Marquette’s Theo John recruited to Duke by ‘Coach K,’ Mike Krzyzewski | #vacation | #seniors | #elderly
Theo John thought he was done with college basketball after playing four seasons at Marquette.
But with professional opportunities limited as teams around the world recover from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the 6-foot-9 big man had to ponder his options.
That led to John entering the NCAA transfer portal to see what schools would be interested in him for a fifth season of eligibility that the NCAA granted athletes due to the pandemic. To the surprise of many in the sport, John landed at Duke to play for legendary coach Mike Krzyzewski.
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“Man, a few months ago … there would have been no way on God’s green earth that you would have seen me going back to school,” John said on Friday. “But in talking with agents and talking with my family, we felt that his was the best fit for me.
“And my future, because that’s ultimately what it’s all about.”
The first person to call John after he entered the portal was Chris Carrawell, a former MU assistant coach who is on Krzyzewski’s staff at Duke.
“He was part of the team that recruited me to Marquette,” John said. “I got to be with him for a year before he left for Duke. That familiarity made me much more comfortable making the decision rather quickly, too.”
Then the clincher was several phone calls and Zoom meetings with Krzyzewski. After struggling last season and missing the NCAA Tournament, the Blue Devils are reloading with a highly rated recruiting class.
“He felt like that if I came there we could win a national championship,” John said. “And we could win a lot of games together and learn a lot.
“I’ve always dreamed of making a deep run in the NCAA Tournament. When Coach K calls, you got to pick up and hear him out.”
Interestingly, John met Krzyzewski when MU practiced at Duke’s Cameron Indoor Stadium after beating North Carolina in late February.
“I took that as a sign from God that it was the right decision for me,” John said. “It was just a friendly talk at that time, him congratulating me on my four years at Marquette.
“At that time, I thought I was going to be leaving college after those next games, too. It was friendly talk. He was giving me a lot of compliments about my game and my character. So I knew once he was talking about that in the recruiting process it was genuine, because he was saying that before there was even a chance of me going there.”
John said he didn’t talk with former MU coach Steve Wojciechowski until after he made the decision to attend Duke. Wojciechowski was a point guard at Duke and also a longtime assistant coach under Krzyzewski.
John will pay homage to his former coach by wearing No. 12 at Duke as Wojciechowski did.
“After four years of learning from him, I hope at least I can wear the number,” John said.
John battled injuries over his last two seasons at MU, including a painful knee issue that kept him from practicing most of his senior year.
“Knee is feeling much better,” John said. “After the season I got a PRP (platelet-rich plasma) injection and then I took some time off. Went on vacation, gave it time to rest and heal.
“Been doing PT (physical therapy) the last two weeks. Just to slowly get back into basketball movements, basketball workouts. As of right now, feeling real good. Pretty much 100%.”
John’s fellow MU seniors also took advantage of the extra season, with Jamal Cain landing at Oakland University and Koby McEwen headed to Weber State.
“It’s a crazy situation for crazy times,” John said.
John expects to arrive at Duke in July. He’s also hoping Cameron Indoor Stadium will be back to its raucous, pre-pandemic atmosphere.
“A lot of history has been made in that building,” John said. “A lot of that speaks for itself. But they sold it as COVID was going to be over, so this will be more of the senior season that I dreamed of when I was younger.”
Contact Ben Steele at (414) 224-2676 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @BenSteeleMJS or Instagram at @bensteele_mjs