While football season is set to kick off this weekend, echo’s can be heard from dribbling of basketballs in Cameron and the practice facility. In about another week, pre seasons hoops magazines will hit the newsstands and there will always be talk around one of the most storied programs in America. With that said, here is our latest Duke Basketball Team and Recruiting Update for our members and there is plenty to read about. First, we have Duke Assistant Coach Jeff Capel sharing his thoughts on every player including the freshman. I then give my analysis and add some nuggets. This update also addresses recruiting and we even take a look into what to expect this coming season with concern to style of play. So, here we go with a 3700 plus word update on the latest on the Duke Hoops front -
This is the first year due to NCAA rule changes that Duke has been able to work out more with their team over the summer. That means they had two one hour practice just about each week. “They’ve been some of the toughest practices I’ve been a part of since I’ve been back at Duke,” said Capel. These one hour practices were very intense and fast paced were at a high level. There has been intensity and greater fighting for positions.
The pace that the players have been exposed to this off season has been different than anything any of them had done at Duke in the past per Capel and word is that some tongues have been dragging after some tough conditioning.
Duke is now looking for separation. The staff is trying to figure out who guys are right now and once an assessment is made, they will use that to talk to them and define roles for the coming season. “We tell them here is what you need to do to get to where we want you to be by the time we kick off the season,” said Capel.
The Blue Devils staff sits down each season to adjust their strategy for the coming season and it’s supposedly quite the skull session. When roles are defined, it is important to success that each player buys into their assignment for if not there could be a fracture in team chemistry. Coach Krzyzewski will map a strategy and or plan and [private] the work will begin and this has likely already happened but only just recently. What Krzyzewski does is allow his teams strength to dictate the strategy. A year ago, Duke was a big team and they played a controlled game taking break opportunities when they became available but not necessarily pushing the ball at all times. This season, he has a team that can press more and move and he will likely master spacing his guys properly creating some serious match up problems for some opponents. Without the depth at the big man spots a season ago, it will be rebounding by committee and there will be times when a power player may go off on Duke but a three pointer is greater than a dunk, so the Blue Devils can get past that issue. Many of you may not remember the great Len Bias formerly of Maryland who died an untimely death after being drafted by the Boston Celtics. When he played his last game in Cameron, he was dominant, dropping 33 points and having his way inside, but Krzyzewski allowed that to happen while shutting down everybody else on the Terps team and Duke coasted to a comfortable win. I can see that happening this season in some manner, the point being, the teams strengths will almost certainly be better than their weaknesses.
Here is a long look at the players, followed by a recruiting update for members -
“He went home this summer and we have allowed him to showcase his talent. It is important for us that his role can be significantly more this year and that is something I think he wants so he has worked hard to prepare for that. His ability to guard different positions and his ability to be unique on offense is intriguing for our team. He’s a basketball player. he can handle the ball, score around the rim, a good passer, he just has a good feel,” said Duke Assistant Coach Jeff Capel in a recent conversation.
Jefferson is like any Philly kid, he loves his home, so he returned there this summer but he balled with some good talent while there. Duke likes his versatility and that likely means he could start, but we’ll see. I personally think Duke will rotate the 5th position in the line up according to match ups this season. Amile brings that old school cerebral play
“The big thing with Marshall is to just get healthy. Last year, until the time that school started, he was playing very, very well and would have made our rotation. He was never healthy when he came back and had surgery after the season, so we have just wanted him to get healthy. He’s worked hard this off season and worked with Will Stephens, with strength and conditioning The key is to maintain the weight as he gets ready to start running and burning calories. Marshall is going to be important for us in that he’s our biggest guy this season and if he embraces his role with rebounding, screening and running, then he can contribute all season long,” per Capel
Plumlee just started running a week or so ago but he has not progressed where he can make sharp cuts yet, so there is a way to go here. The hope is for the added weight to stick or at least half of it once he starts to run with the team. A season ago, many felt Coach K saying he would have been in the rotation coach speak, but Plumlee seems to be set for a role provided his legs return and there is no set backs. Dude drank a ton of muscles shakes per Will Stephenson orders and did a lot of under water work during rehab.
“He has a special skill with the three ball and he can impact a game instantly. It’s been great to have him back and he’s worked hard to get into shape and develop skills. He’s been through a lot on and off the court and has the ability to share those things with our younger guys. He’s been a part of a national championship but he’s also lost in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. The main thing is he arms us with a weapon with his ability to shoot the basketball. Whatever role he earns on this team is up to him. He can put up points in a short time,” said Capel
Dawkins has been through a lot off the court with the passing of his sister. He worked in the off season with a trainer and decided he wanted to return to the team in the season ending exit meetings and a plan was formed. Dawkins can have a quick effect on the game with his abilities and the key will be for him to bring that consistently and not be a kid just hanging out around the three point line as he got into the habit of when we last saw him. A mature Dawkins is a good thing and he’s a player who will not shy away from that big shot if it presents itself.
With Jabari his skill set and talent are very unique, so we don’t know the exact spot or a position on the floor he’ll play other than he”ll be a really good player, so you are going to see him all over the floor doing a little bit of everything. It will literally be everything. He can bring the ball up the floor and initiate things and he’s one of those guys on the team we feel he can do those kind of things along with Rodney. We don’t want to limit his abilities or strengths, so he’ll be used in a lot of different ways.
