The North Carolina Pro Am has become a most popular event each summer in Durham and the main reason for that is fans get an early look at incoming freshman. If you showed up for the event the first night Michael Gbinije played, you may have come away thinking he needed more work.
If you came away from the event after his last game, you would be singing his praises for he dropped 28 points on his opponent. The problem is that in an All Star like atmosphere he sometimes defers in that Gbinije is the consummate team player.
"I wasn't happy with my performance last time out. My performance was not up to par, so I came in motivated tonight looking for more opportunities to show off my game," said Gbinije.
Those who've followed Gbinije on the AAU circuit where he suited up for Team Takeover know that Gbinije does not seek out attention. He is a quiet kid, hard to read at first but once comfortable he let's go with a warm smile that shows another side of him.
Gbinije has the potential to be a coaches dream in that he is a low maintenance type of player. That basically means he does not have to be coddled and he shows no signs of a bad attitude and beams in to what he is being told by the staff.
If there was ever a player on an even keel, it is Gbinije. He is quiet not only on the court but off the court. In fact, he is downright shy and that is something he is working on but his last outing produced a "loud game."
"The coaches want me to be more vocal out there, so I am working on that," said Gbinije. Those same sentiments were made by a coach as well during a recent AAU event.
While Gbinije deferred in his first game at the Pro Am, he was more than aggressive the last time out and he showed off what he can do. Gbinije is a steady player that does everything well and he showed that he can score the ball.
Gbinije is a good position defender as well and fits in nicely when on the court. He is not a power guy but he is an effective rebounder when he does hit the boards and is comfortable in transition.
The Virginia native said that practice had been intense. Duke, of course, gets ten full practice before taking off for China and Dubai in August. A source close to the situation told BDN that Gbinije was looking good in practice and that he was a quick learner.
Don't expect Gbinije to knock down 28 points in an ACC game this season for the competition is much tougher and the matador defense which is prevalent at the Pro Am will no longer be in effect. But Duke fans will probably be pleasantly surprised when they see his game this coming season.
"I just wanted to show what I could do," said Gbinije as he warmed to the questions. Make no mistake, Gbinije has been told to play at Duke, he must be a better communicator on the court. Master that and the young man from Virginia should earn some valuable minutes as a true freshman.
BDN updates live from the N.C. Pro Am via our @BlueDevilNation twitter site and for members of BDN Premium on the message board.
A young man caught my eye during the opening session of the Nike EYBL in Hampton, Virginia this season. I watched on as he ran his Howard Pulley team with great precision from the point guard spot. I later learned that Tyus Jones was in the class of 2014, yet here he was playing with the big boys and looking as if he were there classmates. He impressed me with his ball handling skills and the kid has a seriously good offensive game to go with his multiple skills.
Jones also caught the eye of the Blue Devils staff and they will get involved early on with the Apple Valley, Minnesota product. He dropped 30 in front of Coach Krzyzewski during this past weeks Nike EYBL Peach Jam and BDN Premium caught up with the budding talent in an effort to get to know him. After our conversation it is fair to say that Jones is very mature for his age and he comes off as a really bright young man with great character.
Jones also played for Team USA and he turned heads there as well, so keep an eye out for this kid can play.
You've been playing very well the entire AAU season but you also played well for Team USA. How was that experience?
It was definitely an honor to be selected to play for tour country and it's something I enjoyed participating in. It was a great experience where we went 5-0 in Mexico City.
Do you have a list of schools? [private]
Iowa and Baylor offered. Minnesota, Michigan State, Ohio State, Illinois, Arizona, USC and others making contact.
You mentioned earlier that a couple of other schools are starting to show keen interest.
The newer schools are Tennessee and Florida.
Have you heard from any ACC schools?
No, not really. North Carolina sent me a questionnaire but that's about it. I haven't talked to the coaches yet.
Would you be open to ACC schools like Duke or UNC?
Yes, definitely, definitely. (emphatic)
What do you think of Duke?
Duke is a great program. I mean they have Coach K and great tradition.
Did you have a dream school growing up?
Not really. I watched all the big name schools but had no real favorite. I guess I followed Michigan State the most growing up and they recruited my brother, so I kind of rooted for them but they are not necessarily a favorite in the recruiting process.
How would you describe your own game?
