The following is an account of my experience at K Academy—a four-day adult basketball camp that gives participants an inside look into Duke’s three-time national championship basketball program.
Now in its third year, the K Academy brings many of Duke Basketball’s all-time best players and supporters together in Durham, North Carolina each July for a Duke Basketball fantasy camp. This year’s camp, K Academy III, was the best event yet. Proceeds from the camp benefit the Emily Krzyzewski Center, a community center currently under construction in Durham’s west end in honor of Coach K’s late mother.
One of the most amazing aspects of the K Academy is the group of former Duke stars who serve as coaches. This year’s K Academy staff included:
* Team Battier: Shane Battier, Mark Alarie, Trajan Langdon
* Team Giminski: Steve Wojciechowski, Mike Dunleavy, Mike Giminski
* Team Dawkins: Johnny Dawkins, Dahntay Jones, Chip Engelland
* Team Ferry: Danny Ferry, Jay Bilas, Chris Carrawell, Kenny Dennard
* Team Hill: Grant Hill, Chris Collins, Roshown McLeod
* Team Laettner: Christian Laettner, Billy King, Nate James, Jason Williams
The K Academy is a great experience both for the players who attend and also the former Duke stars who participate as coaches. “We love it. It’s a reunion for us as coaches,” Johnny Dawkins said. Many of the coaches enjoy K Academy so much that they return year after year. Shane Battier explained, “its fun to share something so special to me with people who have affection for the program… to give a glimpse of what we (as players) experienced here to people who appreciate it.”
Several of the current Duke players–Sean Dockery, Greg Paulus, and Josh McRoberts to name a few–were on campus taking summer classes and stopped by throughout the camp to check out the action.
Day 1 – July 28, 2005
I arrived on Thursday the 28th and checked into the Washington Duke Inn, a beautiful hotel located on the campus of Duke University. When I got to my hotel room, I found a gym bag waiting for me filled with my K Academy uniform and a variety of Duke gear.
I was curious to see how many players and coaches had returned from last year. It was great to see everyone again at the hotel lunch and relive what an amazing time we had last year.
After lunch, I suited up and headed over to Cameron Indoor Stadium. Driving up to the entrance of Cameron we came upon Krzyzewskiville, an area outside of Cameron where, during the season, students camp out before games. For the K Academy, Krzyzewskiville took the form of several tents and signs along with celebrity cardboard cutouts.
After a brief shoot-around, we were welcomed by camp director and Team Manager Mike Schrage. Mike introduced Coach K who spoke to us about what it means to play basketball at Duke. “To play on this floor is an honor,” he explained. “[Cameron Indoor Stadium is] one of the most special places in all of sports.” Cameron truly is a special place and getting the chance to play basketball there was an incredible thrill. We watched two videos: one commemorating 100 years of Duke Basketball, and the second on Coach K’s 25 years of coaching at Duke.
Coach K introduced the head coaches for each of the teams and we began the evaluation games. Each team played two games so the coaches could get a look at the “talent.” There was definitely a higher level of competition at this year’s camp.
After the games, I returned to the hotel to get ready for Draft Night. Before going back to campus, I stopped into the hotel bar where I found Danny Ferry, Shane Battier, Mike Dunleavy, Mike Jarvis, Jr., Mark Alarie and Jay Bilas having some drinks and talking hoops. The guys couldn’t have been nicer and they invited me to pull up a chair.
Draft Night was held in Duke’s Hall of Champions. One of the great things about the K Academy is the events are held in a number of different places throughout the campus. This is done to expose players to as much of the Duke Basketball experience as possible.
Before the draft began, last year’s K Academy champions from Team Battier were recognized. I joined my teammates from last year’s championship squad as we were presented with our K Academy championship watches.
After the presentation, coaches from each team were introduced to announce their draft selections. Each pick was accompanied by video highlights as well as commentary by the coaches.
Drafted by Team Giminski (Coaches: Giminski, Wojciechowski and Dunleavy), I donned the traditional draft-day hat and posed for a photo with my new coaches.
After the draft party, the hospitality suite was open back at the Washington Duke. We played Hearts, Texas Hold’em, and a new game apparently called “Grant Hill” late into the night. Mike Dunleavy is still trying to figure out the rules to that last one.
Day 2 – July 29, 2005
The next morning I went to Cameron to check out the pick-up games with the coaches. Upon arrival, Coach Collins, Coach Wojo and Coach Dawkins were taking on three of the K Academy players. Amazingly, the players beat the coaches not once but twice.
Team photos were taken before a lecture began with Coach K and Christian Laettner, the 1992 National Player of the Year. We watched some highlights from Laettner’s career as well as his senior video. At various points, Coach K stopped the tape and told us the story behind the highlight.
