Duke basketball: Jon Scheyer’s imprint is growing increasingly evident

Duke basketball (Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports)
Duke basketball (Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports) /
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Duke basketball
Duke basketball head coach-in-waiting Jon Scheyer (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images) /

Jon Scheyer is off to a hot pre-start at the country’s preeminent program, but it’s in the subtle differences where we see he is already making Duke basketball his own.

If you ask any fan of Duke basketball what they think about Coach K, the trove of responses would generally boil down to a theme: it’s hard to argue with greatness. It’s even harder to argue with when that greatness is not only appreciated and respected but adored; adulated; revered like the last-living remnants of some ancient basketball wisdom.

And deservedly so. Mike Krzyzewski is widely regarded as the best collegiate coach and as one of the best coaches ever to do it regardless of sport, era, or rank of competition, be it NCAA, professional, or Olympic. Coach K has built Duke basketball into a juggernaut on and off the court. He has made himself and his abbreviated moniker into an institution and turned what was once North Carolina’s secondary team (maybe) into DUKE BASKETBALL INC., the only global brand of hoops among college teams with even the bluest of blood.

You know what they say about fixing what ain’t broke or messin’ with success. It’s generally wise not to do and especially so in the face of the accolades previously stated. This doesn’t even mention the little things like five national titles spanning eras and playing styles, and the most NCAA wins ever. And while the program doesn’t need any overhaul or philosophy change, a little tune-up never hurts, and Jon Scheyer seems keenly aware of the challenges ahead of him and keenly able to handle them.

His ability to adapt, read, and respond with a calm and decisive demeanor is what helped distinguish him as a captain and All-American leader of a title-winning team for Duke basketball in 2010. It is also one of the reasons I always liked him to succeed Coach K, and don’t worry: I patted myself on the back long ago. The absence of his steadying influence due to graduation is one of the biggest reasons a more talented Duke squad minus him couldn’t repeat the following year. That and the Derrick Williams cur-sed first half.

Jon Scheyer knows he has been handed the keys to a Duke machine in great shape. Still, as evidenced in a recent interview while accepting a Coaches vs. Cancer award, he won’t let it change his own expectations or, more interestingly, the way he is going to do things:

“As much pressure as anybody could have on me, I guarantee you I have bigger expectations on myself. I hold myself to a high standard. The expectations and responsibility I have for carrying this program, I don’t take lightly, but we’re not going to be consumed by it.”

If you are unfamiliar with Jon Scheyer and the years he spent forcing his name into Duke basketball’s lengthy history and record books, this may sound like false bravado. That he did so to become champion without a word of self-congratulation and a commitment to team goals above all else, Duke basketball knows he is just speaking from the heart. In talking about his own expectations but slipping in the “we’re” reference when not carrying the weight of them, it seems Jon Scheyer realizes the full Duke basketball apparatus he has at his disposal. Next, we’ll look at some of the ways he is putting it to good use.