Ryan Kelly talks the China trip, his beard, role and his Panda hat

BDN was on hand for Coach Mike Kyrzyzewski and his press conference to discuss the trip to China.   We had a chance to speak with Ryan Kelly before he arrived with the first two questions being ours.

Kelly opens with a synopsis of his trip to China -

I think it was a great trip for our team and Duke University to be there expanding the Duke name and the Duke brand.  For us to be able to see all those sites is an amazing, once in a lifetime experience.  You don't know if you will ever be back there so you have to experience it.  At the same time you have to focus on winning basketball game while you're over there and have two different mind sets. It was good experience for us to get to do some fun things but when it came time to get on the basketball court, we had to be ready to play and win and I think we did a good job at that.

On his improvement since last season -

I am playing with confidence and I have expanded my game in areas but really it is just taking on a new role and I knew I could do some of these things on the basketball court.  It's taken some time to get my body to where I could do those things but I need and will continue to work for this is just one step in solidifying who I am as a basketball player.  I need to keep making jumps and as I told you this summer, I need to make another jump from my sophomore to junior year and think I have put myself in a position to do that.

On what the journey meant for his team -

It gave us a chance to learn our roles on the basketball court, especially for the freshman on and off the court.  Most teams that win looking back see that we are the closest team.  Both my years both teams have been winning teams and very close on and off the court.  You have to continue to grow in being a good team and the trip was a step in doing that.

His thought on his role for this coming seasons team -

I would like to think I am a leader for my team.  I want to be somebody my teammates can look up to and know I will be there for them.  I need to always be consistent no matter how the games are going.  I want my teammates to look at me and say, he's going to lead by example and his intensity and he is somebody we can count on no matter how bad or well things are going.  I want them to look at me and see the confidence in me.  I now have an expanded role on offense and as a defender.  I know I can score the basketball for the team and me doing so will help our team win as well.

On bartering in the open market in China -

When we were out in the open market, you feel like you are getting a good deal and trying to get the price do.  I can claim the best purchase on the team though.  I don't know if any one of you have seen the picture of my Panda hat, but if you see the pictures you will understand why I go the best purchase.  I payed like a dollar and a half for it.

On the Georgetown incident in China -

We heard about it and crossed paths.  We were going to Beijing and they were coming in at the hotel.  It was an unfortunate situation but tempers will flare.  They are obviously a talented team and it will probably bring them closer as the season goes on.

On his new beard -

I don't know about that. (smiling) but I will keep it as long as I am playing well.  I talked to Brian Zoubek.  He text me that he liked the beard, so ...  Coach said it was alright.  As long as I keep playing well, he's okay with it.





BDN chats with Ross Cockrell pre Richmond game

Ross Cockrell, BDN Photo

When Coach David Cutcliffe first came to Duke, there was a serious lack of playmakers on the football team.  That has since changed, but last year's Blue Devils defense simply didn't create enough turnovers to allow the team to win close games.  BDN chatted with defensive back Ross Cockrell yesterday about this year's new defense and the importance of making big plays on defense.

What does the 2011 Duke defense need to do to win?

One of the things we struggled with last year was creating turnovers and my goal this year and for the secondary in general is to get it done whether it's an interception or knocking the ball loose for fumbles.  We want to be people who create sudden change and not only do I want to be a playmaker but Johnny Williams, Matt Daniels and Walt Canty all want to be difference makers.

Duke got off to a slow 1-3 start last season.  How important is it to start off the season with a win?

It's very important because it's not only our first game, but one where we can show our new defense since Coach Knowles took over as coordinator.  We have to prove to fans and ourselves and the doubters that we're here to stay and we're going to play.

The players seem to have a good deal of confidence right now.  Can you speak to that?

Our confidence is very high right now,  We have a lot of athletes on the field with the 4-2-5 and are much more physical on the DL and in the defensive backfield and Kelby Brown is playing very well from the linebacker position.

How does Duke beat Richmond this Saturday?

To beat Richmond we have to be set and ready for every play.  Where we got into trouble last year is where we were running around making changes and people would quick snap us and we would be caught off guard.  So that is the thing we really need to focus on for this game, to be set and ready on every play.

