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EYBL Session 3 Recap – The Duke Basketball Prospects

SONY DSCIt’s time to reflect back on the Nike EYBL Session 3 in Hampton with concern to Duke Basketball recruiting efforts. We have more interviews from the even on way, but before we get to those, here is what I took away after watching the event.

The first thing which comes to mind is that this is not the strongest class in memory and I am not talking the 17’s but the U-16’s as well. Nobody on the 16-U has been identified as a serious Duke prospect, save, three kids who are playing up or with the older kids.

One of those kids is Harry Giles, a 6-10, talented big man who just returned to action after a long lay off from an injury. His coaches used him in five-minute increments this past weekend and I have a somewhat mixed review. Firstly, it’s obvious that it will take him a while to get back into playing shape and it is a mild concern that he’s missed a year of on court development. He showed flashes of his old self with that one handed hook and his ability a use his length in the lane. Many around showed concern out loud, but I think Giles will be just fine. We chatted with Giles and we’ll bring you what he had to say, but his comments were mainly on coming back from injury.

The other kid playing up is Jayson Tatum, a 6-8 wing for the St. Louis Eagles. He’s long, lean, quick and can play multiple positions. Like Giles, he’s a high character kid and humble considering his immense skills. But don’t let his demeanor fool you, for he is quick to tell you his hope is to be a one and done player. Judging his skill set at 16, I can see that happening.

Many of you heard me mention a package deal last Friday. Well, there is legitimate hope that these two could land at Duke but make no mistake, there is work to be done. To get these two Duke-type kids, the Blue Devils will have to hold off their arch rival North Carolina and Kentucky. While others are listed, I think these three are clearly the teams to beat and those with a tangible shot at the duo. It’s worth noting that the two sought each other out after games and hung out together.

When I questioned Giles in a follow-up about his relationship with Tatum, he pointed to having much in common, mainly values and family up bringing. The two are both from Christian faiths and both are mature, smart with their answers and alarmingly down to earth to have such talent.

Giles basically said he’s taking it slow with his injury and he dealt with questions about it over and over in a relaxed way, telling me he knew this was part of it all. It took Tatum little time to re-tweet my various comments on him, so yes, they are media savvy, but seem genuine with their answers, not guarded and no one liners like a prospect I will get to in a bit.

Anyhow, you can certainly see why Duke is all in with these two and while there is again, work to be done, they seem to be in excellent shape. They always seem to hold Duke and Krzyzewski in high regard but my main question line was to get to know these kids a little better and not so much hard details of pushing a Duke agenda. Even when other asked questions, the Duke answers came out nice but one must never read too much into that. Also, the biggest change in prospects from my experience comes in between their junior and rising junior seasons.

You may have also heard the chatter on 2016’s Edrice Adebayo, known as “Bam,” to those around him. Standing 6-9 and weighing in at 230, he’s a raw but gifted athlete who has a handler. That handler was questioned why he didn’t accept a recent UNC offer in that the kid grew up a major fan and he said they just wanted to see what’s out there. The vast majority of those I trust in the business think UNC is a lock but Duke had shown some interest. Who knows, maybe they want to see UNC go ahead and get theirs to clear the board. But whatever the reason, be it the staff feels they can get it or not, they’ve been in touch.

Let’s jump to Henry Ellenson, a 2015 big man with a nice motor who plays with tenacity and hard at all times. I really liked his game and the kid can play and is a lock to be a good college player in my opinion. But no matter the media questioning him, he gives you bare minimum words. His Dad is a bit of a “hoot,” and coaches Playground Elite as an assistant. I heard he would not let his son talk to media after losses. Anyhow, highly skilled and would love to see him at Duke, but my gut is it will be hard as heck to get him out of his immediate area. You’ve seen those prototypical Badger forwards/bigs before, right? Well, he is a clone of that or a typical Nordic looking multi skilled big.

