This week in Durham may have been one of the most scrutinized since the 2015 season when Duke won the National Championship over Wisconsin with a star-studded cast featuring several freshman, mixed with veterans. During that same season, Duke went through what is happening now – highs & lows.
Shooting guard Rasheed Sulaimon was the first ever player dismissed from the Duke program for violating team rules. It was speculated, although never confirmed, that he was involved in an alleged sexual assault that led to his departure. Media had a field day with this given the university and its history with the lacrosse program and their highly publicized sexual assault scandal in which charges were eventually dropped.
The team was written off and many wondered how Coach K would motivate his squad after the Sulaimon incident. Would the team respond through adversity? Would they fold with that amount of pressure on their shoulders as 18 and 19 year old’s, who had never been in that type of situation? Not only did that team respond through the media biases and speculations, they brought home Coach K’s 5th National Championship.
Sometimes adversity builds character. The departure of Jalen Johnson may indeed be an addition by subtraction for the Duke Blue Devils. Of course, the players and coaches have Johnson’s back, because at the end of the day it’s morally and politically correct to show love, even when that love may have been tainted. The team’s cohesiveness and overall flow looked improved in their 84-60 win over Wake Forest Wednesday night. They’re playing with a chip on their shoulder, and quite frankly they should. Being written off and struggling all season will do that. There are two teams that are undefeated this season ranked number 1 & 2 in the country, but all the buzz has been about “The Brotherhood.”
Not by any means am I suggesting this squad is as talented as the 2015 National Championship team, but what I do know is that Coach K has a way of revamping his team to respond under pressure – not folding when times get tough. His team will earn everything and not expect handouts. For them, it will be about the name on the front of the jersey, not the back.