Category Archives: Duke Basketball

What will Singler do for an encore?

After a highly successful freshman season that saw Kyle Singler earn ACC Rookie of the Year and 3rd Team All-ACC honors, what will he do for an encore? Duke fans are anxious to find out. Singler averaged 13.3 points and 5.8 rebounds in 28.6 minutes per game last season but he appeared to lose his legs during March as a result of being worn out from guarding bigger, stronger players all season as Duke was thin in the front court due to injuries. Basketball pundits love to throw around the term “potential” when discussing players. Therefore, here goes: Kyle Singler has unlimited potential in terms of skills. At 6-8 220 pounds Singler is the size of a prototypical Duke power forward such as Shane Battier or Danny Ferry. He is an excellent shooter with 3-point range, can drive with the basketball or deliver a precision pass to a cutting teammate, post up a defender, rebound with aggression, and is a solid defender. The numbers from last season validate his skill level. Singler has the potential to develop into as good of a player as former National Players of the Year Shane Battier and Danny Ferry. This coming season he will not only be more experienced but he will be stronger. Undoubtedly, the Duke coaching staff has pinpointed areas for Singler to focus upon over the summer. Kyle Singler has the potential to be downright scary good!

Thoughts of an improved Kyle Singler is an elixir to Duke fans upset with early departures from the NCAA tournament the past two seasons. The arrival of freshmen Miles Plumlee (6-10 230) and Olek Czyz (6-8 235) should shore up Duke’s thin front line. Plumlee and Czyz will be able to assist Brian Zoubek, Lance Thomas, and Dave McClure in sharing duties guarding opponent’s primary big man freeing Singler up to defend the opponents second inside player. The defensive end of the court is key in regard to Singler’s sophomore season. The objective is to prevent the scenario where Singler is constantly guarding bigger, stronger players. With a deeper front court available, Coach Krzyzewski should be able to orchestrate the line-up and create interior match up advantages for Duke.

In commenting on the recognition he received as a freshman, “It means a lot – I put in a lot of hard work throughout the season,” Singler said. “I feel very honored, but like any individual award, you kind of want to match it with a team award.” With an improved Kyle Singler and seven other scholarship players back from last season, plus the return of Marty Pocius, and the arrival of three freshman including McDonald’s All-American Elliot Williams, the team award Kyle desires may arrive at the end of his sophomore season.

Bringing intangibles onto the court

Someone who desires to comprehend Lance Thomas’ impact on the basketball court should not look in the box score. Thomas brings intangibles onto the court that are not reflected in the after action statistics. Statistics tracking can be misleading and this observation is coming from a box score junkie. Throughout the course of a game, there is much action taking place on the court that is not reflected in the box score.

First, Thomas is a tenacious defender when Duke presses full court. His energy and aggressiveness disrupts the opponent’s offensive flow even if it doesn’t result in a turnover. An effective full court press will create turnovers and easy baskets, but not on every possession. The press is effective when backcourt pressure results in the opponent faltering in their half court offense. An effective full court press can drive an opponent’s offense into disarray and Lance Thomas is one of the Blue Devils dishing out that back court harassment.

Second, Thomas brings emotion onto the court. I’ve rechecked the box score categories and sure enough “emotion” isn’t tracked. However, Thomas’ enthusiasm for the game uplifts his teammates and motivates everyone on the court to excel and produce in the categories that are tracked in the box score. This emotion and enthusiasm is palpable to anyone sitting in front of a television watching a Duke Basketball game.

Lance Thomas has played in 63 games over the course of his first two years as a Blue Devil, starting 46 of those games. There is room for improvement in his game. For starters, he needs to shoot free throws better as he has made only 55.1 percent of his attempts. Grabbing rebounds on the defensive end of the court is another example. Thomas has secured only 87 defensive rebounds over 63 games. That averages out to less than 1.4 per contest. Thomas needs to be more active in limiting opponent’s second chance points, but I digress into statistics…

I’m not sure how to measure the intangibles that Lance Thomas brings onto the court but I am sure of two things. His teammates need his passion on the court and his effectiveness cannot be measured via the box score. Lance Thomas is another Blue Devil who is ready to breakout.

