Jacksonville (FL) safety Dwayne Norman is the 3rd member of Duke's class of 2012

Florida safety Dwayne Norman commits to Duke

Jacksonville (FL) safety Dwayne Norman is the 3rd member of Duke's class of 2012

Duke received their verbal third commitment in the class of 2012 on Wednesday night, as Florida safety Dwayne Norman pulled the trigger for the Blue Devils. Norman is a 6’0″ 185 pound prospect from University Christian in Jacksonville, Florida. The speedy junior spoke with the Blue Devil coaching staff on Wednesday evening and informed them of his decision.

Duke was the first school to offer a scholarship to Norman and has been recruiting him the hardest this spring. Norman also had high interest in Georgia Tech and South Carolina. The hard-hitting safety also had scholarship offers from Miami (OH) and Florida Atlantic, and had been in contact with Vanderbilt.

BDN spoke to Dwayne earlier this spring, and it was clear that the Blue Devils had made a strong impression on him after taking a visit to Durham back in March. Check back with BDN later for more from Dwayne on his decision.

Future Blue Devil Rasheed Sulaimon checks in

Houston Hoops standout, Rasheed Sulaimon - BDN Photo, Mark Watson

In February, junior 6’3″ Rasheed Sulaimon became the second commitment for Duke in the 2012 class. The Houston-area product helped lead his Strake Jesuit squad to a 26-4 record, before getting upset by one point to Lamar in the second round of the Texas playoffs. For the season, the high-scoring guard with an improving defensive reputation averaged over twenty-one points, five rebounds, three assists, and two steals for the Crusaders.

An articulate, personable and religious young man, Sulaimon has tried to help recruit Shabazz Muhammad and Tony Parker to the Blue Devils and is friendly with Rodney Purvis. Last year, his young Houston Hoops team struggled in Nike’s inaugural EYBL . This year, Sulaimon, has helped lead his Houston Hoops squad to a 9-1 record and averaged thirteen points through the first ten games played at Boo Williams and in Dallas.

Recently, he spoke with Blue Devil Nation.
 

How do you feel you’ve played so far?

I feel I’ve played pretty well. We’ve had some pretty close games, but our team has persevered. We won and 3-1 right now here, so, overall, it’s been a good weekend.

You guys went undefeated at Boo Williams.

Yeah, yeah.

Can you compare this with last year where you struggled a bit last year because you guys were so young?

You know, last year, we were young. We were coming into something that was new and, you know, we kind of struggled. We kind of relied on our talent. We didn’t play as a team and our work kind of suffered because of that. This year, we knew what we were going into it, prepared better, playing like a team. We’re playing great defense and the record is showing it. 

Did the experience of being thrown into the fire, so to speak, pay a lot of dividends for you this year?

Yeah, I think so. I think it helped us grow and mature faster than even we wanted to. So, you know, putting us in that situation made us grow a lot faster.

Rasheed talks about recruiting for Duke, his improved defense and much more in the rest of this interview.  This is the fouth interview in four days, so join BDN Premium for full site access and then take a look at what  Nerlens Noel, Juilus Randle and Theo Pinson  had to say.  Then talk about the latest on the BDN Premium message board. Check out BDN Premium, you’ll be glad you did!  We dare to compare our Duke-centric experience with any other service. [private]

Can you talk about what you felt last year versus what you’re feeling right now?

Last year, you know, it was kind of frustrating.
 

Was it was mentally difficult?
 

Yeah, yeah, but you know this year we’re trying not to get down on ourselves and, you know, we unfortunately just had our first loss.

Yeah, I was there. I thought I was a curse. I need to get out of here.

(laughs) No, no. We’ve just got to keep going out there and proving it and trusting ourselves.

You guys, especially the three of you, have really good chemistry out there.

Yeah, yeah, we do. 

Individually, what are you hoping to accomplish this summer?

I’m just trying to work on getting stronger and getting quicker.
 

Your defense is a lot stronger this year.

Yeah, yeah, that’s one thing I really strive for. I’ve been trying to work on my lateral quickness and everything like that. You know, at Duke, we really have to focus on defense. That’s one thing I’m really trying to improve on. Just trying to get prepared as best I can.

In terms of your body, what are you trying to work on this summer? You’re obviously in great shape, but are you trying to get bigger? Are you trying to get leaner? You mentioned the lateral quickness.

Yeah, yeah, I’m just trying to get quicker and stronger and, like you said, not only just putting on more weight, but trying to get stronger. 

Lean muscle?

Yeah, exactly. Lean muscle. That’s one thing I’m really focused on right now.

In terms of shooting, where do you feel comfortable right now?

I feel pretty comfortable doing everything..off-the-dribble, off-the-catch. I just try to keep working on that and stay in the gym.

