As the Blue Devils continue to prepare for the 2020-21 season Coach Jon Scheyer spoke on a number of topics over the session, including how the team is progressing during practice, his and the staff’s view of the social justice movements, the development he has seen from the veterans, and how he hopes the team responds after last season’s abrupt ending due to the pandemic. Scheyer is entering his eighth year on the staff in 2020-21, including his third as an associate head coach.


On how he’s seen Director of Operations & Player Development Nolan Smith progress as a leader in the community:
“I’ve obviously known Nolan for a long time and we go back. I remember watching Nolan play when we were both in high school – this was about in 2006 or 2005. We’ve been obviously really close ever since then. Even when he was in college, he’s always been a guy who loves to give back. It’s been about more than basketball for him. I think he’s a guy who not only talks the talk, but he walks the walk and that’s not a recent thing – that’s been ever since I’ve known Nolan. Particularly, the social injustices that have been going on and speaking out about it, he’s not held back anything. He’s spoken from his heart. He set an amazing example for our guys as well. I think he knows we support him like crazy. The thing that’s been disappointing from my point of view is the negative feedback that can come with that. That’s disappointing, whether it be from Duke supporters or not. The things that he’s speaking up on and as our players have and we all have – it’s about right and wrong, speaking from the heart, speaking from our hearts. What Nolan has done – obviously, the longer you’re a coach, the longer you’re in a role being on staff, it allows you to have better experience and it’s been fun seeing him grow as a coach alongside each other. The fact that we’ve been able to play together and now coach together has been something special for me and not many guys get the opportunity to do that. It’s been now about 12 years playing together, coaching together and obviously those years in between where we were playing professionally, we were very close. I’m proud of him. I’m lucky to call him a friend. Sorry for the long answer, but it deserves a long answer because I’m really proud of what he’s done and to be by his side.”


On whether he calls him the peoples champ:
(jokingly) “Look, you try as a friend not to build his head up too much, I like saying these things to you but I try not to say it to his face too much – including “the People’s Champ” Somebody’s got to try and humble him a little bit. I try to avoid calling him that whenever possible.”


On who has stepped into a leadership role since last season’s seniors and team captain Tre Jones moved on:

“First, I’m proud of Tre joining our Hall of Honor. We’ve had a lot of great players that have come through here, but that is a big deal. He accomplished a lot last year. I think this year, it’s still forming. The thing that we’ve liked seeing from our four returning scholarship guys in Joey Baker, Wendell Moore Jr., Matthew Hurt and Jordan Goldwire – all of them have led in their own ways. They have different personalities. I think it’s going to be something where sometimes it’s by committee because it’s not necessarily one guy that’s going to be the leader and the most vocal all the time. All four of those guys are figuring out their roles on this team. They’re all going to have bigger roles in different ways, but all four of them have done a great job in their own capacity.”


On what he has seen from junior Joey Baker in practice:

“If you ask anybody in our program – players, coaches, managers, whoever it may be – they’re going to rave about Joey. He’s as hard of a worker as we have on the team. He’s a guy who if he’s not the first one at practice, he’s definitely going to be the last one [leaving practice]. He has more to his game. Basically, all we have to tell him is ‘Just relax, it’s going to happen,’ because he wants it so badly. You love to coach a guy like that. He’s been working hard this summer on being able to attack close outs and be a decision maker. When he’s under control and gets in the paint, he can be a very good passer and playmaker for us. Not to mention, he’s even a quicker shooter and gets his shots off in a variety of ways. He had seven three’s the other day in practice. I didn’t want to just skip over that part because at the end of the day, making shots is a heck of a skill to have, especially for Joey.”


