Thursday, March 27, 2003

Krzyzewski loves KU’s Collison

Duke coach says Jayhawk a 'beautiful player'


— Nick Collison has been described by many opposing coaches in many different ways, yet rarely, if at all, has anyone used the name of Kansas University's senior basketball standout in the same sentence with the B-word.

Duke's Mike Krzyzewski did Wednesday.

"He's a beautiful kid, and he's a beautiful player," Krzyzewski said prior to tonight's NCAA West Regional semifinal clash between KU and Duke, "but I hope he's not too beautiful (tonight)."

Duke's courting of Collison while he was a ballyhooed high schooler in Iowa Falls, Iowa, became news when it was determined last Saturday that the Jayhawks and Blue Devils would collide in a Sweet 16 showdown at the Arrowhead Pond.

Asked Monday about Krzyzewski's wooing, Collison gave a couple of reasons why he opted for Kansas, not the least of which was the geography factor -- Lawrence being much, much closer to Iowa Falls than Durham, N.C.

Collison mentioned, too, that he wasn't convinced he would have as much playing time right away at Duke as he would at Kansas, which prompted one of the scores of sports writers gathered at this West Region site to ask Krzyzewski about a story that had appeared in Tuesday's Journal-World that suggested the Duke coach couldn't promise him enough minutes.

Before the writer finished, Krzyzewski jumped in and said: "We never talk about minutes or starting. I've never promised (a recruit) that in my life. That main thing that does is reduce their ability to have hunger."

That said, the Duke coach remarked with a smile: "If Nick Collison was in our program, I'm sure we would have found minutes for him. I love Nick. I think he's the best player in the United States, and I would love to coach him."

Krzyzewski did not recruit Kirk Hinrich, the Jayhawks' other senior standout from Iowa, but that didn't stop the Duke coach from strewing a similar number of rose petals in Hinrich's path.


Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski watches his team practice Wednesday. The Blue Devils will take on Kansas University in the NCAA West Regional semifinal tonight in Anaheim, Calif.

"I like Hinrich, too. He's really good," Coach K said. "I don't know what kind of courage he has off the court, but he has tremendous competitive courage. He revels in moments other players shy away from."

Krzyzewski didn't have to watch much tape to realize Collison and Hinrich are the heart and soul of this season's KU team.

"In Kansas' system, those two kids are showcased," he said. "They're allowed to follow their instincts, and in that case they're difficult to beat."

Duke, by way of contrast, has only one impact senior -- 6-foot-6 Dahntay Jones, the club's leading scorer (17.5) and second-leading rebounder (5.4). Their second-best player is a freshman -- J.J. Redick, a 6-4 guard from Roanoke, Va., who averages 15.3 points a game.

"His stats are pretty impressive," Krzyzewski said of the sharp-shooting Redick. "He's been a focal point of attention, and he has played as well as any freshman in the country. He has played like an upperclassman all year."

Redick, who has shot 227 three-pointers -- nearly twice as many as any teammate -- is a 41.4 percent shooter from beyond the arc and a 91.9 percent foul shooter.

"Sometimes I've had to pinch myself," Redick said. "I'm living a dream now playing against so many great players."

Year in and year out, the Blue Devils have been a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. This year they slipped to a No. 3 and will be in the uncommon situation of wearing their road jerseys when they meet No. 2 seed Kansas tonight.

"Being the 'dog has been different for us," junior guard Chris Duhon said, "but I don't think the country looks at us as underdogs. I think they just feel we'll get out of the tournament earlier."


KU's Aaron Miles, front, and Moulaye Niang stretch before practice.


Kansas' Kirk Hinrich answers questions from the media.

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