As the highly touted Duke Blue Devils prepare for the coming season, I had a chance to speak with Frank Jackson. The prized freshman brings a solid skill set to Durham where he can play on ball defense, provide a good handle or drive and dish. In fact, Jackson is the reigning winner of the McDonald's All American Game Dunk contest which points to his athletic prowess. Here is a Q & A with Jackson -
Talk about the adjustment period since you arrived on campus.
Yeah, it was a big adjustment initially and I got here in summer. I have adjusted well. I'm comfortable with the area and comfortable with my team and the coaching staff as well, so it's been a fun time.
So, I understand you are rooming with fellow freshman Jamin DeLaurier. He jokingly said you're crazy, so whats that about?
Laughs He's crazy and he's dirty too. No, he's been a great roommate and we've become really close, so...
What has been the biggest adjustment to this level. I mean, all of sudden you're on a team that's chock full of talent.
The talent level is an adjustment itself and also the pace of the game. It's definitely picked up. It's not as hard in high school where it was definitely more laid back. And the workouts are a lot tougher, It's like a full-time job for the next couple of months, so I have to be ready.
You are running the PG spot some, but that is also done by committee. Is that a good thing in that you get to play off ball some too.
It's great. Coach K likes versatile guys who can play multiple positions. I am capable of doing that and whatever it takes to help the team.
How long were you in Utah?
Seven years or since I was eleven years old. I spent all my high school and junior high years there.
Has there been an adjustment period with the humidity an adjustment coming from Utah?
Yeah, it's crazy out here. Actually I still don;t like it. I'm a little used to it from D.C. but it's even hotter down here.
What are your personal goals for the coming season?
For me personally, I want to be the best on ball defender and I want to be consistent, for sure and just do anything to help my teammates win.
I cover AAU ball and you were tenacious at times with your defense at the NBA Top 100 Camp when I saw you. You have that side to you or competitive edge as well. You kind of get in people's grill...
For sure, I don't like to lose. Ever since I was a little kid I tried to win everything I tried to do, You know, when I lose, it's not a pretty site, So yeah, I have always had a competitive edge.
So, don't let the All American smile fool you...
What do you do in your limited down time?
It is a lot to be honest but we still have some time where we hang out and go to football games. But there is a lot of basketball. I like watching movies.
Will your parents be able to see you play this season?
My family has moved to Williamsburg, Virginia. They'll be coming down all the time. We were originally from the east coast, I grew up in Washington, D.C.. So we have family back in D.C. and my Dad does most of his work there and they thought it would be a good time to finally move back to the east coast.
Duke opens the season with Countdown to Craziness on Saturday, October the 22nd in Cameron Indoor Stadium. The event starts at 7 and will be carried by ACC Network Extra and the Blue Devils IMG network.
During yesterday's Duke Basketball media day, Coach Mike Krzyzewski made it clear that there are no major concerns with Harry Giles surgery.
Giles, who has now had multiple procedures to repair damage in both knees is expected to return in as early as six weeks.
When questioned as to whether this could be a recurring or chronic problem, Krzyzewski responded by saying, ''I don't think so. This has nothing to do with the ACL. Structurally his knees are really good. It was a clean up. If there was structure, we wouldn't be saying it's six weeks. And six weeks is conservative, you know.''
Blue Devil Nation had originally reported that he could be out until early December. While that is still a possibility in that the staff will not rush the process, the reality is that no specific timetable is etched in stone.
''He'll want to come back before then because he already feels better, Structurally, he was examined on Saturday, I was there and he's good. It was the smart thing to do right now,'' Kryzyzewski continued.
Injuries are nothing new at Duke or at any level of basketball. But Duke offers players who commit to their school some of the best medical care in the nation.
Krzyzewski once dealt with a foot injury to current Cleveland Cavaliers guard star Kyrie Irving. While the process was different, he showed that he will not put a players NBA future in jeopardy by rushing them back.
That philosophy likely helped Duke land Harry Giles Jr. in the first place. Being at Duke has also allowed Giles to fast track pretty much the same injury with better care.
