On Monday Duke announced that Mike Krzyzewski would undergo lower back surgery Friday, Jan. 6, to remove a fragment of a herniated disc and miss a month patrolling the sidelines for the Blue Devils.
In Krzyzewski’s absence, associate head coach Jeff Capel will coach the team, beginning Saturday when the Blue Devils host Boston College.
That was encouraging to two of Duke’s signed recruits from the 2017 class.
Pace Academy (Atlanta) forward Wendell Carter Jr. and Prolific Prep (Napa, Calif.) shooting guard Gary Trent Jr. said they’re both confident that Duke won’t miss a beat with Capel at the controls and expect the Blue Devils to remain on their quest toward Krzyzewski’s sixth national title.
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“Duke is still in great hands,” Trent said.
Their belief in Capel is understandable; he was the primary recruiter on both Trent’s and Carter’s recruitments and has head coaching stints at Virginia Commonwealth from 2002 to 2006 and Oklahoma from 2006 to 2011. Those teams averaged 20 wins per season.
Last season when Krzyzewski fell ill and had to miss the Blue Devils’ game against Georgia Tech it was Capel, a former Duke guard who joined the staff in 2011, who coached the Blue Devils to a victory.
“Coach Capel is a wonderful person, an awesome coach, recruiter and mentor,” said Trent, who is ranked No. 8 overall in the ESPN 100. “He’s coached great players over the years and he knows what it takes to have a successful season and a successful program. I am confident he has learned a lot coaching beside Coach K. Duke, is still in great hands. Let’s just hope Coach K has successful surgery and a speedy recovery.”
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Carter concurred and said not to expect the Blue Devils to look any different under Capel.
“I don’t think much will change in the style of play,” said Carter, who is ranked No. 3 overall in the ESPN 100. “I think this is great opportunity for Coach Capel to showcase how good of a coach he is and to show what the brotherhood of Duke really means.”
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