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Duke Basketball Notebook – Hairston, Michigan, Schedule, Scheyer, James, Black

DSCF0032Welcome to another edition of Blue Devil Nation’s Duke Basketball Notebook, where we take a look at the happenings around Coach K’s program with some personal commentary thrown in.

Josh Hairston recovering from surgery

If you have ever been to a game at Cameron, you have seen the extroverted Josh Hairston getting the Cameron Crazies revved up during player introductions. It’s one of the reasons Josh is a fan favorite. Please send Josh well wishes as he is recovering from surgery to repair ligament damage in his right thumb.  Josh is expected to be sidelined for 6-8 weeks.  He injured himself during practice last season, but played through the pain. He joins Marshall Plumlee among the walking wounded;  Plumlee has been seen in a cast in and around Durham. Although nobody likes being injured, we can at least take comfort in knowing that all Blue Devils receive some of the finest medical care available through Duke University, one of the nation’s leaders in health care.

And Duke will play Michigan

The ACC/Big Ten Challenge is alive and well for now, but with the added depth in the ACC, it makes one wonder how long the league coaches will want to schedule an extra big-time game going forward. But this coming year, on December 3rd in Cameron, Duke is slated to take on a Michigan team that will be one of the nation’s best.  The Crazies and the entire Duke fan base love these kind of games, so expect this one to be one tough ticket. Adding to the interest is that the beastly former Duke recruit Mitch McGary comes to town wearing Maize and Blue.  Interestingly, the day he signed with the Wolverines, he mentioned the possibility of going to Cameron and getting booed.  Congratulation, Mitch.  That dream will come true. It will be interesting to see how Coach K and company defend the aggressive McGary with a roster with some challenges in the post. That is the Blue Devils’ only apparent weakness at this point, so look for them to try to compensate with solid play on the wings.

IMG_20110430_110052Wiggins vs Parker

Over the past three years, Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker and to some extent, Julius Randle have played musical chairs as the top-rated high school prospects in the nation. Wiggins signed with Kansas yesterday, spurning the ACC’s Florida State Seminoles. But ACC and Duke fans will still see him up close and personal when Duke travels to Chicago for the Champions Classic in November, where they’ll face Kansas. That means a matchup between Parker and Wiggins. Parker, of course, suffered an injury setback and many feel that may have cost him the top spot in the mythical rankings, but regardless, having watched these kids play over 20 times each in my coverage of AAU ball, I can tell you that they are both supremely talented. Look for the game to get a lot of hype from the Parker-Wiggins angle, but the winner of the Duke vs Kansas matchup will come from how the rest of the Blue Devils and Jayhawks perform.

As an aside, the Blue Devils will also play in the pre-season NIT, where they could run head-on into Arizona, another team destined to be in everyone’s pre-season top 10. So, do you think Duke will be atop the strength of schedule ratings next year? Of course they will. This looks to be one of the most challenging slates in years, and the full schedule won’t even be released until it is hot-hot-hot outside.

Kyle Singler takes his own path

Former Duke forward Kyle Singler has always marched to the beat of his own drummer.  One attribute Kyle has is something that few men in the game possess these days: patience. Singler joined the Detroit Pistons this season after spending time playing for CB Lucentum Alicante, a professional team in Spain. When Singler was on the court this season, the Pistons flourished, so he earned plenty of playing time in his rookie season this year.  His play earned him a berth on the recently released All NBA Rookie 2nd team, which is quite an honor.

2011 K Academy Pictures 020A tougher path for Scheyer but the road is now clear

First of all if you missed this  recent article, you should take time to read it. Jon Scheyer is like many young men growing up playing the game in Chicago in that he has long been a gym rat. Scheyer loves the game of hoops and after helping Duke to win a National Championship in 2010, he sought to continue a career in basketball. There were setbacks along the way, but none more devastating than an eye injury in an NBA summer league game which would eventually cost him his career as a player. Scheyer has now landed on his feet in Durham. As Coach K (per Duke Sports Information) said after his hire, “Jon Scheyer is one of the amazing champions we’ve had in this program and he’s certainly one of the greatest young men to ever wear the Duke uniform.”  Scheyer like many other Duke grads under Coach K came to the one man who could help him, the one man who could help him remain in the sport he loves — Mike Krzyzewski. One of the things which often goes unseen in the world of Duke Basketball is the importance of the “family” nature of the program. Former players can always seek wise counsel and an open door on the top floor of the Schwartz Butters Athletic Building on the Duke campus. Scheyer will now take on Nate James’ former role on the staff as a Special Assistant. During this time, Scheyer will have plenty of time to consider which direction he wants to go with his career. And for the record, the Special Assistant spot is fast becoming a very coveted position in that is offers a springboard into the world of Duke Basketball.

