Lots of optimism as you’d expect from C-well
Duke assistant coach Chris Carrawell addressed the media Tuesday morning eight days away from the opening game of the 2020-’21 season.
Carrawell addressed a number of topics. But let’s get one out of the way at the onset. The health of the team is good. Sophomore forward Matt Hurt (knee) and freshman forward Henry Coleman (ankle) have missed some time recently with injuries. But Carrawell says both could play today if they were needed.
“Matt is doing well. He worked out yesterday. He looks good.”
“Henry twisted his ankle a little bit. Just making sure they’re 100 percent healthy.”
Deep sigh of relief.
It’s a young Duke team, of course. That seems to be the new normal these days. Duke has 11 recruited players, six freshmen, four returnees and an interesting hybrid, a category new to the program; more on that later.
“We’re young, really young,” Carrawell says. “You have to teach more. As coaches we’ve done a really good job, all of us, of not rushing the process. . . . You have to take your time when you’re explaining, you might have to do it over and over again, be patient with these guys. . . . We’ve had a great group. These guys come every day with great attitudes, they come to work.”
Young teams are about learning and growing and getting better and Carrawell says that is what’s happening. Duke has had two scrimmages and the former Duke standout says the improvement between the two scrimmages was noticeable.
“The first scrimmage was just okay. It was the first time in Cameron. Some of the guys were nervous, even though the Cameron Crazies were not in there. But in our second scrimmage you saw a team that, if we’re running, we’re really athletic. We can play with such a fast pace, we can pressure the ball, we have two guys in [Jordan] Goldwire and [Jeremy] Roach, that when they’re guarding the ball, it’s tough. . . . and then you have our wings, Wendell [Moore] and D.J. [Steward] that if you catch the ball on the wing, they make it really tough on the defensive end.”
Areas of concern?
“We’re still learning to play with each other. When a guy drives, playing off penetration, making the extra pass, trying not to over-dribble too much. I think if there’s one thing we’re going to continue to work on as a staff and our players need to work on is just moving the ball. . . . If we can develop that, with the team that we have, then I think we’re going to take off. But it will take some time because they’re learning each other. So, you can’t be mad at them because they’re learning. That’s why the first scrimmage was okay, the next was better. The more and more these guys get to play with each other, the better they’ll be.”
Several players came in for special praise, especially Moore and freshman Jalen Johnson. Carrawell sounded a familiar theme regarding Johnson, praising his versatility and passing, while noting that Johnson is still shaking off the rust from missing most of last season.
Moore has matured and taken a big step as a leader.
Carrawell says Moore “worked on his game all summer. You come back and you’re older, you’re more confident. . . . That’s going to help us. He can shoot. But you wouldn’t know it because he wouldn’t shoot. But now we encourage him to shoot it.”
Carrawell says that “this is not a quiet group,” singling out Moore, Coleman, even “jokester” Mark Williams.
Patrick Tapé is Mike Krzyzewski’s first grad-student transfer. He’s a 22-year-old Ivy-League graduate. But Carrawell says Duke is treating him as more of a freshman than a veteran.
“It’s a different level and he had to get adjusted. The competition is just different. He’s had to practice against really good players every day. . . . The last couple of weeks he’s been our most consistent big guy. Every day you know what you’re going to get out of Patrick. His intensity on the defensive end, he’s our best big in terms of ball-screen coverage and this guy can rebound with the best of them. . . and he’s an under-rated passer.”
Carrawell discussed the COVID-19 pandemic, saying it’s “always in the back of your mind.” Duke is concentrating on controlling the things it can control, hoping that everyone else is doing the same and taking it one day at a time.
The goal is to make it to March Madness.
Not make the tournament. That’s always a goal. No, just hope there’s an NCAA Tournament waiting at the other end.
“If we can just get to that day . . . for college basketball, it will be huge. . . . I know there will be some cancellations. So, it’s a lot we’re going to have to work through. If we can do it together, then the most important thing is that everybody is healthy and safe.”