After a solid home victory over Florida State on Saturday, the Duke Blue Devils travel to Pittsburgh tonight to take on a hot Panthers team. Tip is at 7 PM.
Make no mistake, this will be one of the toughest games of the season for Duke, and to win on the road at Pitt will be a tall task.The good news is that the Blue Devils enter the game playing solid basketball, but the bad news is the Panthers have about as strong a home court advantage as there is in the league. The student section is called the "Zoo," and they'll do their best to make the more youthful Duke players uncomfortable.
I have told anyone who would listen that the Panthers are one of the most underrated teams in the poll, even before the new one is released later today. Pitt is 18-2, but many feel their schedule has been soft. However, the Panthers have handled every team easily, save losses to Cincinnati and Syracuse. But while the Panthers have not played the schedule Duke has to date, they will certainly have their ears pinned back for this one.
That's because moving forward, they have only two truly tough games left, those being tonight's game with Duke and then the rematch, at home, with Syracuse. Those are the only two ranked teams remaining on their schedule. So again the unbalanced schedule may play a role in the outcome of the conference race. The long and short of it is that a win tonight could well put them in the driver's seat for the regular season ACC title, and that would earn them a favorable ACC Tournament draw in their first year in the league.
The Panthers are a tough bunch that take after their confident coach Jamie Dixon. They are led by senior Lamar Patterson, a 6-5 guard who has the skill set that Duke has struggled with in the past. Patterson scored 28 points to lead the Panthers to a road win over Maryland on Saturday.
Speaking of Saturday, both teams face an equally quick turnaround to tonight's matchup. But at least Pitt is at home, while Duke had to cut short its preparation in order to board their flight to the Steel City.
If you are figuring out that I think this game will a foreboding task, then you are accurate in that assessment. I actually think this could prove to be a tougher road game than the one this Saturday where Duke takes on undefeated Syracuse.
But the Blue Devils are playing solid basketball right now, and they've improved. This will be a window showing just how far this team has come. But it'll take some mental toughness to win this game. It will also take a solid team effort and the ability to shut out a hostile crowd in yet another game that the opponent has marked on their calendar since the schedule was announced. To say this game is huge for Pitt is an understatement, and their fans will be ready.
But this game is big for Duke too, and with Mike Krzyzewski at the helm, they'll be ready.
Chances are that we'll see a grinder of a game; according to Las Vegas, Duke is a 4 point underdog.
This will be a tall task and if Duke wins, it'll be a huge one. The Blue Devils still have two games left with Syracuse and their annual battles with UNC, among other challenges, so this is a majorly important game in the conference standings.
I'm expecting a hard-fought game that will go down to the wire, one that could come down to the last possession. Make no mistake, the Blue Devils will have to bring their "A" game and fight off a lot of intangibles to stay in this one and come out with a win.
The fact that the team is an underdog would make a victory all that much sweeter. These are the kind of tense games we all love, whether we are fans for media. We're in store for some nerve-racking fun.
The Blue Devils cruised to a 78-56 win over Florida State today and they had a nice contribution from Marshall Plumlee who tallied 7 points and 7 rebounds. Plumlee brought a lot of energy today in a game he can build off going forward. Blue Devil Nation chatted him up in the Duke locker room -
Vegas, baby! It’s bright lights, late nights, a high-rolling, 24/7, look-at-me party that is a magnet for the young and rich, including many young and rich athletes. You would think that anyone – especially a basketball player -- who grew up in the oasis in the middle of the Nevada desert would almost have to be all about the ego, all about the style and the bling and all about the Benjamins.
If you thought that about Chase Jeter, you could not be more wrong.
The junior forward at Las Vegas’ Bishop Gorman High School and his mother and father have their feet planted firmly on the ground, despite the whirlwind of attention brought on by Chase’s ascension to be one of the top forwards in the Class of 2015. Duke, along with a seemingly endless list of other elite programs, has set its sights on landing Jeter, whose combination of size, skills, smarts, and character would make him a unique and highly desirable addition to any team in the nation fortunate enough to see him enroll in the Fall of 2015.
In a wide-ranging interview last weekend at Bishop Gorman with Chase and his father Chris Jeter, the fast-rising forward spoke at length about his background, his game, his season, his recruitment, and his hopes for the future.
Chase Jeter was born and raised in Las Vegas, the son of Kim and Chris Jeter. Kim is a longtime elementary school teacher in the public school system in Las Vegas; Chris, who played on the greatest of UNLV teams under Jerry Tarkanian, including the teams that faced Duke in back-to-back memorable NCAA Tournament games in 1990 and 1991, is a veteran motorcycle officer on the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department. Though Kim and Chris divorced when Chase was three, they remain close friends and appear to share the joy of raising and supporting their son. Kim and Chris are so at ease with each other and remain so involved in each other’s lives that if you didn’t know, you’d think they were still married – thirteen years later.
Chase attended public school through the eighth grade, transferring to Bishop Gorman when he began his freshman year of high school. Gorman is stunning; walking around makes you feel like you’re touring a small college campus. The facilities are top-rate, and the academics are excellent. In fact, Chase stated without hesitation that it was the combination of the academic reputation of Gorman along with it being a consistent basketball powerhouse that led him to choose it.
Jeter is serious about the academics – it’s not just lip service. The proof is in the pudding. At this academically demanding high school, his sophomore year 3.9 GPA raised his cumulative GPA to 3.8. Handling college courses is not going to be a problem for him. His intelligence and academic ability make it unsurprising that other excellent academic schools such as Vanderbilt, Michigan, and Cal are on Chase’s long list of suitors.
Young Chase Jeter started playing basketball at the local YMCA and in Las Vegas rec leagues, as hoops was always his favorite sport. He had two growth spurts relatively close in time to each other. In the first, between the 7th and 8th grades, he grew from 6 feet to 6’3”, and then over the following year he grew another four inches, to 6’7”. And he’s still growing.
Jeter is currently the #19 rated recruit in the nation according to Scout, #21 according to Rivals, and #37 on the ESPN list. He has grown from a thin 6’9” kid to a full 6’10” and he says he’s actually up to 6’11.” His body has begun to fill out as well, and with the frame he possesses and the workout regimen he’s on, he’s sure to add to the 220 pounds he now carries. But he’s not obsessed with adding weight, by any means. Consistent with his disposition, Chase is content to let nature essentially take his course, and while the work in the weight room will help (as will the nightly sit-ups and push-ups – talk about old school!), his body will add mass when it is naturally ready to do so.
Jeter views himself as a stretch-4 going forward, and indeed he plays that position at Gorman, as he starts alongside top-5 national recruit Stephen Zimmerman, the seven-foot lefty being recruited by just about all the elite programs as well. Chase is very comfortable playing back-to-the-basket, and indeed says that one of the core strengths of his game are his low-post scoring and finishing around the rim with good touch. But he also has no problem in facing up and shooting the midrange J. He likes to hit the boards, and is aggressive at both ends of the floor.
He works out a lot with Zimmerman on days the team doesn’t practice. When I saw them workout last weekend, just the two of them and one other teammate plus a coach, they worked extensively on proper technique, ball faking, ballhandling, and footwork in the post. Indeed, Chase’s footwork is another area of his game that he is proud of, and he should be, because he’s worked hard at mastering that important fundamental. He admits that he has to get stronger so that he can maintain a solid base and move guys out of position rather than get moved out himself, but again, with natural growth and his training regimen, that should not be a problem.
It is not surprising that, having been told by Jeter that he values the fundamentals, and then seeing him work out and work on them so hard, that the NBA players he models himself after are Tim Duncan and LaMarcus Aldridge. Those guys are not flashy, they are most assuredly not about the bright lights and the bling. Duncan is “The Big Fundamental” after all. Those two guys work hard on their games, they are efficient, they don’t worry about who gets the credit, and they win. Sounds to me like two pretty good guys to emulate.
With all the travel they have done, this season has been very hectic for the Bishop Gorman team. They traveled to Chicago in early December for the Nike Elite Classic, where Coach K watched the Gaels suffer a tough defeat at the hands of Chicago’s Curie High, led by Kansas-bound 2014 big man Cliff Alexander. They then went to Arizona, where they went 1-1, falling to traditional power Oak Hill Academy. Then it was back home to Vegas for the Tarkanian Classic, where the Gaels won four of five games, bowing only to Oakland’s Bishop O’Dowd, led by star forward Ivan Rabb. Then it was up to Portland for the Les Schwab Classic, where Gorman won three times before losing badly to Rainier Beach (WA), a team that Jeter feels is the best team that Gorman has faced this year. Not surprising given that they feature Louisville commit Shaqquan Aaron and two other players being recruited heavily by Pac-12 schools. Finally, the Gaels headed east again, this time to Wheeling, West Virginia for the Cancer Research Classic, where they swept two games, including one against Top 15 forward Carlton Bragg’s Villa Angela-St. Joseph (OH) squad.
Interestingly, when asked about his matchups with Rabb and Bragg, Jeter stated that they really didn’t match up in a traditional sense, because Bishop Gorman played a lot of zone defense in those games. The Gaels play a lot of man-to-man against lesser, local opposition, but Coach Grant Rice has opted for the zone against top opponents. But Jeter is nevertheless confident in his man-to-man abilities, as he does get some experience at playing man at Gorman, plus his AAU team (Dream Vision, a Las Vegas-based squad that also features Zimmerman) plays almost exclusively man.
Chase anticipates running with Dream Vision again next summer. Unless there is a change in affiliation, that would mean he would be on the Adidas circuit rather than the Nike-sponsored EYBL. But regardless, per both Chase and his parents, he and Zimmerman will not be a package deal when it comes to committing to college. Each will be making his own, independent decision.
