Category Archives: Duke Basketball

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Jahlil Okafor Debuts In Cameron

imagesJahlil Okafor played his first official game in Cameron Indoor Stadium and he did not disappoint the fans.  Okafor went 9 of 10 from the field to score 19 points to go with 4 rebounds.  “He’s an outstanding player.  He has great poise to him,” said Coach Mike Krzyzewski in the post game.  “His most impressive stat line was his 4 assists and no turnovers,” said the HOF coach.  Here is what Jahlil had to say post game –

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Communication Is The Key to Duke Success

tyusWhat do you think is the key for success for the 2014-15 Duke Basketball team?  Most who are chiming in before tip-off are pointing towards the freshmen maturing.  I buy into that to a small degree for there will be moments when they eventually hit a wall.  But these young men are already quite mature and I feel the challenge lies in another key area.

The reason I say that is because college basketball is younger than ever.  Add to that, the freshman coming in are older than ever.  The type of freshman that come into Duke are far from green and this seasons class bares witness to that more so than most.

Jahlil Okafor, Tyus Jones and Justise Winslow all played on the Nike EYBL circuit and that means they’ve played a heck of a lot of basketball.  These three also played for USA Basketball where they travelled afar leading their team to a Gold Medal.   Make no mistake, travelling quickly broadens ones self  and most 18 year olds have never put in so many miles.  And then there is Grayson Allen.  While he didn’t play in the Nike circuit until late, nobody doubts his lack of shyness after winning the McDonald’s All American Dunk Contest while rocking a Duke jersey.  In the pre season Allen has shown the ability to come off the bench adjust quickly and score in bunches.

The bottom line is that while these young men have yet to play a regular season college basketball game, they are already seasoned.  That’s quite evident in the fact that three of the aforementioned will be in the starting lineup from day one for Duke.  This group is the most mature class I have seen in some time.  And for what it’s worth I am talking since Mike Krzyzewski’s breakthrough class which included current Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins, ESPN analyst Jay Bilas, Mark Alarie and David Henderson to the modern-day.

The aforementioned eighties class was young in basketball years because the AAU circuit and USA Basketball was a shadow of what it is today.  Heck, coaches have been unable to truly play the “young,” card since the now trendy “snark” journalism was born with the likes of Jim Rome and that was a long time ago now.

That said,  don’t expect to see Coach Mike Krzyzewski play the “young,” card this season.  And if he does?  Well, that would spell trouble and means things aren’t going well on the court.   Now, before you say he has already played the young card, let me clarify by saying he’s said on a few occasions that his team played “young,” but he hasn’t in recent memory called his team young.

What the Duke Coach knows is one of the main keys to the season is developing communication which leads to chemistry.

That said, communication is “the key,” to the coming season more-so than anything else.  What is communication within the Duke Basketball system?  Well, its many things, but it starts with talk.  Behind every championship team at Duke has been vocal leadership and players who talk it up while they’re on the court.

A lot of times, talking on the court doesn’t come naturally to players, even the best ones and it has to be coached into them.  Many a player has had a great skill set, yet failed to reach their potential due to simple communication issues. Most recently, current Duke Coach Jim Scheyer and Nolan Smith led Duke to a national championship four years ago.  Neither of those guys were big talkers coming into Duke by nature but they developed that skill set.

While watching many games on the Nike AAU Circuit involving Tyus Jones, Jahlil Okafor and Justise Winslow, I saw extremely talented players.  But none of them were especially vocal.

Tyus Jones was the ultimate point guard who operated in a most smooth  and efficient manner, but led more by example with his play.  Justise Winslow was just a cool customer, finding ways to do it all, but he too, was basically a quiet player on the court.  Even Jahlil Okafor was much more of a “Just do it,” guy than he was vocal .  Lastly, Grayson Allen let his dunks and athleticism speak, but he was more apt to give off a smile than he was to chat it up.

Coming into the season, seeing whether this talented quartet advanced in the area of communication was one of the things I wanted to keep an eye on.  The mere fact that Duke named the outgoing Amile Jefferson and the quick to always have something to say Quinn Cook as captains further cemented in my mind that this too may have been an area of concern for the staff.

In witnessing the first practice of the season one thing stood out to me the most.  As I was making verbal notes on my recorder I began to wonder if I could decipher them later, for there was plenty of background noise in Cameron.  As it turned out the recordings were inaudible due to practice chatter in the backdrop and that was a sign that my concern had been addressed.

During the practices and pre season games I witnessed, it became clear to me that at this time, the message that you had to talk on the court had taken root.  It’s obvious that this had been an emphasis from the staff while Kryzweski was bringing home another Gold this past summer with USA Basketball duties.