Parker has done everything the staff has asked of him and has a focus which is important for a player of his hype stature and the mere fact he’s a freshman. Coach Krzyzewski used Luol Deng in a similar role, but Parker has much better post skills. I think what we are seeing is that the staff will allow Parker free reign from the word go and they’ll seek to not pigeon hole him into what we’ll call a traditional position. I can see Parker playing pretty much every position on the court on defense, but doubt he will be needed against the point other than on presses. The word is that Parker has showed well in practice and that alone is enough to excite the fan base as if they are not already stoked enough for the coming season.
“Quinn had a great season last year. He was a third team All ACC pick and the MVP in Atlantis. One of the big mistakes that Quinn or anybody can make is thinking it’s going to happen this year because of last year. This year will be different and the way we will play will be very different. Quinn had a great summer and he came back in really good shape as a player. It’s his team or a chance to be his team but he has to still work to make that happen and come to play every day. Quinn should be a very intrical part of the team this season,” Duke Assistant Coach Jeff Capel.
Quinn spent a lot of time at home in the D.C. region working out with some of the fine talent in that area and he comes back in tip top shape and condition per sources. Cook has a chance to take another leap this season and to do that he needs to learn to control the game and his team. If Cook can blend early on with his teammates, the upside is enormous. Cook has been playing with a lot of confidence this off season and if the maintains his mental focus first and foremost, he will be in the discussion as one of the best point guards in the country by seasons end. Cook knows there is a savvy senior in Tyler Thornton and a sleek sophomore in Rasheed Sulaimon capable of of running the point waiting in the wings, so I expect we’ll get his best effort this season. His ball pressure and his ability to defend has stood out the most about Cook in our eyes.
Tyler is unquestionably a leader on this team. He is probably the most respected guy on his team and he’s found a way to contribute each year here since he was a freshman. Tyler brings intangibles, Tyler effects winning and he does a lot of things that do not show up in the stat sheet but for people who truly understand basketball they can appreciate what he brings to the team. He’s a guy who you want all your team to look like in that he is totally immersed in winning..
Thornton has always found a way to get on the court in that he is tough as nails mentally and physically. Thornton is a gentlemen in every sense since I met him as a junior on the recruiting trail, but he’ll talk a little smack out there if it can get under the other teams skin and that kind of thing is needed. I think he gets a captain spot on this seasons team in that he is respected by all.
“I think Alex has had a great off season. It’s probably the first time he has been completely 100% invested in himself and I think he would tell you that. I think this summer he chose to remain here for both summer sessions when in the past he would go home or play with the Finnish National Team. He had a chance to do both of those things again this year but he chose to stay and I think that has helped his level of confidence. Every player and coach knows how much talent Alex has, but the thing for him is to have the confidence to play that way, through mistakes and to have the confidence to play and react without thinking so much. The way we will play this year will help him and that will blend itself for him not thinking as much and just reacting,” said Capel.
Just play, don’t think. Has to believe in himself. This is what I hear on Alex and it seems he’s bought into the suggestions. Did you know that he has been in the starting line up for each of the last two exhibition openers? Murphy has made off season strides but we’ll only now how much so when we see him play again.
“Matt is a really good player who has done a good job since he’s been here. One of the things with Matt is he has been coached really hard in high school and his coach did a great job this past season teaching him defense. With the AAU program he played for he was coached really hard, so he’s been held accountable and a lot has been demanded of him. He’s been able to adjust very quickly to the speed of the game. Speed and defense are the two biggest things high school guys must adjust to and most do not play defense in high school. he works really hard and he’s going to fight to be an important guy on his team,” – per Capel.
Great family, solid kid. Doesn’t cut up a lot or act out. Kind of what any parent or coach would want, right? Remember when I said he could be the odd man out this coming season due to depth. Well, I take that back for by all accounts he is playing better than a freshman should, meaning he has worked hard knowing that’s what it will take to crack the line up with this seasons wing loaded roster. The word is that he has thrived in the weight room and gotten stronger and he’s becoming the X-Factor freshman in my eyes.
I think all the freshman will have to adjust to the speed of the game but Semi is probably the strongest kid who has walked through the doors here as a freshman. He’s the kind of guy who if he tested at the NFL combine he would do well and probably be a first round pick just based on his body and athleticism. He prepares and carries himself well and he is confident, add to that he can really shoot the basketball. He fits the mold of versatility that will be prevalent on this team. He can be asked to guard many guys and he can use his size and strength.
When you first see Ojeleye, you quickly notice his chiseled body which is akin to a juniors physique. The key for Ojeleye is to adjust to the speed of the game. He didn’t have bad coaching in high school or the AAU circuit, but it could have been better, so there will be the usual freshman learning curve. Still, he is capable of guarding multiple type players and that will be of immediate value if grasps system basics.
“A very talented young guy and a great kid. This will be a really big year for him. When you have a freshman year like he did, you come back but do you make the jump or do you just rest and think going to happen. He was an important part of the Team USA squad that won the Gold Medal, so he’s had a good summer. He jumped right in when he came back with what we were doing . A talented kid who can play off the bounce and he’s a guy wee want to move around a lot this year and he progresses as a player.” Jeff Capel
As a sports reporter when I talk with Sulaimon, he’s the kind of kid I would want as a parent. Humble, yet confident in his abilities, Sulaimon can be a go to guy on this seasons team with his ability to break down his opponent off the dribble. Sulaimon has realized it takes hard work to succeed and with a year behind him, the lessons learned from a season ago will pay dividends.
“Well, he’s really talented and he’s gotten a lot better since he’s been here because he’s worked and he’s been touched by this culture. He’s gotten stronger, more athletic, he’s shooting and handling the ball better. At Mississippi State he was sort of a catch and shoot guy, so we were a little surprised as we went through practice at how good he is off the bounce. He’s a guy who can play multiple positions and guard multiple positions, so he will be asked to do that in our system. When you come to Duke the expectations are different than most other places, so you have to learn to deal with expectations. But Hood has had three really good seniors to watch a season ago, so he’s learned how to conduct his business from how they handled things,” states Capel.
Rodney is a completely different player than he was at Mississippi State where he did not get the best coaching. Duke has tried to instill confidence in Hood, who will finally be seen by fans. What I worry about to a degree is that he has been saddled with a lot of expectations and hype, more-so than any other player on the roster. However, this will be a hungry player and a mature one and a sure starter. In fact, I still say Hood, Sulaimon and Parker will be the main three options on offense. Hood has a nice mid range game, so do not expect a dominating rebounder despite his height in that he is more wing than power.
“Josh is a player who has started games for us, so he’s had an important role. As a senior, he’s been through early exits in the tournaments, part of big wins and has simply been through a lot. He can play a lot but we don’t know for sure. He will have a role on this team,” said Capel.
When Hairston and Thornton were recruited to play for Duke, it was during a time when the Blue Devils were experiencing a bit of a drought in recruiting. They were dubbed “program kids,” which means they embody what one would want out of a young man with concern to character. Hairston will be in a position to offer leadership this coming season but how he accepts his role will be the key.
We all know that Jahlil Okafor and Tyus Jones will visit the Duke Campus together during the last weekend of October. I still have mad confidence that Tyus Jones will be a Blue Devil and Okafor as well, just not at the level of Jones. Before you reads into that too much and start a worry-fest, I feel good about both players and predict fans will be happy when the dust clears. There is a reason the last visit is scheduled for Durham, that being I think both kids know Duke is their leader whether they say so in public or not. At this point it would be a major upset of Jones went elsewhere and I do not buy into the worry about Kentucky one bit, even though traditional wisdom may be to never count them out.
Kavon Looney will visit the weekend when Duke is at Memphis in football and the Blue Devils seem to feel quite good about their chances here but this one still has a few things which need to fall into place. Duke has been the highest riser of any team on his list and the staff will have Looney all to themselves and will be able to spend some serious time with his family. The stars could be aligning themselves nicely here, so stay tuned.
The two prospects Duke is working hardest on for a visit are Myles Turner and Diamond Stone, two bigs. Duke faces a tough battle for the service of Turner but the two like each other a lot and that could lead to a possible visit during Countdown to Craziness. In fact, both Stone and Turner could make the event if all goes well but recruiting is liquid as are the prospects schedules, so this one needs to play out more. Duke Assistant Nate James has been the lead on these two guys.
It’s that time of year when fans hang on every little thing said, be it rumors or just speculation with recruiting and no player has had more worry connected to him more than Justise Winslow who plays his hand carefully at the game we all love to follow. Winslow has been recently linked to a late UCLA run and even a package deal at Arizona. The Wildcats worry me, UCLA does not. The Bruins are late to this party while Zona has been on Winslow longer than Duke. Still, Duke has a legitimate shot here and are very much in the race until his announcement. Word is Winslow is feeling a little pressure about making a decision and will have a had time telling a coach no, but that too is not unusual. No additional visits are set in stone at this time with Winslow and while I felt he was ready to pop at one time, it seems his decision could come later than anyone might like. Still, there is reason to believe he is close and has an idea where he wants to go. Expect another cut down on his list and his family and or Justise seems to really be concerned about making the right choice here, thus the stretch. It’s Duke or Arizona if my sources are right and they usually are.
Want a possible new name on the radar? Henry Ellison, a 2015 corn fed prospect got a call from a Duke Assistant recently and was told they would keep an eye on him. Some say he could really grow into a force and he can stretch the court with his ability to hit the three. [/private]
Charles Matthews is a talented 2015 wing out of Chicago. Duke has recently started recruiting him pretty hard, though no offer has been extended just yet. He’s a reserved, quiet young man, but the kid can play. He’s a shooter first and foremost, at least at this stage, but he’s athletic and is also not afraid to put his nose in there and get after it. He has a tendency to float a bit, where you forget he’s out there, but then all of a sudden he’ll hit you with three quick hoops right when they’re needed most. Matthews is also going to have to play with more defensive intensity on a regular basis. But he’s very young and he knows he has a lot to learn. He’s one to keep an eye on. Charles sat down with BDN recently to talk about his game and his recruitment, and here’s the interview:
BDN: I’m here with Charles Matthews at the Adidas Nations event. He’s a 2015 out of Chicago. First of all, what’s it been like playing in an event like this, where you’ve got all this talent on all these teams, pretty much everywhere you turn?
CM: The talent part, it’s not really a big deal to me, because playing in the EYBL, I feel that’s the best league of them all. So that really gets you prepared for any competition. But it’s really good to be out here on the west coast playing the game of basketball.
BDN: I know you played in Vegas recently, too. What was that like?
CM: I only played one game there, and then I hurt my ankle, so it was nice getting out there, but I would have liked to play more and help my team out.
BDN: What do you see as the strengths of your game, first of all?
CM: My versatility. I feel like I can do a lot of things on the court. I’m just not one dimensional.
BDN: What about that shot? That shot is smooth.
CM: Yeah. I’m really trying to become more efficient, a more efficient shooter, a more reliable, consistent shooter. So just getting shots up in the gym.
BDN: And what about the things that you think you need to work on coming up this season?
CM: Basically like I said, continue to be more consistent, more consistent shooter, and that’s about it. Become a more consistent knockdown shooter.
BDN: Some of the Duke fans that are going to be reading this, they may not know a lot about you and your background. Can you tell us a little bit about your background, your family, that kind of thing? When you started playing ball?
CM: I have a lot of family. I’ve been playing basketball all my life. I really just started getting serious about basketball around the 7th grade, 8th grade . . .
BDN: That wasn’t that long ago! You’re a young guy.
CM: Yeah. I’m a young guy. I always was just playing for fun, but then I started feeling like basketball could start taking me places around 8th grade. I’ve got a good family, we’re Christian, really religious, and they have my back no matter what goes down.
BDN: I know you have a visit planned to Kansas for –
CM: For Late Night.
BDN: Yes, for Late Night. Do you have any other visits that are planned?
CM: I’m supposedly going down to Kentucky for something . . . for some basketball game they have, I think on September 9. And then I’m supposed to be getting down to Michigan State, Wisconsin, and Marquette sometime soon.
BDN: Now I know you have offers from Kentucky –
BDN: And you have one from Wisconsin?
BDN: Where else have they actually, formally offered you?
CM: I have a lot.
BDN: I know, a lot. What are some of the top ones?
CM: I have Kansas, Kentucky, North Carolina State, Illinois, Wisconsin, Marquette –
BDN: Ohio State and Arizona offer you too?
CM: Ohio State, Arizona, Michigan State, Mizzou, Providence. I have a lot.
BDN: A lot. Tell me a little bit about the contact you’ve had with Duke.
CM: I’ve been speaking to Duke a lot lately. A lot of the coaching staff, Coach Capel, Coach K hits me up every once in awhile, just checking up on me, seeing how I’m doing.
BDN: What is going to be your process as far as the recruiting goes? Is it going to be the kind of thing where you keep it to yourself or are you going to have a group of people that are helping you with your decisionmaking?
CM: Just myself, my mom, my dad, my brother probably and probably my uncle, but mainly just my mom and my dad just trying to see what’s the best fit for me and where I can be the most successful.
BDN: Do you have an actual offer from Duke yet?
CM: No, I do not.
BDN: Do you expect you’re going to get one?
CM: I’m hoping I do. I think I will. They’ve been contacting me a lot lately, but I think they want to see me a little bit more. But I’m thinking they’ll offer me sometime.
BDN: Do you think you would fit in well with the way Duke plays ball?
CM: Yeah, I do.
CM: I’m very versatile, so I feel like I could fit a lot of positions.
BDN: Well listen. I know you’ve gotta go. I know they’re getting you guys out of here. Really good to meet you and thanks for your time.
CM: Thank you.
From deep in the heart of Mississippi, stud 2015 point guard Malik Newman is regarded by some as the top overall prospect in the Class of 2015. Some regard him as a point, others as a combo guard, but regardless at this point, he is clearly a highly skilled scoring guard with deep range who can also handle it pretty well. He has a very strong body, and he uses it well to get into the lane almost at will. I didn’t see enough of him to really assess his defensive abilities, but he’s a kid with a good attitude and a lot of athleticism, so there’s no reason he shouldn’t be able to defend points and two-guards at the college level.
Personality-wise, he is a soft-spoken, respectful young man with a deep southern drawl, and one who, at least at this point, has not allowed all the attention he has recently garnered to go to his head. He’s just beginning the recruitment process, really, so this one has a long way to go. Some say he ultimately may be tough to get out of SEC country, but to me it’s way too early to make pronouncements like that.
Here’s what he had to say in our recent sit-down:
BDN: All right. I’m here with Malik Newman, Class of 2015. You guys just had a tough game. Was that a tougher game than you expected?
MN: Yeah, it really was.
BDN: That team was aggressive, man.
MN: Yes, sir.
BDN: So some of the Duke fans that will probably be reading this may not be as familiar with you as with some of the other guys. So tell me a little bit about your background. I know you’re from Mississippi. Tell me a little bit about yourself, your family, that kind of thing.
MN: I had a dad who was a former player –
BDN: He played, correct?
MN: Yes, sir, at Mississippi State. Also an uncle. I’m just a regular kid, fun to be around. I like to hang out. I just really love the game of basketball.
BDN: A lot of people got their attention on you after what happened in Vegas last week. That game that you guys played, with you and Mudiay, and Tyler Dorsey on the other side, people are talking about it like it was one of the greatest AAU games they’ve ever seen. Tell me about it. What was it like to play in a game like that?
MN: It was great. High competition, great competition. It was a fast paced game. We had –
BDN: You were knocking down three’s in that game.
MN: Yeah, you know, everyone was. Zimmerman, Tyler, Daniel, Mudiay, so . . . All of us, we were playing good, playing to the best of our ability, just trying to put on a good show.
BDN: It was high level.
MN: Yes, sir. Very high level.