James hits the road running

Nate James gained an assistant coaching job a few years back, but when Jeff Capel, a former player, became available, it only made sense that he move into that assistant’s position, as Capel had previous head coaching experience. The move for James back to the Special Assistant role was only temporary and he was still able to learn from the best, which included Capel, Wojo and the now-Head Coach at Northwestern, Chris Collins. James is no rookie, and he’s hit the road running on the recruiting trail where he has been one of the lead guys on several key prospects.  There is much more information on Coach James and his impact available to you when you join us as a member of Blue Devil Nation Premium, our subscription service. For instance, James is also taking a lead role with …

… Tarik Black

Black was on the Kansas campus yesterday, a day after his visit to Duke, which by all accounts went well. Duke and Black are in a bit of a win-win situation should they choose one another. Duke offers the best roster situation for Black, monster national exposure and he can play for a school which has had NBA first round picks of late with players that didn’t always see major minutes in college. Of course, there is no lack of time at Duke for Black, as the Devils need a big man to round out next season’s roster. If you read my comments on Scheyer, you will realize that Black can become a part of the Duke family and the family takes care of its own. Black would get maxiumum national exposure with the Blue Devils being a media darling and he would also have an opportunity to achieve his dreams of a championship. I don’t think it will be long before we know where the former Memphis player is going, so look for a decision sooner rather than later. Many feel that Josh Pastner never really used Black correctly while at Memphis, while others point to Black’s not being a good rebounder as the primary issue. Either way, Black is a most coveted “get” at this juncture.  It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out.  There are a lot of rumors on this one, but mostly just folks’ speculation taking on a life of its own.

It is also worth noting that Coach Nate James is the lead assistant on the recruitment of Black. James actually took a long look-see at Black during his junior season in high school, so Duke was involved with the young man earlier than most realize. In fact, Blue Devil Nation interviewed Black that same season and looking back on that chat, it was clear that Black valued education and hoops.  Which is the combination that Duke still offers.

Jabari Parker signs LOI

Duke is involved with two studs in Jabari Parker and Julius Randle.  Parker pictured here, is at the very tops of his class as is Randle.  BDN Photo
BDN Photo

DURHAM, N.C. – Simeon Career Academy senior Jabari Parker officially signed his national letter of intent to play basketball at Duke University, the Duke coaching staff announced Thursday.

Shortly after the fall signing period for recruits ended, Parker announced his commitment to Duke with a live press conference on ESPNU on December 20. Because his decision was made after the fall signing period, Parker had to wait until this spring to officially sign his national letter of intent.

“We’re excited for Jabari and his family to join our family here at Duke,” Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “We are confident he will have a great career, and we are glad to have him in our program.”

A 6-8 forward, Parker is a consensus top-five recruit by the major scouting services, earning the No. 1 ranking from Recruiting Services Consensus Index, the No. 2 ranking by ESPN and Scout.com and the No. 4 ranking by Rivals.com. He joins a 2013 recruiting class that includes DeSoto High School guard Matt Jones and Ottawa High School forward Semi Ojeleye.

The first player to twice be named Mr. Basketball of Illinois, Parker has played in the McDonald’s All-American Game, the Jordan Brand Classic and the Nike Hoop Summit. He was named co-MVP at the Jordan Brand Classic after totaling 16 points on 8-of-13 shooting to go with seven rebounds, two assists, two steals and a block. At the McDonald’s All-American Game, he scored 10 points with eight rebounds, three assists, two blocks and two steals. In the Nike Hoop Summit, he netted 22 points with seven rebounds, three steals a pair of blocks.

Parker led Simeon to four straight Illinois Class 4A Championships and a 30-3 record as a senior. In the state championship game against Stevenson, Parker scored 20 points and grabbed eight rebounds to cap a senior season in which he averaged 18.4 points, 10.4 rebounds and 2.7 assists. He averaged 21.7 points during Simeon’s seven-game playoff run.

Parker was also a member of the USA Basketball U16 and U17 teams, helping the U17 squad win gold at the 2012 FIBA U17 World Championship and the U16 team win gold at the 2011 FIBA Americas U16 Championship. He was named USA Basketball’s Male Athlete of the Year in 2011 and MVP of the 2011 FIBA Americas U16 Championship.

