DURHAM, N.C. – Over 30 former Blue Devil basketball players, including four former greats (Mike Gminski, Christian Laettner, J.J. Redick and Jason Williams) that have had their Duke jerseys retired, will serve as team coaches this summer to headline the 10th annual K Academy, May 30 – June 3, at Duke’s historic Cameron Indoor Stadium. The camp staff will also feature 14 players/coaches (Clay Buckley, Marty Clark, Chris Collins, Nate James, Greg Koubek, Laettner, Reggie Love, Eric Meek, Casey Peters, Jon Scheyer, Nolan Smith, Jason Williams, Steve Wojciechowski and Brian Zoubek) that won a National Championship at Duke.
The current Duke National Championship coaching staff of Steve Wojciechowski, Chris Collins, Jeff Capel and Nate James will join Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame head coach Mike Krzyzewski to host and coach in K Academy X – a camp for adults aged 35 and above. In addition, Duke Basketball stars from the 70’s, 80’s, 90’s and 2000’s will also coach again at America’s first and top-rated college fantasy basketball camp.
The K Academy brings team-building techniques into an once-in-a-lifetime experience for the ultimate Duke or college basketball fan. Every camper will spend five days in Cameron and in the premier practice facility in the country – the Krzyzewski Center for Academic & Athletic Excellence – where they’ll go from opening day tryouts to Sunday’s championship tournament. Along the way the campers will play games on Coach K Court in Cameron and learn the inside scoop on Duke’s four-time national championship program.
A lively social program, including a charity auction benefiting Durham’s Emily Krzyzewski Center, completes the experience. All campers reside in the four-star Washington Duke Inn & Golf Course on the Duke University campus.
The enrollment tuition for the K Academy continues to be $10,000. The Academy is partially tax-deductible as profits go to the Duke Basketball Legacy Fund. The camp has limited enrollment of 88 participants – 80 playing campers and eight non-playing bench captains.
There are limited playing spots remaining, interested parties can register online at www.kacademy.com; contact the Duke Basketball Legacy Fund office at (919) 613-7501; or email Associate Director of the Legacy Fund, Rachel Curtis, at email@example.com.
Note – We’ve opened up our most recent chat with Duke bound Matt Jones to the public in order to give you an idea of the types of interviews you will gfind as a member of BDN Premium. On the Monday after Thanksgiving, Matt Jones committed to Duke, but that didn’t make him any less hungry. Embracing the target on his back, the now 6’5″ DeSoto (TX) junior shooting guard led his DeSoto Eagles to a 33-6 record.
At times, his Eagles were nationally ranked and reached the Texas 5A regional finals, but fell to Naaman Forest 56-49 to conclude the junior’s high school season. For the season, Matt Jones, regarded as arguably the best long-distance shooter in the 2013 class, averaged nearly nineteen points, nine rebounds, and over three assists per game. After the season, MaxPreps named the sharpshooter to its Junior All-American Team, along with Duke recruits Julius Randle, Jabari Parker, and Al Freeman.
His older 5’9″ sister, Jordan Jones, who committed as a point guard to the Texas A&M Aggies, played in the McDonald’s All-American Game and won the Powerade skills competition. Ten months from now, Jones is likely to join her in the small fraternity of McDonald’s All-Americans.
Right now, the spiritual Matthew Jones is teaming up with his close friend and 6’9″ running mate, Julius Randle, to form a dangerous one-two punch for their Texas Titans AAU team. The team has gone 8-1 so far over the first two legs of Nike’s EYBL. Through the first nine game in the competitive EYBL, Jones is the eighth leading scorer (17.7 ppg) and fifth in three-pointers made, 26 (shooting 48.1% from beyond the three-point arc). He’s tried to become a more well-rounded and dangerous scorer, while adding an improved rebounding component by taking advantage of his prototypical shooting guard frame and willingness to battle big men for rebounds.
After an EYBL game, Jones spoke with BDN about what the coaches have asked him to work on, recruiting Julius Randle, his development as a defender, and playing with a target on his back, amongst other topics.
You guys were nationally ranked at times and made it to the regional finals. How did you feel overall about your high school season?
Well, it was a tough loss. Being one of the favorites to win it all, I mean, it was definitely a disappointment at the end of the season, but I mean I really loved the guys on this team. Overall, it was a good season, though. I mean I’m proud of my guys and I wish we would’ve went further, but it was a really great season and a lot of other programs would’ve loved to have made it as far as we did.
How was the Hall of Fame Game? It’s an interesting idea to have a postseason tournament that includes a few top juniors and plays it in the Final Four city.
Yeah, it was pretty fun. I mean I loved it. Just the experience. It got me better as a person and as a player. It showed me some things that I can work on and improve on.
Your sister, Jordan, was a McDonald’s All-American. Most people don’t seem to ask you about her at all, but I was just curious what were your emotions when you saw her at the event and when she won the skills competition? You must’ve been very proud.
