Duke's Grayson Allen, the breakout star of the national title game, was told his job was 'enthusiasm' before the season

Grayson Allen was a five-star recruit with a YouTube catalogue of dunk videos when he came into Duke in the fall.

Here he is in high school:

On Monday night he scored 16 points in the national championship game, leading Duke back from a nine-point deficit in the second half to beat Wisconsin 68-63. It’s not a surprise when you consider his recruiting pedigree, but it is a surprise when you consider where he was when he started the season.

Allen didn’t play in two of Duke’s first eight games, including December’s win over Wisconsin. He was overshadowed by Duke’s three other freshmen — Jahlil Okafor, Tyus Jones, and Justise Winslow — and stuck behind three other guards on the depth chart. He only played more than 10 minutes in one game in December and January. His breakout game didn’t come until March 4, when he dropped 27 points on Wake Forest in a blowout.

After that game ESPN’s C.L. Brown wrote a story about Allen’s development.

One interesting takeaway is the preseason goal that Coach K gave Allen before the season, “enthusiasm.” From Brown:

So when it came time for every player to meet with Krzyzewski and talk about season goals, Allen ended up with a most unique request.

The basketball-related matters were secondary, No. 1 on his list?


Whether in practice, on the bench or on the court, Krzyzewski wanted Allen to be outwardly active.

If you give a player “enthusiasm” as a primary goal, you’re probably not expecting much production on the court. Instead, in Duke’s biggest game of the year, Allen was one of the best players on the court.

He forced a steal to spark a run in the second half:

He was plenty enthused:

After the game Allen said he never got frustrated with coming off the bench:

“Well, coach has told me all year to stay ready and practice. These other seven guys have really given me confidence. They have been supporting me all year. You know, to be in the position where you’re coming off the bench, and these guys still support me and put confidence in me, I knew I was capable of doing it just because of what they have been telling me all year.”

With Okafor, Winslow, and probably Tyus Jones heading to the NBA this summer, Allen should be one of the leaders on next year’s Duke team.

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