You’re working on your mid-range?

Yeah, my mid-range and I just continue to stay in tune with that.

What has the staff asked you to work on, if anything?

Basically, the same things we’ve been talking about. You know, continue to get stronger, continue to get quicker, continue to play hard on both ends.  Just stay in tune and continue to work out.

Now for next year, in high school, what are your goals for next season? Maybe making the McDonald’s All-American game and winning a state title? What are some things?

Yeah, those are some really high goals that I’m trying. You know, like you said, the All-American games and, I think, most importantly, from a team aspect, I want to win a state championship. 

How did you guys finish up this year?

This year, we finished #1 in the Houston 5A, but, you know, we kind of got upset in the second round.

Who was the bad guy?

Oh, you know, Lamar High School. We were ranked ahead of them and they ended up getting us by one, so that was disappointing.  But you know, I think that will help us this year. We’ll learn from that experience and we’ll go further next year. 

In the past, you went to school with the Harrison twins, Andrew and Aaron. Do you guys still have a relationship?

Oh, yeah, yeah. We’re still pretty cool. We see each other at AAU events. Yeah, yeah.

In terms of recruiting for Duke, Quinn was saying he was going after Shabazz Muhammad, Alex Murphy, and Tony Parker. Who are you going after, if anybody?

(laughs) Yeah, I’m going after Shabazz and Tony Parker, too. It’s really those two that I’m concentrating on.

So, those are your two as well? Double-teaming?

(laughs) Yeah, yeah.

In terms of what position they want you to play, what’s been said so far?

It’s really all up to the coaches, but they feel that I can play really all three positions.  On offense, they feel like I have the versatility to play the one and the two.

I’ve watched you a lot, but I’ve never spoken to you. Which do you feel more comfortable playing?

You know, in AAU, I’m more comfortable playing off of the ball because of L.J. and, you know, in high school, I play more of the one. I can play both positions, so it really doesn’t matter to me.

Are you going to be playing any big high school tournaments this year?

Oh, yeah, we’re going to a high school one in North Carolina. I think it’s in Durham. We’re going to another one in Sacramento. Just try to play out there against some really good talent.

Academically, you have a reputation for being a very good student.  Do you take pride in that?

Yeah, yeah. My parents have always been pushing me and my siblings to always take academics seriously.  In my household, if you didn’t get good grades, you couldn’t play basketball, so that was always important to me. 

That’s unusual.

Yeah, yeah. That’s another reason that I picked Duke. They’ve got great academics and I know that they’ll always be looking to push me.  It just felt like a great fit.

Now, you also go to a Jesuit school, like I did. Those guys don’t play around.

(laughs) Yeah, yeah, they don’t.

What would you like the audience to know about you off of the court? Maybe you can touch on your family?

Yeah, I’m a very family-oriented guy. I’m pretty strong in my faith. I have three older sisters, an older brother, and a younger sister.

There are six of you?

Yeah, yeah. So, yeah, there are six of us.

And I’m sure they’re all proud of you.

Oh, yeah, they’re all very proud. 

Are they all in the Houston area?

Yeah, they all live in the Houston area, but one of my older sisters is in the army.

Now, have you thought about entering the military after you’re done with basketball?

(laughs) Oh, no, no. Not at all.

What are some things you’d be interested in doing after basketball?

I’m really interested in getting into business. So, when I go to Duke, that’s one thing that I’d really like to study.

Economics?

Yeah, yeah..economics.

I was an economics major, too.

Oh, you were?

What do you feel are your strengths and weaknesses?

I really feel like my strength right now is my shot. I feel really comfortable shooting. If I get the ball, I feel pretty confident that I can knock it down right now. I feel like my defense is one of my strengths as well right now.  I feel like I can really get up onto the opponents and force them to do something that they don’t want to do.  As far as weaknesses, I feel that I can improve on my ball-handling more and getting stronger and finishing at the rack. Getting “and ones.”

You draw a lot of contact.

Absolutely, one of my main goals right now is to get stronger so that when I draw contact, I can still go through it and finish at the free throw line. 

In terms of free throw shooting, how good of a free throw shooter do you feel you are right now? I guess it’s around 80%?

Yeah, I shot around 82% this year. (laughs)

Wow, pretty close. Therefore, when you draw contact and you’re able to finish through it, you’re able to rack up points Kyrie Irving-style, getting “and one” after “and one.”

 (laughs) Yeah, that’s the hope.

Who’s been the most difficult player for you to defend so far?

That’s a tough one. I don’t know that there was a player that was tough to guard, but, as a team, was California Supreme. They had a couple of guards that could combine to really hurt you. They’re very effective as far as scoring points. 

What do you think of the rise of Texas as far as basketball on the national level?