Oh, yeah, I love my sister. I mean we’re very competitive and I do mean very competitive, but she definitely raised the bar in the family. I mean I don’t want to be in her shadows. So, I have to make it. I have to do what she did and go beyond. (laughs)
You guys must have an incredible gene pool.
Yeah, we did. We’ve been blessed.
The odds on that are staggering. The coaches have been watching you and checking in on you recently.
Yeah, we’re definitely talking. They’ve just told me to play hard, play defense, and just show what I can do besides shooting. Just show my whole game.
Well, I was going to ask you about that. What have they recommended that you concentrate on?
Dribbling. Just dribbling and focusing more on the defensive end. That’s gotta be my focus. Mostly, just hard work
For those that haven’t seen you play since last summer, what’s the one aspect of your game that you’ve developed most over the past few months?
Dribbling. I can dribble more now. I mean if they needed me to now I could play a little point. My decision-making is better. My IQ is better.
With exceptional shooters, there’s always or often an issue of pushing your boundaries and expanding your game, while not taking away from your core strength or letting it deteriorate. How do you try to balance the two?
Yeah, I mean I work on my shooting with my shooting coach, Coach Jerome. I get a lot of shots up with him and we just always shoot, but, at the same time, we also work on a little dribbling.
DeSoto, yeah, and some other places. I just try to get a lot of dribbling in. You know in between the shooting and sprinkle in some defense here and there. You know ball handling and IQ and stuff like that.
What about your body? Have you been working out too?
Yeah, I’ve been hitting the weights a little bit, you know. You can see in the upper body (laughs).
(laughs) Yeah, you look a little more defined. A little less baby fat
Yeah, I’m trying to get there.
Since you brought up your defense, how would you assess it right now? Where is your defense compared to where you want it to be?
I want to be the guy who can lock down the best player on the other team. That’s where I want to get to. I feel like I’m getting close, but I’m not there yet. That’s the goal. I try to use my size.
How tall are you now, Matt?
I’m 6’5″ now. So, I feel like I’ve been blessed with good height. I’ve grown a little bit, but I just want to be a lockdown defender. I like taking the other guy out and locking him down. I want people to view me that way. That’s the thing that I’ve tried to take my pride in. My defense.
More people need to take some pride on that side of the ball. This next one is sort of a touchy or awkward issue. People are always interested in recruiting and you’re obviously very close with Julius. Are you helping to recruit him to Duke with you or do you just stay away from that area or topic completely?
Yeah, I mean I’m always in his ear. I try not to be in his ear too much, but I mean at the same time we’re brothers and we’ve got a good relationship. So, we’re pretty comfortable talking about anything. I definitely whisper to him here and there. (laughs)
What are you hoping to accomplish this summer?
Simply, just getting better. I want to show the coaches at Duke that I’ll be ready to play as soon as I get on the courts at Duke. I want to prepare as much as I can now. I want to show them how hungry I am. I hope you can see that I’m hungry.
Just out of curiosity, Texas is obviously very strong in 2013, but do you have any sort of rivalry with either Keith Frazier, who is both from your area and plays your position, or even the Harrison twins?
Yeah, I mean people compare us, but I mean it is what it is. I don’t really have rivalries, but I mean, if you’re good, I just want to take the challenge. I want to take you down.
I noticed that you guys didn’t play against each other this season.
No, we didn’t, but I would’ve liked to. If you’re good, I want to take the challenge of guarding you. That’s my thing.
I’d like to see the two of you match-up. No ducking.
Yeah, me too (laughs).
Alright, we’ll settle it. This is your second year playing in the EYBL. Last year, you guys were a little young and then you had to step up and score more in Dallas when Julius went down with an injury. How do you think you’ve benefitted from that trial by fire last year?
Just facing all of that talent and you know so many of those or these guys are going to be college-level players. You know, game in and game out, Nike or EYBL has been great about having all of these really good teams. It’s just a really good experience. These are some of the same guys that you’ll be facing in college. So, it’s good.
Well, you also personally stepped up your game last year.
Yeah, yeah, well, I needed to for my team.
For the younger guys in the audience, what do you think is the secret to your three-point shooting success?
Repetition. Just repetition. You’ve got to get out there and shoot. Figure out what’s working and just keep repeating it.
Yes, and being focused.
Other than dribbling and defense, what are some things that the Duke coaches have asked you to work on?
Just being a better teammate and being a better leader.
Does your football background help you at all?
No, not really. (laughs)
Your rebounding numbers were way up in high school this year? Was that something you concentrated more on? Some fans seemed happy to see a guard that could rebound.
Yeah, it was something that I thought I could do. There aren’t too many rebounding guards in the country if you look around. They don’t want to get in there with the big guys. That’s what I want to bring. If that’s another way that I can separate myself, then I’ll just stick my nose in there and be tough.
Did or do you feel like you’ve had a target on your back since you committed to Duke?
I feel like it. I feel like it. It just keeps you on your toes. It’s been a good motivator for me.
