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March 21, 2019
Columbia, South Carolina
THE MODERATOR: We have the student-athletes from Duke University. We will introduce the players. Zion Williamson, Javin DeLaurier, and R.J. Barrett. Open the floor for questions.
Q. Zion, you played AAU ball with Devontae Shuler. You've known him for a while. What was he like as a player then, what was your impressions of him, and how far along has he come, do you think?
ZION WILLIAMSON: He has come a long way, obviously. But for me, when I played with Shuler, I was a ninth grader, he was a tenth grader, and I was like, yeah, he's the best player in the state. He would impress me with so much, like he'd get steals but act like he got faked out by a spin move and just turn right back. He would be a very explosive scorer, like score 15 points straight. I used to just watch in awe of him. So, yeah, he has come a long way.
Q. This is for all of you. Notwithstanding the Number 1 seed, this team has gone through a lot this season, injuries and a tough schedule. How has this team evolved? We keep hearing brotherhood. How has this brotherhood evolved for all of you?
R.J. BARRETT: Yeah, it's been a challenging year, going through adversity, going through injuries, different stuff like that. Like you said, brotherhood, we remained together, and that's what's really helped us along.
JAVIN DELAURIER: I would agree with that, and I'd say the adversity that we've gone through has in a way made us closer, just because, when one guy goes down, we feel like we owe it to him to continue to produce on the court. And then when they finally get back and join us, we're just happy to have our brother back playing with us again.
ZION WILLIAMSON: To add on to what they said, like, when players get hurt, it forces you to respond in a different way, and it just makes us closer as a team because we've been through so much, and the fact that we're here now, I mean, it's a brotherhood. We bonded through it all, and it just makes us close.
Q. Zion, does the location of these first two games have any extra significance to you beyond just the NCAA Tournament because it's in your home state?
ZION WILLIAMSON: Yes and no. Yes, because I didn't think I would ever like have a chance, once I committed to Duke, to play in the state of South Carolina in a college basketball game. So that's obviously a blessing, so I'm very excited about that. And no, because I can't like put my personal excitement ahead of my teammates because, at the end of the day, I'm on a team, and I want to win with my teammates, and we have to focus on just winning.
Q. Zion, did you have an opportunity to watch any of the North Dakota State game last night? If so, what were your impressions of the Bison?
ZION WILLIAMSON: Yeah, I got to watch some of it. My impressions were very good. They play as a unit. They can really shoot, and they remained calm, like they got the lead, and then Central cut it down. But even with that momentum swing, they didn't like fold. They held their composure, and they got the win.
Q. Zion, you've been like the biggest story in college basketball all year. How have you maintained your composure through that? And how excited are you for this chapter of playing in the NCAA Tournament?
ZION WILLIAMSON: I'm going to thank my parents for that because, when I told them I wanted to be a basketball player when I got older, they told me everything that would come with that, like all the on court and off court stuff and the media. So I was prepared for it. I'm very excited to be here because I watched March Madness as a little kid, and to actually be here playing for Coach K, playing for Duke, I couldn't ask for a better situation.
Q. Zion, coming back to your home state, has there been any buzz amongst your family and friends the last couple days? How many people do you expect to be here to be able to watch you?
ZION WILLIAMSON: There's going to be a lot of people here because, at the end of the day, this is Duke University, so people will be here just because we're Duke. Yeah, I had like a lot of friends and family telling me like good luck and they're happy for me that I'm able to play in my home state.
Q. R.J., this is your own journey, but your godfather has played in the tournament. Your dad had a long career playing in college basketball. What advice did they give you at a time like this? Not necessarily that you need it or not, but do you listen, and what might they be saying?
R.J. BARRETT: Just it's been a great year so far, and not to stop, but just to keep doing what I'm doing, stay even keeled. We have six more games to win, so just stay together as a unit really.
Q. (No microphone).
R.J. BARRETT: We've been texting back and forth, and he told me just to remain calm and don't really change what I've been doing all year.
