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March 23, 2019
Columbia, South Carolina
THE MODERATOR: Our student-athletes from Duke University, Zion Williamson and R.J. Barrett. First question on the right, front row.
Q. I'm actually going to hand you my cell phone. You guys create a lot of highlights. I don't know if you'd seen that photo from last night and just get your reaction to that photo if you take a look at it.
ZION WILLIAMSON: I think we both saw this photo a lot. It's something we both do. We like to celebrate for each other, so whenever one of us gets it done, you'll probably see the other one in the background jumping just as high as him.
Q. To that point, for both of you, what does that mean -- like what does that photo mean to both of you? Because the other one everyone remembers is Dwyane Wade and LeBron, when he threw the alley-oop up for LeBron, and Dwyane Wade is already celebrating, and he can't even see LeBron throw it down. Take us through just the connection you two have. It's almost like you're one player on the court. You guys experience the same emotions. You have the same energy, and you celebrate and enjoy each other's dunks, moves, points the same way.
R.J. BARRETT: It's cool. It's great. Definitely -- when we're winning and making winning plays, just to see my brother out there doing his thing, doing great, making a highlight, I've got to get excited. It's like that for all our teammates. When someone makes a play, you've got to be excited for him.
ZION WILLIAMSON: Just like he said, it just brings energy to the table. We're always happy to see each other do well and succeed. So when somebody makes a big play, we don't even have to be on the court. We're going to celebrate.
Q. Zion, if you've seen the picture, you may have seen this, too, from Tacko Fall, the comment not allowing you to dunk on him, where he said I won't allow it. I won't allow him to put me on one of his highlight tapes. Your reaction to that?
ZION WILLIAMSON: What is he supposed to say? Is he supposed to say like I'm going to dunk on him? He said the right thing, but I'm not really focused on that. I'm just focused on trying to help my team win the game.
Q. On that note, regardless of what he said, he is a different kind of player than you've seen all year. What is your impressions, kind of, what it's going to be like playing against someone that tall and the kind of balance between your strength and power and jumping and his just sort of raw height?
ZION WILLIAMSON: He is a very unique player, and I got a lot of respect for him because for him to be that size and be able to move the way he does and have as much skill as he does, he's a great player. I think we're just going to have to come together as a team and figure out what we're going to do to try to stop him.
Q. I'm curious, Zion, who the biggest player is that you've gone up against in terms of height in your career. I don't know if you've faced anybody that tall in high school? I know you've faced a few probably close to 7-footers in college. Is there anybody you've faced close to that height-wise, like 7'6"?
ZION WILLIAMSON: Yeah, just Florida State's big man, Koumadje.
R.J. BARRETT: What is, is he like 7'4" or something?
Q. You said he's got to say what he's got to say, but do you find when you're matching up with guys, that they appreciate the challenge against you? They want to show themselves off, and they use you as the stage to do that? Or do you find guys are a little bit intimidated? Or is there a balance between the two?
ZION WILLIAMSON: Nobody's going to be intimidated on the court. I mean, it's not like he came out and just said it himself, like that's the media asking him those questions. Like I said, he's not going to sit here and say, yeah, he's going to dunk on me, like he's a competitor, so obviously, he's going to say he's going to block my shot. Like that's just basketball.
Q. Zion, you were asked the other day about sort of dealing with the tension over the course of the season and how your parents have kind of prepared you for that. So I was wondering, as the season has progressed, how have you continued to lean on that support system, and how have you gotten better as the season's gone on?
ZION WILLIAMSON: I've definitely gotten a lot better with it as the season's gone on. Just having my parents and, obviously, Duke staff. They help a lot with, I mean, handling the attention because it is Duke University. They've been doing this longer than I've been born with this attention. I feel like coming here was the best choice with handling the attention.
Q. So last night Tre said that, yes, it was an exciting win, it was the first win. He's taking all of his energy and focusing it on tomorrow. Are you guys giving yourselves the opportunity to kind of enjoy at least the first win or is it all just refocusing for tomorrow?
R.J. BARRETT: I felt like last night was the time to enjoy that win. Now today we just have practice preparing for tomorrow's game. We've got to take it one game at a time, and we've got to look at what's ahead and not the past.