For fans that don’t know you, what do you like to do away from the court?
Bowling. I love to bowl.
A regular Lebowski. Really? That was something that Nolan Smith was into. I think he thought it helped him.
Yeah, me too. I don’t know what it is, but I love it.
You’re moving better this year without the ball. Was that something that you’ve tried to work on more this year?
Oh, yeah, I’m constantly trying to move around, throw my defender off, and just get open for my teammates.
Lastly, you were mentioning before working on your handle and strength? How far along are you, compared to where you eventually want to get to be?
Yeah, I work on those two things constantly with Coach Jerome. He’s right here. He’s the key to my success.
Standing at close to 6-9 and packing 255 pounds, prospect BeeJay Anya is hard to miss when to take in a Team Takeover game on the Nike EYBL circuit. Anya is a class of 2013 big man who has garnered a lot of interest and he recently told BDN that his coaches told him Duke sent out feelers. Anya is of course the teammate of Ishmail Waintright, who already holds a Duke offer and he will have the chance to prove his self as the coaches continue the evaluation process on a bevy of players. Here is what Anya had to say –
Feel me in on what you are working on with a new AAU season at hand.
What I’m trying to do this AAU season is to get better and make my team better, so I’m just doing what I can to do that.
You have some games under your belt in the NYBL and coaches have been able to attend early on this season. Have any new teams come in of late?
Duke called and asked my coaches a little bit about me and they were also interested in my teammate Ishmail (Waintright). So, I’m not really sure how that stands right now but they called my coach. No other schools came in other than the ones I already have listed.
How do you like Duke? Is that a school you would be interested in going to?
I’m interested in Duke, but I like all my schools. Duke outs out great players and Coach K is one of the best coaches in college basketball.
Who are some of the other schools reruiting you the hardest?
There are a few, let’s see … Indiana, Syracuse, Kansas and a lot of Big East, Big Ten and ACC schools. I love the attention and look at them one school at a time. I feel grateful that all these schools are interested, you know. Some people don’t have the chance to be recruited by the schools I am recruited by, so I thank God everyday for giving me the opportunity.
Name me one important factor or something you seek in a school you might attend.
I would like a school with a good strength and conditioning program. I’ve been working with some guys trying to get.
What is the toughest pat of being a prospect who is being recruited hard by major schools?
It’s just the fact that you get to know all these coaches and you start to feel bad when it is time to make a decision. I have a good relationship with a lot of coaches in the summer and don’t want the, to think I don;t like them. I have a good relationship with all the coaches recruiting me and I know that it’s front to be a hard decision for me but it’s something that has to be done.
What are you looking for in a coach at the college level?
I want a coach that treats me like I’m one of his kids, like my AAU coaches who treat me like a son and one who pushes me and reach past my limitations and get better as a player.
In our latest team and recruiting update we go behind the scenes on the happenings around the program and take a look at key prospects and talk of the off season for the team as well.
If anyone tells you they know what is up with Amile Jefferson then they’re faking it for nobody does. Not even our staff knows when he will pull the trigger and before you freak out, nor do others. By not contacting media, Jefferson has shrouded his recruitment with mystery and that means a ton and I mean a ton of speculation and rumors. What is [private] concerning is that people have pointed to this class as a failure, yet Jefferson is still on the board. That said, Anthony Bennett dissed Kentucky but in reality his grades are so poor money couldn’t buy him into some schools. We told you in the last update Kentucky was a serious player for Jefferson but it is not a lock yet unless you give into the latest speculation. This one will be over within the next two weeks and possibly by Friday. This one has gotten a bit tedious but I would not be shocked to see him in Durham next year. Jefferson will not make or break Duke this coming season but he would be a solid addition and a good fit with the university.
Duke got in at just the right time on Austin Nichols and have made an impression but this one will go on longer than some think, meaning a quick verbal is unlikely. The Nichols clan want to visit several schools and will take their five official visits. Duke is probably the slight leader here and are in great early shape. His AAU teammate Robert Hubbs likes Duke as well and sent out several DVD’s of his game to various programs, Duke being one of them. His AAU coach says he likes the Duke system and that’s always a good thing. Coach K liked him enough to make a quick offer after a couple of views. Duke feels he brings athleticism and potential to the table. Both Memphis are players have been invited to Team USA U 18 and 17 trials and Coach K will be able to watch them due to his status with the USA program.
How will this effect Al Freeman? Duke feels that Hubbs brings a totally different game to the table, so not at all in their eyes. You know I have been severely unimpressed by Freemans’ game in my views but Duke and everybody else knows he is not used right in the Boo Williams system. A team with three (Troy Williams, Anthony Barber) supposed studs has not played .500 ball in the EYBL of late and to make matters worse, only one of the three studs has showed mild improvement from a year ago. The problem with the way the current players are being used is that none of them are working on their weaknesses or improving. Two of the aforementioned, Freeman and uu0will tumble in the next barrage of rankings if you put a lot of emphasis on that.
