Last weekend, when Duke welcomed a talented quartet of freshmen to campus, the ultimate goal was the same as it was when Mike Krzyzewski began recruiting them years ago, the same as it was last season despite the COVID-19 pandemic and the same as it was since his hostile takeover of men's college basketball in the late 1980s: Win a national title.
That won’t change when Krzyzewski, 74, rides off into the sunset after the 2021–22 season, his 42nd at the controls for the Blue Devils.
“I’m so excited about this upcoming year,” Krzyzewski said last week. “I’m really focused. I’m in a deep dive with it. I want to coach my team. I want this to be as good a basketball team as I’ve had in 46 years.”
No one knows better than associate head coach Jon Scheyer, Krzyzewski’s successor, about the unwritten title-or-bust standard in Durham.
He won a national title as a player in 2010, then as an assistant for the Blue Devils in '15 before being promoted to associate head coach in '18.
Still, the 33-year-old Scheyer, who will be the youngest Power 5 men's basketball head coach at 35 years old when the 2022–23 season commences, says that even early on in the summer workouts with next year’s squad there’s “100%” an elevated sense of urgency among the players and coaches to send Krzyzewski off with his sixth title.
“I know he doesn’t want to hear that; I know that’s not the way he’s thinking, but the rest of us are thinking that way,” Scheyer says of Krzyzewski. “It’s coach’s last year so we all want to make it as special as possible for him.”
They’ll certainly have the firepower, albeit a young and inexperienced kind.
The Blue Devils checked in at No. 3 in Sports Illustrated’s Way-Too-Early men’s college hoops rankings, and welcomed a stellar recruiting class that landed at No. 2 in the SI All-American team rankings.
Versatile 6' 11" forward Paolo Banchero, an SI All-American first-teamer, is the star of a talented four-man haul, and Trevor Keels is a big guard who will provide matchup problems for opposing teams because of his size and skill set.
That should mesh well with key returnees like Mark Williams, Jeremy Roach and Wendell Moore Jr.
“Coming off of last year we learned a lot,” Scheyer says. “You’re playing in Cameron Indoor Stadium with an empty arena, so we’re anxious to get back in front of the fans. We know we have a team that can do it, so we’re all in. We feel we can win the whole thing this year; we have a lot of steps that we need to take before that, but absolutely that’s the plan.”
Watch the video above for Scheyer's full interview with SI's Jason Jordan about his upcoming transition to becoming Duke's head coach and more.
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