Q. This question is for Zion. What is your most favorite memory about South Carolina and maybe of this town when you were growing up playing basketball?
ZION WILLIAMSON: My favorite memory from playing at Columbia would probably be my junior year, the Chick-Fil-A Classic. Playing against one of my best friends, Jalek Felton. Playing against Keenan High School, those three games we played, those were a very exciting three games. Each game, the gym was packed, sold out, and the energy that the fans brought was incredible. So that's my favorite memory from playing at Columbia.
Q. Javin, how has your role either grown or changed because of the injury to Marques Bolden? And what do you do, anything differently, to prepare for the games now?
JAVIN DELAURIER: I wouldn't say my role has changed that much. The expectations that my teammates and the coaches have for me remain the same. The only difference is I just have to be a little bit more careful, especially with fouls and whatnot, just because our rotation has changed because Ques, obviously, isn't here. But that being said, whenever I'm on the court, I always just try to do the same thing, play as hard as I can and do whatever I can to help us win.
Q. R.J., a little off topic, but you played at Montverde when Jermaine Couisnard was there, who plays here at South Carolina. I think you guys crossed paths a few times in those scrimmages, post grad versus the undergrad team. What do you recall about him and his game, and what do you think about his future playing here at USC?
R.J. BARRETT: He can shoot. Anywhere over half-court is his range. I remember guarding him, and he would pull in my face at half-court. I think he'll be good here.
Q. Kind of fun question for all of the gentlemen. Is there a particular song on repeat on your playlist right now that's kind of getting you pumped up and in the game?
THE MODERATOR: For this, we'll start with Zion and move down the table.
ZION WILLIAMSON: You're asking for just --
Q. The song that you have on repeat that's kind of getting pumped up for tomorrow's game.
ZION WILLIAMSON: Mine would be A Dream by Jay-Z and it features Faith Evans and Notorious B.I.G.
JAVIN DELAURIER: I've been listening to a lot of Roddy Ricch recently. I would go with Every Season.
R.J. BARRETT: Anything Drake.
Q. Zion, you mentioned that your parents prepared you to handle the pressures and all the attention you would get. Have any players or coaches reached out to you to kind of help you also maintain that kind of composure that you've showed throughout the season?
ZION WILLIAMSON: Like former players or former teammates?
Q. I mean, like with last year, with Trey Young, the way he went through, not particularly him, but have any players reached out to you helping guide you through that? Just any advice they might have given you.
ZION WILLIAMSON: Oh, yes, sir. A few players have reached out to me. I don't want to say their name because I don't know if they want me to share that private information, but, yeah, a few players have reached out. They just all told me what to expect, like it's college. You're going to have some good things are going to happen, and there's going to be a time where it's not so good.
So I was kind of prepared for this. I had like a cheat sheet on what to expect, basically.
Q. Zion, when you look back to last year, between the signing, being able to win another SC State Championship -- I know that brings a smile to your face. Obviously, everything's been going on crazy. You have to get ready to go to Duke. Everyone is talking about what's going to be next for him, making millions, NBA, all that kind of stuff. When you had your injury a couple of weeks back and everyone is speculating, did you have the time to maybe reflect a bit and kind of, you know what, this is my last go, this is why I want to play, because some people were saying he should just sit this next one out?
ZION WILLIAMSON: I did think about that. I always knew I'd be coming back because I love playing the game of basketball, and I love my teammates. I made a commitment to them when I committed to Duke. I feel like I would have been a bad person if I didn't come back. So coming back was not an issue.
But one thing I did think about when I was out was a year has gone by fast. Just last year I was a senior in high school. My high school season was over at this point. You know, you just think about life and how you just have to enjoy every moment.
THE MODERATOR: Duke head coach, Mike Krzyzewski. Opening statement and open the floor for questions.