Staying healthy is step one

The health and skill set development of 7-1 260 pound Brian Zoubek have the potential to impact the 2008-09 Duke Blue Devils. If Zoubek overcomes the roadblocks experienced his first two seasons in Durham, he has the potential to breakout and have a very good season. The rap on Duke last year was the lack of a serious post presence. Zoubek has the size to develop into a solid post player, but he needs to stay healthy in order to develop the skills necessary to accomplish the job.

As a freshman, Zoubek struggled with turnovers. He turned the ball over 37 times in 235 minutes of action. At times, it seemed as if the refs blew the whistle and indicated traveling before Zoubek even caught the ball. Injuries derailed his sophomore season as he incurred a fifth metatarsal fracture in his left foot, during a pick-up game, on July 9, 2007, and then re-injured it in early January 2008. Zoubek underwent surgery on the foot twice and is currently finishing rehabilitation.

Being outrebounded 45 – 19 in the season ending loss to West Virginia lends credibility to the “lack of a serious post presence” rap. The single most important skill Zoubek needs to develop is the ability to control the boards. He grabbed 13 rebounds against St. John’s on February 23, 2008, and nine rebounds against NCCU on November 9, 2007. As a junior, Duke needs him to consistently pull down rebounds, especially offensive rebounds that can be converted into points. Zoubek’s career high for offensive rebounds is five, which is a respectable number. A couple of stick backs a game could be vital.

Another required skill development is knocking down free throws. Zoubek must improve on his career FT average of 58.4 percent. As a big guy, battling inside, he is going to get fouled and it is imperative that Zoubek develop the ability to go to the line and knock down the free ones. Two or three extra points a game can make a big difference. Zoubek’s best game from the free throw line was against Columbia on November 12, 2006, when he went 10 – 13 from the charity stripe.

Duke does not need Brian Zoubek to develop into a dominating post player, but of course that would be nice. The Blue Devils need Zoubek to develop into a consistent player who can average 20 minutes a game and produce eight points and eight rebounds per contest. Maintaining a clean bill of health is the first and most important step for Brian Zoubek to develop into the anchor in the middle.

Our infamous General Update #17 is up! (Get the real scoop on recruting)

Coach K addressed the media today and mentioned that he would hit the road with his staff in early July.  The exact date is July the 6th, which is Sunday.  Former Coach Johnny Dawkins will serve with Team USA.  Coach also mentioned that they try to recruit certain one and done type of kids and that he favored allowing talented kids go straight to the pros.  He mentioned he preferred a two and one or two year commitment as well.

[private]Duke kicks it off at the LeBron James Skills Academy in Akron, Ohio where Coach K and Wojo will cover Jamil Wilson who we interviewed just days ago, Harrison Barnes whose interview will be up tomorrow and Jason Morris, our latest premium offering.   They will of course check out Andre Dawkins our first commitment in the class of 2010.

Coach Collins will be solo at the Adidas Tournament in Cincy.  There he will see Josh Hairston who BDN has made it clear we think will be a Dukie and Nate Lubick who we interviewed last week.  He will also see Josh Smith, 2010 PG Tyler Thornton who visited Duke unofficially just a short time ago and Ray McCallum.

Around July the 8th, Coach K will go to the Reebok event where he will watch Kenny Boynton, Brandon Knight, Terrell Vinson and Nick Russell.

Before Adidas, Collins will be solo at the Adidas event in Cincy.  There he will watch Josh Hairston, who I have told you will commit to Duke unless something goes really wrong.  Add Nate Lubick who I interviewed recently for BDN Premium, Tyler Thornton who visited Duke last week unofficially, Josh Smith and Ray McCallam.

Nate James will make his first splash at the Peach Jam (we will be at this event) where Wojo will show him the ropes.  Jamil Wilson, Andre Dawkins who we are waiting to talk to in person and several youngsters will be at this event as well.

