Category Archives: Duke Basketball


Freshman Adjustment at Duke

77Let's face it, a season ago Duke had perhaps it's vest freshman class  of all time under Mike Krzyzewski.  One of the reasons was that they played together a lot with USA Basketball.  It was a situation where they all fit perfectly together which created a perfect storm that resulted in a hard to achieve National title.

This years freshman class had instances where they played together but the experiences were nothing like the group before them.  As they progress, so will Duke and the staff will bring the group along at their own pace.

The Duke staff wasted no time in establishing a firm rotation coming into the season.  Newcomer Brandon Ingram has been in the starting lineup while fellow freshman Luke Kennard and Derryck Thornton are the first two players off the bench.  As for the eight man in the rotation, Chase Jeter has filled that role.

This group has had to learn as much on the court as off.  In fact, their main learning curve now comes with in-game action due to the untimely injury to senior captain Amile Jefferson.  Duke was already a bit thin in practice where they do not have a lot of depth at the guard spots, but now they face an even larger challenge.

Success in the coming ACC season will be a direct reflection of how the freshman progress.  The Duke staff is asking a lot of them as they make up fifty percent of the rotation.  With that said, let's take a look at the four freshman playing key minutes for Duke.

Luke Kennard - Kennard started the season in a shooting slump which defies the player he can be.  Kennard roomed with Grayson Allen during the summer and he surely gained some mentoring there even though there is but a years difference in age.  Kennard is currently rooming with Chase Jeter and the two knew each other from the same situation while playing for USA Basketball over the summer.  The last outing for Kennard was his best and Duke has challenged him to maintain a high level of play.  Kennard is in the midst of finding consistency with his game.  He's a deadly free throw shooter and has the ability to knock down the three or mix it up.  Knowing how competitive Kennard is from AAU interviews, I think it's say that he will get better in a noticeable way during ACC play.  Kennard is learning how to play without the ball in his hands and the need to be cocked and ready to take the shot.  His main adjustment is on the defensive end where he is guarding much quicker and older players than he did in high school.

Chase Jeter -  Jeter met the aforementioned Kennard on their visit to Duke for the UNC game during their junior seasons.  The chemistry between the two and with other freshman is still forming.  Jeter faces a more difficult challenge of adjustment in that he plays in the post.  His main adjustment will be with the physicality inside and the strength of older players he faces.  Jeter needs to learn how to use his body and he will in time.  Despite not playing major minutes, Jeter has maintained a solid upbeat attitude.  That goes a long ways in having your mind right for learning and he is talented enough to where the light will go off in due time.

Derryck Thornton - Thornton would have been a senior in high school this year.  Instead he is rocking the Duke uniform against the nations best and that begs for a time of adjustment.  Unlike some of the Duke freshman, Thornton was the last to hit campus in that he was fulfilling academic obligations to come to Duke  year early. In fact, Thornton missed out on six weeks of playing with his future teammates due to the aforementioned duties.  Thornton has shown flashes of his immense talent, but he has been very inconsistent. Thornton can be a force if he harnesses the fact that he will need to make his teammates better on offense first and that means more assists.  What he has done well is find ways to score but he has to make his shots and more importantly possessions count.. Thornton will get better and he will be a factor for Duke that needs him to command the offense.

Brandon Ingram - The knock on Ingram has always been his size or weight, but with the way they are calling the college game, his length is an asset. Ingram has the ability to weave in and out on the offensive end near the basket and its hard to get to his shot when he does so for defenders.  As Ingram learns how to better use his body and take advantage of his reach he will make a living at the free throw stripe.  What he needs to work on is knocking those shots down and he'll see his scoring average soar.  Ingram is a match up nightmare and he is starting to fill the passing lanes well on defense.  After starting the season off slow, Ingram has been a spark for Duke when they most needed that from him.  Ingram can knock down the three but his role has changed a bit with Jefferson out.  That means he needs to mix it up more in the paint and in my opinion, he's at his best when he does so.  Ingram has a soft touch and the silky moves to get off shots around the rim.  When he mixes it up on offense he is as good as they come.  Ingram is becoming a leader, despite his youth.  He's getting tougher with every learning experience.

Duke also features Antonio Vrakovic and Justin Robinson who are players learning the system as well.

It will be fun for Duke fans to watch as this group of core freshman players develop.  The best is yet to come and the staff is looking forward to the day when they become a smooth running unit. It takes time, patience and growing pains for that to happen, but the process is underway.

plum3 vs Kentucky

What’s wrong with Duke?