BDN: Now, I know you played for USA Basketball this summer.
MN: Yes, sir.
BDN: Tell me a little bit about that, what that was like. That was your first time playing USA?
MN: Yes, sir.
BDN: Tell me about it.
MN: It was a great experience. For one, the top players in my class and the class under me, we all came together and you know, we put that “USA” across our chest and we decided that we were going to fight for each other and the country, for one another and try to help the USA shine. So it was a good experience going over there and learning about that culture and seeing their fans and things like that.
BDN: You ever been out of the country before?
MN: That was my first time.
BDN: First time out of the country, to Uruguay of all places, huh?
MN: Yes, sir. Uruguay.
BDN: Did you guys get out of the gym at all or out of the hotel and check out the country or was it just kind of a basketball thing?
MN: We did a little bit. You know, we played at 6:00 every day, so we had to go to walk-arounds, then we had to eat, then we had a little time to go walk around and things like that. But they really made us get off our feet a lot.
BDN: Now, there’s been some confusion with the Duke fans. Do you actually have an offer from Duke?
MN: Yes, I do.
BDN: OK. What was that like to get an offer from a program like Duke? How do they do it? Let the fans in on that process a little bit.
MN: Coach called my dad first.
BDN: Coach K?
MN: Yes. Coach K called my dad first. And then, after he called, what’s his name . . . Coach . . .
BDN: Coach Capel? Coach James? Coach Wojo?
MN: Coach Capel. Coach Capel called me later that day and he had a conversation with me. And he really just told me about the program, the ups and downs, the pro’s and con’s about it. And he really just told me it’d be a great experience for me and then he told me that I had an offer.
BDN: What other schools have offered you? Long list, I know. What are some of the top ones?
MN: Mississippi State, Kentucky, Duke, North Carolina, Kansas . . .
BDN: All the big boys.
MN: Yeah, it’s a lot. There’s a lot more.
BDN: What an honor, to have all these top schools interested in you?
MN: Yes, sir.
BDN: Now, are you friendly with Rodney Hood?
MN: Yeah, very.
BDN: You guys talk a lot?
MN: Yes, sir.
BDN: What has he told you about his experience – and I know he hasn’t played yet in an official game – but what does he have to tell you about his experience with the campus, the coaching staff, the program?
MN: He told me it was great. He told me it was really like no other campus, no other atmosphere. He said if you’re a part of Duke, then you really have no worries because the other team, they have worries when they come in there because the fans are so rowdy. But he told me it’s fun. He said they really love the game of basketball at Duke. So that’s a good thing there. He said it was great being up there.
BDN: How do you think you would fit in with Duke’s system?
MN: I think I’d fit in good. He lets them go and play how they want to play, but he keeps them under control, so that’s how I’m used to playing.
BDN: Now, most people I think would describe you as a scoring point guard. Sort of a combo guard. There’s no question you can shoot the rock. No doubt about that. Couple of other scouts that I’ve talked to said, “yeah, he can score. What I want to see is, I want to see him distribute. I want to see him make his teammates better. “ Are you working on that aspect of your game?
MN: Yes, I’ve been working on that all summer.
MN: Just getting involved with Mudiay. He really helped me become more of a point guard, because that’s the position that he plays. So he kinda taught me some of the things that – because he’s more experienced than me so he kinda taught me some of the things that he knows and I kinda added to my game. And being at camps like this, going to point guard camps, different things like that.
BDN: Are the schools that are recruiting you, including Duke, are they telling you “we see you as a point,” “we see you as a 2,” “we see you as a combo?” What do you think?
MN: Mainly they say they see me as a point. So that’s something I’ve really been working on. You never know how it turns out. Maybe at a crucial point in a game I have to play the 2, so –
BDN: You’ve got the handle, so it seems like you could do both.
MN: Yes, sir. So I really try to work on both positions.
BDN: Now let me just ask you, last thing. A lot of services, scouts, have you ranked the #1 player in the class right now. How do you handle that pressure, or do you feel pressure from it? How do you keep your head on straight?
MN: I feel no pressure at all. I have a great circle around me, so the people that are really close to me and really around me, they never let me get the big head, so I can really say it’s thanks to them it’s the reason why I’m so humble.
BDN: Who are the people that are in your closest circle that are going to be involved with your decisionmaking when it comes time for that?
MN: My dad, my mom, and my stepmom.
BDN: And do you have any visits planned, official or unofficial?
MN: No sir, not yet.
BDN: Not yet. You’re going to wait on that?
MN: Yes, sir.
BDN: OK. It’s been a pleasure to watch you play and definitely a pleasure to meet you. Thanks so much.
MN: Thank you, sir.
Myles Turner in some ways has been the forgotten man in the 2014 recruiting class. The 6’11,” 220 pound center out of Euless, Texas, while not ranked as highly as is Jahlil Okafor, is nevertheless a major, major talent in his own right, and is a guy who is wanted by elite programs across the nation. Duke is not like Arizona under Sean Miller, where anyone who can fog a mirror gets an offer. No, while the Blue Devils are certainly casting a wider net than they did in years past, when a player receives an offer from Mike Krzyzewski, he is special. He knows he is wanted — really wanted — by Coach K. Myles Turner has an offer, and Duke is recruiting him vigorously.
