On Monday afternoon, Florida State's Leonard Hamilton and Duke's Mike Krzyzewski spoke with the media via teleconference about their upcoming matchup on Tuesday evening, ACC Player of the Year candidate Toney Douglas, the status of Duke's Nolan Smith for the game, and more. Here is a transcript of that conversation:
Florida State head coach Leonard Hamilton
"Our last couple games, we lost a very hard fought game to Boston College on the road and we were very fortunate to be successful at home against an outstanding Clemson basketball team. I thought our guys played with tremendous energy, executed a lot better in the first half, Clemson came back on us there towards the end but we were able to hang on to get a much needed victory. We felt it was very, very important for our team."
Q: How would you make your case for Toney Douglas as ACC Player of the Year?
Hamilton: First off, I am respectful of the fact that we have other kids in the conference who have had outstanding years. (Jeff) Teague has had a good year, (Ty) Lawson has had a good year, from my understanding, and I am sure there are several other players that – (Jack) McClinton down at Miami. I think Toney's scenario has been a lot different. I think he is the best on the ball defensive guard that I have ever coached in my coaching career. I think that normally sets him apart. I am not real sure a lot of times when you are considering guys it is points and assists but this guy has done a tremendous job from the defensive standpoint. Obviously he has been a go-to guy who has played tremendous minutes and he is a well conditioned athlete who is durable. I think the thing that kind of sets him apart is he has taken a team with six first-year players that perform major minutes on our team in order for us to be successful. His leadership has not been one with a lot of experienced verterans, or all-conference, great players returning. We had only one (other) player returning who averaged double figures and Toney has had to give us leadership on and off the court with a young, inexperienced team playing 37 minutes a game. When the game is on the line he has delivered on the offensive end as well as on the defensive end. I think he deserves to be considered very highly. Obviously I am going to be a little (bias) because he has meant an awful lot to our basketball team and we have had a pretty good year but I do feel that Toney has meant so much on this team it is hard for me to (fathom) anyone in our league has shouldered that level of responsibility for a team that was picked by most people to not be very high in the standings in the preseason.
Q: In your years of experience, how often have you seen a guard shoulder that kind of responsibility with a very young team?
Hamilton: I have never experienced that. I have been doing this a long time and I have been very fortunate to be around a lot of great players and I have watched a lot of great years but for a point guard to show this kind of responsibility and then hit big shot after big shot when the game is on the line, and then to have the responsibility when the game is on the line to guard other teams best players with a young and inexperienced team, it says an awful lot and in my opinion it kind of sets him apart from what I have witnessed with a lot of other players. He has done a tremendous job. I hope that other people recognize what he has been able to accomplish with a team that most people didn't think had a chance to be where we are at the end of the season and he is partly responsible for that.
Q: Xavier Gibson came in and really gave you a lift against Clemson, I was hoping you could talk a little bit about him building upon that performance?
Hamilton: The thing that impressed me about Xavier is that he has worked very hard. He has had a positive attitude the entire year. He hasn't played as many minutes as some of the other guys but he has worked hard on his conditioning, his weight training, he has been early before practice, (staying) after practice. He is making adjustments. He was so confident he went into the game the other day that five seconds after he walked onto the floor he was knocking down a jumper and he was 3-for-3 in the first half. His defense was good, he was active and aggressive. He is learning. He is eager to learn. I think his future is bright. Personally, and I have said this many times, I think he has as much potential as anyone on our team and we expect him to have a great career at Florida State.
Q: Can you talk about the veteran talent in the ACC and how it is unlike the recent trend of college basketball being all about one-and-done types of players?
Hamilton: Well I think that for whatever reason we have had a run here where we have had some experienced guys stay around and make good decisions. We had several guys leave early which has affected our team tremendously. I know Georgia Tech has and I am sure there are a couple other people whose teams have been set back by that a little bit. Sometimes the experience for these players have not always been a positive one and I think that when you see kids make some mistakes, that sends a signal to some other guys to be a little more careful in making those decisions. I think that is one reason why the level of play in the ACC is where it is. We have had some guys make good decisions about wanting to develop themselves a little further. This year especially we have not been affected as much and hopefully that will be a trend.
Q: Did Douglas seriously consider leaving after last season?