Q. R.J. and Zion, it seems like the last couple weeks in the ACC Tournament and last night, you guys have really struggled out of the gates. What's been a common trend for you guys in getting out slowly in those games, and what do you guys have to do to get out strong?
R.J. BARRETT: I think teams really take it to us at the beginning, and we really can't let that happen. We actually have to throw the first punch and keep throwing punches throughout the game. We've just got to come out more focused.
ZION WILLIAMSON: Like he said, we've just got to come out more focused and more prepared for what the team's going to throw at us because it's not like we're only game planning against them. They're game planning against us, as well. So I think it's just a matter of like on-time adjustments, like making the read while it's happening.
Q. Zion, I imagine that you heard about the sort of Zion Cam that was being used for the game. I was wondering just what your thoughts were on having something like that being used to kind of follow your action throughout the night?
ZION WILLIAMSON: Yeah, I think one of the managers might have showed me that, but I wasn't focused on that at all. I was just focused on trying to go out there and help my team win.
Q. Kind of to piggy-back off that a little bit, R.J., you came in as the Number 1 recruit in the country and obviously have a very bright future ahead of you. Has it been weird for you to kind of see the attention that's been on Zion throughout the year? And do you think in some ways maybe it's been good for you? Would you have been as comfortable with an R.J. Cam following you around all day? Or do you think the roles that you kind of have been put into have suited your personalities fairly well?
R.J. BARRETT: I mean, it's been great. I wouldn't ask for this year to be any different. I love -- I'm very happy that he gets all that attention and people pay attention to him. That's not going to stop me from playing my game or whatever. No, I mean, I'm just very happy to be in the position that I'm in.
THE MODERATOR: Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski.
Q. Mike, you generally do not play your former players or coaches in regular season games. I wonder if you could elaborate on why that is and what does that make tomorrow's game against Johnny Dawkins?
MIKE KRZYZEWSKI: Why would you want to? They're family. If you don't have to play against him, I'm not going to do it. But this presents an opportunity for both of us in a great setting. So both teams are winners.
Johnny's done a fabulous job of establishing his program at Central Florida. They're having an historical year. Once the game starts, I don't look at the other sideline. So it's all about my team, just like when he played for me.
Q. Zion, for how aggressive he is, how big he is, really doesn't get into that much foul trouble. I'm curious, what's your take on that? Why is that that he's so able to, one, control his body, but, two, also not do what conventionally would be a foul the way he plays?
MIKE KRZYZEWSKI: God is good, and God gave him extraordinary ability but also extraordinary intelligence on how to use the ability and a work ethic to blend the two. He's a magnificent athlete, and people just look at it as jumping. His lateral movement and his ability to move with speed and change directions is phenomenal. So he avoids.
He probably gets fouled a hell of a lot more than they're called. In fact, I know he does, because he's able to finish. He's one-of-a-kind. He's just one-of-a-kind, and he's going to keep getting better.
I think the arena that he'll play in, like the stage that he plays in, elevates that. So that's been elevated this year playing in our conference, all the big games, playing the NCAA Tournament. And then when he goes pro, it will be elevated. It will keep getting elevated, and he'll keep learning.
Q. When you have a player like Zion who's garnered the spotlight, he has the Zion Cam and everything else, how do you as a coach kind of help him manage that over the course of the season and stay focused on the task at hand?
MIKE KRZYZEWSKI: He's very level-headed. None of that fazes him. He's all about his team, really, and about winning.
It's amazing, when people who are really good don't seek attention, they get more. It's the people who don't necessarily have the ability, they seek attention, and then they get pressured and all that. He doesn't seek attention. He seeks winning and playing really well. He sees pure. He's pure, bottom line.
He's been amazing to coach and amazing to be his friend. He's got it all and brought up the right way. He's got great parents and value system, everything. It's remarkable, really.
Q. Mike, when you have a player like Zion who does the things he does, do you ever catch yourself --
MIKE KRZYZEWSKI: You guys always say like Zion. Why don't you just say you have a player named Zion. I don't have another player like Zion. If I did, both of them would start, and we'd be really, really good.
Q. That being said, do you ever catch yourself going into fan mode on the bench sometimes --
MIKE KRZYZEWSKI: No, no, no.
