Assessing Coach K’s Evolving Position on One-and-Done

Posted by Brett Thompson on November 7th, 2014

Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski is never one to shy away from his opinions on the state of college basketball. In fact, just last year, Coach K voiced his concerns about college basketball’s current era of the “one-and-done,” the highly touted freshmen who dominate the sport for a year before advancing to the NBA Draft mere months after arriving on campus. Krzyzewski stated just last year that he was “worried that that is always becoming a thing,” referring to the idea of elite freshmen overshadowing established upperclassmen. He has also made it clear that he is in favor of a two-year draft rule, and has backed this notion as recently as the end of October. All of this makes it surprising that the Blue Devils head coach admitted on Thursday that he fully expects his latest freshman phenom, Jahlil Okafor, to be Duke’s latest one-and-done player.

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“We won’t have him long,” Krzyzewski said, implying that Okafor is more of a short-term rental than a centerpiece for years to come. This shouldn’t surprise anyone should the big man leave school — since 2007, only a single player who was named #1 on the ESPN 100 recruiting rankings stayed in school for more than one year (Harrison Barnes, North Carolina 2010-12). The freshman is going to be closely observed by NBA scouts from the second he touches the floor at Cameron Indoor Stadium, and, barring some kind of strange collapse, he is almost guaranteed a spot in next year’s NBA Draft Lottery.

Assuming he leaves Duke next spring, Okafor will be just the latest in a list of one-and-dones coached by Krzyzewski, a group that includes Kyrie IrvingJabari Parker and Austin Rivers in the last five years. That trio’s college careers did not necessarily go as expected. Irving’s regular season ended a couple games into December when he injured himself in a game against Butler. He came back for the NCAA Tournament, but #2 seed Duke was upset by Arizona in the Sweet Sixteen. Parker played sensationally in his lone season in Durham, yet the team lost a shocking Round of 64 game to a more experienced Mercer squad. And Rivers will forever be remembered for his spectacular buzzer-beater at North Carolina, but his Duke team also suffered an early exit, this time to Lehigh. Coach K’s recent one-and-dones have yielded great regular season and individual success, but they haven’t delivered strong postseason results.

The influx of one-year rentals has produced conflicting results for the elite coaches throughout college basketball. For Krzyzewski, the results have been a mixed bag (Luol Deng led Duke to the Final Four in 2004, while Corey Maggette was a key contributor on the 1999 national runner-up). For Kentucky coach John Calipari, his “one-and-done” program has resulted in three Final Four appearances and a National Championship in the last five years. Bill Self’s last Kansas team featured two one-and-dones in Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid, but the Jayhawks fell in the second round to Stanford. Some coaches quickly embraced the system and promote their program as the next logical step to the NBA. Others, for better or worse, have slowly adapted to the new era of college basketball. Coach K’s most recent public statement on the matter may suggest that the legendary coach’s comfort level with the strategy is growing and that he is starting see Duke basketball as closer to the former than the latter.

Brett Thompson (8 Posts)

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