While some of the glass half full types in media and the fan base perceive the setback as critical, Giles is certainly in good spirits. Here is what the promising freshman tweeted just after his procedure -
Embrace the Negavity, I'm going to show all you 💂🏾
I would think this is Harry Giles way of saying, just wait, I will be back sooner rather than later.
Giles roommate during USA Basketball in Jayson Tatum chimed in on the temporary setback, ''It's nothing we're worried about. He's going to be back and he'll be ready to go.''
Tatum, like other Duke players including Giles himself and the Blue Devils coaching staff are showing no worry. In fairness when a player of Gile stature has problems, it is a lightening rod for media attention.
With that said, forget the sensationalized posts you may have read on a message board or an article designed for hits. The bottom line is Giles will be in uniform and playing for Duke this season.
The only real question that remains is when Duke will decide to play Giles. With a team that has ample depth, they can afford to take their time. If read between the lines of Krzyzewski's comments, you can see that he holds his star freshman's long-term future as a high priority.
DURHAM, N.C. – Duke freshman Harry Giles underwent a successful left knee arthroscopy on Monday.
The procedure was performed by Dr. Claude T. Moorman, head team physician, at Duke University Medical Center.
“We’re very pleased with the outcome of today’s procedure,” Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “This is the right step for Harry at the moment as it will help him be 100 percent going forward. Harry has done a tremendous job in rehabilitation over the last year and I’m sure he’ll continue to do the same after this procedure.”
The typical recovery time for this procedure is six weeks.
Duke opens the 2016-17 regular season when it hosts Marist on Nov. 11.
There was a lot of interest in the Duke Basketball open practice on Saturday. Fans filled the stands on one week's notice to catch a peek at this season's talented team. While the emphasis of their views were likely on the talented freshman newcomers, it's the veterans who will be the key to this year's team.
Duke returns Amile Jefferson, Matt Jones, Grayson Allen, Luke Kennard and Chase Jeter this season. There are others, but the aforementioned contributed the most. Not one of those guys fail to remember how Oregon players all but taunted them as last season came to an end. This will be cause for a chip on their collective shoulders.
There were more instances of falling just short as well. In road games and even some home affairs the Blue Devils just flat-out lost from lack of depth. Duke was quite simply vulnerable at times and hard lessons learned will make for a leathery bunch of veteran leaders.
Grayson Allen sat out the most recent practice, but there is no concern for alarm. Duke is just resting their most valuable player who spurned the NBA for the chance at another National Championship.
Allen had to do it all a season ago. That combined with a competitive spirit which allows him to go all out taxed him at times. Some have stated his numbers are sure to go down this season with a deep team. I am not so sure about that. The reason being that his fresh legs and not being doubled down on will allow him lots of opportunities to flourish.
When Amile Jefferson went down a season ago to injury, the already thin rotation became even more vulnerable. Jefferson was having his best season where he was putting up double digits in scoring and rebounding.
During this past weekends practice, Jefferson looked the part of leader in that he was vocal. You don't want to take Jefferson's emotion away for he thrives on it, yet remains controlled. It was not easy for Jefferson to sit and watch as his team played hard but fell short in the tournament.
Jefferson has the job of teaching front court players the Duke way. But he also will be the most seasoned player from the system and that alone will make him a steadying influence as the youth progresses.
Matt Jones is a favorite of the staff and for good reason. He is low maintenance and does what is asked of him. Jones, like all the veterans knows he can go all out in that there are backup options this season. That will make for a more aggressive approach for all the vets.
After a slow start to the season offensively, Luke Kennard became the same scoring threat he was in high school. With a years experience behind his belt, Kennard will take a major step forward in confidence. Just imagine when he is hitting at the same time as Allen and you almost feel sympathy for the opponents.
Another player who'll benefit from experience alone is Chase Jeter. Early struggles plagued him last season but the light started to come on late in the year.
The one thing you can be certain of is that the Blue Devils veteran leaders will have a mission and a sense of urgency to win championships. They know what they want and three players on the roster who own championship rings know the sacrifice it takes.
