The 2014–15 season will be etched in the memories of Duke fans forever. The Blue Devils won the program’s fifth national championship and Coach Mike Krzyzewski collected his unprecedented 1,000th career win. Freshmen Jahlil Okafor, Tyus Jones, and Justise Winslow led Duke to a 28–3 regular season record, including seven wins over ranked teams. Here Comes Duke is the official championship book commemorating the Blue Devils’ amazing journey. Featuring more than 100 exclusive photographs from Duke Athletics and expert analysis from the Herald-Sun, fans will relive this unforgettable season, from early wins over Michigan State and Wisconsin to midseason struggles against NC State, Miami, and Notre Dame to the final seconds in Indianapolis. This commemorative book also includes a foreword by senior Quinn Cook and feature stories on Krzyzewski, Cook, Okafor, Jones, Winslow, Grayson Allen, and more.
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About the Author
Duke Athletics is part of Duke University, which has played basketball since 1906. They have won five national championships under Coach Mike Krzyzewski. The Herald-Sun is the daily newspaper in Durham, North Carolina. Publication began in 1991 following the merging of the Durham Morning Herald and the Durham Sun.
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Here Comes Duke
The Drive for Five
By Joe Funk
Triumph BooksCopyright © 2015 Duke Athletics and The Herald-Sun
All rights reserved.
SEASON IN REVIEW
ADAPTABILITY KEYS DUKE'S TITLE RUN
By John Roth
Mike Krzyzewski paused just inside the locker room door to absorb the scene unfolding before him, his Blue Devils a boisterous bundle of elation, excitement, emotion. Quinn Cook, their de facto elder statesman, wedged his way into the middle of the black-and-blue, sweat-drenched uniforms and raised his voice to be heard above the celebration.
"Duke is never the underdog," he barked as his teammates clustered even tighter around him. "Hey, look, look — family on three. One, two, three — FAMILY."
Krzyzewski soaked in this unifying moment, the beaming smile of a proud parent enveloping his countenance. The Hall of Fame eyes that had witnessed almost a thousand college basketball victories and countless locker room huddles gleamed with the euphoria of both triumph and togetherness — and what they might portend for the journey ahead. It was a face nobody saw, but a face that visually articulated the thought Krzyzewski would verbally express months later about that night: "We knew getting on the bus to go to the plane that this could be a real special group."
No one would have been shocked if Duke had fallen to Wisconsin on that bone-chilling December night in Madison. The Badgers were an established veteran team, ranked No. 2 in the country and coming off a Final Four season. They featured a dynamic 7-footer in Frank Kaminsky, who would become the consensus national player of the year, and they were hosting the Blue Devils in their rambunctious Kohl Center, where their winning percentage stood on par with Duke's at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Duke was also highly ranked at No. 4 in the polls, obviously talented but considerably less experienced. Krzyzewski was starting three freshmen who were playing in their first true road contest, and his returnees were coming off a season in which they'd fallen to Mercer in their NCAA Tournament opener.
These newly incarnated Blue Devils had already defeated Michigan State in Indianapolis and had won the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic in Brooklyn, but this was the showcase game of the annual ACC-Big Ten Challenge and a major early barometer for two heavyweights with April aspirations. When Kaminsky drew first blood by quickly burying a pair of three-pointers, the favored home team had made a strong opening statement.
But it was Duke's response that provided an early indication of what might lie ahead. At the first media timeout, barely five minutes after tipoff, Krzyzewski made a significant adjustment to the defensive game plan. The Blue Devils had intended to double-team the post, but after Kaminsky got away from them a couple times early, Coach K bagged that idea and instructed his team to switch on all screens while applying as much ball pressure as possible. Consequently, Kaminsky didn't score for the next 13 minutes, and Duke grabbed the halftime lead, even though its star post man Jahlil Okafor was sidelined with foul trouble.
The Blue Devils continued to play solid defense after intermission, shot a remarkable 71 percent from the floor and turned freshman playmaker Tyus Jones loose on an assortment of high ball screens to secure a noteworthy, confidence-building 10-point victory in hostile territory.
