Category Archives: Duke Basketball

Duke Basketball held it's first open practice on Saturday.  Pictured here is Jayson Tatum defensing Marques Bolden.

Decoding the Duke Basketball Open Practice

Duke Basketball held it's first open practice on Saturday. Pictured here is Jayson Tatum defensing Marques Bolden.
Duke Basketball held its first open practice on Saturday. Pictured here is Jayson Tatum defending Marques Bolden.

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.

Grayson Allen, a preseason All American sat out of the practice.
Grayson Allen, a preseason All American sat out of the practice.

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.

Harry Giles is working into shape slowly.
Harry Giles is working into shape slowly.

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.

Man to man defense is back.
Man to man defense is back.

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.

Coach K souned his whistle for many teaching moments.
Coach K sounded his whistle for many teaching moments.

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,

Kennard drives in practice.
Kennard drives in practice.

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.

dsc_0391Jayson 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.

Big cheers for the team after their final drill.
Big cheers for the team after their final drill. Duke Basketball is off and running.

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.


Duke Visits Gary Trent Jr.

Gary Trent Jr. is already familiar with Cameron Indoor Stadium. He can help replace Jayson Tatum pictured with him here in that he is expected to leave for the NBA.
Gary Trent Jr. is already familiar with Cameron Indoor Stadium. He can help replace Jayson Tatum pictured with him here in that he is expected to leave for the NBA.

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.

Gary Trent Jr. may be the next big time Duke verbal commitment.
Gary Trent Jr. may be the next big time Duke verbal commitment.

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.

Duke Basketball in 2016-17 and What to Expect.

Duke Basketball – What to Expect in 2016-17

Duke Basketball in 2016-17 and What to Expect.
Duke Basketball in 2016-17 and What to Expect.

There is certainly a lot of hype surrounding the 2016-17 Duke Basketball team and for good reason.  The Blue Devils return a solid nucleus of players to go with an outstanding freshman class.  Here are a few tidbits on what to expect this season -

Duke will bring Harry Giles Jr. along slowly in that there is no rush to get him back into playing shape right away.  His rehab is going well and he is getting his timing back as he integrates back into the game. Giles is but one of the reasons this year's Duke team will be perhaps the best rebounding team Mike Krzyzewski has had.

A season ago, Duke leaned on varying players to run the point guard spot at times.  The Blue Devils lost Derryck Thornton in  the off-season but there is no reason to panic.  What you will see this season is point guard by committee.  Grayson Allen came back to Duke for another season and he will get his chances at running the team.  In a sense, this will help his NBA career by adding to his skill set.  Duke will also rely on Matt Jones, Luke Kennard here as well.  And then there is of course, the talented newcomer in Frank Jackson.  What Duke likely wants is for these guys to be a bit interchangeable.

Luke Kennard is but one returning Blue Devil.
Luke Kennard is but one returning Blue Devil on this years talented Duke Basketball team.

Duke has crazy depth this season.  The team has gone from not being able to hold traditional practices due to lack of numbers last season to a place of luxury.  This will be one of the tallest rosters ever for Duke and there are multiple players who can play varying positions.  Besides, we all know there are no positions at Duke.

The Blue Devils can throw a lot of players at you in the post this season.  Giles was a beast on the high school level but skilled enough to come at you in different ways.  The return of an even stronger Amile Jefferson is a major plus.  Not only will he groom younger players in the Duke way of doing things, he'll be a major factor.  He was averaging a double-double when he went down a season ago. There is no doubt that Chase Jeter will be much improved and he will be joined by newcomer Javin DeLaurier who supposedly grew another inch since committing to Duke. One of the more intriguing players will be Marques Bolden.  Having seen all the guys in high school, I know he can be a factor, especially when motivated,  Duke will be very versatile up front with solid scoring options.

Matt Jones
Matt Jones will provide leadership as a co captain on this years team.

