Mike Krzyzewski says Duke is cooperating fully with the inquiry into whether any NCAA rules were broken when former player Lance Thomas purchased nearly $100,000 in jewelry during the 2010 national championship season.
The Duke coach said Friday during the team’s preseason media day that he’s proud of the school’s compliance record during his 33 seasons there.
Krzyzewski said he hadn’t commented previously on the inquiry because ”we want to honor the integrity of that process,” and that he will continue to decline to discuss it in the future.
Krzyzewski said in early September he was made aware of a lawsuit filed against Thomas and contacted Duke’s administration, which reached out to the NCAA ”to go through a process of seeing what happened.”
Thomas, who’s now with the New Orleans Hornets, has said he doesn’t think he violated any NCAA rules when he made the purchase midway through his senior season in December 2009 – just over three months before the Blue Devils won their fourth national title – and is willing to speak to the NCAA about it.
He was sued in January in Austin, Texas, by a New York jeweler who said Thomas owed $67,800 for five pieces of jewelry he purchased at a cost of $97,800. An invoice dated Dec. 21, 2009, indicates that he made a $30,000 down payment and agreed to pay the balance in 15 days.
The lawsuit, filed in Texas because Thomas was playing for the NBADL’s Austin Toros at the time, was settled days after it surfaced publicly early last month, though school officials have said the settlement doesn’t affect the ongoing inquiry.
”I have complete trust and confidence in all parties involved,” Krzyzewski said.
Krzyzewski and the Blue Devils prefer that the focus be on the court and the current team, which wants to erase the sour taste that has lingered since Duke was upset by 15th-seeded Lehigh in its NCAA tournament opener and ended the year losing three of four.
That flop and the subsequent personnel losses – Austin Rivers and Miles Plumlee are now in the NBA – might have Duke flying under the radar entering this year.
”Our preseason ranking may be the lowest since I’ve been here,” big man Mason Plumlee said. ”No one’s ever won the championship in the preseason.”
Plumlee and Ryan Kelly, both freshmen during that 2010 title run, and guard Seth Curry make up the veteran nucleus of this year’s group. They will be complemented by two big-name freshmen, guard Rasheed Sulaimon and swingman Amile Jefferson, and redshirt freshman Alex Murphy.
”If we do something special this year, a big thing will be because of” Plumlee, Krzyzewski said. ”It’s his time to be the key guy. … Ryan and Seth are also key guys, but Mason is the key guy. I love when a guy wants that. He owns it, and he’s taken responsibility for that. … It’s is my 33rd year. What excites you? Those are the types of things that excite me.
”We’ve won everything. We’ve won big and we’ve lost big. We’ve won a lot more big than we’ve lost big, but you’ve got to be in (the players’) moments. I’m anxious to be in (Plumlee’s) moment.”
In each of the past two years, a Duke freshman guard has become a lottery pick in the NBA draft. NBA rookie of the year Kyrie Irving preceded Rivers in making the jump in 2011.
Sulaimon – a 6-foot-4 McDonald’s All-American from Houston who averaged 27 points as a high school senior – could possibly be next in line.
”I’m just trying to get where I fit in,” Sulaimon said. ”I still have a lot to learn.”