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March 30, 2019
THE MODERATOR: We're joined by Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski and student-athletes Zion Williamson, RJ Barrett and Tre Jones.
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Obviously we're honored to be in the Elite Eight and excited about the opportunity to play against a storied program and coach in Michigan State and Tom Izzo. Our guys have really done a good job. Hopefully we can recover real quick. It hasn't been too many hours ago since we were here.
And so that's part of our preparation is to try to get as fresh as possible for what we expect to be an outstanding game tomorrow afternoon. So, any questions?
Q. Zion, but any other players may chime in they wish. Zion, you undoubtedly had an opportunity to go to any number of colleges. I'm wondering why you selected Duke. Was it the tradition? Was it that you've seen players get prepared for the NBA? Was it a chance to exchange dazzling repartee with Coach K?
ZION WILLIAMSON: It was kind of like all the above. And also I watched Duke growing up. I think the opportunity to play for Coach K is something that I couldn't turn down. And then also I had a great relationship with RJ, Tre and Cam already. And we would be in a group message talking about like trying to do something special.
And also Coach K is the greatest. So he knows how to get players better. And he'll, like, tell you your game in a way you never looked at it. And so there were so many factors that went into selecting Duke.
Q. Can you give us your thoughts after seeing film what you think of the Spartans' defensive tenacity, please?
TRE JONES: They're a really experienced team. They've got big guys inside. They're physical and strong. And they've got perimeter players that are athletic as well. So they're a really good defensive team, like you said.
RJ BARRETT: Yeah, definitely an experienced team. So they definitely know what to do. They have a great coach. They have a great program. So they're definitely a great defensive team.
Q. RJ, you personally, what have you learned, or what do you know about your dad's college basketball career? And generally what has he meant to your basketball?
RJ BARRETT: I remember him transitioning from just being a dunker to being able to hit some 3s later in his college career. And I mean he's just been a great influence for me. He's kind of gone through this college experience. So he's been able to help me just that way.
Q. How so?
RJ BARRETT: Just being in my ear and giving me confidence and just being my dad, really.
Q. Zion, there were a lot of Virginia Tech fans in the building yesterday. Obviously some booing, but obviously certainly some Duke fans and probably a lot of Zion fans. Now, you've had some big individual performances kind of around the country this year, from New York to here, Hawaii. Have you been able to reflect just on how much of a national kind of following you've grown this year?
ZION WILLIAMSON: What's the exact question?
Q. Have you been able to reflect on the national following you've gotten as a college freshman and how likable you are to a lot of people?
ZION WILLIAMSON: No, I haven't thought about that at all. I'm just enjoying my college experience with my brothers and with Coach K and the coaches. And I think it would be kind of selfish of me to think about that.
But I'm just trying to make the most of this opportunity and hopefully win a national championship.
Q. Zion and Tre, do you remember watching any Duke-Michigan State games growing up and how big of a matchup this tends to be in the NCAA Tournament? And how much are you looking forward to being part of one?
TRE JONES: I remember obviously 2015, the matchup, the Final Four. But they have a really good program, similar to Duke, that they have a winning tradition and they have a really good coach as well. So it will be a good battle tomorrow.
ZION WILLIAMSON: I remember watching the 2011 Duke-Michigan State game with Kyrie Irving, and also the 2015 Final Four and both games were great. I mean both programs have a winning history. So it's always going to be a great game.
Q. Zion, you just called coach the greatest of all time. And, Tre, you actually said that same sentence last week on campus. Take us inside the program. What do you guys see that we can't see that makes him the greatest in your mind?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: I control their playing time. (Laughter).
ZION WILLIAMSON: I mean, a lot. He sees the game in the ways that, like, I would have never even have thought of. And like when he makes one play call, it's not for that like play, it's like trying to give us momentum for like the next three or four plays.
And I think the way he's able to adjust every year with different teams and different players, and the way he's able to always keep us motivated, like, for every single game, I think is second to none.