I spoke to team depth and that means expect Duke to play much better defense this season.  The Blue Devils can throw a lot of players at you and that means fresh legs which will enable them to press and fill the passing lanes.  Duke Basketball competed by going to a zone in recent years and we will still see some of that, but we will also see a return to man to man defense.  There should be plenty of talent that knows how to switch in said defense and help when guys are beat on ball.

There is no one category that fits Jayson Tatum well if we are talking front or back court.  That is because he would play shooting guard in a pinch but will settle in as the best small forward or the best tall wing on this years team.  Blessed with a super skill set he can even learn to be a great defender which is something to watch out for.   It is notable that Tatum stands at 6-8, but there are no less than six players taller than him on the roster.

Team chemistry will be a key this season and reports are that the team gets along well.  They grew up a lot and learned to Duke way while getting to know one another when Mike Krzyzewski and Jeff Capel were helping Team USA win Gold.  It helps when you have a veteran assistant in Nate James and Jon Scheyer guiding the team through workouts.  One of the overlooked strengths of this team and program is the current staff.  Capel is the most grizzled assistant Mike Krzyzewski has ever had.  In fact, I would venture to say this is the best staff Duke hoops has had and that is saying a lot.

Three of the four pre season publications has Duke ranked first in the nation.  Duke will play nine currently ranked team games according to Blue Ribbon which is likely the best preview of the bunch.

Grayson Allen is an All American and National Player of the Year Candidate.
Grayson Allen is an All American and National Player of the Year Candidate.

Grayson Allen has been featured as a first team All American and Player of the Year Candidate in the pre season.  Many are saying his numbers will drop with such a talented team, but I personally wonder about that.  The reason being that teams will not be allowed to double-team him as they did a season ago and he will not have to carry the burden which will allow him fresh legs.

Duke will score the ball.  The offensive potential of this years team is off the charts.  Besides the aforementioned Allen, Duke can score from every single position on the court.  Good luck to teams trying to shut one player down for the rest of the cast will make you pay. There is the hard-nosed ability of Luke Kennard to shoot the three, the slashing ability of Frank Jackson and a steady Matt Jones in the backcourt.  Up front, Jefferson was coming into his own before injury a season ago and Jayson Tatum and Harry Giles were fill it up guys in high school.  And wait until you see that Marques Bolden can pop outside as well as play with his back to the basket.

In closing, Duke Basketball will have some epic practices.  It's hard not to leave a player name out or miss pointing out strengths in one article. That's how crazy talented this year's team will be.  It will be a fun year and we are getting ready to start hearing more and more hype for the season is upon us.

Duke is set to start the basketball season with an open practice this Saturday.

Duke Basketball Open Practice Saturday

Duke is set to start the basketball season with an open practice this Saturday.
Duke is set to start the basketball season with an open practice this Saturday.

DURHAM, N.C. – The Duke men’s basketball program will host an open practice on Saturday, Oct. 1, from 9:30-11:30 a.m. ET at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

Doors to Cameron Indoor Stadium will open for spectators at 8:30 a.m. ET. Spectators may enter from Rubenstein Pavilion (lower south side of Cameron), Morton Plaza (lower north side of Cameron), the Duke Basketball Museum and Athletics Hall of Fame (upper north side of Cameron) and the South Hall of Honor (upper south side of Cameron).

All seating for the open practice will be in the upper bowl of Cameron Indoor Stadium.

General public parking for the open practice will be available on a first come, first serve basis in the Circuit Lots located on Circuit Drive. The lots will open at 7 a.m. ET. Due to Duke football’s home game on Saturday, Oct. 1, there will be a $10 charge to park (cash only).

General public disability parking for the basketball program’s open practice will be located in the Edens Lots located on Towerview Road off of Duke University Road. The Edens Lots will also open at 7 a.m. ET with a $10 charge to park (cash only).

An ADA lift-equipped van will be available to assist guests from the Edens Lots to Cameron Indoor Stadium starting at 7 a.m. ET. An accessible drop-off and pick-up point for guests is located in the Edens Lots.

For directions to the available parking lots, as well as a football game day parking map, please visit

Spectators attending the Duke football program’s home game against Virginia on Saturday are encouraged to remember that no bags/purses are allowed inside Brooks Field at Wallace Wade Stadium.