On how much the extra time the team is getting to practice before the season is helping make up for time it lost due to COVID-19:

“I think for us as a staff, we feel like in some ways we’re really ahead because we just focused on ourselves and have been able to be together for a group for a couple of months now. But on the flip side, you feel like you’re behind in a lot of ways. All of a sudden, we’re going to be playing a game in a month and there’s no Countdown to Craziness in front of fans and no exhibition games that you normally have to get your feet wet, so it’s unusual in terms of that. I think the biggest thing we tried to do was just control what we can control. I think that’s been showing up every day. Our players have done an amazing job of coming focused and getting the most out of every practice. I know we’ve done that as a coaching staff, and I think we’re going to be a team that is going to develop through the season. You guys have heard it before, but with us, seven of our 11 scholarship players are new, and so that’s going to be something for our guys [where] the first game they play in compared to the 20th game or a couple months later, I think we’re going to be a completely different team. It’s going to be fun to see how we develop and progress throughout the year.”


On sophomore Wendell Moore Jr.’s progression both as a player and a team leader:

“I think it starts with Wendell that, one – everybody respects him. He treats everyone with great respect, so when he speaks – I don’t care what topic it is – everybody listens. I think that’s a mark of a great leader right there. I think at times his freshman year, he doubted himself at times or he didn’t play as aggressively as he could have. I think he’d be the first person to say that. You see this year just a newfound confidence. What he did back home was amazing with the peaceful protest. What he’s done on the court here, what he’s done organizing different things for our team, whether it be this morning when he wanted to bring the group in together to work out. He has done that at a much higher level this year in terms of being vocal and like I said, being a leader for us, not only setting the example with his actions but also what he says.”

 

On who has impressed him in practice so far:
“Matthew Hurt has been our leading scorer if not every day, most days. He’s been doing it from everywhere. He’s played with an incredibly high level of confidence, which we’ve talked to him about. It’s been great to see. Mark Williams has been protecting the rim at a high level. He’s a lob threat at all times and just seeing the way he’s moving has been very good. I will tell you what, though – Henry Coleman III has done a heck of a job. I don’t know if I’m surprised – I wouldn’t say that – but he’s been very impressive with what he’s done in practice up until this point. He really runs the floor hard, he’s a versatile defender, he’s got a great attitude, he comes ready every day, a great motor, great energy and his skillset is improving. He can get a lot better still, but Henry has been terrific for us so far.:

 

On his changing role at Duke:
“I don’t think its changed much, I would say that the biggest thing, I was very fortunate at the time I came in – 8 years ago now, as a special assistant, you know Wojo was still here, Cape (Jeff Capel) I became very close with and got to see, and obviously Coach James who I’ve known ever since I was a player, and just to see how those guys handled the recruiting process both are great recruiters. Obviously all of us know at the end of the day that guys are coming here to play for Coach K that is why our guy come here and that’s a big deal and so for us, I think we have a very unique thing as a staff, we work as a team. When one guy maybe is communicating more with the family or with the player but all of are involved, all of talk about every situation. I think that makes for a lot of success and not to mention Coach K and who he is and what he does and how great of a recruiter he’s proven to be. So It’s fun Ive enjoyed it, learned a lot from Cape, learned a lot from Wojo and just working as a team I would say is the biggest thing we do at a high level here.”

 

On who has surprised or impressed so far:
“Matthew Hurt has been our leading scorer if not every day, most days. He’s been doing it from everywhere he’s played with an incredibly high level of confidence, which we’ve talked to him about, it’s been great to see. Mark Williams has been protecting the rim at a high level, he’s a lob threat at all times and just seeing the way he’s moving has been very good. I’ll tell you what though, Henry Coleman has done a heck of a job and I don’t know if I’m surprised, I wouldn’t say that but he’s been very impressive with what he’s done in practice up until this point. He really runs the floor hard, he’s a versatile defender. He’s got a great attitude, comes ready every day, great motor, great energy. His skillset is improving and can get a lot better still but Henry has been terrific for us so far” On what this team still needs to work on: “I think with this team, we’re still figuring out our lineups and rotations and all of that. We don’t necessarily have a guy we’re just going to throw the ball too. We’ve had a Zion Williamson guy or Marvin Bagley III or even Vernon [Carey Jr.] 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. Matthew [Hurt] has been a terrific scorer, but he’s a scorer in a different way. I think understanding it’s going to be a different team in that respect. You watch the NBA playoffs, you watch anything – you need to score together, and we’re going to have to do that differently this year without the post presence of just throwing the ball inside. Mark [Williams] and Pat [Tapé] – those guys have been really good. They’re probably going to score in a different way and not just throwing the ball to them in the post. I think that’s going to be something for us to figure out, and I wouldn’t necessarily call it a weakness. I think it can be actually a strength because that paint can be open, our shooting is very good and just like good old fashion Duke basketball, a lot of drive and kicks, shoot a lot of three’s and go get the offensive rebound. I think that’s how we’re looking to play this year.”