I watched Ivan Rabb and spoke to him as well and of course watched a very skilled and talented Stephen Zimmerman as well. UNC media was all over these two, especially Zimmerman and the two actually mentioned a package deal. But don’t be fooled. Word is they do not want to play at the same school and an even heavier word is that Big Zim ends up at UCLA, an Adidas school or UNLV. That likely goes for Rabb as well, but I think he could be a tad more open that the aforementioned,

The other 2016 kid playing up I mentioned above is Tyus Battle, a 6-5 wing. He moves well, but I got least views on him of all on my list. He is a sold prospect and we’ll have out interview up with him soon.

That brings us to Caleb Swanigan. The more I chatted with him, the more impressed I was with his charter as well, but it’s a tough story. He wants to be the first in his family to more or less succeed. He has tall brothers who balled but none followed through before set backs. He mentioned sisters as well and none of his sibling graduated from high school. He carries a 3.3 GPA but has reclassified and set off some hype in that the kid can play. I really like him and his guardian, but it’s too early to get a feel here. Also, the Plumlees former coach will be involved, via the Indy Speice AAU organization. I do think Duke will turn the heat up here. Again, most of my initial concerns continued to fall away as I learned more about this mature and focused young man. One more thing, he said he did get and NBA Top 100 Camp invite and I will have a list of the Duke kids from Nike on the message board soon.

Lastly, I talked at length with Luke Kennard who gave Duke Assistant Coach Jon Scheyer for feeling the gaps left by departed coaches. He spoke of what they had in common and for the record Duke has told him he could see a little PG so he’s working on his handle. I will have an interview coming with him, but he did mention to me that he thought it was just a matter of time with Chase Jeter which is what I have been telling you. He also said they talked and that he spent some time chatting with Rasheed Sulaimon as well. As for Jeter, I continue to hear from sources close to the situation that Adidas did not want him to verbal too early for exposure to his team and their circuit. One last note, he said he was trying to talk Jeter into joining a Nike team.

This is an unusual year in that Duke has a lot of prospects in other places. They still like Diamond Stone, but so does everybody else and he plays where nobody ever sees him. And then there is the Adidas circuit. Anyhow, that’s a brief update and I will get to the other interviews soon.

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Interview – Duke Prospect Jayson Tatum is the Real Deal

SONY DSCThe young and talented Jayson Tatum has just recently turned 16 years old, but he’s as composed on and off the court as any 18-year-old could want to be.  After covering the Nike EYBL Session  3 this past weekend, the one player who stood out the most to me was this young man who claimed to had learned his basketball skills from his mom. It doesn’t take long to see why this prospect is considered on the nations best as you watch his wide array of skills and abilities. He plays with immense confidence, desire, always under control and he’s always ready for the big shot when the spot light is shining in a close game.  Tatum is the shining star on a St. Louis Eagles team that is struggling this EYBL season, a team which has all but been eliminated from the Nike Peach Jam Finals in July unless they get on a major roll. But that doesn’t mean he will not still be balling as he heads to Vegas in July to once again play for Team USA.   I caught up to Tatum after he led his team to a close win this past Sunday where there were also questions from Inside Carolina and a Rivals site, but asked a great many of the following questions in our latest interview with a prime Duke prospect.

You had a current NBA player Brad Beal, a former St. Louis alum on the bench.  What has that been like?

Brad Beal has come out and support us and help us with his knowledge of the game, so that’s a good thing.

When I watch you play, the word that first comes to mind is versatility …

That’s what most people say when they describe me

You recently turned 16 years old.  Have you talked with doctors about further growth?

The last time I talked to the Doctor about a year or so ago, he said that I could grow to be 6-10 and maybe 7-0.

Wow! Just 6-10 huh? You’re going to be a pretty impressive guy by then, as you are now. How do you remain humble moving forward as your name gets bigger and bigger.

I have to give credit to my parents who always keep me level-headed and keep me working on my game.

