Duke’s Jon Scheyer has never been afraid of a challengeMichael O’Brienon June 2, 2021 at 10:20 pm

Duke associate head coach Jon Scheyer is expected to succeed Mike Krzyzewski.
Duke associate head coach Jon Scheyer is expected to succeed Mike Krzyzewski. | Ben McKeown/AP

The Glenbrook North graduate is expected to become the Blue Devils’ new coach if Mike Krzyzewski retires after the upcoming season.

Jon Scheyer reached out to his usual Chicago contacts in late March. It wasn’t to pick anyone’s brain about local recruits or ask about a player in the transfer portal. It was to prepare for a follow-up interview at DePaul.

Yes. The guy that is now Mike Krzyzewski’s hand-picked successor at Duke really did want the DePaul job. Things move quickly.

Athletic director Kevin White approved Scheyer as Kzrzyzewski’s successor on Wednesday according to multiple reports. Kzrzyzewski, a coaching legend who grew up on the West Side, will retire after the 2021-22 season.

Scheyer, 33, has been an assistant at Duke since 2013-14 but he’s never held a head coaching job at any level.

Scheyer is stepping into huge shoes. Krzyzewski played his high school ball at Weber, a Catholic school on the Northwest side that closed in 1999. He went on to play for Bob Knight at Army.

In 41 years as the head coach at Duke, Krzyzewski has won five national championships, reached 12 Final Fours and coached the U.S. Olympic team to gold medals in 2008, 2012 and 2016. Overall, he’s won 79% of his games at Duke and has recorded the most wins of any Division I basketball coach in history with 1,168 career victories.

However, this past season was Duke’s worst ACC finish in Coach K’s illustrious career. And he missed out on a local recruit for the first time. No area player had ever turned down a scholarship offer from Krzyzewski until Rolling Meadows star Max Christie chose Michigan State over Duke in July.

Scheyer isn’t super well-connected in Chicago, but he is an Illinois legend. Every basketball parent will remember his name, even if their kids don’t. Scheyer and Glenbrook North were the biggest story in Chicago sports during the winter of 2005-06.

“I think [Jon Scheyer] is the best player ever to play high school basketball in Illinois,” Dave Weber, the Glenbrook North coach at the time, said before Scheyer’s senior season. “I know that’s a big statement. I’m not saying he’s going to be the best college player or the best pro. His records are just mind-boggling. There is no one who is so complete.”

Statistically it is easy to make the case that Scheyer is the most complete player in IHSA basketball history.

He’s the only player in Illinois high school basketball history that is in the all-time top 20 in total points, assists and steals. He’s fourth all-time in scoring, 20th all-time in assists and 10th in steals.

Those stats won’t help him much in the Duke hot seat. But Scheyer has a proven track record as a winner. He was a high school legend, a star player at Duke and a standout recruiter as an assistant coach.

The fact that Scheyer went hard after the DePaul job shows he wasn’t afraid of a challenge. He was ready to start near the bottom of the Division I coaching ladder. Instead, he will start at the top. Despite the media glare and pressure it will be an easier task.

Scheyer knows how to recruit Duke-level talent. He was the lead recruiter for Jayson Tatum and Zion Williamson. Wintrust Arena is nice, but convincing kids to play at Cameron Indoor Stadium and follow in the footsteps of dozens of NBA stars is a sweet first gig if you can get it.

In-game coaching is the big unknown for Scheyer, but actual basketball has always come naturally for him. This is the guy that scored 21 points in 75 seconds at the Proviso West Tournament in 2005. Coaching a bunch of McDonald’s All-Americans at Duke doesn’t seem nearly as challenging.

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