By TOM SHANAHAN
The COVID-19 pandemic has turned the world upside down in ways big and small, but sometimes comic relief is needed to deal with life.
Duke sophomore Wendell Moore was asked about the players’ reaction to the Twitter world floating suggestions Blue Devils coach Mike Krzyzewski was nefariously looking for ways to end the season after losses to Big Ten schools Michigan State and Illinois.
Needless to say, having been in countless practice sessions with Coach K and bared his brunt on the sidelines after a bad stretch of play, Moore said the players were amazed.
“I’d say speaking for me personally. knowing coach these past few years he’s definitely one of the most fired up guys when it comes to playing games,” Moore said. “I think sometimes he wants it more than some of the guys. He’s that much into it. For somebody to say he doesn’t want to play anybody, that wasn’t right at all. That’s the last thing you’d say in about Coach.”
Moore met with the media on virtual call Thursday as the unranked Blue Devils (3-2, 1-0 ACC) prepare for their game Jan. 2 at No. 18-ranked Florida State (5-2, 1-1 ACC).
The Blue Devils haven’t played since a Dec. 16 win at Notre Dame that was following by Krzyzewski giving them time off at home over Christmas. The Blue Devils returned to campus to prepare for Pitt on Dec. 29 at Cameron Indoor Stadium, but COVID-19 testing at Pitt resulted in the game’s postponement.
The Coach K conspiracies were floated following Duke’s Dec. 8 loss to Illinois as witter erupted over Krzyzewski’s response to a question about college basketball across the nation increasingly postponing or canceling games due to COVID-19 testing and tracing. The coach in his 41st season suggested a reassessment was in order. He’s been around long to have accurately, it turned out, expect others to plant an ulterior motive on his mind, adding he’s “not making excuses.”
The criticism wasn’t limited to fans on Twitter. Some media members weighed in. Even Alabama coach Nate Oates chirped, but Krzyzewski’s own reassessment went into effect two days later. Duke announced it was canceled two non-conference games remaining on the schedule, Dec. 12 against Charleston Southern and Dec. 19 against Gardner-Webb.
Duke played its ACC opener on Dec. 16 at Notre Dame, bouncing back with a 75-65 win from its offensive woes against Michigan State and Illinois. Then Krzyzewski sent his players home for a break he said was necessary for their “mental health.”
The players had returned to campus on Aug. 2, but due to COVID-19 protocols they had been living virtually in isolation at a campus hotel. Moore returned said when he returned home to Charlotte, it was the first time he saw his family since leaving for campus in August. He said the break was good for them.
“Definitely, we see some benefits from the break,” he said. “Not only a mental health as coach called it for us, it also gave us time for rest. We’ve been here since Aug. 2 practicing and getting ready for games.
“It was nice to have time to ourselves. Coach made that a big point; he just wanted us to get some time a way and get our bodies and minds reset for the rest of the season we have coming up.”
Florida State is coming off a loss on Tuesday at Clemson 77-67, but having played recently may provide and edge against a team that will have gone 17 days without live action.
Moore, a 6-foot-5, 216-pounder, met with the team despite his frustrating start to the season. He’s averaging only 3.8 points a game while struggling with his shot. In five games, with three starts, he’s only 7-of-32 (22 percent) from the field and 1-of-9 from three-point range (11 percent).
“I’ll keep fighting through adversity,” Moore said. “Everybody hits a wall in their career. This happens to be my wall. I just find a way to get over it and do whatever it takes. I’m not focusing on me. I just focusing more what I can do to make our team better.”
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