Probably just a complete point guard who likes to distribute the ball and set up my teammates to give them an opportunity to score. But if I am given the opportunity to score or someone plays off of me, I'll take the shot.
Do you have a timetable with concern to when you would like to commit in the future and who will help you make your decision?
Definitely no time table and I will probably not commit until late but you never know. My mom and Dad are the people who will be most involved. They were the people who raised me and made me the person that I am. My older brother will play a big part in it as well. Maybe my high school coach and Antwan Harris my AAU coach,
Will distance be a problem?
Right now we are looking at everything, so I am not really sure yet, but probably not.
How do you feel about education?
Ever since I was little it was important, so I was raised taking my education seriously
What are you looking for in a school?
Just a goof fit. It will be a combination of a lot of things.
How do you feel you played here (Peach Jam)?
I think I played pretty well and as a team I think we had some success as well.
You're a young man with a lot of time before you have to get serious about schools, yet you seem mature beyond your years. Do you feel that you are?
Yes, I guess so. I have always been comfortable playing with older players, so I have grown into it. It is nothing new to me.
Do you try an emulate anybody on the court or do you have a favorite player?
Probably LeBron James. I watched a whole lot of basketball growing up. I want to be successful like him.
Born and raised in Minnesota?
Yes. I was born and raised there.
With all these coaches watching, do you ever in awe of say Izzo, Coach K or Williams see you play?
Definitely the big name coaches. You see them on TV but not so much in person and the three you named are all pretty ... it's a cool thing.
When did you first know you had it?
Ever since I was little I was playing up. (with older kids) I talked to my parents when I was in the 7th grade about playing varsity and I was successful and I knew I would get recruited.
Have you taken any unofficial visits?
Only the U of M, Minnesota. I might take a couple in August but I am not sure where yet.
What style best fits your game at the college level?
I definitely like to push the tempo so an up tempo team. I will be looking into things a lot. The location and coaching style and campus, players, just all have to fit. You want to have a good team bond like my AAU team, it is important and I will have to see where I can fit in.
Do you want to play for a team which has a shot at the national title in college?
Definitely. A national championship as a college athlete would be a great accomplishment.
Thanks for your time and good luck the rest of the way.
Discuss this article on the BDN Premium Message Board. A side note - members must sign up for the board separately in order to gain access. Once you've done so, you will be approved in short time. [/private]
At 6'10" and 260 pounds, Dakari Johnson can't play in the shadow of many people, but behind St. Patrick's star player Michael Gilchrist, he was able to have a relatively smooth and productive freshman season, incrementally improving month by month. The rising sophomore ultimately averaged nine rebounds and three blocks per game, while playing against elite-level high school competition, starting six games for USA Today's number two high school team in the country. Johnson was named ESPN Rise's National Freshman of the Year for his significant contributions to the national power Celtics.
His talent and height are not necessarily an unexpected blessing. His mother, Makini Campbell, is 6'5" and played college basketball at Long Island University, while his father, Thomas Johnson is 6'10" and played for St. Francis College in Brooklyn, NY.
This wasn't Dakari's first experience playing varsity basketball. At Sayre Middle School, he played varsity basketball in Lexington, Kentucky, where Dakari and his mother had moved for a few years. This year, the Brooklyn native achieved a 3.7 grade point average in the classroom, while his mother was hired at St. Patrick's as an English teacher, when a position became available during the school year.
In a critical match-up against eventual National Prep champion St. Thomas More and their star center 6'11" Andre Drummond, the Brooklyn freshman stepped up his game, scoring twelve points and grabbing nine rebounds in a 73-61 win. After playing a vital role on his 26-1 Celtics team, the fifteen year-old manned the middle for a Gauchos AAU team in desperate need of an interior presence. Johnson will, however, be sidelined for the foreseeable future with a sprained ankle suffered during the LeBron James Skills Academy, where he was one of the youngest participants.
In June, the 2014 prospect competed as part of the USA Basketball's Developmental National Team in Colorado Springs. Despite ultimately not getting selected for this year's 16U team, Coach Showalter had very complimentary things to say about Dakari's long-term potential and future with USA Basketball. One big decision on the immediate horizon for Johnson is whether he will return to St. Patrick's following the departure of long-time Celtics head coach, Kevin Boyle, who left to take a similar but more financially lucrative position with Montverde Academy in Florida.
