A new face represented Duke last weekend at the Peach Jam, where head coach Jon Scheyer and assistants Jai Lucas and Chris Carrawell were on the hunt for future players.
Rachel Baker, hired as Duke basketball’s first general manager in June, joined those three coaches at the Nike grassroots tournament in North Augusta, South Carolina, decked out in Duke gear in her new role with the school.
Since assistant coach Amile Jefferson was unavailable to be out recruiting last weekend, a well-known clause in the NCAA rule book allowed Baker to be there.
The rules normally allow only the head coach and three assistant coaches, known as four “countable coaches” in NCAA parlance, to be on the road recruiting at basketball tournaments like the Peach Jam.
The exception is rule 18.104.22.168.2, which allows for a replacement coach due to extenuating circumstances. It allows a school to replace either “temporarily or on a limited basis” one of its countable coaches if that coach is unavailable due to “extenuating circumstances (eg suspension, prolonged serious illness, pregnancy).”
Duke said Jefferson was not available to be at Peach Jam. The rule allows the replacement coach to perform “only those coaching, administrative or recruiting duties that the replaced coach is unable to perform” provided Jefferson wasn’t out recruiting elsewhere.
So Duke sent Baker, who worked with the NBA for a year and eight years with Nike in its grassroots program prior to joining Duke in June, to replace Jefferson.
It’s just one of the many tasks Baker is involved with as Duke’s general manager, a position the school didn’t have previously.
When Baker was hired, Scheyer said her talents were needed as college basketball changed with players now allowed to profit off their name, image and likeness (NIL) as well as transfer and play immediately at a new school.
“Rachel is a one-of-a-kind talent with unique experience that will provide our players and their families with an unparalleled resource and partner as we navigate new frontiers of college basketball together,” Scheyer said.
Last week, Duke athletics director Nina King said she knew Duke had made a good hire when she heard from other athletic directors about how they should add similarly talented people.
“Listen, Rachel is amazing. She is a rock star,” King said. “And I think folks think we hired her just to manage NIL. That’s a part of her job. I mean, she’s really a connector and air traffic controller. Ella she’s in on the recruiting scene. Ella she could be an assistant coach and go out and recruit if she wanted. That was the career path for her. And she’s really tied into the AAU scene and grassroots basketball. So she she’s just going to bring something fresh and different to the program. ”
The rule that made it possible for Baker to recruit at Peach Jam is the same rule that allowed Jefferson to handle on-court assistant coaching duties last season with Duke following associate head coach Chris Carrawell’s knee replacement surgery in December and while then-assistant coach Nolan Smith was out due to COVID-19.
At the time, Jefferson was the program’s director of player development and not an assistant coach. Due to Carrawell’s prolonged recovery and Smith’s absence, Jefferson filled in on the bench for four games and helped in practice.
Even after Carrawell and Smith returned to the bench, Jefferson was able to take part in on-court instruction in practice intermittently throughout the rest of the season while Carrawell’s mobility was limited due to his knee surgery.
In April, Jefferson was promoted to assistant coach when Scheyer moved from associate head coach to head coach upon Mike Krzyzewski’s retirement. That same month, with Smith having left to join Louisville’s staff, Lucas came to Duke from Kentucky.
This summer, Carrawell is also recovering from back surgery, which allowed Mike Schrage, a special assistant to Scheyer, to work on the court with players during Monday’s summer practice session. Previously Elon’s head coach before being hired at Duke in April, Schrage is normally not one of the four countable coaches.
After not being on the road recruiting at Peach Jam last weekend, Jefferson was back on the court helping run practice on Monday along with Scheyer, Schrage and Lucas.
On Tuesday, 6-8 junior forward TJ Power began a visit to Duke’s campus after averaging 16.8 points and 7.6 rebounds at Peach Jam. Power, a four-star recruit from Worcester Academy in Massachusetts, visited North Carolina’s campus on Monday.
Staff writer CL Brown contributed to this story.
This story was originally published July 26, 2022 5:32 PM.