Well, you know, Texas is known for being a football state, but, you know, we’re trying to prove that we’re just as good at basketball as well.  There are a lot of athletes in Texas and, you know, there are a lot of guys that are unknown nationally that are pretty good. 

Maybe you could mention some names for the audience to check out.

Wannah Bail.

 

Oh, sure, the forward.

Yeah, it’s just very competitive down here in Texas.

In terms of a position, what do you feel you are naturally? Or are you just a player?

I like to classify myself as combo guard. I feel comfortable with that.

So you really like that label? Some guys want to be viewed as one or the other.
Yeah.

Have you watched Tony play at all this week?

Actually, I haven’t been able to. I haven’t had a chance because of the schedule.

I caught a few of his games. He played well at times. Who do you try to model your game after? Is there any one guy?

I wouldn’t say there’s really one guy, but the guy that I like to watch a lot of tape on are Michael and Kobe.

I know, on Twitter, you’re always mentioning about Kobe.

Yeah, those are my guys.  I like to watch tape to see how Kobe scores and how he moves around without the ball.

I noticed in this game, for example, you stole one of his moves when you came around the elbow screen and then hit a baseline jump shot.

Yeah, yeah. I tried. (laughs)

Well, he’s an excellent guy to model your game after.

Yeah, yeah, he is.

He’s got that killer mentality.

He’s got that killer instinct and everything like that. A scoring mentality too.

What was the experience like playing in the All-American game in Houston a few weeks ago? I thought it was a great idea to incorporate juniors into the game.

It was a great experience, you know, going to the place during the Final Four weekend. Meeting a lot of guys that you see a lot, but you never really talk to them, so it was great. A chance to interact with them, and everything like that.  I developed a lot of relationships. It was great. The game was great. It was great on and off of the court. 

Who are some guys around the country that you’re friends with the people might not realize?

I’m pretty good friends with Myles Davis and Kyle Anderson. Yeah, from the Playaz. Rodney Purvis is another one. A lot of guys.

Obviously, you’re very close with L.J. (Rose) and (J-Mychal) Mike (Reese). What kind of advantage does having that well-earned chemistry, through all of the years of playing together, give you on the AAU circuit?

It’s a definite advantage because we’ve been playing together since we were in second grade. We already have that chemistry. We know where we like to score. We know where each other is without even seeing them, but it really becomes just a feel thing. Coming from the high school, we’re just able to instantly gel, whereas other teams take time. And we’re always together, so it’s definitely an advantage. We don’t need to find one another, we already know where we are.

Who are some other back courts that have really impressed you guys?

Oh, the Alabama Challenge is pretty good. They had some pretty good guards. And California Supreme, with Max Guercy and Katin Reinhardt. They’re a pretty good pair.

I appreciate this very much.

Yeah, yeah. No problem.

ATTENTION PREMIUM MEMBERS – Be sure to sign up for the members only message board which requires separate log in.  Once you have done so, we’ll approve your account within 24 hours [/private]

Young, Talented Theo Pinson Jr. chats up BDN

Photo courtesy of News-Record

Blue Devil Nation Premium is bringing the fire this week as Andrew Slater shares his in depth interviews with the nations finest talent. and players on the Duke coaches radar. We started on Monday with Nerlens Noel and Julius Ranldle on Tuesday.  Today, Theo Pinson Jr. takes center stage and you don’t want to miss his comments on Duke and so much more.  If you have yet to  subscribe to or try BDN Premium, now is the time to check it out and we are sure you will be more than satisfied with our content.  And next up?  Rasheed Sulaimon checks in tomorrow, so join now and chat it up with our knowledgeable members on our message board.

Theo Pinson, Jr. is a long 6’5″ wing from Greensboro, NC. Presently, he goes to school at nearby Oak Ridge Military Academy. This past season, the versatile freshman took on added responsibilities, as the team’s senior leaders, Jacob Lawson (Purdue) and Chris Jones (Tennessee), were unable to play, due to a season-ending injury and a violation deemed worthy of dismissal from the school, respectively. The bouncy 2014 prospect helped weather the storm and added a much-needed scoring punch, allowing the academy to finish with a commendable 35-6 record.

On the AAU circuit, he’s joined forces with Rodney Purvis, as the backcourt for the CP3 All-Stars, helping them achieve an 8-2 record thus far.  Playing with the 17s, he’s managed to average over thirteen points, five rebounds, two steals and assists over the initial ten games of Nike’s first two EYBL stops. His three-point shot improved, as the rising sophomore was able to connect on fifty percent  (10 of 20) of his deep perimeter shots in the recent Dallas wing.

 Last October, the North Carolina native chose to enjoy the atmosphere at the Countdown to Craziness. During the recent open period, Duke reciprocated, visiting Pinson at his current school.