52The Duke Blue Devils suffered their second loss of the young season against Utah this past Saturday.  Not surprisingly, it didn't take long for some fans and media to immediately ask, "What's wrong with Duke?"  In today's short attention span society it seems that the latest game is the say all, be all.  There seems to be less and less ability on fans part to see the big picture or appreciate the work it took to spoil them.

Are there some problems in Durham?  Yes.  Should that be of concern?  Yes, again.  But Grayson Allen will not always be sick and with some luck Duke will get Amilie Jefferson back within six weeks. As we wait for the next game on December the 28th, the Blue Devils will surely reflect on the recent loss and they will adjust.

During the time of adjustment, the Blue Devils will learn to play better with what they've got and the options are nor plentiful.  Far too many think that this years freshman class can be like last years, but a season  ago was a special group and story.  This years class is not bad with concern to expectations, they are just more in line with the word, normal.

A bright spot on Saturday was Luke Kennard.  The Ohio sharpshooter had a breakout game.  The problem is that this kind of play needs to become more consistent.  And his fellow freshman were anything but consistent.

Brandon Ingram is playing much better now, but even the budding star took a step back versus Utah.  And Derryck Thornton and Chase Jeter were in a word, bad.  Thornton needs to be smarter with the ball and if he takes the shots, they have to count.  Jeter is a player who Duke Coach Mike Krzyzzwski hoped to bring along slower and he's got to work on his hands.

And it wasn't just the freshman who struggled and failed to bring consistency to the  court.  With Jefferson absence a lot of weight falls on the shoulders of Marshall Plumlee.  When your senior captain has his worst game of the season, well, not much good is going to happen .

But when you throw a little perspective in, one realizes Duke was still a bucket away from a win.  And this on a day when the rima seemed to be those more akin to the ones you find at the local State Fair.  The bottom line is that Duke grew up a bit and almost found a way to win.

As for their second loss of the season, well,  North Carolina ranked pre season number one and Kentucky who was number two each have two losses.  And like Duke,they each have a loss against a non ranked team.  It's no time for panic.

All that Duke can do now is regroup and learn from the experience. The team is young and dealing with the usual high expectations that are part of playing for Duke.  Every team brings their A game when they face the Blue Devils and the ACC games to come are daunting in that the league is strong.

Right now Michigan State seems to be the clear number one team on the national front but there is a lot of basketball yet to be played.  And the straight up truth is that this season is wide open for any team to get on a run and win it all.

Duke will lose some more games but they will also get better. The freshman who are learning tough lessons now will in time play better together.  Duke is limited in practice.  They cannot go all out with their current depth and this will require some good coaching to turn another corner.  But the Blue Devils staff is as good as it gets and there is reason to think that they want to bud in March and not necessarily right not.

Of course Duke will have to put in the work.  Derryck Thornton needs to be the point guard and distribute.  Luke Kennard needs to remain consistent as his shots are needed.  Jeter needs to gain more confidence and act on instinct.  And did I mention Grayson will not always have flu-like symptoms?

There is little room for error this season for Duke Basketball.  There will not be three high picks at season's end.  But there can be success. When people ask what is wrong with Duke, some things quickly come to mind.  But there is still plenty of potential.

When Duke gets Jefferson back, they can beat any team on a given night.  Grayson Allen has flourished in his star role and never quits. Brandon Ingram is adjusting just fine now and can be a match up nightmare down the stretch.  Matt Jones is a steadying influence and Duke still has Mike Krzyzewski.

There will be more growing pains along the way, but Duke can be a cohesive unit by seasons end.  To answer the question, "What is wrong with Duke?"  The answer is that most of the countries teams would love to have similar perceived problems.  But the obvious answer is that a key senior leader who was having an amazing season suffered and injury.

In the end, Duke Basketball will be just fine.


Duke Basketball Notebook #5

vdIn our current Duke Basketball Notebook, we take a look at Duke in the NBA and the early season status of the team.

The play of Amile Jefferson

The senior play of Amile Jefferson has been one of the brightest spots for Duke to date.  Jefferson has been a  double-double machine while showing tremendous improvement on the defensive end of the court.  The amazing thing about his numbers on offense is that he  does not have a single play that Duke runs for him.  What that means is that he is majorly active in every way.  I like to call it doing "Dirty Dogging," it.  What I mean there is that he is in the trenches mixing it up in every way possible.  Seniors have stepped up in the past for Duke.  Once upon a time Duke Assistant Coach Nate James did so for Duke in a way where he earned the nickname "Dogg."   Jefferson is right there too, playing solid basketball while becoming a steadying influence on younger players and for the team as a whole.