As far as your family goes, who will help you make the final decision. Who will be involved with that?

Really just my Father and my Mom, those two will help me through this process and that’s about it.

Did you have a dream school growing up?

When I was younger, Ohio State.

What about them now?

They’re still on my list like everybody else. When they had Evan Turner and those guys I liked and followed them.

Now you will be involved with USA Basketball. Will you go out there in July?

Yes, I will go in July, right after Peach Jam.

Talk about your relationship with other kids on the USA circuit. You have a strong relationship with Harry Giles, right?

Yeah. We really got closer and tighter on bus ride and planes and playing against one another and things like that.

Are there any other Team USA players you might consider playing with in college from the USA circuit?

Probably the most would be Harry Giles and VJ King.

Have  you patterned your game after watching any college or NBA players?

I’ve always known I was going to be a pretty big guard, so I watched old school Magic Johnson and Kyle Anderson and players like that. As far as my post game, I liked Kobe and his work in the post.

What position do you envision yourself playing at the next level?

Primarily probably the thee and go to the four a little bit and if we have some bigger kids, maybe to two.

Have you made any unofficial visits to date?

Missouri, Kansas, Illinois, Michigan State, Kentucky and Illinois.

Any others unofficial visits planed?

Not officially, but I try to go to some when I can.

What kind of situation are you looking for in college?

The perfect situation is wherever I have the best relationship with the coaching staff. If I do go away from home , I have to go somewhere to be comfortable leaving home.

What the most important factor?

Just having that ability to communicate.

Would it be a disappointment if you are not one and done?

(pauses and reflects before answering) Uh, yeah. That’s what I have had my goals set towards, so, yes.

Many have said it may be hard to get you on the East Coast.  Anything to that?

Not at all, I am open to any school in the country.

What do you think of North Carolina?

I just look at the history and great players like Vince Carter and Michael Jordan. Coach Roy Williams is just a great coach.

What about Duke?

They’re a great school also like North Carolina with a great coach and a history of winning.  I watched Duke play a lot more this year, because they were on TV a lot more with Jabari and they way they move the ball and let their players be themselves was attractive.

What do you look for with concern to playing with a coach or school?

You need structure but you also need to be able to showcase what you can do while you’re there.

The most important factor in a coach would be?

Just how their coach prepares each and every player to reach their goal if they have to the potential to do so.

When did Roy Williams last visit you?

Around the end of the basketball season, he came to our game. He was telling me how my game improved since summer.

You talked about your relationship with Harry Giles. Have you two discussed playing college ball together?

Yeah, it’s a strong possibility but not official yet. We talk often on the phone and things like that.

Note- Wake Forest, Duke, North Carolina and Kentucky are the teams recruiting both.

Any other players besides Giles you might play with?

Uh, I mean we’ve played together the most but we are open to play with other players but we have the strongest relationship. We kind of grew up in the same type of home and things like that so we have a lot in common.

Values and stuff like that?

(nods) Yes.

What about Coach K.  Have you talked to him of late?

Yeah, I talked to him. He actually came to a workout this past spring to watch me play in school. He’s talked to my mom and dad on the phone and I’ve talked to him as well.

What about Kentucky?

I enjoy talking to Coach Cal and we have a pretty strong relationship.

He moved on to his next game after that question and I will follow-up with an earlier interview with him on the members message board shortly and talk more of his game and a possibly package deal with Harry Giles.

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Caleb Swanigan draws Duke interest

SONY DSCWhen Caleb Swanigan reclassified to the Class of 2015, it set in motion a coming hype machine. Since that decision last week, he’s now become a hot commodity amongst certain schools in the market for big men. Before his decision, Michigan State was probably the biggest name involved, but now the 6-9, 256 pound prospect from Fort Wayne, Indiana is garnering interest from the likes of Duke and many others.