Q. -- and thinking, wow, what a player?
MIKE KRZYZEWSKI: No. My thing is to coach him. He came to Duke to be coached and learn. And as he progresses, how we can not put a ceiling on him. Even yesterday, we added something during the game that went real well because you keep learning about a player, and that's how I like to coach is to keep adjusting.
Q. Two coaches on the staff at Central Florida, you got to coach. You inherited Vince Taylor, you recruited Johnny Dawkins.
MIKE KRZYZEWSKI: I would have recruited Vince Taylor, though.
Q. I know you would. How important are they to you, and what did they do for you in your early career at Duke?
MIKE KRZYZEWSKI: In Vince's case, we were going through an amazing transition there. He was captain of my team, and we were 10-17, but I can remember in the last game we're playing Wake Forest in the ACC Tournament. There are about four people left in the Greensboro Coliseum, and he had 30-something points and played his heart out. We've become great friends. I'm glad that he and Johnny are together.
And in Johnny's case, obviously, he was the start of us developing our program at Duke. Our first great player, although in his class, there was another great player, Mark Alarie. Don't let Bilas tell you that he was the other great player, but he was a real good one. And then adding Amaker with Henderson, it was just a great combination. His senior year, I'm not sure we'll ever have a team of guys like we did in '86 where you have two head coaches, Amaker and Dawkins. Alarie was a pro and is very successful. Bilas is the best at what he does. Henderson is a scout for Cleveland. Billy King and Danny Ferry have been -- Danny was an 18, 17-year pro, both of them GMs. Quin Snyder is the head coach of Utah.
What a collection of great guys who really understood the game. It's been all uphill from then, but a really -- up mountain, let's put it that way.
Q. I know Aubrey Dawkins spent some time, while Johnny was there, he'd be in the gym with you guys. Do you have any memories of him being around when he was a young kid?
MIKE KRZYZEWSKI: Not really. Again, their family is really close to ours. In fact, I think some of the family still lives in the Raleigh-Durham area. I don't remember.
Q. Were you able to follow his journey and talk to Johnny about him as he went through high school?
MIKE KRZYZEWSKI: Not really. You know, not really. I followed him once he went to Michigan. I was amazed that he was not able to play for his dad at Stanford. That's why we never recruited him. I thought -- come on. He should be able to go there, but apparently, that didn't work out.
Q. Real quick on Coach Dawkins again, 35 or 37 years ago, when you recruited him, you were struggling a little bit early in your career.
MIKE KRZYZEWSKI: A lot, yeah.
Q. Was he sort of the pied piper, hey, it's okay for elite players to go to Duke?
MIKE KRZYZEWSKI: It's not as defined as it is today with recruiting and all that. Basically, we have to put together a great class. We actually turned -- we did not accept two kids who wanted to commit to us at guard, and I just held off for Johnny, and it worked out. And I can remember the first time I saw him, it was in the Jelov (phonetic) League. They used to have an outdoor league in D.C. I was there watching him, and I said, holy mackerel, this guy can play. And a guy named Reginald Kitchen, he's an AAU coach in Northern Virginia. He came up to me and said, are you the Duke coach? I said, yes, I am. He said, there's a kid better than him in the next game. I said, you've got to be kidding me.
So I watched the next game, and it's Amaker. It was amazing that on that day, I saw my -- one of the great backcourts in the history of the game, and I can remember Alma Amaker in the stands. It's probably a recruiting violation, but I just waved to her.
Is there a limit? 30-something years? Maybe not for me. And I told Mrs. Amaker, your son's going to look great in Duke Blue. The basketball gods were good for me that day. It was a sunny day, and I saw my backcourt.
Q. Since you're talking recruiting and you're here in the state of South Carolina --
MIKE KRZYZEWSKI: I wasn't talking recruiting. I was talking about two of my great players.
Q. Right. The popular thinking back when Zion was going through the process here in the state was Clemson looked very strong with him and even leading up to his announcement day. So I'm wondering with you, can you recall maybe a turning point in the recruiting?
MIKE KRZYZEWSKI: No, there's not -- no. I don't want to talk about recruiting. We recruited him hard, and I think Zion always had a love for Duke. There's so much that's said about recruiting on a day-to-day basis that doesn't have much substance. All the things with Zion and his family were substantive. So we never looked at it as being in a race or anything like that. It was just keep developing a relationship with him.