Q. Any of the players, Coach mentioned the challenge of not playing with Cam, that you prepared with him all week and you weren't able to play with him last night. What was that challenge like, and will your game plan change as players if he's not able to play Sunday?
RJ BARRETT: Definitely missing Cam out there. It's tough to have a game plan and then couple minutes before tip-off see that he's out. But we've gone through so much adversity that we were able to step up last night. And just moving forward, whether he plays or he doesn't, we're going to have to give everything we've got.
Q. Zion, Michigan State has some big guys up front, front line. You've faced big guys before. What do you see in their front line and the challenge that awaits?
ZION WILLIAMSON: They're very aggressive and physical and they rebound the ball very well. And they have a great motor. So they're a great team. Their bigs are very great as well. So we're just going to have to try our best to contain them.
Q. Zion, you continue to say that Coach K had seen things in your game that you may have not seen in yourself. What are some of those things?
ZION WILLIAMSON: I don't know if I want to talk about that. It's kind of a coach/player -- (laughter).
Q. Tre, can you describe your impressions of Zion when you would see, like, the YouTube dunk videos in high school? And kind of how different that is from when you play with him and understanding the feel he has for the game?
TRE JONES: I heard about him before. Probably the rest of you heard about him through YouTube and things like that. Coach actually told me about him before I even got the chance to meet him and said how good of a player he was and that I will probably be seeing all of his highlights one day of him dunking and things like that. But that he can really play, he can pass the ball extremely well. He's a really good playmaker.
So, when Coach says that, obviously that's going to be my first impressions, too, because how well Coach knows the game and how smart he is.
Q. Tre, what are your impressions of Cassius Winston going into this game?
TRE JONES: He has an extremely high IQ. He's a really good point guard, lead guard for them. He has the ball a lot for them. He's a playmaker. He makes all the decisions for them. So just going to try to make the game as tough as I can on him.
Q. Zion, I had asked RJ about you before the first day you got here. I'll return the favor. What might we not see about RJ that you know? What makes him such a top flight player?
ZION WILLIAMSON: His ability to affect the game in multiple ways and his killer mentality. Like, RJ, as you saw yesterday, went into the half with like seven assists and for anybody that thinks that's an off half, you're responsible for seven baskets, like, that's not a off half.
In the second half, at one point he single-handedly took the game over. And his will to win, I think that's the best thing about him. He wants to win and no matter what he has to do he's going to do it.
Q. Zion, you're a physical player, you enjoy the physicality of the game. Is there a sense of excitement knowing you're going to play a team that likes the physical side of the game just as much as you do?
ZION WILLIAMSON: I'm excited for every game. But, yeah, I guess you can say I'm excited about that, because they're a great team. They have a winning history. I'm excited to play against Michigan State. Like, that's why you come to college, to be a part of games like this.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you. Questions for Coach.
Q. Could we start with a quick injury update on Cam? Obviously, it's not been long that you've been here.
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: It will be a game-time decision. He's getting treatment today. We've really not been on the court yet. And after we stretch and -- we're not going to really do anything physical today; we've got to be careful. But just to see how he feels.
And we'll see. If he's progressed, we might try to get him to shoot. But we haven't done that yet.
Q. Is there a diagnosis?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Yeah, he's had a little bit of problem with his knee. It's not structural. It's not structural -- nothing structural. And a jumper's knee, a tendonitis. I guess there are a number of different things. At different times it can inhibit you, or you feel pretty good and then you can play. Or you can work yourself through it. But yesterday we weren't able to do that.
Q. One big-picture question. This is not on the forefront on your mind right now facing Michigan State in 24 hours, but 2021 or '22, the NBA draft rule changes. A couple of these guys sitting here wouldn't play for Duke or anyone very likely as things would go --
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Or maybe more would. You know? I don't think that it's a done deal that everyone will do that because a big thing about going to the NBA is staying in the NBA and trying to be prepared once you go in there, not just physically but emotionally.