Grrreat ...

Okay. So I borrowed that from Tony the Tiger of Frosted Flakes fame for talking about the early season play of Grayson Allen .  Last season the young man starred for Duke in the National Championship Game.  This season he has been challenged by the staff to take on a main line role and he's been nothing less than great in doing so.  Allen has earned the praise of Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski and the respect of his teammates.  While he had an off game against Kentucky, he has lit it up against every other team on his schedule.  Allen has also been instrumental in bringing freshman Luke Kennard along.  Nobody was happier for Kennard when he broke out of a shooting slump for his career high int he early season. The one thing Allen has showed folks is that he has a motor but like anybody else, he too is capable of getting tired.  In the last outing there was a scene most probably didn't see.  During a timeout in a win over Buffalo, Krzyzewski seemed to get in Allen's ear as he came to the bench.  Allen and Duke were not especially sharp early in the going and fighting through tired legs and pending exams.  Allen responded by picking up his game where he finished with 22 points while pulling down a team high 11 rebounds.

He's almost back ...

Kyrie Irving has been participating in full practices for the Cleveland Cavaliers after fracturing his knee cap last season.  Irving is getting over the mental aspects of not playing while closing in on being 100% ready to go.  Irving  will likely see action this month as will Iman Shumpert who has been out with an elbow injury.  With the addition of these two players to help out LeBron James, the Cavaliers will soon be the beast in the east again .  And who out there is not looking forward to a Golden State versus Cleveland Finals?  While it will still take work from both teams to make that happen, the two organizations have to be the favorites to do so at this time.

Duke fans are certainly familiar with ...

Jerry Colangelo and Jahlil Okafor.  Colangelo is of course close to Mike Krzyzewski where they worked together to right the ship for USA Basketball.  He will know offer his services to the Philadelphia 76ers, a once proud organization now in total disarray.  This is of course the home of Jahlil Okafor who is one of perhaps three true NBA caliber players on the teams roster.  Poor personnel moves where they sent away talent for late round draft picks are one of the reasons the team stands  1-22 on the season.  It has been a bit of a struggle for Okafor off the court and fans even started a "Free Jahlil," twitter site.  But the rookie got praise from his former coach in Mike Krzyzewski recently and he seems to be back on track.  I've been around Okafor quite a bit over the years when he was playing AAU ball and when he was at Duke.  I can say I never saw any kind of attitude and nothing but a solid young man.  But the pressures of the NBA for a guy this young can create some new challenges.  I think Big Jah will be just fine.  That is if he can weather all the losing he must suffer through while Colangelo tries to get him some help on the court.

The rotation is set

In recapping the early season play for the Duke Blue Devils, I see exactly what Mike Krzyzewski wants.  I am talking steady improvement.  Duke has succeeded in getting better as a unit yet they are still a work in progress and that will continue into the ACC season.  What we have seen established early on which I referred to early on is a set rotation.  That rotation consists of Amile Jefferson, Marshall Plumlee, Matt Jones, Grayson Allen, Derryck Thornton, Luke Kennard. Brandon ingram and Chase Jeter.  The freshman still have plenty of work to do and that remains an ongoing process.  Meanwhile Duke has benefitted from the older players stepping into to their new roles.  




Duke Basketball Notebook #4

IngramThe Duke Blue Devils are coming off a nice win over Indiana and Blue Devil Nation takes a look back and ahead.  In our latest Duke Basketball Notebook we take a look at recruiting as well.

A feel good win ...

The Blue Devils win over Indiana was a feel good win in many ways.  Duke showed toughness and improvement and a will to win not only from the team but the staff as well.  Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski was really into this game and it was clear the staff had scouted the Hooisers well.  With ex players like Grant Hill, Danny Ferry an Ricky Price watching on a night when Cameron Indoor Stadium was in good form.  Even former San Antonio Spurs legend David Robinson was seen totally immersed in the atmosphere admonishing the game officials after a call.  It was a game that Duke fans didn't want to end.  On the other side of things, several Indiana fans found their way into the venue and all they could do it sit and watch as Duke took over the game midway through the first half.  At games end, Krzyzewski was in good spirits in the media room where he cracked more than one joke.  It was quite simply a good night in Cameron.