There is always a lot of misinformation and plenty of erroneous assumptions made concerning which schools have actually offered scholarships to which players. Jeter stated to me that he has firm, in-hand, actionable offers from – in no particular order -- Duke, Arizona, UNLV, Kansas, USC, Cal, Louisville, UNC, Gonzaga, Oregon, UConn, UCLA, Michigan, and Vanderbilt. Some have reported an offer from Indiana, but that is incorrect.
Also in error is the word on the internet that Chase’s father Chris is pushing for him to stay home and attend UNLV. Refuting those rumors, Chris stated, “I’ve been reported as saying that . Any parent would be proud to have their child attend the school they graduated from, but this is really up to Chase and his mom and I are open to that. His mom and I are very proud of him and will support him in any decision he makes.”
In fact, not only is Chris not exerting any pressure on Chase to choose UNLV, but the Rebels also do not have any advantage in Chase’s mind despite being coached by Dave Rice, brother of Bishop Gorman coach Grant Rice. “I look at him as another college coach who I have a good relationship with. I don’t think of him as my high school coach’s brother. It’s not that kind of factor. It’s more professional than that.” Grant Rice will be involved to a degree in helping Chase make his decision, but “when it comes down to it, it’s a family decision, so it’ll be me and my parents.”
One of the factors that is important to Jeter in his recruitment is the coaches actually coming to watch him play, as Coach K did in Chicago. While phone calls and texting are nice, there is nothing like the personal touch, and nothing like the feeling of a coach – in particular the head coach – taking the time and making the effort to see the young man on the floor. To Jeter, it “shows they’re interested, they care, they’re not just trying to say they recruited me. I have interest in schools that have a high level of interest in me.” In addition to watching him in Chicago, Chase said that Coach K has been to one of his workouts, and that he and Coach Wojo were at a lot of his games last summer as well. Others who Chase says have made significant efforts to watch him play include Roy Williams, Steve Alford, Andy Enfield, Sean Miller, Dana Altman and Brian Fish (Oregon assistant), John Beilein and LaVall Jordan (Michigan assistant), Dave Rice, and Rick Pitino. “So they’re the ones I’m most interested in too.”
Speaking of Coach Wojo, he is the lead assistant on the Jeter recruitment for Duke. Chase says that Wojo follows him on social media, and that the two of them exchange text messages a lot. Coach K’s contact is more via the phone than via texts.
But coaches visiting him will of course not be the only important factor when decision time comes, which Chase stated will be in the fall, before his senior season begins. He also wants to attend a school with a chance to win a national championship, one that will prepare him properly for the NBA, and that has solid academics. Then he’ll also look at style of play, though he feels that he can fit in with any style, due to his abilities to play in the post, on the wing, or in the midrange area.
Chase had quite positive things to say about the Duke program and how he sees himself fitting in there. “Duke is fun to watch. They play hard for the names on the front and back of the jersey, both of which are important. Coach K is strong; he trusts his staff, and I know he’s not going anywhere and I like that about them.” Jeter, approaching 6’11” but with an inside-outside game, has the versatility to his game that Coach K often covets, and knows how to take advantage of. “I see myself as stretch 4, and I can cause a lot of hassle for teams in terms of matchup problems, so I can see myself playing there. I’d fit in also because I can play more than one position, and Duke likes flexibility in the lineup.” Jeter also expressed no preference between an up-tempo and a slower game, stating that he is comfortable with both and can “find his niche” in either type of system.
Jeter is also a leader out there, which he exhibits primarily by communicating on the floor and talking in the huddle. Natural leaders thrive at Duke under the guidance of the coach believed by many to be the greatest leader in coaching today.
Coach K is a strong personality and a strong coach. This is something that some recruits shy away from, but not Jeter. “He trusts his staff and his players. I feel like he knows what he’s doing, and I want a chance to play for a strong coach like that. There’s a lot of great coaches out there and he’s one of them that I could see myself playing for.”
Jeter confirmed that he will be taking an official visit to Duke for the UNC game in March. His dad Chris filled in the details of how that happened and how the Jeters view the visit. “We were talking with Coach (Roy) Williams about a UNC visit in March and figured out that that time was an opportunity to watch both teams play. These are two schools Chase is very interested in, so it was perfect timing for that.” Despite the conversation with the UNC coach being the genesis of the trip, “we won’t be visiting Carolina on that visit. That wouldn’t be right. They would get their own visit. This is for Chase and Duke to get to know each other better, with some quality time.”
Jeter has not made decisions as to what schools will receive his remaining official visits.
It doesn’t take much time in the presence of Chase, Chris, and Kim Jeter to feel that he is a special young man. He is grounded, humble, dedicated, respectful, smart, and personable. Everything that anyone would want in a young man representing their university. Chris Jeter, the soft-spoken and gentle ballplayer-turned motorcycle officer, but more importantly, outstanding father, said it best. “Any school would be lucky to have him as a player on the court and in the classroom, and as a member of the community. We’re extremely proud of him regardless of whether he goes to Duke, UNLV, UCLA . . . He’s a great kid to call “son” and we love him very much."
Solid gold, indeed.