In late March, Pinson was named as one of twenty-four players, including Duke recruit Jabari Parker, invited to be part of USA Basketball’s next developmental team. In June, he will fly out to Colorado again, hoping to make the final cut of twelve for the USA’s U16 team that will compete for the FIBA Americas U16 Championship in Leon, Mexico. It’s an exciting time for the Pinson family and his dad, Theo, Sr., refreshingly embraces seeing his talented son have to compete for available spots and playing time.

Recently, Theo Pinson spoke exclusively with Blue Devil Nation.

How have you done individually and as a team this AAU season? [private]

I mean, we’re winning a lot of games, but we’ve got to take care of business every time we go out on the court. I mean this is really like a business. Everybody spending money for us to come out here and play basketball so that we can get out there in front of everybody. There’s a lot of money out there so we’ve got to go out there and play.

And how was your high school season?

Oh, I mean, I played really good. I mean, we had a couple of things that happened during the season, but we got over it. We was like 35-6 or something.  We played pretty well considering.

Right, I caught you early in the year and then you…had those players leave or whatever.

Yeah, yeah. I mean at the end of the year we had to adjust to all of the players leaving or people leaving.

But then, you took on a bigger role after a couple of the senior guys, Chris (Jones) and Jacob (Lawson), were no longer playing.

Yeah, exactly, after Chris and Jacob left… or Jacob with the injury and Chris just left, I had to step up my scoring and be a bigger leader for the team. I just had to do what I had to do so that we could still win games.

How about the huge honor of getting invited to compete for USA Basketball?

Oh, that’s huge. Just huge. I feel like it’s an opportunity to represent Greensboro, my city, my family, and make everybody proud. Hopefully, I’ll be able to make it.

Your dad and I were talking about the opportunity. He’s very proud of you.

Yeah, it’s huge.

This is so early for you, but what schools are already showing interest in you? Are schools already coming after you pretty hard?

(laughs) Oh, yeah, there’s a lot. There’s Syracuse, Duke, North Carolina, Virginia Tech, Clemson, Marquette, Tennessee, and there’s quite a few more.

It must be a fun time.

Yeah, it is.

Do you have any time in mind for when you’d like to decide by? I feel badly asking you this. (laughs) No, it’s cool.

 I really don’t know, but I might want to decide by my sophomore or junior year so that I can have it out of the way by my senior year.

Too much of a headache?

Yeah, it is.

Did any teams come to see you during the open period?

Yeah, Duke came. Carolina and Tennessee came. I think UNC-Charlotte and a couple of other teams. That was cool.

Which coaches came from Carolina and Duke?

McGrath from Carolina and I forgot the dude from Duke. He had a long last name. Oh, man.

Wojciechowski?

Yeah, it might’ve been. He had a long last name. I apologize. I forget.

How would you describe your game to an audience who hasn’t seen you play yet?

,I like to get my teammates involved. If we’re in transition or if I have to score, then I’ll score, but I really don’t like to force my game. I’d rather play within the flow of the game.

You’ve got a really, for lack of a better word, natural game.

Yeah, I like to let the game come to me and just play basketball. Don’t force it, if it’s not there.

I was talking with you father about your left hand..

I’m a righty. Oh, I see what you’re saying. Yeah, I can go either way. That was like one of the first things that I worked on. Tightening up my ball-handling.

In terms of position, do you prefer to play the one or the two? Your dad mentioned that you played a lot of both towards the end of the high school year. Now, you’re playing alongside Rodney Purvis.

It depends. If I see somebody else who likes to handle the ball and they can do that, then I can just roll with it

You and Rodney have pretty good chemistry out there?

Yeah, we’ve played all right. We’ve played in, like, four tournaments so we’re pretty good right now and we’re getting better.

And now you picked up two guys (Brice Johnson and Travis Hammonds)..

Yeah, adding them two was big. Like the first weekend that they were supposed to play, they had to take the ACT.

Your dad told me. He’s been very helpful.  Who are some players, at any level, that you look up to?

Kobe. He’s my guy. I’m a big Kobe Bryant fan. I like Kevin Durant too, but Kobe’s my man.

Well, of those two, right now your game’s closer to Kobe’s.

Yeah, it is.

What’s your current height and weight?

I’m 6’5″ and about 183.

Do you know how tall your projected to be?

I think I’m supposed to be about 6’8.”

What are you looking for ideally in a college program, whenever you do decide?

Coaching. The coaching will be number one. The people that’ll be around me. Academics will be important and I’d really like a good atmosphere at the games. For me, I love a good atmosphere at the games. That gets me going.

Are you a good student? Solid?

Oh, yeah.

That’s good to hear. Will distance be a factor for you at all?

I haven’t really thought about that yet.

What can you tell the audience about you away from the court?