Later, Coach K showed us a framed photo from his office. Given all of his accolades and awards, the things Coach K chooses to hang on his walls must hold great significance and meaning to him. The photo was taken during a game in 1989 after Duke lost to Arizona. Laettner, then a freshman, had missed a critical free throw at the end of the game. The photo shows the other Duke players consoling Laettner after the loss. Coach K explained that the players were telling Laettner, “We win and lose together.” He sites this as the greatest example of collective responsibility he’s ever seen.
During his lecture, Coach K talked about how special Laettner was as a player, calling him a “terrific leader.” Underlining the leadership qualities Coach K spoke of, Laettner and his former teammate Brian Hill had donated $2 million to Duke just a day earlier.
After the lecture, our team had a short practice and prepared for our morning game. We lost our first game 40-27. Afterwards, we practiced again, working on our offensive sets and out-of-bounds plays
In the afternoon, Coach K gave a lecture about learning how to handle change. As an example, he talked about last year’s Duke Team and the challenges they faced. Despite not having a powerhouse team, Duke had an amazing season. Coach K explained that in order to succeed, the team had to concentrate on what they did well.
After beginning the season 18-2, the team lost back to back games to Maryland and Virginia Tech. To motivate his team to play to the high standards Duke had established, Krzyzewski took the radical step of starting three walk-ons for their next game against Wake Forrest. The walk-ons provided the necessary spark and intensity the team needed. Duke won the game against Wake Forrest and went on to win the ACC Tournament, earn a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, and make it to the Sweet 16.
After the lecture, we had our second game and won 40-37 to end the day with a record of 1-1.
Dinner that night was at The University Club. During the cocktail hour, players had their photo taken with Coach K. When it was time to eat, each team had its own table allowing for great conversation between players and coaches. After dinner it was back to the hospitality suite for more cards, stories, and fun.
Day 3 – July 30, 2005
The first activity on Saturday was a lecture on the “Use of Video in Coaching,” presented by Assistant Coaches Steve Wojciechowski and Chris Collins. Coach K introduced them and explained that video is an effective teaching tool helping players to “accept the truth” and build a shared vision. Coaches Wojo and Collins demonstrated how they use film for both scouting the opponents as well as themselves (“self scouting”)..
After the lecture, we broke up into our teams and watched tape of our games. The coaches pointed out areas for improvement in preparation for our first game of the day against Team Bilas. Though it was close, we lost the game 35-29 giving Coach Bilas his first career K Academy win.
After lunch, there was a roundtable discussion with Coach K, Shane Battier, Mike Dunleavy, Johnny Dawkins, and Jay Bilas. The talk was hosted by Roy Firestone and was being filmed for an upcoming video celebrating the success of the Duke Basketball program.
Before our second game of the day, our team met in Duke’s locker room. Each player on our team had their name on a locker. We watched video highlights of Duke’s 2001 National Championship and then had a question and answer session with our coaches. As we got ready to take the floor, our names were announced over the PA system and we ran out onto the court just like the Duke team does during the regular season. Although we played better, we lost to team Dawkins and finished the regular season with a record of 1-4.
The big event Saturday night was the dinner and charity auction. There were a number of pieces of sports memorabilia available. The marquee item was a package of four tickets to this season’s final Duke vs. Carolina game.
Because of our 1-3 record, we had to play the first game of Championship Sunday at 7:30 a.m. against Jay Bilas’ team. Our team played well and was up 7 with 2:30 minutes to go. Bilas’ team however, went on a 9-0 run to win by a final score of 26-24.
In the finals, Team Battier took on undefeated Team Laettner. Bob Harris, Duke’s PA announcer, did the player introductions. There was a good K-Academy crowd and the game definitely had a championship feel. Both teams played really well and the game was close. After building a 10-point halftime lead, Team Battier held on to win 35-29. This was Coach Battier’s second K-Academy championship in a row.
An awards ceremony concluded the camp and included video highlights of the championship game and the song “One Shining Moment.” Each camper was presented with a team photo and various K Academy items.
While it was difficult to top last year’s K-Academy experience in winning the championship, this year’s camp was special in different ways. Beyond the thrills of playing in Cameron, spending time with my favorite Duke Basketball stars, and talking with Coach K, I really felt like I was a member of the Duke Basketball family.
Special thanks to Mike Cragg, Rachel Curtis, Debbie Savarino, Mike Schrage and his staff. All did an outstanding job of organizing and running the camp. The dedication and effort that went into putting the event together were obvious. There were many extra touches like a K-Academy media guide and video highlights that made this year’s K Academy the best one yet.
Interested in attending? Learn more about the K Academy or contact Rachel Curtis in the Duke Basketball Legacy Fund office (919) 613-7501) to reserve your spot.