Talking on the court of things like calling out picks and switches and the rest doesn’t come easy for some but it is one of the cornerstones of success at this level.  Every Duke team that has done special things and brought home championships talked it up along the way,

So far, so good in the pre season.  The freshman are talking more than I’ve  seen them do before and the veteran players are helping them to understand the Duke way.  Talking the game up leads to chemistry and communication leads to good things.  If the team continues to take this part of the game seriously it will bode well for the 2014-15 season.  Communication is the one thing which could be the key to playing in Indianapolis come April as one of the last four teams standing.

 

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Chase Jeter & Luke Kennard Set For Duke

20140308_225342The early November signing period will yield no surprises for Duke Basketball.  That is, unless their ast target decides to go ahead and announce his decision. Blue Devil Nation has learned that not only will Chase Jeter and Luke Kennard will send their letters of intent in, but they’ll also room together.

Meanwhile, another key target in Brandon Ingram and his camp continue to play their decision close to the vest.  Originally, Ingram had planned to announce decision in the Fall and that can still happen.

The Blue Devil staff has to like their early haul.  In Chase Jeter, they get a versatile front court player with plenty of upside.  In Luke Kennard, they get a hard nose competitor that can play multiple roles as well.

Jeter stands 6-11 and played his high school ball in Las Vegas.  He committed to Duke shortly after winning the MVP of an Adidas Nations event this pat August.   At that rime he mentioned being able to play for Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski and contribute right away as being key factors.

The Jeter family took their time with the recruiting process, but Duke had gained a lead on his last visit to the school.  Still, they wanted to make sure it was the right decision and it all played out well for Duke in the end.  Jeter suitors were Arizona, Kansas, UCLA and UNLV.

When Duke first started to recruit Luke Kennard just before the 2013 Nike Peach Jam, many felt he was Kentucky’s to lose.  The reason being proximity to the school and early family allegiances.  But Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski made some quick in roads and developed a strong relationship from that point on and it led to his commitment to the Blue Devils.

During his visit to Duke, Kennard felt at home and more importantly comfortable.  He was told he could play three positions within their system on the visit and this enticed him to cast his lot with the Blue Devils.

Like Jeter, Kennard is a versatile player.  He’s also very competitive in anything he does.  He gave up playing quarterback for his high school football team for the big picture of playing basketball for Krzyzewski and Duke.  Kentucky, Louisville, Michigan, North Carolina and Ohio State had all offered Kennard who will sign his Letter of Intent on Wednesday at his high school.

At last report, Duke was slated to get a visit this weekend from Brandon Ingram, a talented in state prospect from Kinston, North Carolina.  Most feel Ingram is down to the three triangle are schools which include Duke, North Carolina and N.C. State.

Ingram and his camp have been quiet of late but in no way be surprised if his decision comes at any time.  Ingram has originally pointed to a Fall decision and their camp has always been solid on their word with concern to past comments.

Both Jeter and Kennard as well as the prospect Ingram are all ranked in the top 26 players in the nation according to ESPN.

For more recruiting chatter and opinion, join Blue Devil Nation Premium, out extended subscription service.

 

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Quinn Cook Adjusting To His Role

quinnAt the start of the second half of the Blue Devils blowout win over Livingstone, we saw Quinn Cook and Tyus Jones play together.  Cook talked about playing off ball after scoring 13 points and grabbing 4 rebounds from the guard spot to go with his 3 assists.  Check out what the senior captain had to say –

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Justise Winslow Shows Off His Game

JustiseThey call him “Chief Justise,” and that is because even as a freshman Justise Winslow knows how to take charge in a game.  In his Cameron debut, Winslow tallied 19 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 steals.

Duke walloped Livingstone by a 115-58 score and in the post game press conference, Coach Mike Krzyzewski had this to say about his talented young freshman.

“He’s really strong.  He’s way ahead.  He is strong like a senior but is also strong mentally.  When he has his hands on the ball, it’s tough to knock it away from him.  He’ll make some very aggressive moves to the basket where he takes punishment and is still going to get a good shot off.”

Winslow showed off his versatility tonight and in the post game interview area, he said Duke was the perfect place for him.  Why?  Winslow said he was attracted to the fact that he is not labeled to one position.  Hear what he had to say for yourself.

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Tyus Jones Cameron Debut A Success

tyusDuke is loaded with a talented roster this season which was evident in their 115-58 win over Livingstone in their season opening exhibition game.  Said talent makes it easy for Tyus Jones to do his thing and lead the team.  The freshman guard from Minnesota dished out 11 assists to his teammates.   He added 4 points, 4 rebounds and 2 steals to his stat line for a good opening night performance.  Jones to time to talk to Blue Devil Nation after the game.