And I applaud and I'm glad the kids will be given the opportunity to make a decision. Am I ready to do that? The other thing, I would hope that the powers to be -- that the NBA will be well-prepared. The NCAA is not prepared right now. They need to be in concert with the NBA in developing a plan that is specific for men's college basketball.
And that should include what an athlete gets, how he's been taken care of, whether or not there's a reentry if something -- really, it's deep. And if we only look at it shallow, then we're doing a disservice to the kids. And that's why I would hope that the NCAA has someone leading this to figure it all out.
There should be -- we should already have a plan. And I think what you do is, the NBA has a plan, then we have a plan. And you say, well, do they mesh? Okay. Oh, that's pretty good, your plan. In other words, we work a little bit better than our government, where we don't just sit on both sides of the aisle.
But to work together for the good of the game and -- the game is good if we take care of the kids who play it. And we're in this really changing time that it behooves us to be ahead of it. And that's why, to comment on what's going to happen, we don't know what's going to happen. But we should be figuring that out in a smoother way.
And I would really be a proponent for all of you to push that issue in whatever way you think it is. I'm not telling you what to do. But that needs to happen. It can't be, well, they're going -- what does that mean? What does it mean? How are we doing all this? And so that's what I would like to see happen.
Q. Following up on Pete's question, if this does happen, how for --
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: It's going to happen.
Q. How would you and other coaches have to kind of change how you evaluate and recruit high school players, if at all?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Tell me the environment that we're going to be in. That's what I'm saying. We don't know that environment. I don't know that environment. I don't know what a youngster, how a youngster will be taken care of.
Is the G League advanced? Do they have a TV contract? Look, if it gets to that -- if a kid coming out of high school does not go to college and get marketed -- I would think the NBA would want to market. So is there another form of TV there that the NCAA is then competing against?
All these things -- those are, to me, fundamental issues here that need to be looked at. And I don't see any discussion about those. I don't know. Do you?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: I don't see anything. These are fundamental things that are going to happen because the NBA is a business. It's an amazing business. They're going to have a model. They're going to have a model. What's our model? And how do we cooperate with them and the players association.
Q. You've had Zion for a relatively short period of time. You used to see a kid grow and mature over four years. What have you learned in that short period of time that may have surprised you about him, not necessarily as a player, but as a person?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Yeah, you know, I knew he was a great kid, coming from a really good family and community. He was a kid that was asked to play at all these prep schools and all that. He loved his high school and his community. But having the opportunity not just to coach him but to get to know him, he is such a genuine young man and well, and well advanced maturity-wise. He's extremely intelligent book-wise but people-wise. And he's humble.
He's really got everything. This is not a phony guy. And he's more than a dunker; he's a lot more than a dunker. He's a very, very special human being and player.
Q. A lot of the spotlight I feel nationally is on Zion and RJ. Do you think Tre gets enough credit for what he does for the team? And kind of a two-part question; how similar or not is he to his brother?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: We're not in control of -- we give credit. We're not in control of how you give credit. So if you want to change that, you change it. Right? No, I mean, we're not -- I'm not knocking you. I'm just saying that's the way it is.
But internally he gets a lot of credit, because he's as important a player as we have. He's very similar to his brother as far as just rock-solid person, teammate, smart. They're a little bit different at that age. Tre is a better defender. Tyus was a better shooter, although not necessarily a better shooter than last night.
And they're big-time moment players. They're not afraid of the moment. They react really well. And in the history of our program there's not been anybody who has been any better in the last couple minutes of a game in one season than Tyus was. At the end of games he was -- he was good all the time but at the end of games he pretty much was perfect for us.