In and of itself, the key defensive adjustment wasn't all that extraordinary; teams frequently tweak their strategy in response to opposing tactics, personnel and the flow of play. But in this case, it served to christen what would become the trademark quality of Krzyzewski's 35th Duke edition — its adaptability. Modification became routine, and change was not only accepted but embraced by an eager, open-minded roster.
"It took a great deal of focus," freshman Justise Winslow said a few weeks after the 35-win campaign had culminated with a second victory over Wisconsin for the NCAA championship. "We were constantly changing the game plan. In some games we got down and Coach would put something in, want us to do something, and we immediately adapted to it. This team had a great sense of focus throughout the whole season, but especially in tight games when we were down and needed a quick change, or a quick change in the defense to get something done. Our ability to do that really paid off and got us some big-time wins."
Duke's adaptability was most evident on the defensive end of the court, where for three previous decades under Krzyzewski the Blue Devils seemingly owned the copyright on pressure man-to-man. The 2014-15 squad likewise enjoyed sound early-season results utilizing this program staple, its depth and athleticism particularly effective in the full court. But when the team hit a lull in the desultory weeks following the Wisconsin trip, with the collusion of exams and holidays and the start of ACC competition knocking Duke from the ranks of the unbeaten, something needed to change.
Meeting well into the wee hours of the morning following a stunning home loss to Miami — Duke's second straight defeat, and first in three years at Cameron — Krzyzewski and his coaching staff of former Blue Devil captains discussed implementing a zone defense. Nothing could have been further from the realm of possibility than Duke going zone, but by the time the Blue Devils hit the floor four days later at sixth-ranked Louisville, anathema had been assimilated and the 2-3 zone endorsed as an agent of change for perhaps the most important victory of the regular season. The Blue Devils came together to keep the Cardinals' guards out of the paint at a crossroads moment with the direction of the season hanging in the balance.
"We tried to do things constantly that made them talk more so they would get outside themselves," associate head coach Jeff Capel explained. "One of the big reasons for going zone was, (A) our defense at that time wasn't very good and, (B) one of the reasons it wasn't good was guys were worried about individually getting beat. What the zone did was it forced us to talk. It was something we really hadn't done, we hadn't practiced that much, so guys understood we needed each other. We found something there.
"And from there, that's when all the tweaks and adjustments came, all the nuances, all the little wrinkles we'd throw in. That's when those started. And the thing we realized is that our guys loved them. It made them feel more connected. It made them talk more and understand how important each person was out there on the court."
Indeed, from there the defense never rested. Man, zone, zone press, man press — nothing was off the table as Duke evolved into a cohesive, formidable unit during the heart of the season. Down to seven healthy players against Clemson, the Blue Devils unleashed a frenetic 2-2-1 zone press that produced 19 fastbreak points. Against Syracuse in Cameron they enhanced their traditional man-to-man by using Tyus Jones as a "rover" to clog up the lane. For the North Carolina game in Chapel Hill they threw a modified "run-and-jump" element into their press, an ironic twist at the building named for the man who invented that defense, the late Dean Smith. In the ACC Tournament against N.C. State, it was Duke's hybrid matchup zone that thoroughly confounded the Wolfpack guards, rendering the contest virtually over at halftime with the Blue Devils on top 49-22.
One of the more astonishing aspects of the defensive efficacy vs. State — the team that handed Duke its first defeat back in January — was that the Blue Devils didn't install or even practice the defense until their walk-through the morning of the game. Yet they played it to near perfection, adaptability in its finest hour. A similar situation had occurred earlier when Duke visited second-ranked Virginia for a marquee ESPN College GameDay showdown. During shoot-around the morning of the game, Coach K introduced a new defense, a 3-2 zone he called "8", that the staff thought might be effective against the Cavaliers' physical wings. With Virginia on top during the second half, Krzyzewski asked the players, "Can you run 8?" They did it effectively for a handful of possessions, took the Cavaliers out of their offensive rhythm and eventually got on track themselves by scoring on 14 of their last 15 possessions to earn a signature win while handing UVa its first defeat of the year.