My gripe with Freeman is that he failed to show a connection with his back court mate, AnthonyBarber. When his shot doesn’t fall, nothing else is happening, meaning a stat line of goose eggs. I am old school and feel kids need to let the game come to them on offense and all else will work out. Freeman never seemed to get this and was clearly frustrated after one game where he dissed the media. I found myself asking Dave Telep if he saw the offer to Freeman from Duke and he said no. Some how, I forgot that it was Dave that had him ranked so high and may well have said nice things to Duke about him. The point is that Telep knew he was flopping on the big stage and probably felt a little, well, who knows, but this is not a knock on Telep who I get along with very well. In fact, I get along in grand fashion with all the national recruiting media.
I also had a chat with Jason Jordan who admitted he was trying to corner the market or get exclusives with prospects. Well, that is a recipe for criticism or disdain and he gets it a lot from what I was told. But he does his own thing and is innovative so it is hard for me to fault him. I did joke that I was peeved a bit at less and less access to Julian Randle. Actually I was only half joking;)
The offers will slow down now but more will be made in time. As you know the staff will be heading to Las Vegas soon and Coach K has been there since Nike EYBL Boo Williams ended and will be back in Durham by mid week. I had a nice little conversation with Coach about Team USA where we touched on injuries and players who will compete for the team. I can tell you that he is excited as ever to represent the United States and will go all out to win Gold. FWIW, Coach will have been on the road for like three straight weeks, so yes, he is working hard.
I was impressed with Tyus Jones and have now had about 8 views of the kid dating back to three years ago and yes, this is where I throw out that we were the first Duke site to interview him. Every time I tried to get to Jones, something would happen in Hampton and I finally caught up to him after a 30 point effort but he was so tired that I decided not to run the interview and actually felt bad I asked him for one at all. Jones is a smooth operator and has great court vision. With his big man out, he single handedly took over the game controlling the tempo and that has put his team in contention to make a run at the NYBL finals. He is a scorer that would rather pass but what an efficient player he is. Michigan State Coach Tom Izzo stood where he could be seen in three straight games. And what a stat stuffer Jones is tallying 34 point
A player I really liked was Ish Wainright who is a tad under sized but and enforcer around the paint where he takes up a lot of space. His offense is limited but his defense is incredible and he wants any and all assignments thrown his way. I have seen some say he is comparable to Semi Ojeleye but that baffles me. Size wise they are both thick and muscular but their games are very different and makes me wonder who guys watch out there at times. Andrew nailed his game as being ESPN ready, meaning dunk or three point launch for he had little mid range game and a mildly suspect handle. He wanted the ball in his hands and has really high arch on his jump shots. It takes a minute to see a guy this big drain them. He is a good but not great defender who needs work on how to play off ball in an efficient manner. Duke has yet to offer but they could any day now. Still, I feel it comes down the road at this point in that they want some more views of him and have a lot of offers out already. When the staff is in Vegas, Nate James will become the guy who tracks him.
Rasheed Sulaimon will be on campus by July 1st and maybe Jefferson should he pick Duke. While a lot of people knock the recruiting class. there has been way too much staff criticism for my taste and yes, they can read these boards. Cut it anyway you like it, but our freshman class consists of Marshall Plumlee. Alex Murphy and Sulaimon. So, we gain them on the court and lose Miles and Austin. Gbinije did not contribute enough to be missed ans not that is not a crack on him. So, when looking at next season, we gain three, maybe four and lose one. It’s not as gloomy as some are making it out to be ..
Murphy has been working with Will Stephenson in the weight room with Marshall Plumlee and both have put on 15 pounds or more of muscle. And it will be nice that they know the Duke system having seen a year of it from the bench. Plumlee will back up Mason while Murphy will push hard to make the starting lineup. And if you go back to our interview with Murph, he told us then he may play for the Finnish team and that has now been finalized.
Jabari Parker was not in Hampton, making our interview with him the latest info out there, but Julius Randle was and man is he a beast. Nobody could stop him on the block, yet he played outside a while lot, handling the ball for much of the game in crunch time and he loved driving the baseline and using angles on the rim. He told me that he was expanding his game mainly because he faced nothing but triple teams if he hung close to the paint area. Duke is most certainly on his list and will make the final cut and Jeff Capel and Coach K keep in regular touch with him. As I said on the message boards, I now feel Duke can pull one but not both in that they are likely to want to be the main freshman on campus. It is not impossible to get both and Duke will try but realistically they pull one of the studs and that’s fine by me. Now the question is which one pulls the trigger first. Randle was slimmed down, quicker than last season and just a gifted player. When said he was like a bull in a china shop, he got a good laugh out of it.
A player that I have been meaning to talk about but haven’t is 6-8 Justise Winslow of Houston Hoops. He is in the class of 2014 and is scheduled to visit Duke in an unofficial manner before summer is out. I need more views of Winslow to give an accurate breakdown. Duke is very liquid at this time and names like Johnathan Williams and Nicholas King of Bluff City and many others have sparked some curiosity from the staff. Back to Winslow, I spoke to him and he is very excited Duke is showing interest.
We have several interviews coming from Andrew and a couple I will add to talking with some of the same kids, so you can look forward to that. I appreciate the patience the last few days when I have been dealing with a few matters and then ISP issues. We’ll get back to normal soon enough. We will likely go to a new message board in the near future and this will take place before we finalize new site changes. The reason is for there to be just one registration process when joining and one that will work in concert with the site. I will be asking members for input on some of the changes.
Depending on how Mason Plumlee and Ryan Kelly perform at the Amare Stoudemire Camp. they may head to other Nike events. Andrew and myself will as always be very active as the weather warms. I am glad to say I will cover the Nike Global Challenge this season with it being on the east coast and Peach Jam for sure and others. You will, as always. get a lot of bang for your buck on the AAU trail where we set the pace for others to follow.
There was a bit of board tension last week and some of it goes unseen to you folks. I get a lot of PM’s which often include ultimatums and that makes it very difficult to me to please everybody. Another thing to remember is that not all members post but they still have comments on occasion. BDN has been very professional and tame compared to others in the past and we want to keep it that way. I ask all members to take any and I mean any problems to mods and not air grievances with other posters on the board. And the mods can help you a whole lot quicker than I can. While I am at it, Susan is the contact person for any issues with log in issues, not myself. There are several places on the site which mention this but it still somehow goes unseen. In short, e-mailing me will delay the process. Another thing if you are a premium member and not on the message board, it is a separate registration. Once you register PM myself (for this only) or Susan and we will check your payment and get you up and running.
Thanks for being a member of BDN and while this was not one of our more informative updates, it should hold you over until the next one. We will open a new Q and A thread to feel the gaps on players I did not mention here. [/private]
“Point guards should only be judged by whether you win or lose. The rest of that stuff doesn’t matter.’’
In the humid central Florida city of Apopka, a 6’1″ point guard named Joel Berry II is working on perfecting his craft. For the past few months, he’s worked with trainer Cornell Rivers, who worked with the Celtics’ Marquis Daniels, on taking his shooting to another level. Joel makes 6,000 shots per weekend. These sessions can take between four and eight hours.
This March, the sophomore point guard led his young Lake Highland Prep squad to their first state championship game. Joel scored twenty-two points in the opening half of the 4A title game against Pine Crest, but the Lake Highland Highlanders ultimately lost that game after Berry, finishing with twenty-six points, fouled out of the game with 3:07 left in the game, missing their remaining six shots of the game. After finishing with a 28-4 record and returning all of their starters, they will be early favorites to win their first state title next season and are scheduled to play in the challenging City of Palms Tournament in Ft. Myers, FL next December.
For his efforts, the always gracious Berry II became the first sophomore in Florida’s history to win the Mr. Basketball Award. Joel also was named Gatorade’s Player of the Year in Florida. Gatorade cited his championship game run, his 3.3 GPA, and his volunteer work as the reasons for the sophomore’s distinction. For the season, Joel averaged over 23 points, 5 rebounds, 3 steals, and 3 assists per game.
This AAU season, Berry has formed a dynamic 1-2 punch with Dakari Johnson, a 6’10” sophomore from Brooklyn who plays at Montverde Academy for Coach Kevin Boyle. Despite the youth, the Florida based-team, Each One Teach One, has gone 8-1 through the Minneapolis and Hampton legs of the Nike EYBL. Each One Teach One is the AAU program that Duke freshman and soon-to-be NBA guard, Austin Rivers, played for.
One of his E1T1 coaches is Joel Berry, Sr. Mr. Berry was a standout multi-sport athlete in his own regard. He was an Adidas All-American football player in 1987 as well as an All-Metro Orlando performer in both track and basketball. Mr. Berry opted to pursue football at the University of Central Florida, but, unfortunately, injured his knee as a sophomore and never played football again. He’s been able to stay in good shape via a mix of strength training and the martial arts. After going back to school, Mr. Berry is scheduled to earn a Master’s degree this month from the University of Central Florida. Joel’s sister, Kourtnie, just helped lead Rollins College of Winter Park, FL to a Division II Final Four, the furthest in program history.
Last year, playing two age groups up, Joel Berry II felt he needed to score more in order for his E1T1 team to have any chance at victory. Coaches Mike Krzyzewski, Jim Calhoun, and Billy Donovan watched the then rising sophomore play, at times, over the course of the limited July period, but he’s anxious to show the improvements in his overall game, particularly his on-the-ball defense, his improved physique and strength, which enables him to take the physicality that accompanies being a penetrating point guard, and ability to facilitate an offense.
After a recent game, Joel, who, from a personality standpoint, has managed to have the near perfect blend of being a tiger on the court and a good-natured gentleman off of it, spoke with me again after an EYBL game.
What are some things that you’ve improved on most since last year?
I’ve worked on my leadership a lot. I’m a real quiet person.
So am I.
Yeah, so I just tried to go out there and play basketball, but people had been telling me that I have to be more vocal out on the court. So, I’ve tried to work on that a lot. It’s one thing that I definitely feel like I’ve improved on. I’ve been going to a lot of leadership programs and that’s helped a lot.
That’s great. What are you hoping to show coaches this year?
I just want to show them that I can be a leader and run a team. Every time, I can’t wait to just go out there and play and help us win.
Well, I think you’ve got a much better team to work with than last year’s team. No offense to last year’s team, but you guys are older and made a great offseason acquisition by picking up the big fella, Dakari (Johnson).
Yes, sir, we’ve got a lot of size this year and it’s important that I get them the ball in spots where they can be successful with it. We’ve got a lot of players this year that can score and so it’ll take a lot of pressure off of me to score. I can just lead my team and distribute the ball. Last year, you know I needed to score a lot for us to try to win. This year, it’s been great because it feels like more we’re more of a team out there.
Leadership is [private] the thing that the coaches who watched you last summer will notice most, however, this year.
Yes, sir, absolutely.
Now, it wasn’t always smooth sailing for you last year, but how do you think the experience of playing EYBL last year will help you this year?
Oh, it’ll help a lot. I’ve seen my game really go up in high school basketball and then, now, we’re competing against the best of the best. I love this. In high school, Florida is really not strong, but, when I come or get to challenge myself against this level of competition, game in and game out, I can really showcase my game.
You’ll definitely get more exposure.
Back to Dakari (Johnson) for a second, what dynamic does he bring to your team? He’s a nice kid too.
Oh, yeah, he’s been great for us. We really didn’t have a dominant big man to where we can go inside.
You two will make a good tandem.
Yes, sir, and we can work a nice two-man game and then, with our other big men, we can dump the ball into Dakari. We have faith in Dakari because he’s one of the best in the nation, regardless of class.
This high school season was a major step forward for you, both personally and your team.
Oh, it was just great. We made it to the state championship game for the first time in forty-two years. Then, we ended up losing, but we accomplished something that no one else in our school’s history had and we’re going to bring back..
Well, for the next two years, you guys are going to be the favorites.
Yes, sir, for next year, we bring back our entire starting five. It should be great fun, but we can’t afford to rest. We need to keep working.
That’s the attitude.
Yes, sir, and then, personally, I swept everybody in Central Florida with the awards.
I know. I was proud of you.
Yes, thank you, I was the first sophomore to win the Mr. Basketball Award.
Sure, let’s talk about that award specifically.
Oh, yeah, it was a major honor to get that award because usually they give it to seniors and players that are going out, but I put in an enormous amount of work and I just thought that I deserved it this year.
Well, of course, you deserved it.
People are always interested in recruiting. What schools are recruiting you right now?
UNC, Duke, Kentucky…just a lot of ACC and SEC schools. Well, I’ve been receiving them from all over, but those are the main two conferences. Right now, I’m looking into it and I am serious about it, but, once it gets deeper into the summer, I’ll get even more serious about it. I’ll talk more about it with my parents. I owe it to the schools to put some serious thought into it.
I saw Coach (Roy) Williams at this game.
Who handles your recruitment mostly at this point, your coaches or your parents?
Oh, my dad handles it.
Well, he’s a good filter. He’s been through it as a two-sport player through football and has been coaching basketball for a while now.
Yes, sir, but there are a lot of schools that’ve expressed some interest. It can be hectic for him, but I’m really happy and grateful for the options.
Going back to Carolina and Duke, how much interest have they expressed in you so far? What’s your interest in both? I know that you were a big Carolina fan growing up.
Yes, sir, but I just like their style of play. I like the coaches. They’re a good academic school too and that’s what I’m looking for.
I remember that you were about a 3.5 student as a freshman and then I heard that you were about a 3.3 this year too.
Yes, sir. I really want to be able to have something that I can fall back on in case anything happens or for things that I’d like to do after basketball. I mean I just love basketball, but I’d like to know that there’s something else in case
Well, you’re going to hopefully live a long life. I always think that it’s a good insurance plan for players. God forbid anything happens, but, at least, you’ll have something of value that an injury can’t take away. Would you be open to Duke as well?
Oh, yes, I like Coach Mike Krzyzewski. I like the way he carries himself and the way he runs his program. I like the pace that they play too. I would be open to any school. I’m grateful for every school that expresses an interest.
What’s your current size?
I’m about 6’1″ and a half. My weight is 192 right now. I’ve gone up from 185 at the end of last year.
Are you trying to get bigger or add muscle? I know that your dad does a lot of training.
I’m not really trying to get bigger, but just get bigger so that I can handle the more physical nature of being a guard. I wanted to be able to get physical with the other guards and also be able to take whatever they did to me.
Sure, well, you like to penetrate and so you’re getting hit every time you go down the lane.
Absolutely, that’s the reason. That’s mainly what I’ve been working on or towards. Mainly, it’s been my shoulders and chest.
Well, you definitely look more developed in those areas.
Yes, sir, I’ve been working hard with my coaches and trainers on improving in those areas because I’ve taken a lot of hits. I like to get to the hole and I like to dish it off.
Well, your dad was in good shape and worked as a trainer.
Yes, he’s been a part of it too.
I remember that you worked out before school at about 6 every morning. Three days a week on strength and then on that VertiMax for the other two days.
Yeah, I never took a break. You can always work on your conditioning, sir. I tried to improve my explosiveness and quickness.
Would you say that a “scoring point guard” is a fair description of you?
It can be, yes, definitely.
On last year’s team, your squad was so young and so they needed you to score.
Absolutely, on last year’s team, they needed me to score, but, on this year’s team, we’ve got plenty of scorers and so I don’t need to try to score on every possession. Scoring hasn’t been on my mind this year, but, if I have to, I have to.
In terms of a timeline, do you have a time when you’d like to either cut down on your list or decide on a school?
Well, yes, sir, I think by mid-season next year, I’ll probably try to cut down on the list.
Have you visited any schools recently and do you have any planned?
Oh, I’ve visited Florida and Miami, but that’s really about it. I plan on visiting a lot of schools this summer. So, hopefully, that’ll help too.
What will you be looking for when you make your visits? Comfort level..
Yeah, comfort level, do I fit in with them, I’d like to be able to have or build a good relationship with the coaches. That’ll be very important. I’d like to have a relationship with my college coaches like I have with my AAU coaches, you know, someone that I can talk to and will work with me to improve my game. That’ll be what I’ll be looking for on the trips.
Tell the audience a little about your father. He was a two-sport athlete, but hurt his knee as like a full or running back and never played again. That was a real shame.
Yeah, he was an All-American in high school and played for Central Florida and it was a shame, but he’s fought back and he’s going to get his Master’s degree now from Central Florida.
I’m glad to hear that.
Oh, yes, sir, and he’s graduating and looking forward to starting his own company.
That’s that entrepreneurial spirit.
Yes, sir, that’s why I’d like to study engineering or even architecture.
Using that mind of yours.
What are some of your goals, short-term and long-term?
Long-term, my dream is to make it to the NBA and then, short-term, is just to win the Peach Jam. That’s my focus.
Those are good goals. By the way, what do you hope to accomplish in the next high school season?
I’d love to win the state title. We bring back almost our whole team and I’d just love to win the title with these guys.
Who are going to be some of your toughest competitors next year?
Well, we’ve been invited to the City of Palms, which is big for our school. I don’t know who we’re going to face there.
They always have a loaded field down there. That’ll be good for your team’s playoff run and also bring some exposure as well.
Yes, sir, they’re always supposed to have very tough competition over there. I’m looking forward to it because I know that there are a lot of good schools out there. Hopefully, we’ll be up to the challenge, but I like the challenge of it.
By the way, have you ever played against Tyus Jones and, if so, how’d you do? How would you compare yourself with him?
We played against each other at the USA. He’s a great player and he’s a slasher. I respect him, but I haven’t spoken to him recently.
Is there a rivalry between you two or not really?
Oh, no, it’s friendly. We just go out there and play our hardest. I mean, on the court, I’m not looking for friends, but, off the court, it’s cool and we’re just playing our games.
Who are some other point guards in your class that people should take note of?
Larry Austin. He’s a great player and a great kid. We’ve gone against each other and he makes me go hard. I make him go hard.
Who are some other players that people should keep an eye out for in your class? Obviously, Dakari..
Oh, well, Dakari, Paul White..
Yes, Okafor. I like being around all of those guys. I like them all.
What about Stanley Johnson?
Oh, yeah, Stanley, he’s talented too and a funny kid.
Yeah, he’s always cracking jokes.
Yeah, he is. Funny kid.
Well, I’ve met and played against Andrew Wiggins, but I’ve never actually talked to him. I’ve seen him around and he’s always working. He seems like a great kid. I feel like I’ve seen a lot of players in my class, but I really don’t feel like I know a lot of them.
I remember you told me that Austin Rivers was the best player that you’ve played with or against. Is Rivers still the best player that you’ve faced?
Yes, I think so. I played with him. Not really against him. I mean I like the way he plays and how he continues to try to make other players better and improve on different aspects of his game. He’s so dangerous and yet, he’s not satisfied. He’s hungry. I’ve really worked a lot on the defensive end. I’ve tried to make it my focus. I love to work on the defensive end. I almost don’t even care about working on my offense, but I have to. I can’t let that slide, but I do actually like to start out by working on my defense. I’m trying to make it better and better.
In what ways do you try to work on your defense? How would you assess your defense as of today?
It’s gotten a lot better. I’ve been doing a lot of side or lateral movements. I want to make my lateral quickness as fast as possible. I’ve working on my on-the-ball defense.