MIKE KRZYZEWSKI: We're very excited to be here. Tournament is already going on. I know our guys are anxious to play. We're coming off of a great performance in the ACC Championship in the tournament. You'll see, if you watch our workout for 40 minutes today, that Marques will be ready to play. I don't know how many minutes, but he'll be ready to play. He won't start. Jack White; there's a good chance he will not play. He hurt his hamstring a little bit against Florida State. He's close, but I don't anticipate him playing in the first game, maybe in the second. If we win, maybe in the second. If we can continue to win, then hopefully going forward. But Marques will play. So any questions that you all might have?
Q. Bill Foster preceded you at Duke and then came here to South Carolina. What do you remember about Coach Foster? And did you ever run into him after he left and was here?
MIKE KRZYZEWSKI: Yeah. Coach Foster really is one of the outstanding coaches and guys in the game. Great promoter. Really helped move the needle for Duke in those late '70s because, after Coach Bubas left in the '60s and the start of the '70s was a rocky time. When Coach Bubas did such a great job and then Bill put together a great team and almost won the National Championship and left. We had a couple years of rebuilding and then were able to keep it going.
Q. Coach, why do you think your four freshmen have been able to work so well together here in an era of I've got to get mine, whether it's points, playing time or whatever?
MIKE KRZYZEWSKI: Yeah, well, they're great kids, and they're very secure about who they are. They're really all about winning, and they've been terrific. And our upper classmen have been good with them, and you would not know class on our team -- who eats together, who's hanging with one another. But those four kids are very special, and they've been parented extremely well and prepared well for something bigger than them. They're always involved with something bigger than them. It's a pretty cool thing.
Q. Coach, to that point, in particular R.J. and Zion, with all the challenges this season, how have you seen them evolve? Not only as players, but people.
MIKE KRZYZEWSKI: Great. I think they bring the best out of one another on and off the court. The two of them have become brothers. I've had a chance to coach a lot of really good teams and coached the U.S. Team for 12 years, and a lot of times when talent plays with talent, talent on both sides gets better. And also because personally, you can become good friends because you actually know what the other guy is feeling because he's also really good. They've not had a chance to do that, but we have other guys like that. But the two of them, in particular, right away.
I think a big part of that was our Canadian trip when we had a couple injuries. Trey and Cameron could not play, so it was kind of all on those two guys, and they forged a great friendship.
Q. Coach, did you have an opportunity --
MIKE KRZYZEWSKI: I figured you weren't from Mississippi.
Q. The accent gives it away, right?
MIKE KRZYZEWSKI: I thought the movie was coming on. Either that, or it's a hell of an impersonation. Do you do like improv?
Q. I do weddings and bar mitzvahs.
MIKE KRZYZEWSKI: You've got me next bar mitzvah.
Q. Did you have an opportunity to watch North Dakota State's game against Central? What were your impressions of the Bison?
MIKE KRZYZEWSKI: I've watched them a lot. I've watched both those teams before they played. Actually, last night was a big time game. Both teams were deserving of winning -- great pressure. I thought both teams responded very, very well. It was a heck of a game. Coach Richmond, he's done a great job with his squad. They're deep. They share the ball. Obviously, they shoot really well.
They play like one, and so I'm very impressed with them.
Q. After last year's upset with Virginia, how and where are you that anything is possible? And how has that influenced your preparation for tomorrow?
MIKE KRZYZEWSKI: Well, I didn't need that upset. We've been upset in the first round. I have personal experience. Anything can happen in the tournament because there's so many champions. Like the team we play tomorrow, North Dakota State, is a championship team. They won the Summit League. It's different when you're playing a championship level team. So they know how to win. They've been in pressure situations, and they've been in that moment, and they'll have that moment again tomorrow. We respect that, and we'll be prepared to play a championship team.
Q. Mike, I know you and Johnny Dawkins talk during the season. How soon after the bracket came out did you guys share anything?
MIKE KRZYZEWSKI: You know, I haven't really talked much to anybody. I've been under the weather for about nine days, so my texting and Bitmojis and all that have been tabled for a little bit. But Johnny and I talked quite a bit during the season. He's done a marvelous job with his team. I'm proud of him and really happy that he came to Duke about 37 years ago.
