Sixers Player News: Defense of Jahlil Okafor

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Apr 7, 2015; Durham, NC, USA; Duke Blue Devils players stand behind their national championship and regional championship trophies during a welcome home ceremony at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

Blue Devil Dynamo

The Duke Blue Devils basketball team is coached by NCAA legend Mike Krzyzewski, and he knows a few things about basketball.  The 67 year old coach has remained relevant in basketball because he will change old habits.  Such was the case in January 2015 when he switched the Blue Devils defense from a primarily man to man into a 2-3 zone defense.   One of the players on that team?  Rookie standout center Jahlil Okafor.

"“We didn’t make many adjustments. We did watch film and try to correct some mistakes on things that we were supposed to do against Louisville that we didn’t execute since it was our first time playing zone. We basically just tried to keep the ball out of the middle of the floor.” – Jahlil Okafor after a 14 point five assist night against Louisville"

Krzyzewski didn’t just change things up for the sake of change, he had good reason of doing so. He saw a team playing as individuals, and less as a team. When the offense struggled, the defense did too. So he infused more teamwork into the team. Defend TOGETHER.

"“There were no breakdowns defensively against Wisconsin, against Michigan State, against Stanford, against Connecticut. We were playing great defense. Our defense started going bad when our offense went and we couldn’t hit a shot. I am not saying that we cannot defend better either; we should have. I think the missed shooting hurt us the other way. What I think happens is you are out there alone, instead of being together. It’s having each other’s back and you find more people have your back. It helps a little bit psychologically. We talked better. In the first half, they’re right in front of us, our defense, and because they are learning it – we can talk to them and help them.”"

For the season, Duke Jahlil Okafor averaged 30 minutes per game, 17.3 points per game, 8.5 rebounds per game, 1.4 blocks per game and 1.3 assists per game. He shot 66.4% on field goals, and 51% from the free throw line.

Philadelphia 76ers head coach Brett Brown wanted to learn about his new center, so he picked up the phone and talked with Krzyzewski for half an hour. He wanted some basics, but he walked away with some valuable insight as to his young new NBA center.

"“I had a fantastic conversation with Coach K and when we hung up, I knew Jahlil had great potential and is a terrific, young prospect, but I hadn’t realized what type of person we had, as well,” Brown said. “The more I learn about Jahlil, the more you respect his upbringing value and love of the game. I was in the office at 6:30 the other morning, and he’s in the gym working with a trainer. You then go upstairs and get ready for a day’s work and you feel great. I’m really excited to coach him, and the program is going to realize very quickly how special he is.”"

Brown is a mentor, molder, shaper, and magician with the youth in today’s NBA. His role is especially vital to the team’s long term success, particularly since they are banking on the development of young and incredibly talented young men.

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