And for good reason. Last weekend at the AdidasNations camp was the first chance I got to see him play, as he missed the Pangos Camp earlier in the summer with an illness. Turner is a player. He did not dominate games with his scoring. He still has a lot of room for growth in terms of his post moves and his development of a face-up game. He can shoot the ball, but with time and good coaching he’ll learn how to get his shot more easily. Additional strength will help as well. But he is long, athletic, and active. He is a jumping jack in there, blocking tons of shots and altering lots more. He runs the floor extremely well. Myles has shot up the recruiting rankings in recent months as more scouts have had an opportunity to see him play. And as he continues to develop this year, in particular on offense, he’s going to move even higher. There is no doubt in my mind that he is going to be a major factor for an elite college program, and he could be such a player for Duke should he choose to enroll in Durham.
Myles is a very engaging young man to talk to as well. He’s smart, articulate, and outgoing, as well as appreciative of the attention given to him.
Here’s what he had to say to BDN last weekend at the AdidasNations camp in Garden Grove, CA.
BDN: I’m here with Myles Turner after the semifinal game of the Adidas Nations. You guys are heading for the finals tomorrow.
MT: Yes, sir.
BDN: All right. 6’11” out of Texas. Myles, some of our readers are a little confused. Can you make it clear: you do or don’t have an official offer from Duke?
MT: I do have an official offer from Duke.
BDN: OK. One of the things that people are always wondering about is this: what does that process look like? Do you just get a phone call and it’s Coach K and he says “hey, we’d like to offer you” or how is it really handled? Is it more formal than that, or –
MT: Pretty much so. I was talking with Coach Nate James and he’s talking about it a little bit, but I really don’t think anything’s official until I hear from the Head Coach. Coach Krzyzewski saw me play a bit and then one day he just texted me and introduced himself, and then we talked on the phone for a bit and that’s when he extended his official offer.
BDN: The first time you talked to him on the phone, that was it, huh?
MT: Second time. (laughs)
BDN: Now, I saw that you recently cut the list from real big to still pretty big, to 25. You’ve got a lot of people coming at you. You’ve really rocketed up the ratings over the last few months. What do you attribute that to? How do you think that’s happened?
MT: I think just through my hard work that I’ve been putting in last summer and all this summer. Unfortunately, I didn’t play last summer due to a broken ankle –
BDN: I was going to ask you about that –
MT: Yeah, and then just, really, I put on some weight. I’ve always been real skinny, but I put on a bit of weight, just really been working on my shot. Still trying to work on my back-to-the-basket game a little bit, and I think it’s just being noticed. I attribute that to my AAU coach and everybody who’s working for me.
BDN: You going to try to put on some weight. What are you at now?
MT: I’m at 220.
BDN: What do you want to get up to?
MT: I definitely want to try to get up to around 230, comfortably.
BDN: All right, so you’re going to be in the weight room?
MT: For sure.
BDN: It’s not going to be milkshakes?
MT: (laughs) No, sir.
BDN: All right. Review for us, if you would, what your summer has looked like. I know you were at Under Armour, and where’d you go from there?
MT: I started off in Houston, and then I went to the Under Armour event. I went to the Real Deal in the Rock, from there I went to the NBA camp –
MT: Yes. Charlottesville, Virginia. Both the Nike Skills Camps. I went to the Amare Stoudemire Camp and the LeBron James Camp. I went to the John Lucas Camp.
BDN: Were you in Philly too?
MT: No, I didn’t go to that one. I also went to the Hoop Combine, up where I’m from. The Texas Hoop Combine.
BDN: OK, and then you were in Vegas.
MT: Vegas, yeah, the Fab 48, and then Milwaukee.
BDN: How’d Vegas go?
MT: Vegas went well.
BDN: Vegas was crazy, wasn’t it?
MT: Oh yeah, for sure. We beat two top teams we really needed to beat in Mac Irvin Fire and Belmont Shore. That was a real confidence booster for us. Unfortunately we couldn’t take it all, but it helped a lot.
BDN: Yeah. And just having that kind of experience, I would think, against top teams all weekend had to be good for your confidence and just for feeling good about where you’re at.
MT: For sure. We were coming off some tough losses. The week previous we lost to Mac Irvin by like 20. They mercy-ruled us. (laughs) Just being able to come out there and make a statement like that, it was really helpful for us.
BDN: What else do you have left for the summer, or are you done?
MT: I’m going to go to the Elite 24 in Brooklyn, and I’m still debating on whether I’m going to do the Big Strick Classic or not. It looks like I’m not, but I’m still looking at that one.
BDN: ‘Cause you guys all seem like you’re — it’s been a long summer.
MT: Oh my gosh. I’ve been in hotel beds more than my own bed. (laughs)
BDN: And you guys are young and this travel schedule is just killer.
MT: Yeah, it is. But I think it’s good in a sense ‘cause it gets you ready for the next level –
MT: — if you’re going to the NBA, stuff like that.
BDN: So what do you think you need to work on in the coming season? You said you need to work on back-to-the-basket. That’ll come with some weight and some skill work. What else?
MT: That’s the biggest thing right now. Maybe a little bit of ballhandling. My high school team is not very strong right now. If I need to bring the ball upcourt sometimes –
BDN: You’re 6’11” man! –
MT: (laughs) I know. I know. But if they’re getting trapped hard, ‘cause our guards are little, so . . .
BDN: You do what you’ve got to do?
MT: Exactly. Exactly.
BDN: Any additional skills you develop, you figure can only help down the line?