Q. Follow up on that. Can you just talk about what Johnny meant to your program in those early stages when you were building it?
MIKE KRZYZEWSKI: Johnny meant everything. He was the first great player that believed in us. He started it, along with that class, with Alarie, Bilas, Henderson, and then Tommy Amaker joining them. That served as the foundation for our program. We've tried to recruit youngsters just like them because we found that those type of youngsters can win at Duke and win at a high level.
But Johnny, Johnny's like -- they're family. So, so important to us, no question.
Q. When Marques was out last weekend, Javin got more minutes, and Tony got a little bit. What have they showed you during that time that can help you going forward, even with Marques coming back?
MIKE KRZYZEWSKI: It does help. I thought Javin played his best basketball of his career, and maybe his best game against Florida State. But that whole tournament, he played well. And then for Antonio to come in against North Carolina and do so well, it means that all these kids have been ready. They've had great attitudes, and the more depth that we have, the better.
Q. Forgive me for not knowing, but it has to have been a long time since you were considered an underdog in a basketball game. Is there a level of envy in what the Bison have coming into this, that free spirit, that nothing to lose that they get to bring to a basketball game?
MIKE KRZYZEWSKI: Why would you assume that the team, that we wouldn't have that?
Q. Because you're the Number 1 seed.
MIKE KRZYZEWSKI: But you only win if you have that. So if you need to lose to have that, then you would never win. So we try to have that while we're winning, and that's how you sustain excellence, and that's what we're going to try to do. We will try to be as hungry and as into the moment as the team that we're playing against. In fact, we'll try to be more.
Q. Coach, as far as -- what was the tenor of the advice that you gave Zion from the time he was out until the time he came back in the ACC Tournament, and what ultimately led him, in your mind, to be ready to come back and play?
MIKE KRZYZEWSKI: Well, the very first thing is he always wanted to be back. He loves Duke, loves his team, and he's playing great. His parents are terrific. Not so much advice, I just told him, look, if you don't want to play, if you're concerned, don't play. Don't ever feel like you have to play unless you want to play. And so it started from there.
We were very, very cautious in making sure that he was -- he's a different -- much different player than anybody, and so I wanted to make sure that he was ready before -- where he could be instinctively reactive because that's what he does. Once he was ready to go, he went. I was shocked, really, with his endurance during the ACC Tournament, for him to play 35-plus minutes in three consecutive games was absolutely remarkable.
But, no, it's always been what's in the best interests of the player. Always, and always should be.
Q. NDSU likes to spread out the scoring a lot, a lot of different guys who can lead the team in scoring. Is that a lot tougher when you can't just key in on one guy to shut them down?
MIKE KRZYZEWSKI: Yeah, it just depends on if it's a really good team, and they're a really good team. So it's not just that they spread the scoring, but they use the court. They use the three-point shot to create really good spacing, and then it creates more scoring opportunities for more people. So they'll be difficult to defend. I don't know if it's more difficult, but they're difficult. We play a lot of teams where it's difficult to defend, and hopefully we'll be successful tomorrow.
Q. First of all, sorry you're not feeling well. Curious how you have evolved or modified your coaching approach and messaging, if at all, when you get into this tournament with a team that has so many young players.
MIKE KRZYZEWSKI: I think we've been -- this is our 35th time in the NCAA Tournament. You have to adapt to the type of kids you have, the culture -- '80s, '90s -- and then to the age and the -- it's not just the age, but the experience. You might have an older team that isn't experienced in the tournament.
For us, we try to approach every game the same, not just in the tournament, but in season. Every game is huge for us, and so that, when we get here when everyone else says it's huge, we already know what huge means, and we don't have to let the ambience or the environment of the tournament determine that. We've determined that. So if we played North Dakota State on November 23rd, it would be a huge game for us, so it's not going to change. The more you keep things similar, when you get into the habit of performance -- I think our guys are ready to go.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports