Alex Murphy – Murphy looked good in the practice, following up with some hustle baskets and moving well on the floor. There is no doubt Murphy practices well, but what he will need to do to earn serious playing time this coming season is the be consistent and confident with his play. Murphy has a solid shot at being a contributor if he can translate his practice play into game action. In the past, he has struggled a bit with this and from what I’ve heard the coaches think it begins and ends with his personal confidence in his own abilities.
Andre Dawkins – He has had to work into shape again after a long lay off but he did work hard to expand his game with a trainer in the off season. Dawkins still has that three-point shot and he seemed more active defensively which is a key. People quickly forget that without Dawkins key shots, Duke may not have slipped past Baylor to win the 2010 National Championship, but the key for Dawkins is to show he is not a liability by being aggressive and active on the court. “He’s been pretty good in practice,” said one person close to the situation with emphasis in a recent conversation when we were talking of players vying for the fifth starter spot.
Marshall Plumlee – The lone true Duke big man looked pretty good in the pre season viewings showing little signs of being hobbled by off season surgery. Plumlee drew loud cheers for his hustle play in the recent open practice and he earned high praise a season ago before being sidetrack by injury. One assistant coach said he was legitimately was set to get some major playing time a season ago. Plumlee will not be challenged a lot in practice by other big men, so stay tuned to see how that translates come game action.
Tyler Thornton – Many who follow Duke basketball thought it a no brainer for Thornton to be named team captain. What people do not see is how hard-nosed and team dedicated this young man is on the court. He’s a gentlemen in the locker room, but he’s not afraid to do the “needed,” dirty,” work including a bit of timely trash talking in a game. Thornton will carve out a role on a very talented roster.
Josh Hairston – You may not always see on television that Josh Hairston comes over and pumps up the Cameron Crazies before every home game. The outgoing Hairston is a rah-rah guy at heart and he’s a senior leader. The key for Hairston will be to accept what could be a difficult role as a leader more than a player on a roster which is loaded. But don’t count Josh out just yet, for he will not give up his minutes without plenty of hustle.
Quinn Cook – Duke hopes to see a more seasoned Cook this season. In the off season he worked out with Nolan Smith a lot in the D.C. and he’s come back a better on ball defender on the defensive end. Cook is what I would consider a scoring point guard but he will be taking on a bit of a new role where I am expecting Duke to have multiple players handle and bring the ball up. Still, there is reason to think he can elevate his teammates to lofty heights and he is a key component to success. In short, Cook is now a veteran ACC guard.
Rasheed Sulaimon - Known by his teammates as Sheed, the Texas native can break you down off the dribble and that makes him valuable. Word is he’s not played up to expectations in some circles, but raise your hand if you are worried. Yeah, not many hands in the air. The key for Sulaimon will be to adjust to a new offensive scheme which will feature Hood and Parker. Sulaimon has the ability to make a huge impact with his on ball defense.
Matt Jones - Okay. I will admit that I thought Jones could be the odd man out on a talented roster in his freshman season. But Jones came in early and has worked his tail off per sources close to the situation. Jones is stronger than a season ago in AAU ball and has better developed his handle. A shooter in high school, the key for Jones will be to play all aspects of the game, a thing Coach K loves.
Amile Jefferson - There will be games where has to defend the post and games where he can float out, but Coach K seems to be high on Jeffersons abilities praising him early on. Jefferson was not particularly sharp in the practice scrimmages, but that is not a worry. Jefferson worked out in Philly in the off season and he just brings that feel for the game to the table. Think efficiency for that is what Krzyzewski hopes to see from Jafferson this season.
Semi Ojeleye - I thought Ojeleye could contribute right away last AAU season, mainly due to his advance body at his age. The key for Ojeleye is to learn to play quicker and that starts in the mind. It is not easy adjusting to the speed of the game at the ACC level and for him to contribute right away, he will likely have to defend multiple positions and be cohesive with teammates when his number is called.
Jabari Parker – Parker will get every opportunity to show off his skill set right away in Durham. But this is all new to Parker, not the game of hoops mind you, but an immediate role where he is asked to do it all. Expect Parker to be all over the court this season. As for his demeanor, Parker seems quite relaxed his own skin and anxious to get the ball rolling which is good news for the Duke fanbase.
Rodney Hood – Silky and smooth, Hood will be allowed to do his thing at Duke. The coaches feel like Mississippi State never tapped into his potential and they are turning him loose. You will love Hoods’ mid range game and his length and we can only hope he nails his free throws for he will be at the line a lot.
This was just a few brief observations and more are coming as we get closer to the season. We’ll be talking of several aspects of the game, the competition and more as the week goes on.