Hamilton: We talked about it. We looked into it. They came to a wise decision that it would be best for everybody concerned, especially Florida State, that he would return to school. I think it was a wise decision. He has a tremendous year and we are where we are a lot because of the exposure he has gotten and the consistent level of play that he has performed at.
Hamilton: Well I think they have had great years, there is no doubt about that. Jack McClinton has just been a handful for all of us to defend. He has been a major, major offensive player and he has kind of had a record year for the University of Miami. Jeff Teague, a youngster now, I think he is in his sophomore year. I was really impressed with how they got out of the chute, they got a lot of recognition early, and had a lot of veterans returning and had a great recruiting class coming in. I thought moving him from the off-guard to the point guard early in the year was a real smart move on Wake Forest's part. There is no doubt that those guys have had tremendous years.
Q: Can you talk about the recent play of Derwin Kitchen? He has been averaging 14 points and five rebounds in the past four games and given Douglas a secondary scoring option.
Hamilton: No doubt about that, it has also taken a tremendous amount of pressure off of Toney in terms of his ball handling, passing, and penetrating. We kind of have a two-headed monster there but it doesn't really matter which one handles the ball. It gets Toney off the ball a little bit and gets him a little bit more involved with scoring opportunities so it has been a very welcomed addition. As he has gotten into better conditioning, his defense has gotten better and he is become more of a strong rebounding type guard that can push the ball with his rebounding. He has been playing without a whole lot of unnecessary turnovers. Early in the year he was leaving his feet and charging a couple of times but I think now what he is doing is playing good, solid, fundamental basketball and it has made a big difference in our team.
Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski
"We have two really tough games this week. Florida State is playing great. Douglas is playing as good as anyone in the country – well, Blake Griffin has probably played better, but he has played as well as anyone in our conference. He has had a sensational season. Of course, we finish up with North Carolina. Our team outside of Nolan (Smith), is healthy. Nolan will not play on Tuesday. He is coming along, but he still has not done any physical stuff yet. He is getting better."
Q: With senior night being tomorrow, can you comment on Greg Paulus' rollercoaster season?
Krzyzewski: I think any player, if he is a team player, will measure his performance with how his team is doing. That is what Greg is doing. We are 24-5 and having a terrific season. As far as specific contributions, Greg has given on the court and off the court have been instrumental in us winning those games. He has had a really good career here, and he has been healthier now than he has throughout the season. We are hoping he has even more good things ahead of him.
Q: Can you talk about your interaction with the Duke students over the years and how you have tried to continue to motivate them to support you strongly?
Krzyzewski: We have been honest with them, and they have been such an integral part of our program for the whole time I have been here. We have tried to treat them in a honest, straight forward fashion. I think they appreciate that. Kids graduate, and as they graduate you have to get new kids and rebuild that relationship. We have had a good one over the years. If something isn't going that well, we just address them with that. They have changed, but overall they have been terrific.
Q: You have been all over the place, do you think you have the best fans in college basketball?
Krzyzewski: I love my fans and that is up to 8 million people to vote on whether something is good or not. I love our fans and you have to love all the other fans too, but we are not in a contest about fans. We are in a contest about winning games.
Q: You talked about Toney in your opening, he is getting some consideration for Player of the Year. Is what makes Douglas so unique his defense, in addition to what he does on offense?
Krzyzewski: Not just that, he has been a leader for his team. He has a lot of guys. I think Leonard has done as good of a job in the country at coaching his team. Toney plays every possession on offense and defense. Defensively, he is the best guy on the ball that I have seen, that we have played against, and I've seen in the country. I haven't seen everybody, but I have seen a lot of people. We have played against a lot of great guards. Toney is just a fantastic defender. I really think he is not just an all-ACC player, but probably the defensive player of the year in our conference, maybe in the country, well (Hasheem) Thabeet, it would be tough to argue against him, but Toney is terrific. He is going to play basketball for a long time.
Q: What makes Florida State's defense so tough?
Krzyzewski: They have shot blocking to go with their ball pressure, and they move well without the ball. They play defense as one, and then you add the shot blocking ability and the extreme ball pressure that Toney can give you – at the end of the possession, when the shot is taken and at the beginning of the possession when there is ball pressure, they have two of the best in the country. They have always been pretty good in the other position. It's a very good basketball team. They are very well coached, a very good basketball team.