Recently, Dakari, a friendly and precocious young man, spoke briefly with Blue Devil Nation about his USA Basketball experience, Kyrie Irving, and embracing his role as a low-post big man.
Can you tell the audience a little bit about yourself away from the court? Away from the court? Oh, I'm just a funny person who likes to just hang out with my friends and just chill.
What about your year at St. Patrick's and where are you going from here? My year at St. Patrick's was very good. I was the only freshman on my team. Did you feel like a rock star with all of the attention? (laughs) No, I didn't feel like a rock star, but I just had to play a role and you really feel like you develop month by month. Yeah, I think I came along at St. Pat's. Since we played in competition, I tried to raise my level of play. I think it really got me better.
[private] Are you a really good student? I know your mother teaches English... Do you know Mr. Konchalski? No, no… Oh, you mean Tom. Yeah, I know Tom. I'm sorry. I always call him Mr. Konchalski. (laughs) So, are you a good student? Yeah, I'm a very good student. I have a 3.7 average.
Are any colleges expressing interest at this point? Oh, yeah, Syracuse, Georgetown, Kentucky, Villanova, just a lot of them. A bunch of schools.
I assume you're wide open and in no rush to decide at this point, is that right? Oh, yeah, I'm wide open. No rush.
Have you taken any visits? Oh, yeah, I went to Georgetown for Midnight Madness. I took a visit to Kentucky last year and Louisville last year. Yeah, and I took a visit to Xavier last year.
Can you touch on the fact that you actually lived in Kentucky during middle school? You went down for various reasons and you guys came back for employment and basketball reasons. Yeah, I lived there. Because you're a Brooklyn boy too.. (laughs) Yeah, I'm a Brooklyn boy. I was in Kentucky during my middle school years and I actually played Varsity and J.V. Wow. (laughs) Great competition? (laughs) No, it wasn't the toughest.
Who do you try to model your game after? Andrew Bynum. Andrew Bynum? Yeah, I could see that. Yeah, Andrew Bynum. He's got long arms and a big body like me. I hope to become like him one day.
How big are you right now? I'm about 6'11" and 260.
What are you trying to do with your body? Trying to get stronger, trying to hit the weight room, lose some fat. Everybody has a trainer these days, do you have a trainer? Yeah, I got a trainer his name is John.
What are your strengths and weaknesses? My strengths are being mentally tough and my post play. My weaknesses are my conditioning, but I've gotten better at that really for the past month since I've been training. I'm trying to take some weight off.
That's good. In terms of position, do you view yourself as more of a four or a five? I wouldn't say I'm a pure five, but, if I have to play the four, I can. I'm very open to either.
Have you tried to work on your face-up game or are you more of a back-to-the-basket guy? I've been trying to just work on shooting the ball. I want to be able to stay with my strength, but I want to shoot better, so I'm going to work on my face-up game, too.
Can you comment on your mother? Like you, she's also taller than me. She's about 6'5", right? (laughs) Yeah, she plays basketball. Really, she's alright... I guess. (laughs)
Have you ever played against her? I've played against her, but I think she stopped about maybe six months ago. She's busy with all of those English papers. (laughs)
I know this is a touchy issue, but are you going back to St. Pat's? I don't know, I'm not sure, I don't want to comment on that. (laughs)
Can you talk about USA Basketball? You didn't make the team, but I read that Coach Showalter said that of all of the guys there, you had the highest potential long-term. What was it like going through that experience and what did you learn?
USA Basketball was a great experience. I enjoyed going out there and it took some time to learn what USA Basketball was all about. When I went out there, I understood what it was all about and what it would mean to make the team.
What did you guys do out there and can you touch on the bonding? Well, mainly we had two sessions, the evening and afternoon, we did drills and had scrimmages. We ate in between and really just hung out.
I remember from a couple of years ago Kyle Anderson when he was your age, he was talking about how much of an adjustment it was dealing with the altitude being from the East Coast. He said it was so hard to breathe, he felt like he was going to pass out when he was running. (laughs) That really didn't affect me that much. Well, he's more of a guard. Yeah, it really didn't affect me that much.
