Associate head coach Jon Scheyer spoke with the media Friday morning, discussing Coach K’s evolution as a head coach, who’s been leading the squad in scoring and more. Here are some key takeaways:
The snarl to the smile
Gone are the days of head coach Mike Krzyzewski’s signature long practices and fierce tirades, at least the ones Scheyer experienced when he played for Coach K.
“Shorter practices now than when I was a player,” Scheyer said with a laugh in response to a question on how he’s seen Krzyzewski evolve as a coach. “Not as much yelling at the players.”
Scheyer later added that Krzyzewski has done a great job of “adjusting to how players today need to be coached.”
Coaching style isn’t the only difference he’s noticed, though.
The former All-American guard mentioned that texting recruits is another stark contrast, a far cry from when he was recruited to Duke in 2005. And lastly, Scheyer noted one more adjustment that could have a big impact on this year’s team.
“We were talking about our defense today in a staff meeting, and he’s open to doing things he’s never done before,” Scheyer said. “I don’t know many Hall of Fame coaches, maybe the best coach ever, thinking about doing something he’s never done before.
“I think that’s a credit to [Krzyzewski] and also why he’s been so successful for all these years.”
Matthew Hurt—leading scorer?
Scheyer joined in on the praise for Matthew Hurt, adding to the long list of media availability subjects this preseason to emphasize how impressed they are by the sophomore forward.
“Hurt has been our leading scorer [in practice], if not every day, most days,” Scheyer said. “He’s been doing it from everywhere. He’s played with an incredibly high level of confidence, which we’ve talked to him about and it’s great to see.”
Get Overtime, all Duke athletics
Signup for our editorially curated, weekly newsletter. Cancel at any time.
As Hurt discussed in his own media availability earlier in the week, Scheyer noted the mental change he’s seen from the 6-foot-9 sharpshooter.
“The main thing for him was his mentality, and him translating how good he knew he could be to just showing it with his play,” Scheyer said. “He’s come back, and he’s done it every day. He’s always been incredibly coachable. He’s always been a hard worker. He’s gotten stronger, but he’s also gotten more athletic. He’s doing conditioning that he maybe didn’t do last year all the time.”
Scheyer added that this change in mentality hasn’t just affected his performance on the court, but how he carries himself on the court as well.
“Something we didn’t even see watching him in high school—he’ll score and he’ll talk smack,” Scheyer said. “Doing some of that is [something] we like to see with him, didn’t necessarily see that all the time last year. But I think that’s part of the transformation.”
‘Old-fashioned Duke basketball’
Even with Hurt leading the show as a sophomore, Scheyer discussed how this year’s Blue Devil offense will be far different from what fans have gotten used to seeing over the last three seasons.
“We don’t necessarily have a guy we’re just going to throw the ball to. The Zion Williamson guy or Marvin Bagley or even Vernon last year, where we’re just going to throw it inside and most of the time we’re going to come away with two points, maybe even three points,” Scheyer said. “Matthew has been a terrific scorer, but he’s a scorer in a different way.”
Scheyer noted that Duke will have to learn to score more as a team this season, using this year’s NBA Playoffs as an example of just that.
However, he made sure to emphasize that this wasn’t really a weakness for the Blue Devils, just something different.
“I think it can be actually a strength because the paint can be open—our shooting is very good,” Scheyer said. “And just like good old-fashioned Duke basketball, a lot of drive-and-kicks, shoot a lot of threes and go get offensive rebounds. So I think that’s how we’re looking to play this year.”
Where does Jalen Johnson fit in?
Jalen Johnson certainly comes in as one of Duke’s most mysterious top recruits in recent memory. After committing to the Blue Devils in July 2019 as the No. 4 recruit in his class, Johnson fell all the way to No. 13 after a tumultuous senior year that included a midseason school change.
The nine-spot drop in the recruiting rankings has made Johnson one of the most underrated incoming freshman in college basketball, a 6-foot-9 point forward who could be one of the most dangerous players in the country in transition.
“His passing is special,” Scheyer said. “If you’re Joey [Baker] or DJ [Steward] or whoever, you like being on his team, because he’s going to find you.”
However, one part of Johnson’s repertoire that Scheyer says the freshman could still use some work on is his half-court game.
“I think his thing is just figuring out, ‘What’s my core?’ What’s my base, in terms of college? What are my go-to’s?'” Scheyer said. “And he’s refining that. He’s working on it. We’re working on it every day, particularly in the half court.”