I play around a lot. I mean we joke around all of the time.

(laughs) I feel badly that I’m asking questions.

No, no, it’s all right.

Are you an only child?

No, no, I have a sister. She’s not here. Only my dad is.

What would you like to show college coaches this summer? What are your goals?

Probably shooting off of the dribble, attacking the basket and finishing, dunking on people and stuff. Playing good defense too.

What do you feel are your strengths and weaknesses? What’s the greatest thing that you do right now?

My strengths are probably attacking the rack in transition and getting or hitting the open man. I feel that I do that good right now.

How about your range?

Oh, yeah, my jump shot’s getting a lot better than it was. I’ve been working everyday during the week on it. Just keep improving it and getting my jump shot down.

At the high school or at another facility?

At my high school.

What are the facilities like there?

Oh, I mean we’ve got one gym, but it’s a nice gym.  We’ve only got one gym, but they upgraded it this year. It’s really nice.

What about the weight room facilities and stuff like that?

Oh, our weight room facilities are real little. I mean real little.

Alright, what do you feel are your weaknesses right now?

Probably my ball-handling. That’s probably still my number one thing that I need to work on.

You mentioned before that you were working on your left.

Yeah, I have been. I mean it’s not terrible, but it’s just not yet where I want it to be.

Just need a little bit more work.

Yeah, that’s it. I just feel like I need just a little bit more work to feel completely comfortable.

Going back to position for a second, which position do you actually prefer to play?

Probably like the two or three. I mean I can play the one if I have to and I like to look for the open man, but I like to play off the ball and find spots. Roam around.
 

Playing with Rodney Purvis, what’s the experience been like so far?

 It’s been fun. A whole lot of people come to see me and him compete.

It’s a hell of a backcourt.

Yeah, definitely. It’s been great so far. We just get out there and push it and compete. We love to run and we always have fun. It’s been great and we already know what the other’s thinking.

I’ve talked to him a few times, but what’s he like with you.

Oh, he’s real funny. He’s a funny dude. He’s just like me. He likes to have fun and he walks and talks basketball.

On the court, though, he looks dead serious.

Yeah, yeah.

I normally talk to older guys, but who will you turn to for guidance whenever you do decide on a college program?

A whole lot of people in my family play and talk basketball.

Well, your dad is very knowledgeable. I can tell that already.

Everybody in my family knows and talks basketball and so, realistically, I’ll probably just talk with them all about it.

I don’t know if this is a touchy issue, but what kind of a squad are guys expecting to have for next year at Oak Ridge?

I really don’t know, man. I’m just trying to get through this year, man.

Oh, okay. (laughs)

Yeah, I just don’t know. It’s been..

Since we’re running low on time, can you tell the audience what you know about Duke as a program and as a University?

Oh, absolutely, I’ve been to Duke twice and I loved it. I mean the atmosphere was crazy. Just crazy. I went to Midnight Madness and I just like the way Duke plays also. I like them a lot. I visited and I liked it both times.

And what do you know about their coaches?

I really don’t know too much about their coaches. I’m sorry.

Well, you’re still so young. You’ve got plenty of time to meet with different staffs. Thanks very much for your time and good luck with the USA team.

Oh, all right, thanks. I appreciate it. [/private]

Duke will face Ohio State in Big Ten/ACC Challenge

Miles Plumlee and Duke will visit Ohio State - LKI

DURHAM, N.C. – Duke will travel to Columbus, Ohio on Tuesday, Nov. 29 to face Ohio State in the premier matchup of the 13th annual Big Ten/ACC Challenge presented by Dick’s Sporting Goods. The Big Ten/ACC Challenge will be played Nov. 29 & 30 with all 12 games being shown on ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU and ESPN3.com.
 
This year’s event – featuring top college basketball programs playing for conference supremacy and the Commissioner’s Cup – will include 11 teams that played in the 2011 NCAA Tournament: Clemson, Duke, Florida State and North Carolina from the ACC and Illinois, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Penn State, Purdue and Wisconsin from the Big Ten. 
 
Duke (No. 5) and Ohio State (No. 3) both rank in the top 5 of ESPN.com’s 2011-12 Preseason Top 25, while North Carolina (No. 1), Wisconsin (No. 11), Florida State (No. 21) and Michigan (No. 23) are also ranked in the poll. Miami, Virginia and Michigan State are listed among a group of teams fighting for a spot in the preseason poll.
 
The ACC won the first 10 Challenges before falling by 6-to-5 margins in each of the last two seasons. Overall, the ACC has won 72 of the 119 games played in Challenge history with Duke leading the way with an 11-1 record. Boston College (6-0) is the only team with a higher winning percentage than the Blue Devils.
 