Alright, well, what's your relationship like with Jahlil Okafor? Do you view it as a friendly rivalry? You're two of the best players in the class. He said you've known one another since third grade. No, Jahlil is a good player and we're very good friends. He used to play for the Arkansas Mustangs when we were younger. I've known him for a long time and we have a very good relationship.
I asked him about you and I figured I'd just do the same for you. Who's the toughest player that you've ever gone against? So far, probably Andre Drummond. I was actually at that game. Oh, yeah, that was packed. You could barely get a seat (laughs), but, yeah, he was a very good player.
I thought you played really well that day, so did he. Do you know Kyrie? Do you have any relationship with him? And what was your reaction when he was announced the #1 draft pick? Oh, yeah, I know Kyrie. I've talked to him a few times. I'm happy that he's made it to the NBA.
Before you were talking about conditioning..what you are you doing to improve on it and what about explosion, too? I've just been working out with my trainer and I stayed at his house for about two weeks and we did arms and legs.
It looks like it's paying dividends in your shoulders. (laughs) Oh, yeah. Is he in New Jersey? Oh, yeah, he's in New Jersey. I just do a lot of weight training and a lot of leg work.
Did you have a favorite school growing up? Not necessarily what you might like now.. In college? I liked Syracuse growing up because I liked Carmelo Anthony, my favorite NBA player.
Now at the NBA level, what's your favorite team? The New York Knicks. Finally! Thank God, I finally found one guy. (laughs)
Everybody's a Laker fan or whatever's easiest at the time. Do you like to be a big and have you embraced it? There are some guys that are like 7'1" and are sure that God intended them to be a shooting guard. (laughs) No, I like being a big, you know, I played that role all my life, so...sometimes I'll hit a 15 footer, but I think I need to concentrate on my low-post skills.
Mr. Konchalski, for example, thought that it was very advanced of you that, at such an early age, you recognized what your bread and butter is, so to speak. You weren't trying to be something that you weren't. Yeah, that's not something I'm interested in.
What's your projected size? My projected size is 7'2."
Wow. Do you have any hard offers yet? Yeah, Georgetown and Xavier offered me. Those are the two that offered me. I'm sure that there'll be plenty. (laughs) Yeah, I haven't really taken any more visits yet. This summer at the beginning of August I'll take some more visits.
And who will be on the trip with you? Probably my mom or someone else. I'm not really sure yet. We haven't set any dates yet, but I know I'm going.
How have you enjoyed your experience at LeBron? So far, I've enjoyed it a a lot even though the last few games I'm not going to play because of my ankle. I'm going to see if I can go to a medical doctor.
What happened? I saw you on the ground. It looked like a tower going down. (laughs) I went to the basket and someone took a charge down low and I just fell on it.
Thanks a lot, Dakari Oh, sure, thank you.[/private]
You can see Matt Jones light up when Duke is mentioned in one of two BDN Videos below. One is an interview while the other is a mini clip where he drains a three pointer after a Julius Randle assist. The two Texas Titan prospects are friends on and off the court. So check out the videos in BDN's free section -
In our latest offering on BDN Premium, our extended subscription service, we dig into one of several video outtakes of Jabari Parker (Class of 2013) from this past week. Here is the first interview with the very talented Chicago area prospect. Parker is quite humble for a future super star and you can hear his values ring through from his answers to questions. Parker is a versatile WF that can pretty much do it all and despite being a rising junior in high school, he was clearly one of the four best players at the Peach Jam. Much more to come on Blue Devil Nation Premium but for now, check out Jabari Parker -[private]
Are you ready for some more football, Blue Devil Nation? Alright, I'll concede that Mark Watson's Peach Jam coverage has been out of this world this week, and things are really heating up for Duke basketball. So once you’ve had a chance to read and re-read all of that great coverage, get ready for a little Duke football. Duke football season is fast approaching, and there's nothing you can do to stop it. So get on board! Season tickets and new 3-game ticket packs are on sale now at GoDuke.com, or through the Duke Ticket Office at (919) 681-BLUE.
To preview the 2011 Duke football season, BDN is teaming up with other college football insiders to give an in-depth look at Duke's opponents. We kicked off our series earlier this month with a look at Richmond and Stanford, and continue this week with Duke's ACC opener at Boston College.