Q. Following up on that, the point guard and coach relationship has always been important to you in particular. But how is your relationship with Tre? I know it was unique when he came in. But how has that evolved over --
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: It's terrific. He's somebody we haven't had for a while in that he does -- basically Winston does this for Tom -- he can make in-game adjustments that the coach would want to make while the game is going on. They just understand the game and they understand their team and their coaching staff where they can make real time adjustments.
And it's a huge advantage. It's a huge advantage. And Michigan State has it with Winston, and we have it with Tre.
Q. Four games in March teams have had possessions with the final shot that could have beaten you. All four failed. Are you guys just living right? Is it the basketball gods? Where is the horseshoe? What is it?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: No, I think we've played the whole game. And yesterday, there are different things that happened in that last 30 seconds. We have to play three defensive possessions with 29 seconds and then the ball went out of bounds and they stepped on the line out of bounds. So it should have been our ball. And but it's not a reviewable thing because only one guy went out of bounds.
So we knew it was out of bounds, so our guys had to be tough enough, okay, now do it again. Then it goes off your hands. And then they run a great play and Zion did enough on it where he was not going to the basket, he was going away. And therefore he was short.
So there's a lot that goes into it. But playing the entire game until the end is the thing. And then you accept the outcome. And obviously the outcome has been good for us or else I wouldn't have the pleasure of spending time with you all today, you know.
Q. A few weeks ago when Tom won his 600th game he cautioned fans and media to relax, it was half of what you had. And college basketball is such a cut-throat industry; a guy you compete with, Champions Classic, NCAA Tournament, recruits, for you two to have the relationship you do is very unique in the culture of college basketball. Could you talk about that friendship?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: I think because we're both in it for not -- we're not the only ones, but we're both in it for the love of the game and the love of kids and more old school. Like we both get paid a lot of money now, a lot. But we didn't get it in for that. We got in it because we loved the game.
And he's never changed. He's a genuine guy. I hope that the people around me know that I haven't either. And he's done a lot for the game. The game is bigger than either of us or the two of us together or the matchup tomorrow. And we're just -- I think we're both proud of the fact that we've been important people in the game.
But I really respect and like Tom a lot. I think he's been great for, obviously for Michigan State but for college basketball.
Q. A little more global than Jeff's question, obviously you can have talent and skill and coaching and preparation, but at a certain point, as a coach, you do sort of have to relinquish yourself to the bounce of the ball or the basketball gods, as you like to put it. At what point do you come to terms with how much control you have over a game and how much you have to let see what happens?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: I think over the years, I try to let the players have more control over what goes on. And you try to just, like yesterday, you just try to put them in certain situations where it's not so much a play but different spots on the court where they can make reads.
And when you have guys like RJ and Zion, they shouldn't be systemized. And whatever happens then I'm okay -- I accept the result. And it's our result. And I'd say I've been that way for a pretty long time now because I've had players who can do that. And it's been a heck of a tournament. It's actually been a heck of a March with Zion coming back and the ACC Tournament, the three games in the NCAA Tournament.
And the thing that our team hasn't had is continuity. Since the first Syracuse game, we pretty much have not been a complete team because of some injuries. And the kids have been so resilient. And part of it is, I think, some guys have gotten better. Like Alex's performance last night. He didn't play the game before, and all of a sudden two minutes before the game you're starting. And he plays 30-something minutes and gets seven defensive rebounds. But he's also called upon at Syracuse where he got 20 against their zone.
And J. Gold has done that. Even Antonio has done that. And, so, the adversity of injury has actually given moments for a number of these kids to shine even though they're not shining like Zion's dunk or RJ's performance in the second half or Tre's shots. But they're still shining and it gives us a little bit more depth.
Q. Back to Coach Izzo for a second. I hope this isn't redundant. What qualities or attributes most impress you about his body of work, or do you most admire of his body of work and philosophy?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: I think Tom's genuine. Like there is no BS. He's going to tell you what he feels is the truth. And he's a terrific leader. And I've enjoyed my -- because he'll tell you what he thinks. And he'll also accept what you think. And then, hey, if that's a little bit different but it makes sense, you go with what's there.
