There aren't many firsts for Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski. He's won national championships, captured gold medals, been to beaucoup Final Fours and built the Blue Devils into one of the world's preeminent programs.
But I have a feeling Coach K has never had such a level of hype heading into an intrasquad scrimmage. The 2013-14 Blue Devils kicked off their campaign with the annual Countdown to Craziness event—otherwise known as "midnight madness."
The highlight of the evening was obviously the aforementioned scrimmage, where highly touted freshman Jabari Parker made his public debut in Duke blue. Parker comes into Durham with a Sports Illustrated cover comparing him to LeBron James, multiple national player of the year honors and perhaps the most hype of any freshman in Duke history.
Parker got his first win on Friday night, with his blue side pulling out over the white 36-34 in the first half. After switching over to the white side for the second half, Parker's side again pulled out victories, this time by a 33-30 margin. The victor of the scrimmage was ultimately meaningless to those on hand at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
What did matter was how this team looked. The 2013-14 Blue Devils are a transitionary team, with stars Seth Curry, Mason Plumlee and Ryan Kelly all having moved on to greener NBA pastures. In their place is a mixture of players, some of whom played major roles and others who did not.
But Friday night was a celebration—not a test. With that in mind, here are a few of the biggest highlights from Countdown to Craziness.
This Just In: Jabari Parker Is Good
It's a scrimmage, so take everything with a bucket of salt. But through one "game" of basketball, things are looking up in the world of Parker. He led all scorers in the scrimmages with 24 points, shooting 9-of-17 from the field and grabbing 14 rebounds—six more than any other player.
The all-everything guard also gave plenty at Cameron Indoor reasons to swoon. His first made shot came on a beautiful crossover into a left-handed layup, juking Rodney Hood out of his shoes a little bit on the play.
Still, that was nothing compared to the display of skill and athleticism he put on in the second scrimmage. Grabbing the offensive rebound off a Andre Dawkins miss, Parker spun out of his dribble and began taking the ball back out to the perimeter—right before spinning again over his left shoulder and leaving Rasheed Sulaimon in the dust for a stank-face-inducing dunk.
Even if these two are teammates, you can tell Sulaimon was upset with himself after allowing a play you'll surely see in highlights over the next couple of days. Brian McLawhorn of Devils Illustrated noted that Coach K seemed quite pleased with his big-name recruit:
WOW. Parker with a NASTY dunk. Coach K is STILL smiling about it.— Brian McLawhorn (@DevilsIllust) October 19, 2013
Between that Wiggins kid in Lawrence and Parker in Durham...this is gonna be good.
Semi Ojeleye Will Dunk Your Face Off
After the scrimmage wrapped up, Duke held a dunk contest to close out festivities. Forwards Semi Ojeleye, Parker, Hood and Marshall Plumlee participated. I say participated, mainly because having a dunk contest after running up and down a basketball court for 30 minutes might not have been the best idea.
Each of the contestants were noticeably tired, with more dunks clanking off the rim than actually going through it.
The exceptions were Ojeleye and Parker. Well, the exception was Ojeleye. Parker at least got one nice dunk down before his dead legs finally couldn't give him enough lift to finish a slam from the free-throw line or a dunk between the legs.
Luckily, we have the Internet. And if the Internet is good for anything, it's cobbling together clips of something to make it seem better than reality. Ojeleye won the contest quite easily and pulled off the best dunk of the night, which the official Duke basketball Instagram feed captured in this video—along with a nice opening dunk from Parker:
It was a good night for the freshman forward on many fronts. As pointed out by Laura Keeley of the Raleigh News & Observer, Ojeleye also won Duke's strength and conditioning award.
Semi Ojeleye becomes the first non-Plumlee to win the #Duke strength testing award. Just a freshman— Laura Keeley (@laurakeeley) October 19, 2013
The focus has understandably been on Parker heading into the season. But Ojeleye is the highest-scoring player in Kansas high school history and could be a force coming off the bench for Coach K this season.
Coach K Delivers a Stirring Halftime Speech
At halftime of the scrimmage, Krzyzewski got out of his comfy seat in the stands to address the crowd. Commanding the attention of the room as he's wont to do, Coach K highlighted the Blue Devils' faster style of play, noting his staff's ability to adapt based on the talent around him.
But the real moment of Krzyzewski's speech came when he addressed what it meant to be the Duke coach and how it felt to be in Cameron Indoor Stadium.
"I want you to know that even after 34 years, it still feels damn good," Krzyzewski said.
He then spoke specifically to students, instructing them to look around the arena at all the banners hanging around them. The national titles. The ACC Championships. The Final Fours. He then encouraged those students in attendance to focus on one of those banners and ritualistically envision it in their heads for five seconds.
It was all kinds of awesome and some kinds of awkward. So...pretty much a perfect Duke basketball moment.
Almost like that time Coach K professed his love for Beyonce.
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