Duke fell to the Eagles in 2010 in Durham, 21-15. If it wasn't for a late goal line stand by LB Luke Kuechly and the BC defense, the Blue Devils may have pulled off the upset behind one of their better defensive efforts of the year. What should we expect from the 2011 matchup? We brought in BC insider BCHysteria of BC Interruption to help us preview the 2011 Eagles.
BDN: When looking at Boston College, we have to start with their defense. The defense loses senior leader Mark Herzlich this year and returns only 5 starters. We know how good All-American LB Luke Kuechly is, but who else is expected to step up for the Eagles, and what question marks remain heading into August?
There are a few names that you will need to know going into the 2011 season. First of all Kevin Pierre Louis is coming off a fantastic season where he logged in 93 tackles. Mix him in with Kuechly and BC should have a very dynamic linebacking corps this season. Another player that you should look out for is corner back Donnie Fletcher, who led the Eagles in interceptions last year. I expect big things out of him this season. One of the biggest questions for the Eagles has to be their defensive line, which is filled with unknowns. Max Holloway led the team last year in sacks, is returning, along with Kaleb Ramsey, but the rest remains one giant question mark. Who will step up on the line?
BDN: After an inconsistent 2010, there were mixed reports regarding the BC offense coming out of spring practice. With nine starters returning, including the dynamic rushing duo of Montel Harris and Andrew Williams along with a more experienced QB in Chase Rettig, what changes do you expect to see in the offense under new coordinator Kevin Rogers this fall?
Reports have come out that Rogers isn't going to be tweaking the offense that much from the style they played last year. Meaning a pro style passing game, with a few wrinkles here and there, but he's not going to suddenly turn the style into an Option style. During the spring game he did show some different looks like 5 WR sets which we did not see last year. I think what frustrated BC fans last year was a stale, predictable game plan and with Gary Tranquill gone, we hope to see that change this year. Hopefully that means much more success through the air and more points on the board.
BDN: After making two straight ACC championship games in 2007 and 2008, the Eagles seemed to take a small step back the past two years. With a tough road schedule in 2011, what are the expectations for the 2011 season? Which games are the most crucial on the Eagles' schedule?
That is the million dollar question haunting BC fans right now. We have watched the Eagles continue to step backwards (mostly on offense), but with Rogers will this change? BC has a very tough schedule this year starting with two solid out of conference opponents in Northwestern and UCF. Those two games could easily dictate the tempo of the season. Another important stretch for BC will be their October slate which includes Clemson, VT, Maryland and Wake Forest. If BC can take at least two of those, they will be in good shape to at least a bowl. So basically if BC starts off slow, they could easily finish 5-7, but if they turn it around like I hope they will 8-4 might be a possibility.
BDN: Due to the new ACC scheduling, Duke and Boston College have been relative strangers in recent years. Duke last traveled to Chestnut Hill in 2006, and the Eagles have won the last 4 games in the series, though Duke did give the Eagles a scare in Durham last fall. What are your predictions for this year's matchup in Chestnut Hill? What does BC need to do against the Blue Devils to prevent an upset?
Last year was one of the scariest/frustrating games for BC fans. BC basically handed that game to Duke. If BC wants to win this year they are going to need to contain David Cutcliffe, last year Sean Renfree had his way against the Eagles secondary in the 2nd half. BC also has to not be stupid with the ball, Montel Harris' fumbled twice in the red zone. He is a much better running back than he showed in that game, and if he can hold on to the ball I expect BC to control the tempo of the game. I dont need to tell you, but Duke's defense was putried last year, if BC's offense can turn around their equally putrid offense, they should win.
BDN: With a stingy defense and a new-look offense, Boston College will be a tough early season matchup for the Blue Devils. How do you expect teams to try and attack the Eagles' defense this season? What will be the best way to slow Montel Harris and the Eagles' offense?
BC's defensive achilles heel has always been through the air. If you can get the ball in the air, and avoid the pressure you can beat the BC corners. This may change this year with a new look secondary, led by Fletcher, but keep your eye on highly recruited DB Albert Jean Louis. He is a hard hitter, who may keep opposing QB's from looking his way. Montel Harris can be stopped, and many teams found that out last year. Just frustrate Rettig, force him into a few bad decisions, and Spaz will hand the ball off incessantly to Harris. Harris wears down rather easily, and when D's know what’s coming, they can load the box up and stuff him. Happened most of last season.