Duke University’s super freshmen didn’t play like freshmen in the NCAA Final Four championship game.
Played in Indianapolis, Ind., at the Bankers Life Fieldhouse, home to the Indiana Pacers and Larry Bird, in front of a crowd of 18,165, the game was a thriller from the opening tip to the final buzzer. The mixed crowd of media, cheerleaders and fans from the state of Indiana and across the country were up and down in their seats throughout the game, which was also was up and down.
The young men from both teams played their collective hearts out. It was a physical, well-played 40 minutes that came down to, literally, the closing seconds of drama. But in the end, the difference was the hustling Duke freshmen, led by the talented Jahlil Okafor from Chicago, the game’s MVP.
“They showed a lot of grit,” said Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, who led his Blue Devils to their 68-63 win in what was Krzyewski’s fifth time hoisting the NCAA championship trophy.
You can bet that one thing came out of this game: Okafor has played his last game in a Duke uniform. He’s headed nonstop to shake hands with NBA Commissioner Adam Silver in the first round, perhaps No. 1 overall for the 6 foot 11, 270 pounder, of the coming NBA draft.
Coach K has a talented group of freshmen, and Okafor may not be the only one with thoughts of “one and done” and the guaranteed first-round contract dollars. Duke’s other super freshmen, Allen Greyson, Justin Winslow and Marshall Plumlee, may also be thinking NBA draft.
The Duke University coach now trails only the legendary Hall of Famer John Wooden of UCLA on the all-time high national championships list. He may never catch Wooden, though, who won 10 national titles with the likes of Kareem Abdul Jabbar, then known as Lew Alcindor.