MT: Exactly. I agree.
BDN: OK. Now, I know you’ve got an official set for Kansas in October, right?
BDN: Do you have any other official or unofficial visits set?
MT: To this point, no. I’m probably going to plan some unofficials. Kansas was a campus and a program that I really wanted to see, so that’s why I planned that one immediately.
BDN: OK. Who else has been recruiting you the hardest?
MT: Duke has been recruiting me pretty hard. Texas, Baylor, really all the Big 12 Conference, ‘cause you know, it’s close to home.
BDN: Are you going to feel any kind of pressure to stay close to home, because that’s where you’re from and you’ve got a lot of – you know, there’s family, friends, etc.? Or are you going to be open to anywhere that feels like the right fit for you?
MT: I’m probably going to be open to anywhere. My family understands that I really need to go develop myself, and whatever’s going to be the best fit for me, they’re gonna — and I think it’d be a little bit heartbreaking to move far away from home, but really where I feel is the best decision to go, that’s where I’m going to go.
BDN: Who would you say has been your most regular contact from the Duke program?
MT: Coach Nate James.
BDN: Coach James, OK. How often are you guys in contact?
MT: He’s in contact with my parents a lot. He talks to me, he understands that I’m going through a lot right now, so he really talks to my parents a lot.
BDN: OK. And what about Coach K? Is there regular contact with him too, or is it just Coach James pretty much?
MT: Coach K sends me a text every now and then, telling me, you know, he’s proud of me, “good job at what you’re doing,” stuff like that.
BDN: I read somewhere that you described him as “down to earth” and “cool.”
MT: Yeah. (laughs)
BDN: What do you mean by that?
MT: I guess in the sense that he really knows what he’s doing. And he knows how to deliver the message that he wants to deliver. He’s really straightforward with everything, but he doesn’t, like, in a sense, bring you down. He’s really – I just really like the kind of guy he is, really.
BDN: How do you think that differentiates him, if it does, from other coaches who have come at you with different ways?
MT: I think the biggest difference between him and other coaches Is just the amount of success he’s had. There’s a lot of coaches that have had success, like Larry Brown, Coach Calipari, but just the overall success he’s had and how he does it on a continuous basis, that’s really what –
BDN: With different styles of play and different types of players he can incorporate – that’s what a lot of guys have said. What do you think about that?
MT: I think it’s pretty accurate. I would say so. When you have people like Mason Plumlee coming in, or Seth Curry, they’re able to go in there and just play their game, and not differentiate.
BDN: All right. I also read – ‘cause I did a little bit of homework on you – you’re a bowler.
MT: (laughs) Yeah. Yes, sir.
BDN: Now, what I want to know is: you must have your own bowling shoes, ‘cause those size 21’s – you can’t rent a pair of those at the bowling alley, can you?
MT: (laughs) No, not at all. Usually they let me go, and wear my own shoes, that’s what it is. Bowling is more of a hobby than something I do professionally –
BDN: I know. I’m just clowning on you –
MT: (laughs) I know. But if I ever come into some money, that’d be my first investment!
BDN: I got a feeling that down the road you’ll probably come into some money if you continue to improve like you have. When are you thinking in terms of cutting down the list further from 25?
MT: Definitely after this event. Me and my dad, on the airplane, just cut it down from there.
BDN: Sounds good. It’s really been a pleasure to meet you and to watch you play this weekend. Best of luck to you.
MT: Thank you.
[Note: Myles was as good as his word, as within days of this interview he indeed cut his list to eight schools. Duke is on that list.]
Myles Turner AdidasNations
Coach K had a memorable quote a few years back when he was asked what position Kyle Singler played, at a time Kyle was being moved around all over the court to shore up some areas in which the Blue Devils needed some help. K’s response: “What position does he play? He plays winner.”
Same deal with key 2014 recruit Justise Winslow, the 6’6″ lefty out of Houston. This guy really does it all. I liken him not only to Singler, but also to Grant Hill in terms of the “queen on the chessboard” qualities that he brings to a team.
The first thing you notice about him is the rock-solid body, the body of a pro. He can play inside or out; he makes the midrange jumper, and even steps out a little further on occasion. He can drive the ball to the hoop; he is very, very good in transition, and he hits the boards hard at both ends. He is an outstanding passer. And he can D it up against just about anybody. I’ve seen him play a number of times now, and seen him shut down everyone from point guards to power forwards and everyone else in between.
One thing I love about Winslow’s game is that while he can get buckets if he needs to or wants to, he doesn’t seem to need to be the leading scorer on his team every time out. No, what he gives the team is whatever it happens to need at any given moment. Guys like that help teams win championships. He could probably lead any team he wanted to in scoring, but he doesn’t seem to have an ego that requires him to be the #1 scoring star. He knows that he can do it all on an as-needed basis; coaches know it; and everyone knows that translates into winning. He’s not as flashy as some other guys out there, but he’s a guy you win with, and he would be a huge asset to the Blue Devils should he pull the trigger for Duke. Here’s what Justise had to say last weekend at the Adidas Nations event about his recruitment, what he’ll be considering, his experience with Team USA this summer, and other issues.
BDN: All right, I’m here at the Adidas Nations with Justise Winslow. They just won the semifinal game, heading for the finals tomorrow. Justise, it’s been a long summer. You must be tired.
BDN: I get the feeling a lot of you guys out here are tired after the summer, yes?