 

On the possibility of this being a deep Duke team:
“It been a year where, I shouldn’t even say a year, it’s been a couple of months so far but in the practices it may be where DJ Steward is the best guard for a couple of days, then Jordan Goldwire, then Jeremy Roach then Joey Baker is coming on. Matthew has been there pretty consistently but I think its less about the inconsistency of our players it’s more about it just being some really good players. It’s not just 3,4 or 5 guys standing out its a much a deeper team in terms of the every day production and the level of their play in practice that we’re seeing so again we still have some here for guys to separate themselves. But the way we talk as a staff we feel like we can have a deep team, we feel like we do have a bench and some pop and some scoring power coming off the bench no matter what and we’re excited about that.”

 

On Coach K’s evolution:
“I could write a book on this one. Shorter practices now than when I was a player, not as much yelling at the players, laughs) nah I could go on and on but in all seriousness I give Coach a lot of credit, he’s been coaching here for over 40 years and I can only speak to what I saw first hand as a player even the style of play that we had like I mentioned, even the practices in all seriousness, the length of the practices, the kinds of things we are doing and him adjusting to how players today need to be coached which is different. Even the recruiting process. Coach K and I weren’t texting when I was being recruited. I can’t rememberer getting a text from him, it was mainly on the phone. We were talking about our defense today in the staff meeting and he’s open to doing things he’s never done before and I don’t know many hall of fame coaches, maybe the best coach ever who’s thinking about doing things he’s never done before. I think that’s a credit to Coach and also why he’s been so successful for all these years.”

On Matthew Hurt’s Improvement mentally and physically:
“Well Matthew came back and you could just see the difference with him his body looked great he gained weight, he was able to get in the gym throughout the entire pandemic, which was hard to do as you know. But 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 he’s come back and he’s done it every day he’s always been incredibly coachable he’s always been a hard worker. I think its part 1. he’s gotten stronger but he’s also gotten more athletic. He’s doing conditioning that he maybe didn’t do last year all there time, he’s getting in on his own with Coach Will Stephens our strength coach and all those things show up in his play. But it’s been the mentally that’s been so exciting for us to see. Some things we didn’t even see watching him in high school, he’ll score and he’ll talk smack and doing some of that, we like to see that with him. We didn’t necessarily see that last year but I think this part of the transformation from getting a taste of it last year and now knowing what to expect and what he needs to bring every day. So it’s been exciting to see.”

On what role he envisions freshman Jalen Johnson filling for this team:
“There’s no question he’s got the ability and the talent. I think Jalen is just figuring out, because he can do so many things – it’s not like he’s exactly a four or a three or a five – I think his thing is just figuring out ‘What’s my core? What’s my base? What are my go-to’s?’ He’s refining that and he’s working on it every day, particularly in the half court. That’s something for him to work on. He’s going to be a guy that can play everywhere for us, really, but I think we need to just help him find out ‘What’s your base, and let’s go from here.’ He’s been fun to work with. He’s been doing a really good job – his passing especially. If you’re Joey [Baker] or DJ [Steward] or whoever, you like being on his team because he’s going to find you.”

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