Afterall, it was Grayson Allen's play as a freshman which helped the team win their last national title. And he may be able to help a freshman understand that when your opportunity comes, be ready for the moment.
It is this group's job to set the tone for the talented newcomers and teach them the Duke way so they too might pass it along. This group of veterans has character, talent and desire which should bode well for the coming season.
There is little doubt that Harry Giles, Jayson Tatum, Frank Jackson and Marques Bolden will play big roles for Duke this season. But the über excitement on this team's potential is there from players we have already seen play.
The 2016-17 Duke Basketball team to Coach K Court before several thousand people in Cameron Indoor Stadium this past Saturday. To the average observer, there may not have been a lot of takeaways, but a closer look reveals specific plans.
As the calendar turned to October the 1st, the Blue Devils staff was able to hold full team practices. Up to that point, the team was allowed smaller gatherings of which many were conducted while Mike Krzyzewski was winning another Gold Medal for USA Basketball.
Firstly, let me speak to who did not participate in the practice. Grayson Allen did not appear until thirty minutes or better into the activities. He strolled into Cameron to a raucous cheer in that he is indeed a true fan favorite. Allen watched most of the practice before riding an exercise bike on the sidelines, There is no word on what the official reason for holding Allen out, but an SID said he was just being rested.
Those expecting to see Harry Giles early on, may not have read or recent article titled ''Duke Basketball - What to expect in 2016-17.'' As I said in that article, Giles will be brought along slowly as he recovers from off-season surgery. While he is participating some away from prying eyes, he did not compete in any drill on this day.
Unlike a season ago, Duke still had more than enough bodies to compete at a high level in practice. You have to think Mike Krzyzewski and his staff are enjoying this luxury. The main reason being that Duke can now go all out and do the things they really want to with concern to strategy.
What fans were seeing was a return to man to man defense on the practice floor. You have heard the saying the defense is ahead of the offense and vice versa. Well, it is clear to those who have followed the program closely that there is an intense effort on said defense.
The practice was a bit jagged, due to many whistles being blown by Krzyzewski. That may have bored some but it was a teaching moment each time. During the breaks in play, Krzyzewski told players where they needed to be on the court defensively. This included switching off and spacing as well positioning and getting into passing lanes.
What we saw from the players during the practice was very aggressive play. Several players handled the ball and it was clear that many have the green light to bring the ball up. There were no uncontested moments when this happened for Duke players were more or less in each others grill. In fact, it was fun to see how contested each attempt to get to the basket became.
This kind of aggressive play is tiring. By the end of practice some tongues were wagging. The younger players are especially affected in that they have to learn not just the physical aspects but the mental part of the system as well. In closing on the talk of Duke playing much more man to man defense this coming season, I can say a clear foundation is in play.
There were no scrimmages on this day and the defense made the offense look stagnant. That is by design and there are no worries. Every shot was contested and pride was taken in defensive play but there is no shortage of firepower on this years team. Instead of discussing this on the whole, I will instead give some mini player blurbs below.
Amile Jefferson- He's back. Jefferson enjoyed his best season to date statistically a year ago before injury. He moved well and seems one hundred percent recovered.
Matt Jones - Steady, heady play best describes Jones in my opinion. He does the things Coach K likes,
Luke Kennard - More mature and muscular physically. Improved handle and is still a scorer. Played with his usual tenacity and confident.
Antonio Vrankovic - He battled hard in the paint and knows how to get his body on defenders.
Justin Robinson - He's enjoying his role on the pre season's best basketball team.
Chase Jeter - Showed he is going to fight hard for burn. He looks stronger and more comfortable within the system.
Nick Pagliuca - The walk on hit the buzzer beater in the final drill which you will hear more of below.
For the freshman, I will add a little more depth to my comments in that most have never seen them play or wear Duke Blue.
