Duke Basketball Recruiting: Changing One Number at a Time

Mike KlineAnalyst IJanuary 29, 2010

One is truly the loneliest number when it comes to Duke Basketball.

In the 30 years Mike Krzyzewski has roamed the sidelines, no Duke player has ever worn the No. 1.

If you read Krzyzewski's book Leading with the Heart , you'd understand. But in case you didn't read it, here is the gist. 

He indicates a team is like a fist and a fist doesn't function as well unless all the fingers are working together as a unit. No one finger or in the team concept, player is more important than the whole.

However, thumbs are pretty damn important, and in basketball, I'd have to equate the point guard to the thumb. And in recent years, Duke has had a bit of a fracture in their thumb.

While it certainly is a noble and idealistic way to look at building a team, kids these days just don't get that. It is a "me-first" world and everyone is looking to get theirs.

Duke has struggled to maintain their high standards on the court recently. Most see the number of highly sought after recruits choosing to go to other schools, or star or budding players departing for the NBA as a sign Krzyzewski is loosing touch with today's younger players.

I'm not one to buy into such things, and was admittedly surprised when I heard Duke's prized recruit for the incoming class of 2010 was going to be wearing No. 1.

Kyrie Irving represents that key component Duke teams have lacked recently. A quick, agile, and heady point guard in the mold of Jason Williams.

Big shoes to try and fill and even though No. 1 is only the second smallest number you can wear it bears huge symbolism.

For most outsiders looking at this it would seem like a non-story, but at Duke this is huge. Other players have asked to wear No. 1 before but none were ever granted permission by Krzyzewski.

So what has changed?

I think Krzyzewski would never admit to feeling his philosophies on recruiting were ever wrong but I think he would say that anything could be tweaked.

And while Duke missed on Harrison Barnes back in November, there has been a clear indication that the recruiting philosophy is changing at Duke.

In years past, Duke would have never had a backup to a guy like Barnes. Once they had their guy pegged tunnel vision would set in and he would be all they saw.

And while they still don't really have a guy to replace the talent of Barnes in the upcoming class, they are still actively recruiting and involved in trying to bring some fairly skilled players to Durham.

To me, the continued pursuit and interest in players like Roscoe Smith, now committed to UConn, and Terrance Ross, now decommitted from Maryland and looking strongly at Duke, is a good thing.

It shows current and future recruits that Krzyzewski will be widening Duke's field of vision. And I truly believe the years of tunnel vision in recruiting are coming to an end.

It would be a stretch to think things will change over night or because Krzyzewski is allowing one player to wear one number. But any Duke fan knows that Coach K is not the kind of coach to bow to the whims of the public, media, or fans.

If he is doing it, it's because he feels it is in the best interest of the program. And in this case, I have to concur.