City Sports Report

Mike Krzyzewski calls Okafor “the best low post scorer in the country”


Duke Blue Devils Mike Krzyzewski speaks about Jahlil Okafor being the best low-post scorer in college basketball, reducing the rotation, and more after the win over San Diego State.

  1. Mike, you reduced your rotation tonight, dramatically it seems, and at some point in the game you stopped calling set plays and went straight motion offense; is that right, did I see that correctly and why did you do that?
    COACH KRZYZEWSKI: That’s pretty good. Keep going, I’ll grade you. What was the first point you made?
    Q. The rotation.
    COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Rotation. It was so good that I’m really pretty good. I don’t go into the game thinking about a rotation. Part of it has to do with foul trouble, who they have, and our match-ups, and then conditioning. Jah, especially with these long timeouts, Jah this week is in much better shape than he was the last three and a half weeks of the season. I think he’s pretty much over his injury, so he can play longer. If you hit on a group, I would have had Grayson in there a little bit longer but he got in foul trouble, it just kind of hit. In the second half, they’re a very good defensive team and they’re very tall, they have great length. They’re tough to score against. They were prepared to stop some of our sets really well. And so we just said at a timeout, look, let’s run motion, you guys attack, follow your instincts. If you can get it to Jah while you’re running motion, get it to Jah but be players. And we do that at different times during the season but today it really worked out. It was almost like a good push for them because it translated on defense also. It just kind of worked out. But they’re the ones who made — they were making the plays and they made it happen.Q. I was asking the players about usually the ACC tournament winners spring boards and certainly Notre Dame has, but how do you deal with not winning it and still keeping the goals that you obviously have in mind?
    COACH KRZYZEWSKI: I don’t necessarily agree with that. I think we’ve won a national championship and we’ve won a tournament. I remember losing by 20 points in the championship game and winning. I think the main thing is for any team to put what they’ve just done behind them and try to get fresh. That’s what we’ve tried to do. When we lost to Notre Dame, it’s not like you go back and punish them. They’ve been too good. But learn from it, get fresh and then you’re 0-0 again, that’s what we tried to do.Q. Mike, when Justise has the kind of all-around game that he had today, what does that do for the team especially on the defensive end?
    COACH KRZYZEWSKI: It just takes us to a whole other level. Those two kids played at a really high level this afternoon. And Justise, a lot, was on their best player, O’Brien, who I think a lot of people feel is the best player in that conference, in the Mountain West. And certainly that point forward, that guy, he’s a really good player. Justise won that individual battle, not that he was bad but Justise was so good, and it gave our guys more confidence. Those two kids really played great games this afternoon, big-time games.Q. Coach, you know what it takes to win a national championship. As you look at this team, do you see all the pieces coming together right now that tell you, you have a shot?
    COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Yeah, you know, we have a shot because we can still play. You know, there will be 16 teams that will have a shot. A couple things, one, we’re healthy, hopefully we stay healthy. We weren’t healthy the last couple weeks of the regular season, completely. We have great attitudes. The guys aren’t ready for this to be — in other words, they’re not mentally tired, they’re not physically tired. They’re together. We have talent, we’re getting older by experience, and so we just — like we got better here, these two games. Our defense was really good here. We shared the ball well again tonight, 16 and 9, really good. So we got better. If we can — we’ve got to play Friday night. Hopefully we get better then and get a chance to play Sunday. It’s a young group of kids that have really had a great season and they still want to get better. So you’ve got a chance, we’ve got a chance.Q. When they cut it to 7, they came down and Tyus fed Quinn in the corner for 3, and you called an immediate timeout even though there was a TV timeout coming up the next dead ball. What did you tell them because y’all went on a 13 run after that?
    COACH KRZYZEWSKI: I thought like we had lost control of the game, they were in more control, the momentum of the game was theirs, and we had just seized it with that 3. And I wanted to make sure, I just wanted to be the point guard for the timeout and say, look, we need stops, we’re going to go motion, let’s change this right now. I’ve done that more this year with this group at different times, to call some timeouts when it’s not in the book to call them or whatever, but just more by feel. I think they needed a blow, they needed a blow so they would be fresh defensively.

