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Basketball and Beyond: Coach K talks underrated players

November 21, 2013

Mike Krzyzewski

Duke men’s basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski.

When the head coach of the No. 6 team in college basketball (Mike Krzyzewski at Duke) and the head coach of the No. 1 team (Tom Izzo at Michigan State) get together, you assume they’ll talk about the powerhouses they’ve built at their respective schools. Coach K and Izzo did plenty of that on this week’s Basketball and Beyond, but the two also talked about the one opposing player they think deserves more recognition.

“There’s been a lot of really good basketball being played,” Krzyzewski said. “But the performance of Oklahoma State Tuesday night against Memphis was spectacular.”

“One of the best players in the country is Marcus Smart from Oklahoma State,” Coach K said of the sophomore guard. “He’s a guy that was a captain of our U-19 World Championship team this past summer, and he was one of two collegiate players that we invited to our NBA training camp for USA Basketball.”

Smart scored 39 points for No. 7 Oklahoma State in a 101-80 win over No. 11 Memphis on Tuesday night.

With the current one-and-done rules in college basketball, Smart was able to choose between leaving Oklahoma State and entering the NBA draft or staying in college last April. Izzo praised Smart’s decision to stay, and talked about why his decision should not be out of the ordinary.

“I think it should be the kids’ choice and all that,” Izzo told Krzyzewski, “but we shouldn’t look down on somebody that decides to stay. That’s a great thing for them to mature and it shouldn’t be a negative, and sometimes I think we make it that way.”

Across Duke’s campus, David Cutcliffe has led the football program to an 8-2 record this season, including two consecutive wins over ranked opponents. The Blue Devils are ranked 25th in the AP poll this week, their first national ranking since 1994.

Krzyzewski asked Cutcliffe how he’s built his team since he took over as head coach in 2008.

There are a lot of philosophies on how to build a football team or a baseball team or a basketball team. But the one constant in any sport is the ability to run. If you can’t run, you can’t play. You can be big, you can be strong, but if you can’t run you still can’t play. We have focused on that. We also, in our sport, if a guy really doesn’t like contact, if that shows up on tape we drop him. You can’t play the game … that includes the quarterback. If you’ve got a quarterback concerning himself with contact, you’ve got an average quarterback at best regardless of his other gifts.

Duke football heads into the final two games of the regular season in control of their bowl destiny. Cutcliffe talked to Krzyzewski about how he’s handling practices this week.

I’m using their energy to make practice that much more intense. It’s November and in football you’ve got to back off a little bit of the amount of time. It’s been a long, grueling, physical season. But when you’ve got things going your way, everything we do is focused on how great we can prepare. The last two days it has been intense on the practice field. It’s what I call ‘zoom focus’ – to me, when you’ve got a bunch of people that are committed and intense, you create more ‘zoom focus’ on the task at hand.

Coach K takes to the airwaves Thursdays at 6 pm ET throughout the college basketball season on SiriusXM College Sports Nation. Basketball and Beyond with Coach K, co-hosted by Dave Sims, is in its ninth season, and is available live on Ch. 91, on the SiriusXM app and on SiriusXM On Demand.

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