Despite the fact that he has a single year to make his decision, Swanigan said he was taking his recruitment in stride. When asked who was involved for his services, he hesitated to mention any of them. “Right now, they’re all coming at me about the same, some new schools came in recently but I haven’t had a chance to sit down and think about all that much yet. He continued, “If I have to make a decision in April, then that’s when I’ll make it because I’m in no rush.”

Swaingan is a true paint eater who plays his AAU ball for Speice Indy Heat, who of course was the AAU school of the three Duke Plumlee brothers. Swanigan passes the ball well for a big man and he knows how to body up on players already and he admitted that he was just too mature to play with the younger kids and that he had the grades to reclassify thanks to summer school. When questioned on his projected SAT scores, his adopted Father, Roosevelt Barnes said it was about a 3.3 to 3.4.

If you think you may have heard his Barnes name before, it could be because he played professional football for the Detroit Lions and he played point guard at Purdue University. His Dad also said that he’d be the one that would help to make the decision and that there was a possibility that an AAU coach would chip in his thoughts.

Like his son, there seems to be no rush for a decision and it’s clear to see that despite the reclassification that these two have a lot of talking to do between now and signing day.

The Swanigan Camp told me that Michigan State and Cal had been the most aggressive with their recruitment early on but that they had heard from Indiana, Purdue, Kansas and Kentucky recently as well as Duke.

It’s hard not to like this young mans game and you can see how he would be an Elton Brand type at Duke. He has pretty good footwork, runs the floor well and knows how to claim his space. Speaking of spacing, I made the comment to his Dad that in his first outing, his offense around the rim looked to need a little polish, but he disagreed saying he had an off game. He went on to say he thought Swanigan had too many moves and didn’t know which one to go to.

He may have had a point in that his team did not space well in the game and when looking at the Nike stats, you will see he’s near the top in scoring. He played better in his second outing, but it’ll take me another look on Sunday to get a better take on his overall game.

“I struggled today more than usual but we won and that’s all that matters. I just want to help my team get to the Peach Jam (Nike EYBL Finals), said Swanigan.

When asked what he might be looking for in a school, Swanigan replied, “I’m look for competition, a coach and his security and how long he’s going to be there, the players who are leaving and things like that.” He went on to say, “I don’t care where the school is or how far away from home it might be, if it’s a good fit, I’ll play anywhere.”

Swanigan said he had no special training early on in basketball and developed playing pick up and that his interest eventually became a way of life.

Like many of the prospects his ultimate dream is to get to the NBA, but like any young man who will need more development. There is no doubt he has the size and capabilitity to eventually reach his goal.

“My Dad programs me to run the block run the floor and I work out every day,” said Swanigan. The young man seems to know that the challenge will take some hard work and he seems very mature for his age, focused, straight forward with a no-nonsense take on recruiting.

“For me, it’s not about taking or what happens on an official visit, but I want to see how a team plays and how they might use me, so that’s what I will be looking for, said Swanigan who then added, “I don’t want to hear so much what schools have to say, but see how they play.”

He then stated he could play any style when asked what style he preferred mentioning teams that run their offense through the center to using the pick and pop. If you are picking up on what I am, you realize he certainly knows his hoops lingo and seems to have a pretty good understanding for the game at his young age.

“Duke? They’ve called recently and said they were interested but they haven’t offered yet. I’m building a relationship with the coach and he seems like a good guy,” said Swanigan when asked what he thought of the Blue Devils. And if you are wondering, the coach he was speaking of was confirmed to be Jeff Capel who will be the lead assistant in the process moving forward.

I later asked what he felt like the strength of his game was and he said “Rebound, running the court and playing hard.” He wants to control what he can control and he said that was the boards.

Even when I asked Swanigan what he did in his rare spare time during the AAU season, he said just tried to get better and work out. That prompted me to ask once again where this drive was coming from asking if it was the eventual lure of the NBA and he said, “That’s definitely what’s driving me. I want to do that for myself because none of my brothers did it and he wanted to be the one to fill his potential.”

