DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) — Duke basketball has produced some of the greatest players the college game has even seen. Mike Krzyzewski demands the best from his team and arguably leans on his point guards heaviest.
The coach on the floor for Coach K the list of former floor generals reads like a who’s who of college basketball.
Trying to follow in the footsteps of legends like Bobby Hurley, Jason Williams, Johnny Dawkins, Tommy Amaker, Chris Duhon or Steve Wojciechowski is enough to make most people nervous before they even lace up their shoes. But it’s exactly what freshman Jeremy Roach is being tabbed to do.
“You’ve just got to be very confident, communicate and you’ve got to be very vocal,” said Roach at his preseason presser today. “That’s one of his main things – you’ve got to lead the team, direct everybody and make sure they’re in the right spots. Just be the leader on the team and basically that extra coach on the floor.”
At just 18, he’s played with pressure like it’s a childhood friend his whole life. As a freshman in the ultra-competitive Washington Catholic Athletic Conference helped lead Paul VI high school to a runner-up finish in the conference tournament.
By the time he was a senior Jeremy was hoisting a VISAA D-I State Championship. He had his choice of going to Kentucky, North Carolina or Villanova.
One of the reasons the consensus five-star recruit chose Duke was due to coach Krzyzewski’s willingness to start a freshman at point guard.
“He always told me that the spot would never be given. He said [for me to] work my butt off and if it’s right then he can give me the starting spot, said Jereny. “It’s never going to be a locked starting five. We have so many guys that can play and be on the floor at one time, so just take it one game at a time.”
Along with his high school achievements Jeremy also won a pair of gold medals with USA Basketball at the 2017 FIBA Americas U-16 and the 2018 FIBA U-17 World Cup. No stranger to playing with top talent but nothing compares to running the floor at Duke.
“It’s fun. Just to play fast and to know you’ve got guys on the wing and the bigs that you can kick to, you can dump off to and they’ll make plays too,” said Jeremy. “You’ve got guys like Jalen Johnson, Wendell Moore Jr. and Matt Hurt on the wing. It’s just crazy to play with guys like that and it’s fun to play with that kind of talent.”
Unlike years past when there was a clearer picture of who would be starting this year the line-up is still in flux. Coach Krzyzewski has more than a few options right now which means the line-up will change a number of times before a rotation can be established.
“We’re learning to play together,” said Jeremy. “Like coach says, there’s not going to be one lineup. It can be different guys in different spots, so just learning to play together, learning to play off the ball and learning to play on the ball.”
This means practices, which have always been intense, get ratcheted up even higher when every screen, pass, or shot might mean the difference in when or if you see the floor.
“They’ve been very competitive. You’ve got a whole roster full that can be on the floor at any time, so the five-on-five, they’ll be battles, said Jeremy. “It’s good for us. It gets us ready for the games and all the close moments that we have. Duke is one of the biggest schools in the country, so we’re always going to have that target on our back. It’s iron sharpens iron, so five-on-five is great.”
One of the last teams to return to campus the basketball team has had to play some catch-up to develop the chemistry needed to be one cohesive unit. With the upperclassmen reaching out to ensure the new faces seamlessly adapt to not just school but the rigors of practice and the fresh faces like Jeremy following their lead the squad has gelled quite nicely.
“I feel like when everybody came back, Coach always told us to stay ready – don’t get ready, stay ready,” said Jeremy. “I feel like when we got down here, everything started rolling. I think we’re at a pretty good level right now for the season.”
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