Mike Krzyzewski doesn't have much time to recharge the batteries with the first day of practice on Oct. 15 after spending two months leading the United States National Team to the FIBA World Championship in Turkey. However, the veteran Duke coach vows to be ready to go when it comes time for the Blue Devils to defend their national championship.
"There is a lot of emotion," Krzyzewski told the Durham Herald-Sun. "Coming after the national title and then doing that. Again I'm not complaining. I've had two of the purest experiences in my life in a five-month period at this time in my career, (that's) crazy lucky good. But I want to have another experience with my Duke team."
While Krzyzewski sacrificed most of his summer with the national team, the 63 year old believes the experience was worth it and will make him a better coach as he tries to win a fifth national title this upcoming season. However, he plans to step down from his USA Basketball duties following the 2012 London Olympics.
"I feel like I learned a lot and this was a great experience," Krzyzewski said. "I have to be very careful. Physically I stayed in really good shape and I adjusted well. There is an emotional price you pay in being in that competitive environment. Between now and the start of practice, I've got to make sure I fill the tank because our Duke kids deserve that."
Krzyzewski and other coaches around the country started working on a limited basis with their teams last week. Teams are permitted to work out two hours a week and coaches can work with small groups of player on individual skills.
Duke should have Kyle Singler for its Nov. 14 opener against Princeton. The Most Outstanding Player in last season's Final Four is rehabilitating from knee surgery that he underwent last month. The senior forward was back on the court for the first workout in non-contact drills.
"He's doing great," Krzyzewski said. "If this would have been the season, he'd play today. There's no reason to do that. Just give him more time. He'll be back to full strength soon. He could use the break. He's had an intense summer of play and he'll have an intense season. So that doesn't hurt."
Singler averaged 17.7 points, 7.0 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 35.9 minutes last season. His 89.8 percentage of minutes played with 39th in the nation.
Tennessee Players Try to Ignore Off-Court Drama
Bruce Pearl's job could be in jeopardy as the NCAA investigates Tennessee's program for a host of rules violations. However, the Volunteers players saw their focus remains strictly on the court and their embattled coach is not a distraction.
"We've all talked off the court and we can't let things affect what we're trying to do," junior guard Scotty Hopson said. "This team is behind our coaching staff 100 percent."
Senior guard Steven Pearl has a unique view of the head coach's mindset. He is the son of Bruce Pearl.
"He's not going to change with us in that he's the same coach, the same motivator," Steven Pearl said. "He's ready to get back to coaching and he's excited, and we're excited."
Tennessee went 28-9 last season and lost by one point to Michigan State in the Elite Eight. Hopson said trying to get to the Final Four after coming so close last season is what occupies the Volunteers' minds.
"This team is very hungry and there's unfinished business left on the court," Hopson said.
Wildcats Man Up
Northwestern has lived and died with a 1-3-1 zone defense during Bill Carmody's tenure as coach. Thus, it was quite surprising that the Wildcats played almost exclusively man-to-man in all four games on their summer trip to Italy.
Carmody told the Chicago Tribune he wants to be able to play man at times during the upcoming season.
The most impressive individual performance was senior point guard Michael "Juice" Thompson's 38-point outing against a second-division Italian professional team. Thompson has a 14.2/1.9/4.1/37.7 line last season and was second on the team in scoring to junior forward John Shurma, who averaged 18.2/6.4/2.6/36.4. Thompson was fifth in the nation in percentage of minutes played with 93.2 and Shurma was 32nd with 90.0. Shurma was 7-for-7 on three-point attempt in one game in Italy.
"Unbelievable," Carmody said of Thompson's big game. "He killed their guard. They wanted to sign him right there. I'm serious."
Young Tigers Have High Hopes
Memphis has seven freshmen on the roster. Yet the Tigers are still likely to make a strong run at reclaiming accustomed spot atop Conference USA after ceding the regular-season title to Texas-El Paso and the tournament title to Houston last season.
"Everybody on the team is good at something," freshman guard Joe Jackson told the Memphis Commercial Appeal. "We've got a defensive specialist. We've got people that can shoot it. We've got big men. We've got scorers. We've got it all. We've just got to put it together and win."
Memphis' biggest problem in the early part of the season is likely to be cohesiveness. Communication was a problem in the Tigers' first workout, causing coach Josh Pastner to stop the drills at one point and have his players run laps for failing to talk to each other enough on the court.
"Toward the beginning of the practice, it was a little shaky. I wasn't happy about it," senior forward Will Coleman said. "We did a little running because guys were lackadaisical. But for the most part, as practice went on, I think we did a pretty good job."
John Perrotto is an author of Basketball Prospectus.
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