Duke, playing its third true road game in the last four years in the Challenge, is 3-1 all-time in Big Ten/ACC Challenge road games. The Blue Devils are 1-0 against Ohio State with a 91-76 win over the Buckeyes on Dec. 3, 2002 at the Greensboro Coliseum.
 
Since 2000, the ACC (10) and the Big Ten (nine) have combined for 19 Final Four appearances and six national titles: Duke (2001 & 2010), North Carolina (2009 & 2005), Maryland (2002) and Michigan State (2000). The ACC leads in NCAA Tournament victories (355), NCAA Tournament winning percentage (.665), and Final Four appearances (44) while the Big Ten is first in Tournament appearances (203).
 
2011 Big Ten/ACC Challenge schedule – times and networks are to be determined
(Rankings refer to preseason top 25 by ESPN.com senior college basketball writer Andy Katz)
 
Tuesday, November 29
        Miami at Purdue
        Northwestern at Georgia Tech
        Illinois at Maryland
        No. 23 Michigan at Virginia
        Clemson at Iowa
        No. 5 Duke at No. 3 Ohio State
 
Wednesday, November 30
        Indiana at N.C. State
        Penn State at Boston College
        No. 21 Florida State at Michigan State
        Virginia Tech at Minnesota
        Wake Forest at Nebraska
        No. 11 Wisconsin at No. 1 North Carolina

Duke has 2013 stud Julius Randle on their radar

The advent of the internet and social media has  created a more level playing field where information is dissipated in terms of seconds and minutes rather than days or months. It’s helped accelerate the potential boom and bust cycle of recruit’s reputations. A player needs to continue to improve and stave off of his chasing peers. News spreads quickly when a player has a good game or weekend at a high school tournament or an AAU event.

Some young men shrink under the scrutiny, while others find comfort in the spotlight and excel. Julius Randle is a 6’8″ 242 lb forward for Prestonwood Christian Academy, a private school located less than an hour’s drive north of downtown Dallas. As a well-publicized freshman, he led the Plano-based school to a 35-3 record, including a TAPPS 5A state title win over Trinity Christian Academy 50-45, averaging 15 points and 9.8 rebounds per game.

This past season, the Prestonwood Lions looked to play an even more challenging national schedule and competed on both coasts in the National Prep Classic in Santa Maria, California and the Beach Ball Classic in Myrtle Beach, SC, where the young  squad, led by sophomores Julius Randle and Marquan Botley as well as Kansas-bound junior Zach Peters, finished fourth and third, respectively. The Lions entered the state playoffs expecting to repeat as champions and were well on their way, but, in the championship game, dealt with foul trouble to both Peters and Randle and a 19-5 third quarter run to ultimately fall to St. Thomas of Houston, 76-57. In a season where he led the 26-11 Lions in scoring (24 ppg) and rebounding (12 rpg), the versatile Randle led his Lions with 14 points in the title game. For his efforts, he was [private] named to the national first-team MaxPreps all-sophomore team.

After the season, Brad Greenwood, the team’s head coach, moved into an administrative capacity at PCA. Earlier this month, 36 year-old Chris Mayberry was hired from First Academy in Orlando, FL to be the head coach for next season. Next season, Prestonwood will look to make it back to the championship game for a fourth consecutive season and have agreed to participate in two strong national high school events, the City of Palms in Fort Myers, FL and once again in the Beach Ball Classic.

On the AAU circuit, he competes with the Texas Titans, where he has formed an inside-outside tandem with three-point marksman, Matt Jones. At the Boo Williams leg of Nike’s EYBL, Randle played through an ankle injury, which limited his available time to just over 20 minutes per game, to average 15.6 ppg and 9.4 rpg, while leading his Titans to a 3-2 record. He was unable to play at the recent Dallas edition of the EYBL, due to the aforementioned short-term injury.

Can you talk about your injury and what happened?

Oh, yeah, it was probably about a month ago. I hurt my ankle pretty bad.

At Boo Williams?

No, before Boo Williams, but then I re-injured it at Boo Williams. Then, I saw some doctors and they said to stay off of it for a bit.

Like as a precautionary measure?

Yeah.

When will you be ready to play again?

I should be able to start working out again next weekend.

Will you be fully healthy by July?

Yeah, I’ll be healthy then.

People are always interested in recruiting. Which teams are after you hardest right now?

A lot of schools and I’ll probably forget a lot, but..North Carolina, Duke, Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Kansas, Baylor, Arkansas, everywhere..NC State and Kentucky, too.

The list goes on, does it, show-off? (laughs)

(Laughs)

Which teams came to see you during the open period and will that play a factor in your decision?

Oh, yeah, it’s always good for a coach to come see you.  I really appreciate everything.  Coach K and Coach Williams came to see me, the coach at Baylor, Ohio State…Texas came to see me, Arkansas came to see me… a lot of schools. It’s always good to see them and see who’s interested.

