Being a College Basketball fan means getting used to change. You know going in that each new crop of freshmen, at most, are only going to be around for 4 years - if you are lucky. Being a fan of a high-major College Basketball team nowadays means bracing yourself for the inevitable - the best players are going to bounce. Duke fans have been subject to this as much as anyone, the past several years especially.
Duke, and their coach Mike Krzyzewski have always recruited one-and-done players but until they showed success in implementing them into a system they weren't very successful in landing them. Perception, unfortunately, being reality had most in the media assuming that Duke didn't recruit or didn't want these players. So it appeared that Duke had changed up their ideals, their values. Anyone who knows the history of Duke misses as well as their successes on the recruiting trail knows this is a farce. In any event, here we are in 2018 and Duke has not only become a landing place for top one-and-done players, but they'e done a great job - along with the Kentucky Wildcats and other big name schools - of integrating them. Duke, in particular, has had success in adjusting and molding - almost remodeling their system each year to fit their personnel. You can argue that the results have been varied but Duke is still a top program and an attractive place for recruits. Stacking 20+ win seasons, despite injuries, deficits in on-court leadership and other sundry issues. This is what a successful program looks like. Post season success is great, and what we all shoot for but face facts, it's a tournament with 60 plus other teams. Staying atop the mountain is not as easy as it once was.
Time generally equalizes all things and as the NCAA tournament has shown, there are many ways to skin the proverbial cat. Parity in College Basketball has been on the steady incline and lesser heralded teams are showing that you can win with 4 year guys, role players and 2 and 3 star talent. Duke, as long as Coach K is at the helm, will always try to land the best talent available - why would they not? Basing your recruiting logic on how long a player is going to stick around seems absurd - especially in todays setting. If you were playing playground basketball and picking teams, are you taking the guy who is clearly the best player but will only be around for one game, or the guy that isn't as good but says he can play multiple games? I'm taking the best - maybe I'm crazy. I'm not sure there is a coach in America when offered a 5 star and a 3 star talent will chose the latter with all things being equal.
We know that Coach K is nearing the end of his tenure so with that depreciating timeline afoot the thought of having to use talent that isn't the best can't possibly be very appealing. Duke has also recruited players that they expect to be around for a while, sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn't. You cant always account for transfers, players playing beyond their rankings that work their way into the draft...these are all variables that coaches have to deal with.
There will always be that sect of fan that will never embrace the fact that players just don't stick around as long as they used to. Blaming the program for this seems odd, Duke doesn't make the rules, they just play by them.
Parity in College Basketball has been on the steady incline and lesser heralded teams are showing that you can win with 4 year guys
Sure, change has it's bad points:
- Hard to root for a player you know you'll only see for a few months
- The timeline for development is significantly shorter
- The leadership void.
but we can counter that with:
- the best and most exciting players will play for your team
- the best talent plus the best coaching = the best chance of winning (although nothing is ever guaranteed)
- high level talent has become much more attuned to what they need to do at the next level
Sometimes as fans we thing we are owed 4 years from every player, why are we taking it so personally? Sometimes we feel as if the fact that Duke hasn't won a championship since 2015 ( soooo long ago ), means that things aren't working. Coaches will tell you that it's hard to catch lightening in a bottle, whether you are doing it with primarily freshmen or with a team of veterans. The margin for error between success and failure is inappreciable. I'd rather do it with the best players.