Now in its fourth year, K Academy brings many of Duke
I arrived in North Carolina on Thursday and took a cab to the Washington Duke Inn on the Duke University Campus which would be my home for the next few days. The Washington Duke is a beautiful hotel built in the style of an old English country inn.
After checking into the hotel, I picked up my K Academy gear and got settled into my hotel room. Next up was a luncheon for the campers and staff where I saw a lot of familiar faces from past K Academies. At this year’s camp, there were a total of 57 guys. Only 12 of the 57 guys were new attendees. It was great to see a lot of the guys I had played with and against over the past two years.
After lunch we headed over to Cameron for a shoot around. We then were welcomed by Coach K who had just arrived back in Durham from Las Vegas where he was serving as the head coach of the USA team. Having just come from coaching the best players in the world like Lebron James and Dwayne Wade, and now getting to coach us, Coach K thanked us for helping him keep “balance”. The irony of Coach K going from one extreme to another in terms of the talent he was coaching was not lost on us.
We watched a video of Duke highlights.
In his opening remarks, Coach K encouraged us to celebrate the game of basketball and to have fun while playing during the next few days.
He then introduced us to the Coaches and staff.
Next we stretched and broke up into teams for our two evaluation games. All of the games throughout the camp were played in historic Cameron Indoor Stadium. The evaluation games allow the coaches to scout the “talent” and begin planning their strategy for the who they will select in the draft later that night.
A number of the current Duke players like Demarcus Nelson and David McClure stopped by the check out the K Academy as well.
After the evaluation games, I went back to the hotel to get ready for dinner. The first night’s dinner was held in Duke’s Hall of Champions. After cocktail hour where you could talk with any of the coaches and other players, we had dinner and the draft.
Coach K began the draft by talking to everyone about his recent experiences coaching the USA Basketball Team as well as an upcoming book he had written with his daughter Jamie Spatola.
As each player was drafted, video highlights of their play were shown on the video screen along with commentary from Jay Bilas and some of the coaches. It was hilarious.
I was selected to Team Dawkins which was coached by Johnny Dawkins, Chip England, and Alaa Abdelnaby.
Dinner was excellent as was the food throughout the weekend.
After dinner I returned to the hotel where I ran into Trajan Langdon, one of the coaches at the camp. Trajan and I had gotten to know each other during the past two K Academies and I was hoping to see him again this year. He’s a great guy who is very personable and friendly. Trajan and I spoke about his living and playing professionally in Russia.
After talking the Trajan, I went into the bar where I ran into some other K Academy coaches Jay Bilas, Mark Alarie, Chip England, and Quin Snyder. We talked for a while about college and NBA hoops. Next I stopped by the hospitality suite where I chatted with Dave Henderson before heading to bed around 12.
The next day, wake up came early at 6:30. After breakfast at the Washington Duke, it was over to Cameron to check out the Coaches vs players 4 on 4 games.
At around 8 we took our team photos and then had a lecture from Coach K and Chris Duhon.
Coach K introduced Chris and then showed his senior highlight video.
Chris played for Duke from 2000-2004 and helped lead the team to a National Championship in 2001.
Today Chris is the captain of the Chicago Bulls and attributes the leadership he learned at Duke to helping him succeed as a pro.
Chris is from Slidel, LA, one of several cities impacted by Hurricane Katrina in August 2005.
Chris has made significant fundraising efforts for those in his hometown.
Working with Habitat for Humanity and Coldwell Banker Real Estate Corporation, Duhon helped build two new houses in Slidel.
He also conducts a basketball camp in Slidel each summer and also one with former teammate Jay Williams for underprivileged kids at the Emily Krzyzewksi Family Life Center in Durham, NC.
Coach K expressed how proud he is of his players giving back to the community.
After Chris’ lecture, we stretched and then broke up for our team practices.
For our first practice Coach Dawkins, Engelland, and Abdelnaby worked with us on basic team principles and our offense. Chip Engeland, Assistant Coach with the San Antonia Spurs helped each of us work on our shooting.
Our first game of the day was against Team Snyder. It was a tough game and we wound up losing by one point in overtime.
After the game, I worked with Coach Abdelnaby on my post moves.
After lunch Coach K talked to us about his experience with USA Basketball. Coach K is the head coach of the Olympic Basketball Team.
In October of 2005, Krzyzewski was selected as the Head Coach of the USA Basketball Men’s Senior Nation Team from 2006-2008.
Coach K is the first collegiate coach to mentor a USA Senior National Team since USA Basketball began utilizing professional players in 1992.
Appointing a head coach for a three year term was a departure from the traditional way USA Basketball had handled it’s coaching selections in the past.
He talked about the differences between the NBA and the International game including defenses, lane size, the ball, and the length of game.
Coach K explained that he brought his staff (Coach Dawkins, Wojo, and Collins) with him to work with the Olympic team, as opposed to other head coaches, because working with his staff was instinctive.
To motivate his players, Coach K explained how he tried to create an atmosphere of being part of something bigger than themselves.
He expressed to his team that “It’s not about winning the gold medal. It’s about setting a higher standard.”
