as one of the leaders of the team and best clutch performers on the roster with a tough decision ahead of him: return, or leave for the NBA Draft. He chose the former, making him the lone junior and longest-tenured scholarship player on the team. The upcoming season allows him to step up and harness his leadership abilities with plenty of newcomers on board.
“This is the first time we've actually been together as a whole,” Roach noted. “This summer’s gonna be useful because we don't have that many guys returning from last year.
“We're always gonna put in the work, but how we bond together and how we live off the court, how we set ourselves off the court… that's gonna be a big thing.”
Graduate transfer Ryan Young echoed Roach’s sentiment that the summer will be key in establishing Duke's team identity: “Making sure people are constantly talking, FaceTime or whatever you can do to get a head start on the culture is huge.”
In terms of on-court chemistry, the Blue Devils have a unique dilemma, but one that may be a blessing. Filipowski, a 6-foot-11 center, is not the only freshman big, as he will be joining 7-foot-1 teammate Lively in the frontcourt. But Filipowski said he is used to complementing another big man after years of playing alongside his twin brother, Matt.
“I just think Dereck and I are very interchangeable,” Filipowski said. “We can definitely play alongside each other in the game. It's not going to be him or me. And again, without a doubt I think we'll be one of the best frontcourts in the country hands down.
“I think our team, just the way Scheyer put it together…. We're all gonna be on a better wavelength and things like that, in order to take us one step further and finish what [the 2021-22 Final Four team] started for us.”
Scheyer settling in
A month and a half without Krzyzewski as head coach means Scheyer has fully assumed control of the program. With a rounded-out coaching staff, freshmen on campus and transfers making their presence felt, he is thriving in his new role as head coach.
“We've had the luxury of knowing Coach K for 42 years and he's developed his system of doing things and to me I’m figuring mine out, and everyone else has been really supportive and have really adjusted to it,” Scheyer said. “But it's been great. It's exciting. I mean, every day you're doing something you love to do, you're at a place that you love.”
Despite roster changes, coaches are optimistic
The incoming Blue Devil squad features six freshmen and two transfers as of Wednesday, meaning that, even more so than in recent years, the coaching staff will have to rely on the ability of younger players to carry a significant load on and off the court. Scheyer is confident that the makeup of the roster can still be a contender.
“We feel we're in a great place,” he said, emphasizing that change may still arrive.
About Trevor Keels, who was Duke’s third-leading scorer this past season, Scheyer said that he had been “in constant communication the whole way.”
“Really proud of him. It's not an easy process to go through,” Scheyer added.
Though he ended up sticking with the pro route and is keeping his name in the draft, Keels was reportedly torn on which route to take as of Wednesday afternoon's availability.
Otherwise, Scheyer and the other coaches are optimistic that the players they have in tow can take the team to the promised land.
“We love the team that we have right now and make sure we have enough ball-handling and playmaking and those kinds of things, but we love our group,” Scheyer said.
“Really excited about where we are,” assistant coach Amile Jefferson said. “I'm excited to get these guys here in a few weeks and get going.”
The coaching staff, which was also recently completed with the addition of former Kentucky assistant coach Jai Lucas, also has been working together well in its limited time as a complete group.
“We have a good ecosystem,” Jefferson said.
Jefferson was promoted to assistant coach following the departure of Nolan Smith, while Scheyer brought on Mike Schrage as a special assistant and Lucas as a second on-court assistant coach. Associate head coach Chris Carrawell, who Krzyzewski said has been recovering from a procedure on his back, was present Wednesday.
K "not retired"
In spite of his continuing role as a leader and a mentor during the camp, Krzyzewski told reporters that he was able to spend some time away from the game and relax. He is in good health and looked refreshed following the long season, but is by no means “retired,” according to his definition of the word.
“I'm not retired, I'm not coaching,” Krzyzewski said. “Retiring and not coaching anymore I think are two different things.”
He was able to get away to Las Vegas with his wife, Mickie, following the Final Four in April and recently attended his granddaughters’ graduations all while continuing to train his four-month-old Labrador Retriever puppy, Coach, which was gifted to him by his last team at the program’s banquet April 14.
Following the season, Villanova head coach Jay Wright also stepped away from coaching, joining an established group of coaches to leave basketball in the last few years. Krzyzewski had some thoughts on what that means for the future of the college game.
“More important than ‘who left?’ is ‘where are you?’” Krzyzewski said. He had some questions about how the NCAA and organizations like the National Association of Basketball Coaches can proceed with a changing college landscape.
He will still remain in his remodeled office on the fifth floor of the Schwartz-Butters Athletic Center, which is currently undergoing construction.
Get The Chronicle straight to your inbox
Signup for our weekly newsletter. Cancel at any time.
Micah Hurewitz is a Trinity junior and a sports managing editor of The Chronicle's 118th volume.