    Q. Coach, you obviously have learned a lot about your freshmen throughout this season but did you learn something else about them this weekend in their first tournament action? And talk about that growth of them from beginning to now.
    COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Well, sure, thank you. This is their first time. And even for the upperclassmen, most of the questions for the upperclassmen was what you did last year. So there wasn’t a lot of positive vibe about us being in the tournament, it was like can you get over this and then it’s a new thing for you. That’s just the way it is. I thought our guys had fun this week. We didn’t pay attention to anything like that, we just played. And they’re such a good, close group. They’re really a close group. And they responded in both games when it got down to 10 against Robert Morris and it got down to 7 this afternoon, they responded to like their best play, which that’s the thing you can’t teach, you don’t know if they’re going to do it and they did, and so I’m proud of them for doing that. This tournament, I call it tournament pressure, and they handled it really well twice.

    Q. Steve Fisher was talking about how you guys offensively were able to do things that teams haven’t been able to do against them all year, like getting to the rim, finding an open 3, then pounding it down low to Okafor. Is this maybe the most versatile offense you’ve had in quite a while? Because it seems like you have got four guys, whether it’s the wing players, the guards or down low that you’re able to score almost at will against anybody at any time?
    COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Well, it’s a very complimentary group of guys because you have, I think, the best low post scorer in the country in Jah, we have good shooters and we have guys who can drive. And so that’s why we’ve been one of the best offensive teams in the country because we have those components. But it starts with Jah because you get — you don’t just get penetration with a dribble, you get penetration with a pass and then you get results. And so you move the defense in and out, and Jah overall has done a really good job with the double team. So it’s been a really good off — I mean, one of the very good offensive teams I’ve had. We’ve been a good defensive team most of the year and we just had a couple games where we weren’t good, but overall we’ve been a very good defensive team and we were really good here for these two games.

    Q. Coach, the other night with Jah with the dunk, do you think that was a learning lesson for him and how do you think that impacted how well he played today?
    COACH KRZYZEWSKI: I think all of them are learning lessons. He shouldn’t have done that, and he knows it, he takes responsibility for it, and just like you should take responsibility for playing great tonight and why did that happen, why did that happen? Were you a little bit more mentally prepared tonight, did you show emotion, did you put more into it, and did you play through tired? I didn’t think, like in that situation it was the end of a four-minute period, I thought he was tired and he did — he made a mistake. Tonight, this afternoon, when he got tired, he played through it and made really good plays. And that’s part of becoming a really good player is to be tired. A team needs to beat it and a player needs to beat it because all these kids get tired.

    Q. What adjustments do you have to make heading into Houston against Utah and their 3-point shooting team?
    COACH KRZYZEWSKI: You know, I haven’t watched anybody. I wish — I’ll handle Utah questions — nothing against them, I just haven’t watched them. I didn’t know we would be going to Houston until about an hour ago and in between I haven’t watched any of their tape or whatever. I’ll be happy on our press conferences before the game to talk in detail about Utah, but I just know they’re coached by a guy with an amazing background, I think in the history of the game, I don’t know how many times two Polish coaches will go against one another, where both of us are called Coach K, but he’s a good friend. I had him on my Sirius XM show about a month ago and, boy, was he — he was really good, really good. And his background is amazing. I know they play with great character and they come from a great conference but I’ll study them more and I’ll be more apt to give a good answer as to how we’ll defend them and attack them.

    Q. Mike, have you been able to — were you aware of how well the conference has played?
    COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Yeah, yeah. Unbelievable. How about the triangle region, it’s not bad. But the whole tournament has had incredible games, just incredible games. Our hearts and our thoughts and prayers go out to Mike and his family. For him to coach that game without anyone knowing that his mom had passed away. She was an Olympic — she was, like Mike said, she was way ahead of her time. She just was like a great, great lady. For his team and for the basketball gods to make that happen was so good. I’m so happy and I hope they’re doing all right.




    Click here for Jahlil Okafor talking about winning a championship

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  2. quinne Lowe

    March 23, 2015 at 1:45 am

    yeah he is one of the best, but will he be enough against a team like Gonzaga that runs out multiple bigs?

    • Derrel Johnson

      March 23, 2015 at 3:06 am

      Right now, he is better than the bigs at Gonzaga

    • craigbattle

      March 29, 2015 at 5:27 am

      I think he will. He is bigger, stronger, and more skilled than the bigs for Gonzaga

  3. Chuckie Maggio

    March 23, 2015 at 2:42 am

    I would have to agree at this point. When he’s in the low post no one can stop him.

    • craigbattle

      March 29, 2015 at 5:26 am

      Yes indeed, and that should continue all of the way to the Final Four

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