But it's really right on the table, right on the table. I love that. And his passion for what he does. He's one of the best ever. And I'm glad to call him my friend.
Q. Following up a little bit on Izzo, as good as he and his program have been for a long time, well-documented, your record, you're 11-to-1 head-to-head with Izzo. How do you explain that? And do you almost get nervous that he's got to be due at some point?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: I'm too old to be nervous. And I remember nervous -- no. I'm not a big believer in coaches' records against one another. It's not like you have the same team, the same circumstance; somebody might have been injured. It's a time where your team wasn't functioning as well. Just like I'm not a big guy on records on Tuesdays or Fridays or Saturdays or whatever.
You play the team that you're going to play against right now. And they're capable of handing us a defeat. It doesn't make any difference what's happened in the past, really.
The same thing, like yesterday, somebody was -- or whenever we played Virginia Tech. Somebody said they beat you three out of four. Well, they didn't beat my team yesterday three out of four. It's the first time my team completely played against them.
They beat our Duke team a few weeks ago that wasn't complete. And they weren't complete. So those stats don't mean anything. They really don't mean anything. And that one to me doesn't mean a darned thing.
Q. This might touch on what you were talking about a little bit earlier, but Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut mentioned Zion in releasing a report with the recommendation that he thought college athletes should receive compensation or some compensation. And a Congressman from your own state, North Carolina, had something similar about profiting on name and likeness. Wondering your thoughts on the federal involvement in these discussions. And has your experience with Zion this year and everything that's surrounded him altered your perspective on those kind of talking points?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: I think he's become the face of a lot of issues. And it came into being when he got hurt and then all of a sudden, everything that had to do with college basketball had Zion's face on it.
The fact of involvement, I think that's good. But where does it go? Good ideas are great. How do you channel them? How do you turn them into action and how do you coordinate good ideas from a number of different places? Or when someone says something does it have to be their idea?
So that's why, when Pete asked that, we need to coordinate and get -- I'd love for a group to talk to those gentlemen who are in federal government, how do you they see that, and then say, oh, maybe if we did it this way we can incorporate it that way.
That's not being done. So the right fielders saying something to left fielder. Like, let's get into the clubhouse and do it as a team. The kids deserve it. The kids deserve it. And in this time the definition of amateurism and -- it's outdated. We need a new model.
And with all these things that are changing, it cries out for coordination of creating this new model. If we don't do it, our game's going to suffer. Our game is going to suffer.
Q. Several years ago, you had a comeback victory over Virginia in Charlottesville when one of your players took over the game and I can't remember who, I'm sorry --
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Tyus, I think.
Q. Might have been. 40 years so the names run together.
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Me too.
Q. After the game, and I'm paraphrasing you, you talked about how he was able to slow himself down and do what he did and how if -- you sort of wished you had players for longer so you could work on slowing them down to improve their games. So what is "slowing them down to improve their games?" And do you miss the opportunities to have guys for two or three or four years to teach them what they need to know about becoming better players?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: The last part, certainly I'd love to have guys longer, because you get closer and you can work them. But you have to adapt and try to teach them as much as possible in a shorter period of time.
As far as slowing down, talent should be used at different speeds and with different levels of motivation. And so sometimes when everything's going great, you get ahead of yourself and you don't fully think of the situation, whereas you try to maintain a balance -- the great players maintain a balance throughout a game. And these guys come real close to it at a young age.
And you'll see me every once in a while go, whoa, that fastbreak was good, but now we need to run four-wide or whatever. And the older ones that are really good, they would be able to do that on their own -- changing speeds, changing speeds.
But, again, these guys have done a really good job. It's not like -- our 2015 team did it pretty good because Quinn Cook was able to do that with the freshmen. And these guys don't have that. And Amile and Matt Jones. They were steady in that regard.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you.
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