When the NCAA Tournament bracket was announced March 15, Duke freshman forward Justise Winslow took notice. His team was slated to play in his hometown, but it had to take care of some business first.
“(Duke senior guard Quinn Cook) told me just as a leader we got to win the first two games first,” he said on his 19th birthday, Thursday, the day before taking on Utah in Friday’s second South Regional Semifinal at NRG Stadium. “There’s no getting to Houston without winning the first two.”
Duke took care of business last week in Charlotte easily dispatching Robert Morris and San Diego State, so Winslow gets a chance to advance to a final four, less than five miles from St. John’s School where he averaged close to 24 points per game over his four year career.
“Now I’m here and I’m really happy, excited. “ he said. “Got to see a lot of family yesterday.”
Winslow has flown a little under the radar on a team with June’s likely number 1 pick, Jahlil Okafor. He’s averaging 12.1 points and 6.3 rebounds per game, but more importantly, the deeper the season has gone, the better the newly-minted 19 year old has played.
“Winslow is a big key for them,” Utah coach Larry Krystowiak said. “I think maybe his second half of the season things have changed a little bit. Certainly the last eight games I believe he’s starting and posing a threat as an undersized four man, really athletic, you know, supremely talented like a lot of guys on Duke’s roster.”
Playing games of this magnitude so close to home could be tough for some college freshman to handle, but Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski doesn’t believe Winslow is one of them.
“The best thing is that his family wants him to just concentrate on basketball,” he said. “(His mother) has done a great job of always saying it’s his moment, it’s not our moment to be in with him.”
Despite playing at home on his birthday, Winslow’s concentration is one one thing: basketball.
“At the end of the day, it’s a business trip for Duke about getting two wins.”Follow @AdamSpolane