Top 5 players that went through the Coach K system

Coach K: Emotions pour out of Mike Krzyzewski in final Duke home game
USA Today

Although his last home game didn’t go as planned, Duke basketball has become a staple in college sports and Coach Mike Krzyzewski is the main cause for that. With accolades for days, the coach is calling it quits after 42 seasons. 

Gold olympic medals, NCAA championships and much more is laid out on Coach K’s resume. If there was a question that came out of the Duke basketball organization it’s whether the players he coached translated to the NBA.

With guys such as Austin Rivers (my personal favorite player in high school), Seth Curry, Tyus Jones and more. Guys that went on to go to the league but didn’t achieve the same level of success on the next level. Nonetheless, here’s my top 5 list of guys that played under Coach K.

DISCLAIMER: These guys are based on my era and I’m also partially going off what they did in the NBA.

5. JJ Redick (2002-06)

Sports world reacts to former Duke men's basketball star JJ Redick's  retirement - The Chronicle
Duke Chronicle

College stats: 19.9 PPG, 2.7 RPG, 2.2APG, 40.6 3-PT%

NBA stats: 12.8PPG, 41.5% 3-PT%, 89.0 FT%

At Duke, JJ Redick was a star. To me, he was the Steph Curry before there was Steph Curry. Before he turned into a 3-point specialist in the league, Redick did it all offensively. Shooting from deep, taking defenders off the dribble and just a flat out scorer. He switched up his play when he got to the league, however, he was able to always be effective at any level.

Sure, JJ wasn’t a star in the NBA, but he lasted over a decade in the league which goes a long way. When called on most he was reliable to knock down a three. And we can’t forget his run with the Clippers. 

4. Kyrie Irving (2010-11)

Nets March Madness: Kyrie Irving scores 28 in final game for Duke
USA Today

College state: 17.5 PPG, 4.3 APG, 46.2 3-PT%

NBA stats: 22.9 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 5.7 APG

This one may have true Duke fans in rage but read the disclaimer at the top. Kyrie Irving is arguably the most talented player Coach K has had. His crossover is lethal, shooting is smooth and is just a great scorer. He’s also one of the few Duke players to translate to the NBA. He became a 7x All-Star, Rookie of the Year and a NBA Champion. Kyrie is a bad man. And if we put all of the Duke players to ever play on a team–Kyrie would be the leading scorer. Only reason he’s not at the top is because of the 11 games he played at Duke. And his struggle with injury throughout his entire career. 

3. Grant Hill (1990-1994)

Duke legend Grant Hill doesn't mind Jabari Parker comparisons
USA Today

College Stats: 14.9 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 3.6 APG, 1.7SPG, 53.2 FG%, 37.6 3-PT%

NBA stats: 16.7 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 4.1 APG

Grant Hill was one of the few to be the man in Duke and in the NBA. The 3rd NBA Draft pick averaged double digits all four years at Duke. He’s also one of only 13 players to have their jersey retired. Most importantly, he’s one of the very few multi-time NCAA champion in Duke history. He was a scorer that could lockdown on defense as well. 

In the NBA Hill battled injuries that kept him from being the next MJ (no seriously, people actually anticipated him to be the face of the NBA after Jordan). But that doesn’t mean his pro career was bad. Hill went on to become a 7x All-Star and Co-Rookie of the Year. He won gold medals and averaged 25 points in 99′.

2. Christian Laettner (1988-92)

Christian Laettner: College basketball stats, best moments, quotes |

College stats: 16.6 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 57.4 FG%, 48.5 3-PT%, 2.1 BPG

NBA stats: 12.8 PPG, 6.7 RPG, 2.6 APG

It’s hard to argue with a guy who brought Duke to 4 straight Final Fours and won two of them. Christian Laettner arguably had the best college basketball career EVER. 1992 National player of the year. He was the only college player on the “Dream Team” and was wildly hated by opposed fans. Third in all-time scoring at Duke. In the NBA his talent didn’t translate as well but he did make an all-star appearance in 97′. Certainly the most successful collegiate player Coach K has been with. 

1. Zion Williamson (2018-19)

Zion Williamson to New York? Knicks need Duke star more than anyone
USA Today

College stats: 22.6 PPG, 8.9 RPG, 2.1 APG, 2.1 SPG, 1.8 BPG

NBA stats: 25.7 PPG, 7.0 RPG, 3.2 APG

He was the number 1 NBA pick. Sure he’s a meme right now for being out the entire season and for his big frame being called out as ‘overweight’ but Zion is special. He was an internet sensation since high school for being able to move with high speed and agility with his size and power. He’s a mixture of Charles Barkley and Shaq. 

In my opinion he’s the most talented player Coach K has coached. He’s certainly the most famous, bringing Duke basketball back to prime time television. In the league he immediately dominated. He became an All-Star and on the NBA All-Rookie First Team.

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