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Krzyzewski: Trip to China, UAE will make Duke 'a better basketball team'

Last time Mike Krzyzewski was in China, he was vying for a gold medal in the Olympic Games as head coach of the United States national basketball team. This month, Krzyzewski instead leads Duke in a different—perhaps friendlier—kind of contest.

Krzyzewski and the men’s basketball team will participate in a four-game exhibition series dubbed “The Friendship Games,” beginning in Kunshan, China, August 17. The team will leave Durham, N.C., Aug. 14.

“We’ve set up a lot of time for them to take in the sites, and we’ll go to a number of the great places in China. We’ll take one day and just go to the Great Wall,” Krzyzewski said. “We did a little bit of that with the Olympics but it was harder. There’s a little more pressure.”

The Blue Devils will face the Chinese national team at Duke’s new 200-acre campus in Kunshan for the first game of the series. The next day, both squads will travel to the Mercedes-Benz Arena in Shanghai for another contest before the final game in China Aug. 22 at Beijing’s MasterCard Center, home of the 2008 Olympic basketball tournament.

The Blue Devils will then travel to Dubai for the final game of the series against the United Arab Emirates national team Aug. 25.

The final three games of the series—in Shanghai, Beijing and Dubai—will be televised on ESPNU and broadcast online at ESPN3.com. The tip-off time has not yet been scheduled for the Friendship Games opener, though the games in Shanghai and Beijing will begin at 8 a.m. EST. Duke’s matchup in Dubai will begin at 1:30 p.m. EST.

Blue Devil and basketball fans will also be able to get a glimpse of the players outside of gameday. The team will host two open practices with the Chinese national team in Shanghai and Beijing and will attend pregame VIP banquets with government officials, corporate sponsors and University administrators from Duke’s China and Durham campuses.

One of the few remaining question marks is the quality of the Chinese national team that Duke will face. China has already committed to the London International Basketball Invitational, scheduled from Aug. 16 to 21. The tournament will pit China against Great Britain, Serbia, France, Croatia and Australia at the Basketball Arena in London, where the 2012 Olympic Games will be held. With China’s best chance to qualify for next year’s Games looming in the FIBA Asia Championship—which the Chinese will host in September—Duke may face the Chinese Junior Olympic team instead.

“The Friendship Games” will all be played under the international rules regulated by FIBA. Each game will have four 10-minute quarters with a 15-minute halftime and two-minute breaks between quarters. The court itself will also be different, with the three-point line moved back just over nine inches and the lane widened by almost eight feet.

“The main thing for them will be the 24-second clock [compared to the 35-second shot clock in NCAA play],” Krzyzewski said. “We’re [also] going to get called for a lot of carrying, walking, just like our U.S. team does. A lot of times when you catch the ball ahead in transition, boom, it’s a walk because you’ve gone a distance without establishing a pivot foot.”

Duke will practice 10 times before leaving the U.S. Aug.14, per NCAA regulations. The team finished its sixth practice Tuesday, five days before Sunday’s departure.

“We’ve been concentrating on putting a team together, a system so that we can play some games,” Krzyzewski said. “We’re putting in out of bounds plays and sets, so our defense… is behind our offense. But we’ll take care of that in September and October.”

The team will be joined on the trip by several former Blue Devil stars. Nolan Smith and Jay Williams will likely travel with the team for the duration, Krzyzewski said, while Grant Hill and Kyrie Irving will remain in Shanghai.

And though this two-week trip has a plethora of purposes—from opening two new Fuqua campuses to getting valuable team practice time months before the season officially opens in October—it all boils down to one simple result for Krzyzewski.

“I think [the Friendship Games will] make us a better basketball team,” he said. “If we’re a better basketball team, that helps everybody at our school and makes everybody a little bit more happy.”

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