Meanwhile, Chris Collins will head to Miami with Coach K where they will take in Team Breakdown’s Annual Tournament.  He will of course be watching Kenny Boynton and Brandon Knight.  Oh, and don’t pay too much attention to how Kenny responded to the Duke question in the link I provided.  I want it out there that Duke is not the leader from his mouth.  The reason being, the media can pick at Duke by asking him this question.  That’s the same thing that happened in the Monroe recruitment.  He may well have gotten tired of the Duke leads questions.  If the media gets wind of this statement, then this constant question will be defused.  I mean Kendall Marshall’s unscrupulous Father used this to annoy Kenny during the NBAPA Camp.

Then Duke will be represented at the Triple S Harley Jamfest- in West Virginia.  Hairston and Thornton will participate in this event.  The open period for coaches ends on this weekend and then they return to duties in Vegas with Team USA.

Duke will install their new scoreboard in Cameron Indoor Stadium in August.  All of the men’s team is currently on campus and playing pick up together with the exception of Henderson and Zoubs.  Their injuries are healing as expected and they are on schedule.  Our next interview is with the hot prospect, Harrison Barnes.  Keep the names here, folks!  No hints out there please.[/private]

Unbridled passion for Duke Basketball

This article is courtesy of Blue Devil Nation Premium member John Hayne.

When considering the overall context and timing of his commitment, perhaps no Duke recruit has meant more in recent years than that of McDonald’s All-American Elliot Williams. When news broke on Halloween night that the Collierville, Tenn. (a Memphis suburb) native had committed to Duke, a collective sigh of relief from the Duke Blue Devil fan base could be heard around the nation. Less than a year removed from a disappointing season by Duke Standards and having missed on some top recruits, the naysayers were starting to question whether the aura and mystique surrounding the Duke program that traditionally attracted the nation’s top talent had disappeared. Coach K and his staff responded by securing a commitment from top 15 prospect Elliot Williams despite intense recruiting efforts to keep him in the Volunteer State by Memphis coach John Calipari and Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl.

Elliot is a slender 6’4″ left-handed combo guard with all the tools necessary to contribute immediately at Duke. Elliot’s scoring ability has led several recruiting gurus to project him as a “big time” ACC scorer. While there is no way of knowing at this point whether Elliot is going to instantly step in and fill the void left by departing senior DeMarcus Nelson, we do know that Elliot will certainly challenge Duke’s veterans for a starting role. As is the case with all of Coach K’s recruits, however, we do know for sure that Elliot is a great young man with a solid focus on academics. Woodie Jackson, coach of Elliot’s McDonald’s team, had the following to say about Elliot, “Outstanding young man, great attitude, real humble, works real hard. He does what he has to do, and doesn’t moan and groan.”

After watching online videos of Elliot, you will quickly realize why so many Duke fans find it hard to contain their excitement when thinking about Elliot donning the Duke uniform. The scouting report on Elliot is that he has explosive leaping ability and a smooth perimeter shot. He can play multiple guard positions and scores the ball the best when using dribble penetration. Elliot seemingly gets to the rim with ease and is an excellent finisher in traffic. Amazingly, Elliot is just as good, if not better, on the defensive end of the court. He has been described as having an intense competitive fire and really sets the tone for his teams on defense. Elliot is said to have exceptional lateral quickness that leads to several steals and easy transition baskets. While some question whether Elliot is physically ready for the nightly rigors of the ACC, over the past year he has become stronger and shown that he can handle the bumps and bruises along the way.

Despite a knee injury forcing him to miss a month of his senior season, Elliot averaged 22ppg, 7rbs and 5asts and he was named Tennessee Mr. Basketball for Division 2-A. During the McDonald’s All-American festivities, Elliot finished second in the slam-dunk contest and the next night he scored 10 points in 13 minutes of play for the East team. During practices for the McDonald’s games, Elliot is reported to have done an excellent job defending the sensational Tyreke Evans. Elliot garnered further praise for his intensity and athletic ability.

Aside from his dynamic scoring ability, forceful dunks and defensive intensity, Elliot will be welcomed by the Duke community with arms wide open because of the unbridled passion he has already developed for Duke Basketball. When asked about how last season ended and the overall state of the Duke program, Elliot responded, “I couldn’t watch the last two minutes of it,” he said. “I walked out. They’ll be OK. Next year, we’ll get it done…(Duke Basketball) is not sliding. We’ll get it together next year, I promise you that.”