Creativity a big key for Coach K
By Luke DeCock
Raleigh News and Observer columnist
DURHAM ó Mike Krzyzewski was talking about the ACC when he best expressed the challenges he faces with his own basketball team.
“One of the great things about college basketball is the creativity that is brought about because of necessity,” the Duke coach said.
That pretty much sums it up for Duke, which unexpectedly lost guard Elliot Williams. Instead of bringing back three experienced and talented guards, the Blue Devils will have to make do with Jon Scheyer and Nolan Smith.
Former walk-on Jordan Davidson will enroll in graduate school and use his fifth year of eligibility, but the rest of Duke’s scholarship backcourt from last season is either in the NBA (Gerald Henderson), headed home to Memphis for family reasons (Williams), playing quarterback at Syracuse (Greg Paulus) or otherwise departed (Marty Pocius).
Transfer Seth Curry will practice with the team, but he is still a year from playing.
So there’s the necessity. Now it’s up to Krzyzewski to apply the creativity.
Krzyzewski bristled when asked about his “backcourt,” declaring that he has only basketball players. And with incoming freshman forwards Mason Plumlee and Ryan Kelly capable of moving outside as well, he has some versatility to draw upon.
Though Krzyzewski said either of the freshmen could end up starting, it was clear from his comments that Williams’ departure will have the largest impact on Singler and Lance Thomas.
Thomas, whom Krzyzewski said could be Duke’s “best defender” at multiple spots, may get a little less help inside from the freshmen than expected
As for Singler, he is no longer just Duke’s best forward. He also may be Duke’s second-best guard.
The post-Henderson plan was for Singler to move to small forward.
Now, with Williams gone, Singler could even find himself at what is in effect shooting guard when Duke has four forwards on the floor. That’s an intriguing thought given the matchup problems it might create.
“How we were going to use Kyle is how we were going to use Kyle,” Krzyzewski said. “Right at the end of the season, I even made statements that he was going to play on the perimeter, and that means both offensively and defensively. He can do that. He’s a really good player.
“And that’s really where his future will be. He’s going to make a living playing on the perimeter. Hopefully, he makes a living for us being on the perimeter.”
The big issue there is on the defensive end. Singler isn’t particularly equipped to guard ACC shooting guards.
“You adjust to the people you have,” Krzyzewski said. “I don’t see us picking up full-court man and dogging somebody with Kyle on a 5-11 guy. We’re not going to do that. You just figure out a little different way of playing your defense. I’m excited about our team. It’s going to be a different type of team, but I think it’s going to be a really good basketball team.”