Q. Mike, should the NCAA put some protections in place for the kids who jump at the G League $125,000 this summer?
MIKE KRZYZEWSKI: Let's just wait until all that is -- all that isn't ironed out yet. All the parties, they haven't met, and they haven't done it. Let's give them an opportunity to do that.
Q. And will you give your reflections on the one-and-done, which will officially end but not be --
MIKE KRZYZEWSKI: The one-and-done is not going to end because, even if kids come out of high school, there will still be kids who go to college for a year who will leave after a year. So the early entry into the pros is not going away. It just will be added that the early entry will include high school players.
But like one-and-done hasn't hurt college basketball. It's helped college basketball. How many questions are there of Zion today? Come on. The more talent, the more good players, and really the more -- you're not going to see everybody just jump at that because going to college and being in all these unbelievable programs around the country, at the schools, there's a maturation process that takes -- that goes on both on and off the court that an 18-year-old needs. In some respects, a 17-year-old needs. And they're much better prepared with any amount of time they spend in college.
That's not just to say financially. Part of going to the pros is not just getting into the pros, it's staying in the pros, and you're not going to stay in the pros unless you've got balance and you've got maturity. So you'd better be careful that you don't just jump. You take advantage of what our institutions have to offer and the great programs around the country have to offer.
Q. Coach, you know better than maybe anybody how important --
MIKE KRZYZEWSKI: Don't say that, please.
Q. How important leadership it.
MIKE KRZYZEWSKI: Someone's going to say Coach K said he knew better than anybody.
Q. Well, you know how important leadership is, especially this time of year. How have you seen somebody like Javin take to that role?
MIKE KRZYZEWSKI: Javin's been excellent because he's improved -- I think it's helped him improve as a player. A big part of when you have a lot of talent in a freshman class is for the upperclassmen not to feel inferior, not to feel less, and where they feel secure about what they do. Our freshmen have been great about that. They're secure. And our upperclassmen have developed that. We have a really great unit.
But it doesn't just happen. It happens because those kids work together and make each other feel that good. Just watching us at team meals and stuff like that, everybody's sitting with everybody. Just little things. Last night, they were having something to eat, and they were coming down at a little bit different times, and one table had one seat available, and Antonio was sitting at another table, not all the guys were there. Marques came down, and all of a sudden he's getting ready to sit down. He saw Antonio, and, boom, he went to that table. So you may think that's a little thing. It's not a little thing. Our guys just have done that naturally, and it's been beautiful.
We've loved being with this group. They've been sensational every day.
Q. Coach, you coached against Johnny about four years ago in a Coaches vs. Cancer game. I wonder if you have any memories of that game.
MIKE KRZYZEWSKI: I don't even remember it, to be quite frank. What day is today?
Q. I was going to ask if the emotions of that day will be similar to what's going to happen tomorrow.
MIKE KRZYZEWSKI: My wife didn't give me my name tag. I'm sorry. Once the game starts, it doesn't matter who I'm coaching against, really. And then once it's over, I don't have a rearview mirror. I'm on to the next thing. I don't even remember it. I think we won. Did we win? Yeah. Thank you.
Again, I've coached a lot of games, man. If I start trying to remember all of them -- there's only so much space, mind space, especially as we get older.
Q. Mike, what's Jack White's availability for tomorrow?
MIKE KRZYZEWSKI: We don't think he's going to play. He had a decent workout today with band work and that. He'll try it out probably and warm up, but I don't think so. But Marques came out really well from yesterday's game. I thought he did a good job, especially guarding. They have a lot of shooters.
Q. Is game planning for Tacko Fall any different than maybe game planning for the Florida State guys when you see them?
MIKE KRZYZEWSKI: Yeah, because Florida State's -- they're both big teams, but they play different styles, and how Leonard uses his big men, both of them, and Kabengele is a lot different. But I think it's helped playing against Koumadje, but Fall is stronger, bigger, and they go to him more, and he really just takes up the paint. He does a great job.
Johnny's team plays excellent defense whether he's in or not. They're a veteran defensive team.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports