What a week it has been for Duke Basketball! There is no denying the "feel good" atmosphere around the program these days. It began last Thursday night when Austin Rivers was selected by the New Orleans Hornets with the 10th pick in the NBA draft. He was followed by Miles Plumlee, who went 26th to the Indiana Pacers, giving Duke two more first round draft selections under Coach Mike Krzyzewski. On Saturday, coveted transfer Rodney Hood pulled the trigger for Duke, so as I say, it has indeed been a good week for the program.
If you've seen Miles Plumlee of late, he sports a spiffy new look that recalls Clark Kent chic, and it fits him to a tee. Plumlee was often seen by the media as a mild-mannered type, always polite, grounded and professional. But this past Thursday, Plumlee ripped open his shirt to reveal he has a little Superman thing going on as well. While the Pacers' pick shocked many, those of us who followed Plumlee's progress and spoke with league insiders saw this coming. Plumlee is a workout freak, and he posted great numbers during the NBA combines. Many teams saw a player with both the athletic ability and the skill set to make it in the league. You can't teach height, of course, and Miles's size, combined with his ability to shoot from the permiter and run the court, served him well. NBA coaches and execs also did not forget that Miles learned how to play the game under Coach Krzyzewski at Duke, and that at 23, he's already mature in many ways that should aid in his transition to the next level.
Austin Rivers is one of the most unfairly judged players I have been around since covering Duke basketball. Many mistake his confidence as a brash arrogance, when the reality is that confidence is an integral part of his game and a key component of his drive and his motor. Desire can carry a player a long way, and Rivers unquestionably has it. It never ceases to amaze me how uninformed internet chatter can be taken as gospel truth, even by the "mainstream" media, and this was certainly the case with regard to the perceptions of this young man. I can tell you first hand that Rivers is a good kid, polite and professional when need be, but also not afraid to speak his mind. He is the type of kid that would settle differences with a game of one-on-one; the only thing wrong with that is how unfair it would be to just about any opponent he would face.
Austin leaves Duke having provided the program and its fans with one of the most thrilling and unforgettable moments in Duke's long and glorious history when his buzzer-beater to beat UNC hit nothing but the bottom of the net. While Rivers will certainly have to adjust to the physicality of the NBA game, he has been a big success at every level, and this one will be no different.
The news came Saturday evening that Rodney Hood, a coveted transfer from Mississippi State, would be attending Duke. In our latest BDN Premium update we discuss his addition for our members, and one of the things we share is that he will be on campus this Wednesday. Hood's addition changes the landscape of Duke's recruiting, and we discuss that as well in the Duke Basketball Team and Recruiting Update. Hood was a player BDN was on early when he was on the AAU circuit, when he let us know that he had always liked the Blue Devils growing up. Hood will be allowed to practice with the team this year, and should be a part of the N.C. Pro-Am, where fans will get a firsthand view of his game.
We are a mere two months away from kickoff on the gridiron, and the Blue Devils face a bear of a task in the opener, as Florida International comes to Wallace Wade returning 18 starters from back-to-back bowl teams. There is no doubt that this game, even though it's the opener, is vital to the Devils' hopes of a run at a bowl themselves. If a season opener could ever be "must win" for Duke, this would be the year. We'll be talking more football starting this month as Cut surveys his team. Make plans now to support Duke Football by buying season tickets and check out the new "Cut's Corner."
USA Basketball is about to take center stage as well, and Coach K and company will keep Duke in the headlines in their effort to bring another gold medal home from London. BDN has always supported and covered Team USA's efforts, and this season will be no different.