Do you have a timeline for when you’d like to decide by?

Yeah, I’ll probably make a decision my senior year. I want to take all five of my officials. There’s no pressure or anything.

Can you describe your game to an audience who hasn’t seen you play yet? Something, perhaps, beyond what a YouTube video could tell you?

(Laughs) I’d probably just say versatility, you know, I have an inside-out game. On the inside, I’m a post presence. I have a lot of post moves. Outside, I just try to use my quickness to my advantage and take them off of the dribble. Also, on defense, I try to play hard and block shots. I bring an intensity to the place.

In terms of things you’d like to improve on, what are some things you’re concentrating on this summer?

Just work on every facet of my game down. As far as perimeters skills, off-the-dribble, pull-ups, working on pick-and-rolls, and anything else on I can work on on the offensive end. On the defensive end, concentrating on guarding everybody and playing hard all of the time.

What position do you think of yourself as and what are schools recruiting you to play?

Just a combo forward. And the schools who are interested in me or have seen me play think of me as more of a 3/4 guy than in the past, when some people were recruiting me as a center. A combo forward type of player.

I know from following you Twitter that you’re a big Kobe guy…

Yeah, definitely.
(Vince Compton, Nike’s director of scouting, comes over to thank him for coming.)

..but who are some guys that you try to emulate?

As far as perimeter skills, I’d see Melo or LeBron or someone like that. As far as inside, someone more like Blake or Amar’e.

Those are some pretty good guys to model your game after.

Yeah, definitely.

Who’s the toughest player you’ve played thus far?

Probably the best player I’ve played against in this EYBL thing is Kyle Anderson.  He’s very good.

Yeah, he’s very versatile, with good court vision and an advanced basketball IQ, too. He sometimes goes by the name “Slo-Mo.”

(laughs) Yeah, very versatile and the other guy that’s pretty good is Rodney Purvis.

Sure, the North Carolina kid. What are you looking for ideally in a program whenever you do decide?

Academics, a coach who I can trust..

By the way, I can’t believe how articulate you are. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve been dealing with that give me three-word answers.

(laughs) Thanks.

Sorry, fire away. It’s just a pleasure.

(laughs) A coach that I can trust and one that’s going to push me..one that’s simply going to try to make me the best player that I can be.

Will distance be a factor for you at all?

No, not at all, my mom wants me to go wherever’s best for me.

He (Vince Compton) pointed her out in the crowd to me before. What would you like the audience to know about you off of the court?

I’m a laid-back kid, nothing special. I’m just trying to enjoy the time I have with my family and friends because I know that there’s not going to be much time before I head off to college, so I want to enjoy them as much as possible in the time that I have left. Spending time with family and friends. Hanging out and stuff.

That’s good to hear.  Speaking of family, I know your mother’s here.  Can you tell the audience a little about your family?

I have an older sister, she was in college and now she works.  It’s me, my sister, and my mom in the house.  I love ‘em to death. I’m a pretty big mama’s boy. I guess you could say that. (laughs)

No, no, that’s fine. (laughs) That’s good to hear. Who will be some people you turn to for guidance. I assume your mother will be number one on the list..will there be anyone else you turn to for guidance?

Oh, yeah, my mom…she’ll be number one, definitely, and another person that’s a big person in my life is Jeff Webster, he’s like my skills coach and also like my mentor.

Is he here?

(laughs) Yeah, he’s here. He’s one of the assistant coaches on this year’s team.  He plays a big part in everything that I do. 

What are you hoping to accomplish this summer?

Just establish myself as the best player on the floor every time that I play. 

Game in and game out?

Yeah, just be the dominant player that I can be. 

Is it difficult for you to work on your skills with so many AAU events? You’re playing almost every weekend.

Yeah, but I’m not too worried about it.  I need to just keep playing my game.

Physically, what would you like to do with your body? Would you like to get bigger? Leaner? What are your hopes or goals?

I’d like to improve my flexibility, I’ve got to get more flexible.  We’ve been starting to work on that a lot, lately with my strength trainer.

What’s your current height and weight at this point?

I’m like 6’8″ and 242.

And what would you like to be by next season?

That’s a tough one (laughs). I want to get bigger, but I don’t want to lose any explosiveness. I want to add explosiveness.

Right, right. There’s a fine line. I saw where D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera looked a lot more explosive this season because he cut down on his body fat, but he’s still kept most of that strength that helps him power past other guards.

Yeah, so just get bigger, but not lose any of that explosiveness.

What are some of your favorite movies and music?

Any old sports movies, action.. I love comedies also.

I can definitely tell you like to laugh.