Yes, sir, I’m getting low. My hands are active. My defense has improved a lot. My dad always tells me to start with my defense. If my offense doesn’t come, well, at least, we can always give our best on defense.
Is LeBron still your favorite player?
I love the way he plays. He plays so hard on both ends. I just really enjoy watching him.
For an audience that hasn’t seen you play yet, give them a little scouting report and what would say are your strengths and weaknesses?
My weakness had been that I needed to work on my left hand to make it as strong as my right.
Well, you’ve got a strong right. I almost wonder why they don’t try to overplay your right.
Yes, my strengths are getting to basket and either dishing off or scoring. In terms of a scouting report, I’d say that if my man gets up on me, I’m going to take him to the hole and, if he backs off, I can pull up on him.
Who do you try to model your game after?
Well, on the court, Derrick Rose, but, off the court, I’d like to model myself after LeBron James with the camps and helping young people in the community.
What do you think is the key thing to having or developing good court vision?
Keeping your head up and looking for the big man, if possible. If he’s open, you’ve got to find a way to get it to him or penetrate and drop it off. I don’t want to be one of those guards that tries to just force a shot. As a point guard, you’re supposed to distribute the ball. That’s my job.
How has the experience been “playing up” in age groups?
It’s been good and challenging. I think that if I just played in my age group all these years that I would’ve been a little lazy and I didn’t want that. I’ve liked the challenge. I feel like every time out there, I have to give it my all.
How does the EYBL compare to your high school league?
In high school, you can get away with the little stuff, but here you can’t. It’s constantly challenging. In high school, we’ll sometimes play against some players who could be on the circuit, but not on this constant level. High school really hasn’t been that hard.
What would you like the audience to walk away knowing about you?
That I’m humble. I don’t like to talk about myself. I try to be of service to others in any ways that I can help.
Yes, sir. I’ve done community service. I also used to play football. I was a quarterback and strong safety, but I used to be pretty good at it.
Who are some people that you’ll turn to for guidance in a college decision, whenever you do decide?
My high school coach, Coach Bowlin, I love him. I feel like whenever I have problems, I can come to him with anything. He always helps me out.
I assume your father.
Oh, yes, my dad and also my mom and my family. That’s my guidance.
Duke Head Coach David Cutcliffe has built a reputation of producing NFL quarterbacks throughout his career. In truth, his offenses have produced nearly as many NFL running backs, including players like Jamal Lewis, Deuce McAllister and Arian Foster. This fall, the Blue Devils should feature one of their deepest backfields in recent years, headlined by senior Desmond Scott along with last year’s leading rusher Juwan Thompson and speedy redshirt-sophomore Josh Snead. They will be joined by two outstanding freshmen in Jela Duncan and Shaquille Powell. Duke’s running backs are utilized in all areas of their offense – rushing, receiving, and blocking.
Looking ahead to the class of 2013, the Blue Devils are looking to add to their running back stable, and have expressed a strong interest in Bo Ellis, a powerful back out of Gulliver Prep in Miami, Florida. Ellis is a 5’8″ 185 pound prospect who finished his junior year with over 1300 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns. The son of a former Miami Hurricane, Ellis is no stranger to ACC football, and he has the talent to become the next great Blue Devil from Gulliver Prep to play for Coach Cutcliffe.
BDN: How would you describe your strengths as a player?
Probably my greatest strength would be my vision, because I can find the holes when they’re not there. We study the film so much, me and my quarterback, we study the film so much that we know the weaknesses of the defense and I know exactly what I need to do on a certain play.
BDN: What are you working on this offseason as you prepare for your senior year?
I’m running track this spring, trying to get faster. Working on spring workouts, and working on watching film from last year because most of the teams we played were filled with juniors, so it will basically be the same team that we’ll play this year.
BDN: As you approach your college decision, what are the most important things you are looking for in a school?
The balance between academics and athletics. I want to make sure I get a good academic foundation as well as being at a school that’s used to winning.
BDN: Where do you stand with offers and interest from schools now?
I have offers right now from Boston College, Temple, and Bowling Green. Duke has been talking to me a lot, Duke and Purdue, and West Virginia, and Kansas State.
BDN: Have you had a chance to take any visits this spring?
I haven’t yet, I’m probably going to start doing that in the summer.
BDN: Are there any schools that you definitely plan to visit this summer?
Boston College and Duke, I’m for sure going to go to, as of right now.
BDN: How much do you know about Boston College and Duke, and how interested are you in those two schools?
Boston College just got a new offensive coordinator, I think it’s from Kent State, and they’re running a new offense there, I know the running back they had there a few years ago was pretty good. Duke, Coach Cutcliffe from Duke, he’s very good. He mostly has worked with quarterbacks, but he does really good things with running backs too.
BDN: You’ve had a couple players from your school who have had very good careers for Coach Cutcliffe at Duke.
Yeah, Conner Vernon and Donovan Varner.
BDN: Do you have a timeline in mind for when you plan to narrow things down or make your final decision?
It will probably be after the season, right after the season.