Treating everyone with respect, please and thank you
Trying to develop a base relationship
Bring in speakers to talk to the team, Cornel Bob Brown, selfless service
Coach K explained that his work with the USA Basketball team was not taking away from his Duke team, but rather it was an asset to the program. “I’m learning so much,” Coach K said.
We won our second game of the day led by guard Joe Fagan who played great. Everyone on the team contributed to the win including Wayne Chang with his hustle.
After the game I went to the Duke bookstore to see if there were any Duke jerseys I didn’t already have.
I found a cute cheerleader outfit for Duke’s newest fan, my daughter Taylor who was born on February 28th. Here’s a picture of Taylor and me.
Dinner Friday night was at The University Club.
The K Academy Staff continues to outdo themselves year after year. This year was the fourth K Academy. Those who had attended each of the three previous camps were now “Seniors”. Just as it is a tradition in the Duke Basketball program for each senior to have a senior video produced showing highlights of their playing career, each of the twelve K Academy Seniors had a video produced for them. We all watched each video as well as a special Coach K musical tribute.
Jeff Goettman, David Duckler, Ross Deutsch, Eric Savage, Randy Nichols, Bob Seelman, Jeff Bytomski. Tor Peterson, Gary Sudhalter, Jim Yuschak, Kenneth Bergstol, and Gummar Peterson.
We then had dinner with our team and Coaches.
After dinner it was back to the hospitality suite for more cards, stories, and fun with Chris Carowell, Mark Alarie, and Chip Engeland.
Coach Dawkins let our team sleep in on Saturday. With the possibility of playing up to nine games in four days, sleep is at a premium while at camp. After waking up, I headed over to Cameron where a lecture was being given on dealing with media. Current Duke players David McClure, Greg Paulus and Jon Scheyer were participating in the lecture.
Always be prepared to be asked about anything
Always handle every situation, lose and win with class
If a star mentions another players name, it’s the highest honor
The best thing you can do
K proud of how his players handle themselves in the media
It’s a privilege to be interviewed, opportunity
After the lecture, we had a team video session and reviewed our offensive spacing and defense.
Following our video session I went over to Card Gym to work on my shooting. While I was shooting around I noticed Abby Waner working on her shot as well. Abby is a starting guard on Duke’s women’s team. I was very impressed watching Abby shoot and make a number of threes from pro range.
Before our next game, we had a team meeting in the Duke locker room where the team dresses before games. We watched some more video and discussed our scouting report for the next game. Our strategy was good and we executed well as a team winning our morning game.
One of the themes of this year’s camp was celebrating the 20th anniversary of the 1986 Duke Basketball Team. The 86 team is credited with forming the foundation of Duke’s tremendous success. After lunch there was a lecture on the 1986 Duke team. The panel included team members Johnny Dawkins, Mark Allarie, Dave Henderson, Jay Bilas, and Coach K. Each of the players explained how they made their decision to come to Duke. All of them said they leading reason was Coach K. Coach K talked about his recruitment of the players, explaining how he looked beyond the player, saw the families, character, and quality of the people.
After the lecture we had a team shoot around in Card Gym before our next game. Our second game of the day was against Team Bilas and it was a tough one. Down by four with only a minute to play, we rallied to win the game when Joe Fagan found Suds for driving layup.
Friday night was special with dinner and entertainment at the Emily K Center. This was our first opportunity to see the facility and it was impressive.
Before dinner we enjoyed singing and dancing performances from local children who attend the Emily K Center. After dinner was the sports auction MC’d by Jessie Itzler. Jessie did a great job getting everyone involved and excited about the items up for bid including an All-Star weekend package in Las Vegas, a trip to see Duke play Gonzaga in New York, and a Napa Valley getaway.
After returning to the hotel, I stopped by the Hospitality Suite briefly and then headed to bed. Championship Sunday was tomorrow and I wanted to be ready.
I woke up at 7, had breakfast and headed over to Card Gym to warm up and get ready for the game. Our team ran through some plays and reviewed our scouting report.
Our first round game was a rematch against Team Bilas. Trailling most of the game, we again rallied at the end to win. Gary Munson made a critical steal and fed me for an old fashioned three point play. It was an exciting win for our team and we were looking forward to our next one.
Our second game was a rematch against Team Snyder. After starting our OK, Team Snyder pulled out to a big lead. We made a run at the end but it just wasn’t enough and we lost.
In the Championship game, Team Snyder took on Team Alarie. Bob Harris announced the game and the “virtual” Duke band pumped up the crowd. Led by Grodin, Team Alarie won an exciting match up.
After the game, the K Academy Cup was presented to Team Alarie and the team celebrated while the traditional March Madness anthem “One Shinning Moment” played over the speakers.
Following the game, there was a lunch back at the Washington Duke. I said goodbye to my team mates and coaches and headed to the airport with Russell .
At the airport we ran into Jay Williams. We had lunch with Jay before he hopped on a flight to continue his NBA comeback.
I want to thank the K Academy staff and Coaches for another incredible K Academy experience. They went above and beyond to exceed my expectations yet again. The camp gets better every year. The fact that so many of the attendees come back again and again is a reflection of their commitment.
Thanks also to my team mates and coaches. I loved playing with you. Thank you for sharing your K Academy experience with me. I look forward to seeing everyone back at camp next July for my “Senior” season.