“It’s me and him, really,” said Swanigan while looking at Roosevelt Barnes. And that means just that for it is clear that not a mom or anyone else will exude influence on his final choice.

In closing, I think there is genuine interest in Duke here and Capel seems to have a good handle on the young man. As you have read, it’s early in this one — real early. And nobody is even remotely close in their camp to getting majorly serious just yet, but that doesn’t mean they are not getting there and I would imagine that pace will start to pick up and soon.

By the next day after our chat, all the Duke sites were on him and Barnes, so there should be a lot of chatter about this relatively new name on the Duke recruiting radar. And that means, there is genuine interest, so this is a young man we’ll keep tabs on.

Talk about this article and get a more candid take on the situation and more of a scouting report on the BDN Premium Message Board.

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Duke Basketball Recruiting Update – AAU season begins

This past weekend officially kicked off the all important AAU Basketball season where the top prospects play for the various power shoe companies.  While Duke is indeed a Nike school, other show companies have plenty of targets making this a summer where more than one circuit is important to their wish list.  Blue Devil Nation takes a look at the current state of recruiting while giving you a look at names firmly on the radar along with a few that could be soon.  We’ll add more information as we learn it on the premium message board for paying members this week.  But for now, here is a breakdown and some thoughts from week one.

The Duke coaches were out in force in the opening week of the AAU season and for good reason.  This was their only opportunity to get first hand views until July of this year.  Several prospects impressed, while others firmly fitted their name on the short list and we take a look at the results, laced with some thoughts on where some kids might stand in the pecking order.

Brandon Ingram made an impression on the staff with his versatility. IMO, Ingram[private]  has the potential to fill a role in time and to be a complement player on a teams roster. While he is still quite slender, his strength is a bit deceptive in that he is quite lean. Ingram is playing on the Adidas circuit with Stackhouse Elite (yes, Jerry Stackhouse AAU team). He showed better on the board than many though possible over the weekend where he saved his best game for last tallying a stat line of 10 points, 9 rebounds, 9 assists, 3 steals. Ingram holds a Duke offer and the school is definitely in my opinion, at the top of his list.

Many wanted to see Chase Jeter play as well this past weekend, but the Duke offer has a nagging injury and was held out for precautionary reasons. Jeter continues to speak highly of Duke and in my opinion, he’s the Blue Devils to lose but he, like the aforementioned Ingram is an Adidas kid and with him being highly ranked and sought after there is pressure from the shoe company to hold off on a decision. Despite that, Jeter maintains it will be a July decision at the latest and he could commit sooner rather than later in that many feel he will be in Durham. An active big man with a great attitude has many suitors, but Duke was in early on this one and they’re in solid shape.

Rounding out prospects on the Adidas circuit who have interest in Duke, is Josh Sharma, a 2015 power forward from Northfield, MA. Somewhat new to the radar, Duke is evaluating his game at this time and only time will tell if they turn the heat up. Sharma is not a flashy player but more of one who feels a role and he had a good but not great weekend in the Adidas Gauntlet event held in Dallas, Texas where Mike Krzyzewski and Jeff Capel watched his game.

Adidas also features some top rated underclassman, namely, the uber talented Thon Maker. Maker, a seven foot player with an outside touch and a good handle for a big man, was his usual self and he drew the attention of Calipari, Coach K and Bill Self. This one will be a tough get in that both Kansas and Kentucky are set to go all in.

Josh Langford who is balling for the Atlanta Celtics was quite impressive. The Duke target put up superior numbers of 16.6 ppg, 4 plus boards ad 3 assists over the weekend. Many will remember the Celtics AAU team from the Bob Gibbons Days where their team was always stacked with the likes of many a pro future player. Langford did nothing to hurt his high ranking. Langford visited Duke in an unofficial capacity in March.

