With Jon Scheyer taking the reins of the Duke men’s basketball program, all eyes will be on the 33-year-old as he roams the sidelines during games.
And there’s a ton of responsibility when you’re in charge of strategy, match-ups, when to push tempo and when to reset. You have the scouting responsibilities of the opposition. What will he take the lead on and what will he delegate to his stable of competent assistant coaches? There’s tons of planning, hordes of tape review and an incredible amount of practice, coaching and adjustments that go into running a major Division I program.
Then there’s perhaps the biggest responsibility that goes into the equation – and that’s recruiting.
Duke is and has been one of the premier college basketball programs over the last 40 years. From the days of Johnny Dawkins, Danny Ferry, Tommy Amaker, Christian Laettner, Grant Hill, Bobby Hurley, Jay Williams, Carlos Boozer, JJ Redick, Luol Deng, Michael Dunleavy Jr, Shane Battier, Shelden Williams and Josh McRoberts to the new age names like Jayson Tatum, Kyrie Irving, Tyus Jones, Jahlil Okafor, Grayson Allen, Jabari Parker, RJ Barrett and Zion Williamson. Simply put, Duke has had a throng of mega-stars. They’ve always had incredible prospects on their rosters and you have to have talent to win at the highest level.
Scheyer will step into a position where he’ll inherit control over one of, if not THE biggest brand in college basketball. And he’s certainly played a part in helping to bring some stars into Durham. After all, he was the star recruiter for Tatum, one of the best players to come into Duke in the last decade.
He also ran point with Luke Kennard. He was the primary recruiter for incoming five-star Paolo Banchero from Seattle. He was also the lead on A.J. Griffin, the New York wing who is a top 10 national player. Jeremy Roach was another.
He’s the lead recruiter on Dereck Lively right now, one of the most highly sought after big men in the junior class, who just got his offer last week.
Scheyer and his staff will have an immense pressure on them to keep things going in the same direction that Mike Krzyzewski had. The 2022 and 2023 class will be under a microscope for the former Duke guard and national champion.
But all signs point to his strengths in taking over what could be his most important duty. One AAU coach that he’s worked with notes his intelligence and ability to build a rapport through jokes and playful banter.
“Scheyer is a high energy guy who’s always been very knowledgeable,” said Team Loaded Virginia assistant coach Brandon Ward. “He’s very witty and has a good sense of humor.”
The bright coach will need that passion and ability to make people comfortable with him and the direction of the program with the hall of famer on his way out. Another coach, Patrick Massaroni, who Scheyer worked with while courting A.J. Griffin at Stepinac, commented on his ability to truly connect with the younger generation.
“Jon, for his age, has the ability to connect to the high school kids today. He played at Duke, won at Duke and bleeds Duke,” he told Devils Illustrated. “Jon is well-known nationally to recruit the best talent to Duke.”
Massaroni also chimed in on how his own conversations went with Scheyer.
“He has a great personality. Easy to get along with and he’s very communicative,” he added.
But perhaps the best praise of the week came from Trinity Episcopal assistant coach, Steven Reece, who is a sports medicine doctor at Ortho Virginia in Richmond.
The charismatic physician and coach loved how easily they connected during the recruitment of Henry Coleman and Armando Bacot, two players that Duke recruited from the esteemed private school in the Richmond area.
“As a Duke grad, Jon and I had an immediate common ground. But he made others, without common ground, comfortable,” Reece said. “Jon is easy going, but you can feel his intensity. He’s quick with a smile but serious with the task at hand.
“Dealing with so many coaches of high level recruits, over the years, he stands out as a straight shooting, high character guy who wants to get the best young men that fit the Duke culture and style. I’m thrilled for him, both as a friend and as a coach. I’d want my kid to play for him.”
Reece’s last sentence is perhaps the most impactful. He’d want his own kid to play for him. That’s probably the best compliment that a head coach could ever hear. That means that you believe in him. That you have faith in the continuation of success at Duke. And most importantly, that you’d trust the man with your son.
Scheyer inherited a gold mine with Duke. And he’ll have a ton of pressure and expectations to keep Duke at the top of the college basketball world. Fans and alumni will expect ACC titles, they’ll want to make it Final Fours. They want to continue to see Duke sign McDonald’s All-American’s, five stars and compete for national championships.
They’ll want to see Scheyer jump in the drivers seat and keep the Lamborghini running smoothly at 130 miles-per-hour. And most importantly, they’ll want Scheyer to be the guy that people would want their kid to play for.