The Virginia contest was one of several in which the Blue Devils' adaptability enabled them to change the course of a game in midstream. Earlier that week at Madison Square Garden, in the first of three road trips in seven days, they trailed St. John's by 10 late before going on a 15-1 run that led to Coach K's landmark 1,000th career victory. Marshall Plumlee's play off the bench had a major bearing on the rally. At home in the rivalry game with North Carolina, the Devils were down seven in the closing minutes but rode a nine-point flurry by Tyus Jones to tie the game in regulation and then win it in overtime. They also trailed the Tar Heels in the rematch at Chapel Hill, before Matt Jones and Grayson Allen knocked down consecutive threes to put Duke ahead. Forty-four points and flawless free throw shooting from Cook and Tyus Jones made the lead stand, with support from a gritty floor game by Amile Jefferson.
Krzyzewski and his staff kept their fingers on the pulse of this team and also didn't hesitate to veer from standard operating procedure between games when circumstances warranted it. After the roster dwindled to eight scholarship players, the duration and intensity of practice sessions had to be adjusted to preserve physical and mental freshness. During the four weeks of postseason, contact practices were virtually eliminated. The new norm became 5-on-0 and team shooting drills, followed by breakouts into individual work. Assistant Jon Scheyer led the perimeter guys and Nate James the posts, their efforts producing distinct individual improvement in several players even as the pressures of the season mounted.
Scheyer, for example, took Winslow through a regimen of shooting and ballhandling drills almost daily, either before or after practice, helping the athletic freshman to not only get past his midseason injuries but to flourish as one of the Blue Devils' most vital performers down the stretch. His February position switch from wing to power forward paid dividends all through March and April.
By the time Duke reached the NCAA Tournament, it had won 29 games and lost only once after January with a starting lineup that rarely changed. What was prone to change was the lineup that made the difference during crunch time. Everyone had their opportunity to shine, so that when the biggest games arrived they were prepared to thrive — with no jealousies over roles or minutes interfering in the family spirit that drove the group dynamic.
Matt Jones stepping up to hit critical threes against Gonzaga in the Elite Eight? That had already happened in a regular-season rout of Notre Dame.
Grayson Allen's spark off the bench at the Final Four? That had already happened at Syracuse, at North Carolina and on Senior Night at Cameron.
Marshall Plumlee and Amile Jefferson anchoring the inside game during the comeback against Wisconsin in Indianapolis? That had already happened at St. John's and UNC.
Tyus Jones coming through in the climatic clutch? That had been happening all year.
"I think this team took trust to the top level," Krzyzewski said in trying to identify the intrinsic qualities that made his fifth national title team so special and unique. "I'm not sure a team could trust a coaching staff or each other any more than this team. When something new was put in, they looked at it as, 'How are we going to do it?' instead of 'Where do I fit in this? What am I supposed to do?' It was more like, 'We're going to do this.'
"All the things that we did this year, you can call them creative, adaptive, whatever — look, none of those things are going to work unless the group trusts, unless they believe, and that's what these young men did."
Before Duke's NCAA Tournament games, behind closed doors, the words Energy, Effort and Enthusiasm were written on the locker room whiteboard as the headliners of the pregame talking points to the faces nobody saw. Those three E's served the Blue Devils well on their trek through the minefields of March Madness. But when the final buzzer sounded and the confetti fell and the trophy was hoisted into the Lucas Oil Stadium night, it was another trio of E's that enveloped the faces everybody saw. Elation. Excitement. Emotion. Reactions reminiscent of the private family celebration that had confirmed Mike Krzyzewski's vision for his group's potential following the first win over Wisconsin. A win he would label as a defining moment on the court and a defining moment in the locker room.
"And who defined it?" he noted in retrospect. "The players." Adapting, changing and growing closer every step of the way, together in triumph.CHAPTER 2
BLUE DEVILS' FAB FRESHMEN BEGAN JOURNEY WITH USA BASKETBALL
By Steve Wiseman September 16, 2014
Two years ago, half a world away, Jahlil Okafor, Justise Winslow and Tyus Jones helped win gold for USA Basketball. While that made the trip to Lithuania successful, it also set the stage for where the three are beginning their college basketball careers.
