Duke basketball: The commitment that completely changed Coach K

Duke basketball head coach Mike Krzyzewski (Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports)
Duke basketball head coach Mike Krzyzewski (Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports) /

One guy turned a Duke basketball one-and-done ban into a one-and-done plan.

Duke basketball head coach Mike Krzyzewski has repeatedly claimed it is the times that changed while his general recruiting tactics largely stayed the same. What the 73-year-old often neglects to mention, though, is that he could have reacted to the changing times by targeting fewer of the obvious one-and-done candidates, thereby sticking to his initial stance against one-and-dones.

Now, one has to wonder if a certain one-and-done tease was the No. 1 spark to what has obviously become Krzyzewski’s one-and-done addiction…

Thursday marks 11 years since Kyrie Irving, the No. 1 point guard on the 247Sports 2010 Composite, pledged allegiance to what would later become known as #TheBrotherhood of Duke basketball. Yet according to a vow from Krzyzewski in 2005, it seems the Hall of Famer should’ve never recruited the electric playmaker in the first place.

See, by Oct. 22, 2009, it was crystal clear that Irving was a one-and-done prospect. Therefore, some would argue Krzyzewski technically broke the following promise he had made four years prior when the NBA was on the verge of passing the “one-and-done rule” that required players be at least 19 years old and a year removed from high school graduation before entering the league:

“I would never recruit a kid who said, ‘I’m just coming for a year.’ I never have…For our school, we can’t do that. A kid says, ‘I’m going to come and use you for a year’ — that’s not what we should do.”

So much for that guarantee. Though Krzyzewski had stuck to his word for a few years, that hasn’t at all been the case from the time of Irving’s commitment through the present day.

To be fair, the five-star may not have directly informed the Duke basketball staff of his pure one-and-done intentions. That said, throughout Irving’s recruitment, there was little doubt that was his plan.

If nothing else, there appeared to be a greater chance of Kyrie Irving becoming a one-and-done than there had been in the cases of Corey Maggette and Luol Deng, who played before the one-and-done rule and at that point were the only Blue Devils who had ever bolted for the NBA after only one season at Duke.

Ironically, despite Coach K managing a fourth national title in 2010 without a one-and-done and then seeing Irving play only 11 games due to a toe injury the following season — which ended in the Sweet 16 for Duke but led to Irving becoming the No. 1 pick at the 2011 NBA Draft anyway — Durham became a regular stop for the one-and-done train.

And the number of passengers that it dropped off each time grew over time.

Mixed emotions concerning the Duke basketball one-and-done era

As the ACC Men’s Basketball Twitter account proclaimed on Thursday to mark the anniversary, “The Kyrie effect…was REAL!” The tweet also noted that in the 10 recruiting cycles (2000-09) leading up to Irving’s class, the Blue Devils had reeled in a combined eight five-stars, per 247Sports; across the 10 post-Irving cycles (2011-20), the five-star count is 28.

Sure, the new era has included “One Shining Moment” in 2015 and several thrill-a-minute Duke basketball teams (replay Zion Williamson & Co. in 2018-19).

However, the new era has also resulted in a ridiculously high turnover rate. Understandably, some supporters have all but forgotten some faces along the way (see Trevon DuvalFrank Jackson, etc.). Consider that of the 188 Blue Devils who have ever lettered for any of Coach K’s 40 Duke basketball teams to date, 61 of them — or roughly a third — have done so since 2011.

ALSO READ: Ranking all 40 Duke teams under Coach K

Some love it because it has popularized #TheBrotherhood. Some hate it because it has hampered chemistry and whatnot. Meanwhile, there are those who are more than happy to root for whatever collection Coach K constructs each year without daring to question any altered strategy from the five-time national champ and all-time wins leader.

No worries, for Duke basketball message boards and Blue Devil Twitter would be quite a bore if every Dukie shared the same opinions on such matters.

But no honest fan can deny that the general makeup of rosters under Coach K’s watch has completely transformed, with Kyrie Irving’s announcement 11 years ago symbolizing the exact moment the change began.

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