JW: Yes. I mean, I’ve been on the road a lot. Overseas with the United States U-19 and the Peach Jam and all that stuff. But it’s been great. It’s been a great summer. It’s been fun. I just enjoy basketball, so it’s taken me a lot of places. It’s winding down, my last summer, but I’m enjoying it.
BDN: I’m going to ask you about Team USA in a minute, but where else have you been, what else have you done over the summer? Where have you been?
JW: Well, we had the tryouts in Colorado Springs. We had some exhibition games in D.C. and then we went to Prague. That was the USA stuff. And then after that I had Peach Jam in Augusta, Vegas and Orlando, and now I’m here. So I’ve been pretty busy.
BDN: How did it feel to put on that red, white and blue with “USA” on your chest?
JW: It’s a great feeling. Coaches always preach to play for the three letters on the front and not the name on the back. So that’s what we tried to do. Everybody had the goal to get the gold, so we went out there, we competed, we listened to our coaches. We just played with a lot of energy and intensity and we got the gold.
BDN: Let me ask you something. What do you think you brought to the table that got you, as one of three high schoolers selected to that team over some very good and experienced college players that were available? What do you think the coaches saw in you that they wanted you on that particular team?
JW: Just my versatility. I can score, rebound, defend. With my athleticism and size I can guard one through four internationally if we go small. So that was something they saw. That I brought something unique to the team. And I think those are a couple of reasons why I was selected.
BDN: That makes sense. You must be so tired of talking recruiting and lists and cutdowns and all that kind of stuff with everybody coming at you. So I’m going to try to keep that part of it quick. Can you just review for our readers – I know you cut the list down – can you review for us what it is?
JW: Right now it’s Duke, Florida, Kansas, Kentucky, Texas A&M, Arizona, UCLA and Stanford. Just going east to west.
BDN: Can you tell us if you’re going to cut it down further, or are you just going to make a call from that list?
JW: I’ll probably have to cut it down further, ‘cause I’m looking to take officials. But at this point I don’t know what I’m going to do. I’m just trying to finish Adidas Nations and then take a couple weeks off, think about things before my last event at the Elite 24, but after Adidas Nations I’ll think about dates and things like that.
BDN: OK so you don’t have any dates for cutting down or for decisionmaking at this point?
BDN: OK. When it comes down to it, what are going to be the biggest factors for you when actually have to sit down and say ‘I have to make this decision’? What are you going to be weighing in your mind the most?
JW: Just overall comfortability, whether it’s comfort with the coaches and the players or comfortable with the campus life and just comfortable with the school overall and the student body and things like that. Just being comfortable so my family feels comfortable sending me off with people they can trust.
BDN: You know, it’s going to be a hard decision. I would imagine that some factors are in favor of this school, some factors are in favor of that school. Can you give us any kind of a window into how you think about it? Like, “well, when I think about this factor, you know, that factor favors Kansas. This factor favors Duke. This factor might favor Florida.” That kind of thing. Can you give us any kind of indication about how it is that you process that?
JW: The decision’s going to be tough, because every school has its pro’s and con’s. Some schools are better than others at certain things –
BDN: I guess that’s what I’m asking you. Can you give us some examples of “well, I like this about this school and I like that about that school?”
JW: I mean, every school has something unique about them. Whether it’s just Texas A&M, it’s just close to home. That’s something simple, but — staying close to home isn’t that important to me, but if I did go to Texas A&M that would be great ‘cause it’s close to home. Little things like that that make each school unique is what makes the decisionmaking so hard.
BDN: If you were to compare – and I know you’ve got a longer list than this – but let’s say someone said to you, “Give me your pluses and minuses on Duke and Arizona.” Just for an example. How would you answer that?
JW: That’s a tough question, because both schools have had a lot of recent success in the NCAA Tourney, both schools have produced pro’s, have All-Americans, good academics. But it’s just different. The Duke brand, they have a lot of prestige and tradition there, but Arizona is more of a recent success with I think it was the championship in ’01, I think maybe, or around that time, so the schools are just different. But they both have their pro’s and con’s.
BDN: Do you feel like you pretty much in your mind have the information you need to make this decision, or is there still more information you’re gathering?
JW: I mean, if I had all the information, or if I knew what I wanted to do, I would have committed by now. There’s just some things I’m still looking at and that’s why I’m not committed.
BDN: Alright. Tell me a little bit about the contacts you have with Duke. How often are you in contact with the staff?
JW: Probably daily, every other day, things like that.
BDN: Who has your main contact been?
JW: K — Capel, Wojo. I mean, but it’s like that with every school.
BDN: OK, so all of them are in contact with you?
BDN: Last thing I’m going to ask you. Of course, who knows what you’re going to do? But if you were to find yourself at Duke, what kind of role do you think you would play in the Duke scheme of things?
JW: You know, I think I can do it all. I think I can have the ball in my hands. They have a point guard but I can make plays, I can rebound, defend. I think Coach could kind of use me the same way he used LeBron and K.D. with the national team, just playing them everywhere –
BDN: Jack of all trades?
JW: Yeah. Just letting them do their thing.
BDN: Sounds good to me. Listen, I wish you nothing but the best. I know everybody’s coming at you. I’m going to stop here and just wish you good luck, and peace, and I’m sure you’ll make a good decision. Thank you for taking the time.
JW: Thank you.
Winslow Adidas Nations