Brandon Connette will have an expanded role in 2011

Duke Football will run two different packages this season when on offense and Brandon Connette is looking forward to showing off his improved passing skills.  Connette, of course, is known as a runner and he is not afraid of contact and perhaps even invites it.  Connette recently took a vicious hit from Matt Daniels  in practice and many on lookers wondered if he'd been knocked out for the season.  Not Connette.  He's doing just fine and looking forward to suiting up against Richmond in the Blue Devils home opener this Saturday.

You took a brutal shot from Matt Daniels in a recent scrimmage.  It looked concerning at the time.  How are you feeling now?

It feels fine now and I have been going full speed and through the contact drills, so it is not an issue.

You have a very aggressive style of play and love running the football. As a quarterback, how do you compensate to protect your body?

Yeah, I mean, I am not looking to save my body and when I am in the game it is sometimes like third and short and you just have to lower your shoulder and get that first down.  As far as my body, I will never shy away from a hit and just take it on.

Coach Cutcliffe has said he'll run two packages on offense.  What can we expect when Brandon Connette is on the field this season?

I think you can expect more than you could from last season.  Last year, I for the most part just ran the ball and we were successful with it, but not as much so if I were ready to throw the ball,  This year, I am a lot farther ahead as a passing quarterback so it will definitely expand the package.

Duke has dropped their last two outings at home against Richmond, is that something that gets the team up for the game?

The last  two games against Richmond?  We're not looking at that.  We are looking at the team we'll play this Saturday.  They have a good ball club, no doubt about it.  There is a reason they are at the top of their league every year.  If we can execute the way we want to, we'll come out ahead.



Shabazz Muhammad looking forward to a return trip to Duke

The nation’s top player, 2012 Shabazz Muhammad, was back for his second trip to the Boost Mobile Elite 24. Last year Muhammad was one of the few juniors selected to the team, and this year he is one of the veterans of the competition. It was never a surprise that Muhammad would have a return trip to Venice Beach as the senior has maintained his status as top dog with a constant target on his back. The Las Vegas product has filled in his frame giving himself a college ready body to go along with his unmatched effort and focus. Duke has long stayed on the prospect regardless of rumors of where he may end up. BDN got a chance to speak with the talented senior and get his thoughts on his return trip to Venice Beach. (BDN Premium  is currently running a membership special where you can save up to 15% off our normal rates.  Go to the join page to see discounted options and come inside for more exciting information)

BDN: Being the veteran at this event now is anything different or easier about it?

SM: Yea it’s a little different. Last year I was the young guy and I learned a lot. Now I’m a veteran trying to teach these young guys how to fit into this event.

BDN: How do you like the gear they hook have hooked you up with?

SM: Oh yea definitely. The gear is nice. We get a lot of stuff. UnderArmor hooks us up with a lot of gear and their stuff’s really comfortable so it’s a great event to come to.

BDN: Who was the toughest [private] pro you got to play against? Either here or at Impact (Las Vegas basketball facility)

SM: Probably Derrick Rose.

BDN: What can you come away with from the training session they had?

SM: You can come away with a lot of stuff. The drills they taught, some of those drills I didn’t know about, like the one with the weight vest and weight ball. You can definitely take that back home and work on that stuff.

BDN: You spend a lot of time with these guys have you had a chance to make any new relationships?

SM: Yea I made a lot of new friends especially going into this. I didn’t really know a lot of these guys and now I’m getting to know them all. It’s a great event to make friends.

BDN: What do you believe is the most improved aspect of your game since your last visit here?

SM: I really think my ball handling and my change of direction on my jump shot. I tried to work on it out here, even though it wasn’t falling. I’m going to continue to work on that stuff because at the next level that’s the stuff I really need. I’ve also been working on my right hand a lot.

BDN: What official visits do you have set up so far?

SM: The only official visit I have so far is Kentucky for their Midnight Madness, that’s one I know I’m going to, and the rest I’m going to decide with my parents and go from there.

BDN: Do you feel like you’ll make an early or late decision?

SM: Probably a late one.

BDN: In the spring?

SM: Yea wait until the spring. I really want to make sure I make the right decision and talk a little bit with everybody.

BDN: One of the teams that is recruiting you is Duke, have you been able to watch any of their games in China?

SM: Yea I have been able to watch them. I talked to Coach K when he was in the airport. Their cell phones were out in the one country they were at but I talked to him in China also. He said they were going to go sight-seeing at the Great Wall of China. It’s a great experience and I really love Coach K and the relationship we’re building is a really great one. Coach Wojo is also a great guy and I can’t wait to go back there again.