On the heels of a 25-win season and a Sweet 16 appearance in 2016, Duke welcomes back a veteran core led by graduate student Amile Jefferson, senior Matt Jones and junior All-American Grayson Allen for the 2016-17 campaign. The Blue Devils also add one of the nation’s top recruiting classes to the fold, a group of six headlined by center Marques Bolden, forward Harry Giles, guard Frank Jackson and forward Jayson Tatum.

Mike Krzyzewski is set for his 42nd season as a head coach and 37th at the helm of the Duke program after leading the U.S. Men’s National Team to its third consecutive gold medal at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. Coach K wrapped up his tenure as the U.S. Men’s National Team head coach with an 88-1 record, including an active 76-game winning streak. He is the first coach – man or woman – to lead a country to three Olympic basketball gold medals.

The winningest coach in men’s college basketball history and the first Division I men’s coach to reach the 1,000-win mark, Coach K has a 1,043-321 overall record as a head coach and a 970-262 mark at Duke.

Duke will open the 2016-17 regular season when it welcomes Marist to Cameron Indoor Stadium on Friday, Nov. 11.

Prior to the start of the regular season, Duke will tip off the 2016-17 campaign with Countdown to Craziness presented by Delta Air Lines on Oct. 22. The Blue Devils will also host exhibition games against Virginia State on Oct. 28 and Augustana (S.D.) on Nov. 4.

Duke will appear in PK-80 event.

Duke to Appear in Nike PK-80 Tournament

Duke will appear in PK-80 event.
Duke will appear in PK-80 event.

PORTLAND – The Duke men’s basketball program will participate in PK80 – Phil Knight Invitational, a 16-team early-season men’s college basketball tournament honoring the Nike co-founder and 2012 Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame inductee in advance of his 80th birthday.

Set for Thanksgiving week 2017 from Portland, Ore., PK80 will be one of the largest regular-season tournaments in college basketball history and will be played Thursday, Nov. 23, Friday, Nov. 24, and Sunday, Nov. 26 from the Rose Quarter’s Moda Center and Veterans Memorial Coliseum.

Duke will be joined in the field by Arkansas, Butler, Connecticut, Florida, Georgetown, Gonzaga, Michigan State, North Carolina, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Oregon, Portland, Portland State, Stanford and Texas.

Two eight-team events – consisting of three games per team – will run simultaneously in the two buildings with the crowning of two bracket champions.

“Phil Knight has been a visionary and innovator for a long time,” Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “PK80 is a unique way we can honor him and the contributions he has made not just to the game of basketball, but to all of sport.”

The schools in the PK80 field have combined for 23 national championships and nearly 90 Final Four appearances. Nine of the past 13 NCAA champions will be part of the PK80 field, and 10 of the programs in the event have won at least one national title.

All games from Portland will be televised on the ESPN family of networks. Ticket information and tournament brackets will be announced at a later date.



Duke Ranked First by Blue Ribbon

Duke is ranked first by Blue Ribbon.

The most respected preseason magazine or boo if you will, is the annual Blue Ribbon Yearbook.  While this years edition is not yet available, here is what their top 25 teams will look like.  Duke has again been selected as the nation's top team.  Earlier, Athlon rated the Blue Devils as the top team as well, while Lindy's picked them third.  The teams listed in bold are on this years schedule.  The number beside them is the amount of games the two teams play one another.  Duke will play a total of nine games against ranked teams in the poll.  The Blue Devils welcome a stellar recruiting class who will join a key group of veteran players led by Grayson Allen, a National Player of the Year candidate.

1 -Duke
2- Oregon
3- Kansas - 1
4- Kentucky
5- Villanova
6- Wisconsin
7- North Carolina - 2
8- Louisville - 1 
9- Purdue
10-Virginia - 1
11-Michigan State -1
17-Saint Marys
20-Florida State - 1
21-West Virginia,22- UCLA, 23- N.C. State  - 1 24 Maryland, 25- Rhode Island--1 if they defeat Cincinnati