Olek Czyz: Athletic and Aggressive

For someone who has yet to even break a sweat in a Duke practice jersey, Olek Czyz has amassed quite a following among those in the Blue Devil fan base. Whether it is the traditional excitement and intrigue associated with a new recruit or the tales of internet lore spawned from his breath-taking dunks, Olek’s fandom expands more and more each day. The message board scuttlebutt regarding Olek’s recent aerial assaults during and after a particular game in the Greater N.C. Pro-Am has helped fuel the Olek hysteria. While Olek’s actual in-game contributions as a Blue Devil remains to be seen, Duke fans are understandably excited.

For the majority of Duke fans, Olek Czyz was considered somewhat of an enigma during his recruitment. While Duke fans collectively knew little about the Poland native, we all shared Coach K’s hope that Olek would commit to Duke. Although Olek is not highly ranked in the class of 2009, there was an intense recruiting battle for his services between Duke, Florida and Louisville. Despite standing at roughly 6’7”, supremely athletic and said to have a 40” vertical, Olek is considered to be unpolished and a developing prospect. What is not a mystery, however, is what college basketball’s coaching heavyweights saw in Olek: a tremendous upside and potential to explode at the collegiate level.

After formally committing to Duke on Nov. 14, 2007, Olek’s struggles in his game against Luke Babbitt were well-documented and discussed ad nauseam. His play on the court since that game, however, has been anything but a struggle: Olek scored 25 points in a state tournament semifinal win, scored 18 points and grabbed 10 rebounds leading his team to the state 4A championship title, and then won the MVP award in the Capital Classic all-star game. While Olek has continued to progress each day, he remains relatively new to the game of basketball and far from refined. That is not to say that he cannot contribute immediately but just don’t expect an All-ACC Freshman Team campaign. Duke fans, therefore, should be cautioned to temper their expectations accordingly. Being a combo-forward in the Duke system, Olek’s minutes will be limited as Duke’s veterans will occupy the majority of the playing time at the small forward and power forward positions.

Olek’s recent performances in the summer league games against tougher competition demonstrate some of the shortcomings and deficiencies in his overall game. Fans that have attended the games routinely state that while Olek relentlessly attacks the basket when he has the ball in his hands, at times he appears to get lost in the offense. While he can explode vertically, Olek’s overall skill set needs to be improved upon: positioning, shooting, defense, footwork and rebounding.

As with any Coach K recruit, the fantastic part about Olek is that he recognizes his weaknesses and is more than willing to put forth the necessary effort to maximize his potential. While many players with Olek’s physical prowess choose to ignore their limitations and try to mask them by relying on innate athleticism to get by, Olek recognizes he needs to work on his overall skill set. In a recent Reno Gazette-Journal article Olek stated, "Different people develop differently and, you know, I never reached my top notch yet. I have more up in my sleeve than I showed in my senior year. I have a lot of things to work on still, and once I get those things right I can turn out to be a really good player. Duke is a program that can do that for me. They have the best training in the nation; that's what I think.”

With his size and athleticism coupled with his desire improve, Olek will only get better and better every year he is at Duke. Just remember that while Olek may not set the ACC on fire his first year, there is a bright future ahead at Duke for him. As fellow BDN premium member HWAC42DEVIL told me, “At the end of the day, OC will be a solid contributor who will have a high FG %, can shoot FTs (he had some very clutch makes) and will get the crazies on their feet will his amazing repertoire of power dunks. I fully expect that OC will only get better practicing against, Hendo, LT, Singler, Zoubek, and Plumlee in practice. With a little polishing, the Polish Thunder will be a very special Duke player.”

By the time Olek is a veteran of the Duke system and earning All-ACC honors along the way hopefully we will all recognize what Coach K, Pitino and Billy Donovan envisioned when they were recruiting Olek.

This article is courtesy of Blue Devil Nation Premium member John Hayne.