BDN: You’re entering your senior year now, what are you trying to prove?

SM: I just think I have to maintain what I’m doing now. They ranked me as the number one player so obviously I have to continue to work hard and not rest on my laurels. I just need to continue to get into the gym and work on the things I said I was working on like my right hand, and change of directions from a jump shot. I know I’m gonna keep working on it and getting better at it.

BDN: Much appreciated for your time Shabazz.

SM: No problem. [/private]

Blue Devils will try to slow the Georgia Tech triple-option on November 19

Duke will host Georgia Tech on November 19th for their final home game of 2011

BDN has been previewing Duke football's 2011 opponents all summer long. This week, we wrap things up as we prepare for Saturday's season opener, but not before taking a look at a crucial stretch of games in November. Duke will play three tough road contests at Miami, Virginia, and North Carolina in November, meaning that the November 19th match-up with Georgia Tech will serve as Duke's final home game of the season. The Blue Devils played the Yellow Jackets tough in Atlanta last season, but a late red zone turnover turned the tables on Duke's upset bid.

To help us preview the 2011 Yellow Jackets, BDN is glad to welcome back Winfield Featherston of FromTheRumbleSeat.com. His candid insight is invaluable when analyzing the Georgia Tech program.

BDN: Georgia Tech was among the ACC programs involved in a recent NCAA investigation, receiving a four-year probation, among other penalties. Can you summarize your thoughts on the NCAA violations? Do you expect there to be any affect on the program in 2011 or beyond?

My initial thoughts on the issue came across as too passive and made me look like I just rolled over. And I kinda sorta did unfortunately. The NCAA's penalties given to Georgia Tech are TOTAL BULLSH*T. They penalized us anything because they felt slighted when our AD didn't want Paul Johnson looking like Al Golden when the news broke against Tech. Sadly, GT is just big enough for big sanctions to make it look like the NCAA has teeth and could - if they wanted to- go after the big programs but we all know that won't happen.

Nothing will happen for the future. We vacated the 2009 ACCCG (BTW it still happened - Clemson's record book says so) and we paid a fine. Recruiting visits and scholarships are not affected.

Head Coach Paul Johnson has led Georgia Tech to 3 bowl games in 3 seasons in Atlanta

BDN: When Head Coach Paul Johnson arrived in Atlanta, he inherited a talented team and took them to a 2009 ACC Championship, led by All-ACC players like Jonathan Dwyer, Josh Nesbitt, Derrick Morgan, and Demaryius Thomas. After three years at the head of the Yellow Jackets, how would you assess the state of the program under Johnson? With only 12 starters returning in 2011, what are the expectations for this young group of Yellow Jackets?

The state of the program gets defined in 2012. This year it's finally Johnson's players in Johnson's system. Wipe the slate clean from the previous years. Any success or failures we had with Gailey players was just some form or luck really. Expectations are set in typical Georgia Tech fan fashion - pretty high. Many fans expect about 8 wins to reach the "good season" level. With most major games at home, that goal should be attainable. 

BDN: The Blue Devils got a good look at Tevin Washington running the triple option last year in Atlanta. There has been significant competition this spring and summer for starting jobs at QB and B-back. How do you expect that competition to play out at those two spots? What are the other question marks for the 2011 Georgia Tech offense?

The schedule plays perfectly for a good ole September platooning effort. I'd expect to see a mix of Synjyn Days and Tevin Washington to play out most of the games. I wouldn't be surprised to see Vad Lee either. The same goes for B-back with Charles Perkins, Preston Lyons and David Sims. By the time we hit October, we'll have our depth chart in fine condition. 

BDN: Al Groh's defense struggled in his first year in Atlanta a year ago, allowing almost 372 yards per game to opposing offenses. What changes or improvements need to be made for the Tech defense to be more successful in 2011?

Experience. We had to give the Groh-fense a year to sink in. Word on the street says that the defense has been improving tremendously and our young guys are all stepping up. 

BDN: Duke gave Georgia Tech a scare in Atlanta last November, throwing a crucial red zone interception and ultimately falling, 20-30. What do you think will be the keys to the matchup on November 19 in Durham? Can the Blue Devils give the Yellow Jackets another scare?

