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SportsOlympics

Former Cardinal Gibbons and Duke star Wojciechowski helping U.S. men prepare for the Games

Duke Blue DevilsBasketballNate McMillanMike KrzyzewskiKobe BryantLeBron James

Steve Wojciechowski still looks like the pugnacious point guard who came out of Cardinal Gibbons nearly two decades ago and proved those wrong who said he wouldn't make an impact at Duke.

He's spent the past 13 years as an assistant and now associate head coach wunder the legendary Mike Krzyzewski and the past six helping Krzyzewski's staff for the U.S. Olympic team.

In describing his role with the national team, Wojciechowski said he, fellow Duke associate coach Chris Collins and Syracuse associate head coach Mike Hopkins help prepare scouting reports on upcoming opponents as well as get on the court during practice to run drills for the likes of LeBron James and Kobe Bryant.

"For lack of a better term, we are the young legs for the coaches on the court," Wojciechowski, 35, said over the phone Saturday from Barcelona, Spain, where the U.S. will play Argentina on Sunday and Spain on Tuesday in its last exhibitions before heading to London later this week.

"All the guys who are on the official staff [Jim Boeheim, Mike D'Antoniand Nate McMillan] are head coaches, and in Coach K's case and in Coach Boeheim's case, they probably haven't run drills in years. We run the drills. We organize the drills, whether it's shooting or defense. We can move along a little more freely on the court."

Given the level of talent he has played with and coached at Duke, Wojciechowski is not quite starry-eyed looking at whom he is out on the court with these days. But that doesn't mean Wojciechowski is blind to the fact that he is feeding balls or setting picks for the greatest players in the world.

"It's an honor to be out there," Wojciechowski said. "Those guys are the same people everybody watches on TV doing incredible things on the basketball court. But when gets down to basketball and doing things like that, I've done it a long time, I've done it with really great players. Now this is my second Olympics.

"When you're on the floor, you're basically working with the game of basketball, which I've played since I was real young," he continues. "I'm not thinking while I'm on the court or doing scouting reports about the greatness of the individual players we have on our team. I'm thinking about how I can help in any way I can for the team to be in the best position that we can compete to win the gold medal."

Wojciechowski said that in terms of continuity, this time has been easier than it was going into Beijing four years ago, when the U.S. redeemed itself for its bronze medal performance in Athens by winning gold.

"Familiarity is the biggest thing," Wojciechowski said. "You don't know the first time around. Certainly we don't know how everything is going to go this time around. You have a relationship with some of the players, all of the staff and some of the processes of the program."

In part, it is for some of those same reasons that Wojciechowski has stayed at Duke for so long. He has lived in Durham, N.C., nearly as long as he did growing up in Severna Park. He played for and now worked with a coach many consider to be the John Wooden of his generation.

That doesn't mean Wojciechowski will be at Duke forever.

"I want to be a head coach and so when the right opportunity [comes], I think I'm ready for that," Wojciechowski said. "Duke has been so good to me and my family. There won't be a day that goes by when I'm not appreciative of the opportunity of being at Duke and working with Coach K.

"But I want to be a head coach and run my own program and do the things that happened to me at Duke. I want to do that for other kids. Finding a school that matches who I am as a person and the vision I have for the program is really important. It's something I'm looking forward to."

don.markus@baltsun.com

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