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Basketball and Beyond: Coach K talks to Ken Jeong, ‘that guy from that thing’

December 17, 2013

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At first glance you might think actor/comedian Ken Jeong and Duke men’s basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski don’t have much in common. One is that guy from that thing. The other is that coach from that team.

But this week’s episode of Basketball and Beyond with Coach K, airing Thursday at 6 pm ET on SiriusXM College Sports Nation, proves otherwise.

Known best for his roles in The Hangover series and on NBC’s Community, Jeong’s road to stardom actually began as an undergraduate at Duke. Jeong reminisced with Coach K about his time as a Cameron Crazie – including camping out in Krzyzewskiville for the annual UNC game.

I definitely went to all the Carolina games. I always brag to my friends, I started a cheer in ’88 against King Rice. That’s how I always remember the UNC-Duke games. Rice came into play, he was a substitute at that time and I’m very proud to say that I started a “Oh. No. Not. Rice.” chant. And I was really proud of that until my junior year he came back and I think he scored like 28 points and beat us. So I will accept the glory and take the blame for King Rice in sophomore and junior year.

Jeong told Coach K about how his acting career was a “happy accident.” Armed with a pre-med degree, Jeong graduated from medical school and became a practicing physician in California.

“I took my first acting class at Duke and actually got accepted to the Duke drama school,” Jeong told Coach K. “I was pre-med at the time but my organic chemistry grades were slipping fast.

“I wasn’t on scholarship, I didn’t come from a wealthy family and for me, I kind of felt a responsibility to finish what I started and I was fortunate enough to get into med school and be a physician,” Jeong continued. “But I always had a burning to perform and to act. That was definitely cultivated at Duke.”

Jeong said he knew his grades needed to improve and as any good Blue Devil basketball fan would, he slapped the floor.

I think I went from an A to a C+ and then I had to kind of bear down. I had to slap my two hands on the floor, kind of play defense, and re-prioritize my academic career and buckle down on pre-med.

Coach K asked Jeong, who brought some of his stand-up comedy skills from early in his career to his current roles roles, how much he improvises on set.

I kind of pride myself on having the discipline to follow the script and I definitely defer to the director, especially initially. It’s probably like the relationship between coach and players. I believe when there’s trust between a director and an actor much like a coach and a player and if that player or actor shows that he has the ability to play within the system then I find oftentimes I can gain the trust of the director to improvise, do my thing and do it in a controlled way. Improvisation, much like in basketball, there’s certain things you run set plays and certain things you’re forced to improvise. When the camera is on, you read the situation and it’s really about being aware of the court or listening to your fellow actors.

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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