We're talking November football already? Sure it's possible. For all games this year, it will come down to the defense. History shows that over the season CPJ teams average the same offensive statistics per year. The defense will have to shut down Duke's offensive attack and let our triple option offensive do it's usual thing.  

BDN: Thanks for your help, Winfield! Good luck this season!

Previous week: November 12, Duke at Miami

Next week: November 26, Duke at North Carolina

Duke Bound Rasheed Sulaimon Talks Elite 24 and more

While there was a boat load of Duke recruits this week in L.A for the Boost Mobile Elite 24 there was only one Duke commit, 2012 Rasheed Sulaimon. Rasheed started out the event with a solid performance vs. the pro’s on Wednesday night where he showed his solid 3 point shot as well as his active hands on defense. There was no backing down from the rising senior as he effectively showed everyone why he is rated as high as he is. Rasheed continued his hot shooting into the practice where he was easily a top 3 player on the court at all times. Sulaimon also showed great athleticism over the week with numerous high flying dunks as well as great lateral quickness which will help him on defense in the future. It isn’t very hard to see why scouts have him rated so high and once again the Blue Devils pulled in one of the best guards in the class. Rasheed was kind enough to take a few minutes and speak with BDN on his time at the Elite 24 (Note- We are currently running a one week special on memberships which is 15% off the yearly rate.  Other options discounted as well.)

BDN: What’s this experience been like getting to play with the pro’s?

RS: It’s just been a great experience you know. Coming out here and competing with top notch guys like Kemba Walker who won a championship last year, Brandon Jennings who had 55 points his rookie year, Tyreke Evans, and the list goes on and on. Just to be on the same court as these guys it’s truly an honor and we just try to come out here and compete as best as you can and it’s just a really [private]fun experience.

BDN: What do you think separates them from where you are?

RS: I think it’s just the mentality. They have the killer mentality all the time and that is one thing us youth have to grasp if we want to make it to the next level. Also their bodies and size, you know they’re 6’5 as a two-guard. You know these are all things we can work on.

BDN: What do you have to do to get there?

RS: You know just keep working every day, staying in the gym, staying humble, staying hungry, continue to get stronger and faster and improve on my skills each and every day. If I stay healthy and keep working, you know in the future I might have a chance.

BDN: When you’re on the court is there anybody better than you?

RS: (laughs) You know, you have to have that mindset. I have a lot of respect for guys but when you’re on the court you gotta compete and you gotta have that mindset that nobody can stop you, otherwise you know you’re going to have fear and that’s not good for playing basketball. Of course you gotta have that mindset but at the same time you have to respect.

BDN: Over the summer you obviously build some relationships, has there been any new ones this year?

RS: You know, a lot of these guys I grew up with so we just keep in touch a lot. I think maybe one guy that I developed a really good relationship with is Anthony Bennett from Canada. He was on my team at Lebron and NBA Camp and we became really good friends.

BDN: Have you been able to catch any of the Duke games in China at all?

RS: Yea I have. Actually I DVR’d and watched them. You know they (smiling), it’s early in the season and they showed a lot of growth in the few games they’ve played so far and they’ve really been playing well.

BDN: Have you been in contact with any of the coaches while they’ve been gone?

RS: Yea I called Coach K a couple of times and it was kind of hard because of the signal but we got in touch and we just talked a little bit, and talked about how they’re playing and everything like that.

BDN: You’ll eventually be taking an official visit, have you set a date yet?

RS: As of right now I’m not sure but I’m looking probably to make it before the season starts.

BDN: You know I’ve got to ask this, have you been making any progress on the recruiting trail?

RS: (laughing) Yea I know that’s the hot topic right now especially on Twitter, and you know there’s a lot of Duke recruits here like Tony Parker and Shabazz. I’m continuing to talk to them and trying the best that I can to come to Duke with me.

BDN: Who was the hardest pro you got to play with this week?

RS: It’s probably between Brandon Jennings and Kemba Walker.

BDN: What was difficult about that?

RS: Well they are lightning quick, ball handling, they got the ball on a string, they can make any shot and make any move. With those guys you can’t really give them too much space and if you do they are just gonna destroy you.

BDN: Are they faster than on TV?
RS: (laughing) Oh shoot! They are WAY faster!

BDN: Thanks for your time Rasheed.
RS: Oh no problem man. [/private]