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Plain and simple, Tyus Jones is a winner

3HAMPTON, VA — One of the things you can depend on when watching Team Howard Pulley in action during the Nike EYBL circuit, is that point guard Tyus Jones is always going to show.  I’ve covered the AAU circuit in person for about a decade now, and along the way there have been a few special players who always seem to have their team in the game and with whom you can feel confident that when the ball is in their hands at crunch time, good things will happen.

The best prospect I have ever seen in this regard was former Duke PG Kyrie Irving, now an NBA stud.  Irving, though, was special and that made you want to watch all of his games.  Jones may [private] not be in Irving’s elite class, but he’s not far from it, for he has that gift of squeezing out the best from his teammates, even when they are not the most talented bunch.

More so than ever this EYBL season, Jones has had that special presence.  He wants the ball when the game is on the line. Whether it is scoring the ball, getting off a tough pass to a teammate, or finding a way to get to the line, Jones thinks on the fly with the best of them. And he demonstrated all of that this past weekend in Hampton.

Another thing I noticed is that Jones is starting to get his opponents’ best shot every time out, as players try to prove themselves against the best, in front of the various talent evaluators at these events, and boost their own rankings in the process.  One such game where Jones stood out was a match-up against Wisconsin Elite and star guard Rashad Vaughn, a fellow Minnesota standout being recruited by the likes of UNC and others.  The two went at it all game long in front of a bevy of America’s best coaches, including Duke head man Mike Krzyzewski, who never missed a minute of any of Jones’ games.

In a close, high-scoring game, Jones once again took over down the stretch. It started on the defensive end with a key steal, leading to his drawing a foul which helped Howard Pulley tie the game.  With a minute left in the game and the score tied, Jones wiggled free for a three-point dagger.  A game Wisconsin Elite team answered, cutting the lead to 81-80, but Jones iced the game with another three-pointer, giving his team an 84-80 win in one of the session’s better games.

“Up and down, more of a motion offense and style,” Jones stated post-game when asked what kind of team he wants to play for in college. It was easy to see from his performance that this is a kid who could man the controls with ease for a program like Duke.

As you have seen in our other interviews, Jones is saying he wants to make a Fall decision, but if you are looking for a tip on where he is leaning, you are unlikely to get it from the many interviews he does.  Jones is quick to crack a smile but he has a serious poker face as well. He knows how to navigate the unsteady waters of recruiting and the recruiting media just as effectively as he does a defense when he enters the lane.

“In the college game, I just try to watch all the point guards and take bits and pieces from each one.  In the NBA, I love watching Chris Paul and how he takes apart the game,” said Jones post-game.

It’s no wonder why Krzyzewski has taken such a liking to Jones and wants to coach him, for he is a good Duke fit and a player the Blue Devils would like to grow even more.

When asked what he would work on as the summer begins, Jones said, “Just overall speed and strength.”

Jones is a cool customer on the court, never out of control and an assist machine.  In the past, it’s amazed me how much he stuffs the stat sheet in that his smooth performances are not choppy in nature but almost like a silent, steady killer.  In other words, you think he has 16 and 5 only to find out he has 28 points and 12 assists.  He just blends in without being overly flashy like some players try to be in an effort to be noticed.

I joked with Tyus, whose mom liked the name from having heard of former UCLA guard Tyus Edney, that he was like “Jack Frost” on the hardwood, cool and deadly.  That earned a little smile for he is not the type to pound you with cocky assertions while being interviewed.

“I’m just trying to make plays, that is what I am always trying to do.  My teammates have been playing great this weekend, so I feel I owe it to them to make a play down the stretch and that’s what I’ve tried to do the last two games,” said Jones, always one to defer to his teammates after a win.

Jones is a competitor.  He just finds ways to help his team win.  He’s a young man well aware that not all the teams playing now will end up in a steamy Augusta, South Carolina come July for the Nike Peach Jam.  If you get the opportunity to see Jones in person, look at the determination on his face as he drives a crowded lane and watch how he finds the best opportunity presented him, taking advantage of any little weakness by his defenders.

“Definitely, definitely.  Peach Jam is the ultimate goal, so every win you can get whether it’s by one point or fifty points, each one is key,” said Jones when I asked him of his drive and the importance he seemingly placed on every game.

“Competitive game, overtime, it was a great game,” I said to Jones.

Jones agreed. “It was. It was a great game. Going back and forth all game long, there is nothing better than good competition, so it was fun.”

And it is becoming fun to watch Tyus Jones and how he finds ways to help his Howard Pulley team win. [/private]