Yeah, and in terms of music, probably say a lot of Drake, Wiz Khalifa, Wayne, a lot of things. I like to listen to J. Cole.

Jay-Z?

Yeah, Jay-Z, of course.

Can you talk about playing with Zach Peters (Peters is his 6’9″AAU and HS teammate, who is verbally committed to Kansas)?

He’s a great player and he helps because you can’t really double-team both of us. It makes a lot easier on the court. You get a lot of easier baskets than if there was just one guy. 

How did you choose Prestonwood?

My AAU team, we all went there in 7th grade, I was say..and then a lot of us split up in high school. They said we had to split up. There was some kind of rule.

That’s a strange rule.

(laughs)Yeah, I’m not sure what it was, but there was some type of rule and I ended up staying and that’s okay.

One of the people you mentioned before that came to visit you was Coach K. Can you talk about that and what you know about the program?

Yeah, that was the first time I met Coach K. It was a really cool experience.

Did you speak with him?

Yeah, I spoke with him and it was really cool. He’s a funny guy.

Yeah, he’s got a Chicago accent, too.

Yeah, and he’s a lot bigger in person than he looks like on TV. He’s a really cool guy. I enjoyed it. It was a neat experience being able to meet him.

In terms of visits, what schools have you visited and what schools do you have planned?

So far, I’ve visited North Carolina, Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Kansas, Baylor, and Kentucky is all that I can think of right now.

And lastly, getting back to Duke for a moment, what do you know about the University and the program?

They win. They win and they put out great players. Winning is always something I love to be a part of. So, the winning is definitely a big priority for me in my decision and also, they’ve got great academics and that’s also a great help for them.

Thank you very much for your time.

No problem. [/private]

BDN’s Monday Musings – Hoops, Football and …

I hope you guys caught the opening game of the NBA Eastern Finals last evening for former Duke players Luol Deng and Carlos Boozer both helped Chicago to victory.  In fact, the Bulls crushed the much ballyhooed Heat, led by Dwayne Wade and LeBron James.  And even a tremendous effort by Chris Bosh couldn’t sidetrack the Bulls who are 4-0 versus their opponent this season.  CBooz had 14 points and 9 rebounds in the win, but it was Deng who was the most impressive with a team high plus 18 rating.  Deng finished with 21 points, 7 rebounds,  4 steals and 0 turnovers.

One thing you can count on in big time college athletics is the fact that recruiting is a year round affair.  We’re big time recruitniks around here, so that’s okay by us.  Andrew Slater kicks the week off for Blue Devil Nation Premium members with another one of his in depth interviews.  His subject, Nerlens Noel is one of the studs in the top heavy class of 2013.  Duke is as you know, interested in Jabari Parker and Julius Randle as well and members will have heard from all three in the coming days.  In short, three of the top five prospects are on the Dukies radar.

The likes of former Duke greats Christian Laettner, Grant Hill and Jason Williams will be in Durham for Coach K Academy IX which runs from June the 1st through the 5th on the Duke campus.  The event is one of those once in a liftime deals where campers for a price can bond with Duke Basketball is a most special way.  For more information call the Duke Basketball Legacy Fund at (919) 613-7501.  And you can bet BDN will be on hand to talk with some of the former players, so you can look forward to that.

The Duke Men’s LAX team holds off a furious Delaware rally to advance in the NCAA Tournament.  The womens tennis team advance as well sweeping Yale.  And for recruiting?  Here are the newbies for the Duke Women’s Volleyball team.

Duke Football is lining up prospects for their camp as well and you can bet that we’ll bring you coverage via Patrick Cacchio.  Football recruiting news is something we take seriously and we are supportive of the program as they continue to build under David Cutcliffe. Our premium football message board is growing and you can always count on updates there from those who follow the program closely.  Be it the jam packed with inside information  “Football Friday,” articles or coming interviews with true prospects, BDN is the place to be for football.  While we are on football, check out Al Featherston and his take on the Blue Devils efforts to build a running game.

Here is an excerpt from Lindy Brown where he tells of some of the latest news on two incoming stars for the Duke womens hoops team –

The honors keep coming in for two future Duke women’s basketball standouts — Elizabeth Williams and Amber Henson — as the duo were selected Parade Magazine All-America on Sunday.  A 2011 Morgan Wootten National Player of the Year selection, Williams averaged 18.9 points, 11.4 rebounds and 5.1 blocked shots for Princess Anne H.S. She was named MVP of the McDonald’s All-America contest as she set a single-game record with 23 points to go along with a game-high 11 rebounds. Williams, who is from Virginia Beach, Va., led the USA Basketball U-17 team to a gold medal at the 2010 world championships while averaging 13.5 points and 7.6 rebounds.”

To read the full article go to GoDuke.com.  Thanks for checking in with BDN.