Jayson Tatum - He was outside oriented during the drills, unafraid of taking any shot. He shows early signs of being a go-to guy. He also played good defense. He seemed a bit winded after practice in that the realization is there are not easy shots in a Duke practice or on the college level. In short, he had to work hard for his shots.
Frank Jackson - Handled the ball well and had a player in his face at all times. He reciprocated . What people will see from Jackson is that he likes to get after it and despite his All American smile, has a very competitive side to his game. He struggled a bit getting to the rack on a day where solid defense was the being played and is learning nothing comes easy.
Jack White - The first thing I noticed about White is that he has a very mature body for a freshman. He's thick and is learning to play against different, more athletic positions and players.
Javin DeLaurier - At the end of practice, DeLaurier still looked fresh. The young man has a motor and length and he plays hard. He's a very nice addition that will fit in well at some point in time.
Marques Bolden - He had the most dunks on the day and he gets off his feet well. Bolden is solid with his back to the basket and that will be where Duke needs him to play. A very talented and coachable young man will be factor early on.
Duke ran what they call a 4;15 drill where the entire team runs full court on both ends with the goal of making 120 shots. After two days of hard practice it is no surprise that the team started slowly. With about 35 seconds left, Duke seemed destined to come up way short, but they got hot down the stretch and hit their goal at the buzzer. The team did this to raucous cheers from what was a sold crowd in Cameron Indoor Stadium. It is worth noting that a tired team seemed energized by the cheering. The drill could not have been scripted better and sent fans off wanting more.
Sidebar - There were many moments when the staff could be seen coaching guys on an individual basis. The floor on Coach K Court features a more traditional brighter wood look this season. It has had a bit if a yellow hue in the past where some of the more professional photographers had to adjust accordingly. Duke Basketball will hold media day this Tuesday where Krzyzewski and players will discuss the season to come.
The Duke Blue Devils men's basketball staff has been rolling right along on the recruiting trail. Mike Krzyzewski and the Blue Devils have seen many key prospects up close and personal, including Kevin Knox , Wendell Carter Jr., Mohamed Bamba and Gary Trent Jr. as well as others during the open period.
Last evening Duke had their in home visit with key prospect Gary Trent Jr. Krzyzewski's entire staff consisting of Jeff Capel, Nate James and Jon Scheyer was there to speak of the Duke way of doing things.
There is plenty to talk about when the Duke staff visits. National Championship rings are worn and this kind of thing is what is expected when wearing the uniform. Duke has also had phenomenal success in developing players for the next level. The staff likely spoke of developing as a person both on and off the court and the top notch NBA style facilities in Durham.
Then there are the Cameron Crazies and the fan passion to speak about and the constant national spot light as well. I think you get the picture that Duke Basketball is an elite force without me going further.
The most impressive thing to me about Gary Trent Jr. is his work ethic and his desire to get better. During a Nike EYBL event I attended last summer, Trent could be seen drilling himself in between games. While most players were socializing, he was looking to the next game his Howard Pulley team would face while going through workouts.
In watching Trent, you realize he can score the ball. He is one of the most effective offensive talents in high school basketball. Perhaps, he is the best. The budding star has the ability to play great defense as well and expand his game.
Duke has made Trent one of their most important targets. He visited with his AAU teammate Trey Jones last season where he took in a Duke game while standing with the Cameron Crazies.
Trent will be visiting Cameron Indoor Stadium again for the much anticipated Countdown to Craziness on October the 22nd. It is also worth noting that he will be joined on that visit by Wendell Carter. These two outstanding players have developed a close relationship on the Nike EYBL circuit.
It is also worth noting that both Trent and Carter have USA Basketball experience as well. That experience has been something which has worked out well for Duke of late. After all, Mike Krzyzewski just led the nations team to a third Gold Medal.
Duke is in a position to offer a lot of playing time and open spots to the nation's top prospects. Duke will lose every projected starter on this years talented team. In fact, they could lose as many as eight players.
The Blue Devils have had one verbal commitment to date from Alex O'Connell. Should a player like Trent commit, say shortly after Countdown to Craziness; that would get the ball rolling for the next great class.