Photo: Jordan Goldwire (L) Cam Reddish
Where did Jordan Goldwire come from? Besides the end of Duke’s bench, that is.
Usually, guys like Goldwire, Duke’s lightly recruited sophomore guard, only play during blowouts. With the Blue Devils' NBA combine roster, that means mop-up duty of an overmatched opponent.
But on Tuesday night at Louisville, Duke trailed by 23 points with 9:55 to play, but Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski wasn’t throwing in the towel when he sent Goldwire into the game.
Coach K was looking for a spark, even if he was asking for it from a guy that was averaging 7.7 minutes (thanks to blowouts) with 0.7 points.
His hunch was right. Goldwire provided the unexpected jump start in No. 2-ranked Duke’s improbable comeback win, 71-69.
“Jordan's a really good athlete,” Coach K told the media afterward. “He had the best look of anyone on the bench. Sometimes when you look down and he was sitting at the edge of his seat wanting to get in. So, let's get him in. And then you didn't want to take him out.”
Retired Army Captain Mike Krzyzewski, a West Point grad who played for Bobby Knight at the academy, relied on his military training of reading and disguising body language. Goldwire was expressing what Coach K was telling his players.
“At West Point, that was one of things I learned as a cadet,” he said. “Even when you don't feel like it's going to go, your men better not see that in you. And as a result, you can speak into action sometimes. I did think that we could play better.”
Goldwire’s influence on the game can’t be measured by his final stats: 0 points, 0-2 FG, 0-1 3pt FG, 0-0 FT, 2 rebounds, 3 Personal fouls, 2 assists and 2 steals.
It was measured by the flurry of Louisville turnovers – 13 in the second half, 17 for the game -- as the Cardinals panicked. They suddenly looked like a colorblind middle school team throwing passes directly to guys in the wrong uniforms.
Duke’s switch to a fullcourt pressure combined Goldwire with starting point guard Tre Jones. Goldwire didn’t have to score, he just had to create havoc to speed up the game. The result was Zion Williamson scoring 27 points, Cam Reddish 22 and R.J. Barrett 13.
“We went to our 2-2-1, and we felt that that might help us before the game, but Jordan Goldwire really helped us,” Krzyzewski said. “We had two guards out there that put a lot of pressure, and then Zion (Williamson) played the last part of the game with four fouls and played it great, and Cam (Reddish hit dagger shot.”
But back to the question about Goldwire: Where did he come from?
He was merely a 3-star prospect – atypical for Duke’s NBA combine classes -- when he accepted a late offer from Coach K on May 1, 2017. That was six months after the early November 2016 signing period and a month after the late April 2017 period.
Goldwire, listed a 6-foot, 160-pounder coming out of Norcross, Ga., otherwise only had other offers from Arizona State, Mercer, Tulane and Alabama-Birmingham.
But at the time, Duke had yet to secure a commitment from 5-star point guard Trevon Duval. He waited until May 15, 2017.
Of the four 5-star commits in 2017 class, Gary Trent Jr. committed on Nov. 10, 2016 and Wendell Carter on Nov. 23, 2016. Marvin Bagley reclassified to the Class of 2017 and thus didn’t commit until August, 14, 2017.
That’s not to say Coach K was counting Goldwire to run the point in 2017-18 if he had missed out on Duval. But coaches need more than a handful of elite recruits. They need a roster of 12 or more players to fill out practice and form an aggressive scout team despite lesser talent.
Goldwire’s play in practice this season hasn't been threatening freshman Tre Jones’ starting job, but he was earning Coach K’s confidence.
Last year Duval turned out to be a glaring disappointment, while Goldwire wasn’t expected to provide anything past his mop-up playing time of 6.5 minutes a game and a 1.0 scoring. But hidden in those modest averages were 24 assists and nine steals in 26 games.
Duvall left for the NBA after one year, although he wasn’t drafted and plays in the G-League. He wasn’t ready to turn pro. He also is a forgotten man at Duke despite his 5-star credentials.
The less ballyhooed Goldwire, on the other hand, has secured a place in Duke folk lore – the largest comeback margin of Coach K’s Hall-of-Fame career.
The modest 3-star kid has turned out to be a more important recruit to Duke than Duval.
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