A player who blew up with gaudy numbers was Junior Smith, a North Carolina native playing in the Adidas circuit. He had high games of 24 and 37 and showed the anility to really find the open man while scoring. Yes, that’s attractive. He’s from Fayetteville, N.C. and is a point guard. I can hear those saying, finally another PG on the radar. Anyhow, after this weekends performance he blows up and the hype heightens. To early to tell of his interest in schools per sources, but we should be hearing a lot more here soon.

A note of interest is that I cannot remember this many Duke prospects on the Adidas circuit in some time. So, this circuit is one to watch along with the Nike EYBL this year. Another not is the Duke use to be an Adidas school before switching to Nike. I took a picture with Coach K during an Adidas local event way back in 1983 that I covet. And yes, I was holding a box of the former Adidas Superstar shoe, perhaps the first premium shoe on the sneaker market way back in the 70’s.

Anyhow, on the the Nike EYBL circuit. It didn’t take long for new Duke Assistant Jon Scheyer to get his feet wet as he was the first on the scene for Duke in Sacramento. He of course, took in Luke Kennard, a recent verbal to Duke. Kennard started slowly but warmed up as the weekend went by and played better in front of Krzyzewski, once he arrived. Kennard likes to battle. He’s competitive and that showed with his work on the glass. Yes, the boards. He showed the ability and hustle to average 5.5 rpg including a 7.5 average when Krzyzewski was on him.

Face it. The Nike circuit known as the EYBL will always be the main fruit tree for the staff and they had three coaches there by Saturday. For those wondering three of the four coaches can be out at one time on the circuit. Anyhow, enter Ivan Rabb, a talented power forward who plays for the traditionally talented Oakland Soldiers AAU team. Rabb was quite impressive but supposedly had an injury. His numbers and board work were impressive.

A lot of people, including myself to some degree were surprised by Duke’s offer to Henry Ellenson of Wisconsin Playground Elite. Well, this weekend, he proved why Krzyzewski was high on him by putting up solid numbers across the board. Try 11.8 ppg and just under 10 boards on average and you can see why teams want to plug this guy into their system. Ellenson plays within his game structure which is attractive. On e thing I have learned in ten plus years of covering the AAU circuit is that Coach K can spot talent and that it often rises to the top after he gives them a stamp of approval.

But when it comes to the Nike circuit this year, all eyes from Duke fans should focus on the Class of 2016 which holds some ridiculous talent.

Let’s start with Harry Giles. This kid has been to many a Duke game and Coach K has formed a phenominal relationship with the talented prospect. Giles still has not returned to the court and this is not unusual for a player of his skill set. He blew me away during last seasons Peach Jam and I hope he plays with the older kids this year to get a better gauge for his immense talent. Anyhow, any time you see K and Giles the in the same building, you soon see them nod and smile at one another. It took Giles a nano second to recognize Coach K when he enters and AAU event. I’ll let you read between the lines on the value of that. Anyhow, we’ll see Giles in action soon as he makes his return to the court.

And then there is Jayson Tatum. This young prospect likes Duke and Duke likes him and they are firmly on what will be his final cut in my opinion from reading the tea leaves. I have taken a hiatus from Twitter for a bit, a self imposed break. But I returned yesterday to find he re-tweeted one of my tweets speaking if Duke and their interest in him. Anyhow, four sold games from Tatum who I like more and more as I see his talent and demeanor. Kentucky, Kansas, Florida and Duke have offered and he is big on Team USA duties. Slender but talented 6-8ish wing is but a mere 16 years young.

Once Scheyer went home, James was out and he took in Diamond Stone who gave quite the impressive effort. Some have asked if Duke will continue to recruit Stone if they get Jeter and the answer is a resounding yes. Stone is just so talented and he’ll very much remain on the Duke radar. Malik Newman was also Jayhawk Invitational.

I will update with with more information as it becomes available on the members message board. [/private]