Brandon Ingram

Part of the aforementioned feel good atmosphere was due to the stellar first half play of Duke freshman Brandon Ingram.  In the last two games Ingram has shown great improvement after a slow start this season.  In the win over Utah State he took few shots but his stat line was good and within the team concept.  He continued that efficiency against the Hoosiers where his offense came alive. Ingram was knocking down threes at will from the outset but more importantly,he mixed in his ability to use his length around the rim on drives.  That combination is when Ingram can be most effective and he took major steps in figuring out his role on this seasons team.  It was truly a coming out party for the Fayetteville, North Carolina native and now he just needs to build on his consistency.

kennardThe rotation

One of the things I am most asked on social media circles is why so and so isn't playing.  Having been around the program since Krzzyzewski has set foot on the campus allows me a little perspective.  Yes, Duke played just seven players against the Hoosiers and one of those just 17 minutes in Derryck Thornton.  No, Chase Jeter didn't play so let the annual questions begin.  Firstly, the core group of players on this seasons team haven't been together long.  Krzyzewski played them together most of the game to develop chemistry  and to teach them lessons later on film.  As for Thornton, the staff is still trying to get him into a pass first or assist mode.  "He'll be fine," said Krzzyewski to one media member after Utah State game where he had a horrible shooting night.  And he will.  That is if we allow for his development on the coaches schedule.  Perhaps no player is worried about more from a fan level than Chase Jeter who did not play versus Indiana.  Krzyzewski said that the reason was that Indiana is perimeter oriented which is true.  I would also like to remind many that Nolan Smith went through a similar situation as a freshman and he turned out fine as have many Blue Devils past.  But let me share a more recent example in Grayson Allen.  The star sophomore came off the bench in the National Championship game for stellar minutes and guess what?  He didn't play at many critical times a season ago.  In short, Krzyzewski knows what he is doing and a look at the big picture after the dust clears on the season will make that more clear for the worriers.  And let me mention that in the next two games against Buffalo and Georgia Southern, Duke will widen their bench quite a bit.

gilesProspects and such

Any time you have Harry Giles at the game, it's cool for Duke fans. Giles has transferred back to the area as we mentioned would happen to our members.  The reason is to be close to the rehabilitation process.  His surgery went well and he enjoyed the Cameron atmosphere likely thinking of what it would be like to play on Coach K Court.  Duke is also still in the mix for Marques Bolden, a true center prospect with good skills.  He recently said his decision would come in a month.  Kentucky and Kansas are considered front-runners along with Duke for his services.

Next up

Duke takes on Buffalo this Saturday at 5:15 and then Georgia Southern on Tuesday at 7:00 each game in Cameron and televised by ESPN2.  The Buffalo Bulls currently stand 4-3 where they have struggled to find offensive chemistry in the early season.  But the Bulls did knock down a season high 98 points in their last game a win over Canisius.  The Bulls Coach Nate Oates is in his first season as coach while his wife battles cancer.  Buffalo dismissed Justin Moss this pre season and he was the MAC Player of the Year a season ago.  It is also worth mentioning that former Duke point guard and all e time NCAA assists leader Bobby Hurley coached the Bulls a season ago before taking the Arizona State job this season.  Hurley is 5-2 to date with the Sun Devils.

Nick knacks

Duke leads the nation in consecutive non conference wins at home which now stands at 121.  Duke is 15-2 since the start of the ACC/Big 10 Challenge which is clearly the best of any team in either conference.  Grayson Allen is on a 26 consecutive made free throw streak.  I reminisced in the Duke locker room with former player Ricky Price on the days when Cameron didn't have air conditioning.  It was more humid than normal of late in the Duke-IU game where the Blue Devils turned up the heat on the court.  Duke has already played 8 games this season which is more than any other ACC team to date. A special thanks to Mike Bradley for the photos in this article.


Marques Bolden Decision Looming?

Marques-BoldenDuke remains on the final five list for Texan Center Marques Bolden who is nearing his decision on where he will play.  Kansas and Kentucky are considered front runners by many while TCU and Oklahoma are considered long shots.

Bolden is one of the last remaining big time players in his class.  Kansas is attractive to Bolden in that they have had success with big men.  Kentucky makes the list for their success in getting players to the NBA.  Duke offers a chance to play alongside a banner class and learn under Coach Mike Krzyzewski.

Bolden is the 20th ranked player in his class per ESPN.