"The idea definitely started," Okafor said. "Me and Tyus always had the dream of potentially going to the same university together. But in Lithuania, that's where we first mentioned to Justise that it would be pretty cool if he could jump on the bandwagon and go with us."
While Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski and associate head coach Jeff Capel are in Spain coaching USA Basketball to a meeting against Serbia for the FIBA World Cup championship, freshmen Okafor, Winslow, and Jones are attending classes at Duke. On the court, they're going through workouts with Duke assistant coaches Nate James and Jon Scheyer when not playing pick-up games with their new Blue Devils teammates.
It may not have happened if it wasn't for USA Basketball, which brought the three together on the team that went undefeated in 2012 to win the U-17 World Championship.
"Being overseas in an entire different country, nobody speaks your language, we bonded with all the guys on the team," Okafor said. "But with myself, Tyus and Justise, there was a special connection that we all shared. Having an opportunity to win a gold medal, that's not something everybody gets the opportunity to do. That's something that built our friendship and made it stronger, too."
Lithuania marked a part of their shared international experiences. Jones and Okafor played on 2011 U-16 team that won the FIBA Americas championship in Cancun, Mexico. Okafor and Winslow played with Rasheed Sulaimon, now a Duke junior, on USA Basketball's U-19 team that won the FIBA World Championship in Prague, Czech Republic, last summer.
The belief among Duke's staff is that these experiences will help the three talented freshmen be more prepared to merge with the returning players to help the Blue Devils in their quests for ACC and NCAA championships this season.
"We have an incoming freshman class that really knows each other," Krzyzewski told The Herald-Sun earlier this summer. "Three of them have played together on teams that have won gold medals. They are ahead of normal freshmen as far as them knowing each other. They won't experience ... the loneliness that freshmen will feel at certain times of acclimating to a different environment."
That aspect of the freshman class, which also includes shooting guard Grayson Allen, is more important than ever in college basketball. Freshmen play an even bigger role than ever in the game as players like the 6-11 Okafor, who is projected as the No. 1 pick in the 2015 NBA Draft, impact teams as soon as they get on campus since they'll likely be staying for just one year.
Duke experienced that last season with Jabari Parker, who led the team in scoring and rebounding as a freshman before entering the NBA Draft where Milwaukee took him with the No. 2 overall pick.
The Blue Devils went 26-9, losing to Virginia in the ACC Tournament final, but were upset by Mercer in the NCAA Tournament. Krzyzewski cited a lack of strong internal leadership as a weakness on an otherwise talented team.
This offseason, helping the freshmen assimilate with returning players with starting experience like senior guard Quinn Cook and junior Amile Jefferson is a major focus for Duke.
Excerpted from Here Comes Duke by Joe Funk. Copyright © 2015 Duke Athletics and The Herald-Sun. Excerpted by permission of Triumph Books.
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Table of Contents
ContentsForeword by Quinn Cook,
Season in Review,
The Road to the Final Four,
Journey Begins with USA Basketball,
Duke vs. Michigan State — Champions Classic,
Duke at Wisconsin — ACC/Big Ten Challenge,
Cameron Indoor Stadium's 75th Anniversary,
Duke at N.C. State,
Duke vs. Miami,
Duke, Tyus Try to Rebound at Louisville,
Duke at Louisville,
Duke at St. John's,
Duke at Notre Dame,
Duke's Rough Week,
Duke at Virginia,
Duke vs. Notre Dame,
Duke vs. North Carolina,
Duke at North Carolina,
Eight Is Enough,
ACC Tournament Quarterfinals vs. N.C. State,
ACC Tournament Semifinals vs. Notre Dame,
NCAA Tournament Round 2 vs. Robert Morris,
NCAA Tournament Round 3 vs. San Diego State,
NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 vs. Utah,
NCAA Tournament Elite Eight vs. Gonzaga,
NCAA Tournament Semifinal vs. Michigan State,
NCAA Tournament Championship vs. Wisconsin,