Category Archives: Duke Basketball

Is Nolan Smith Duke’s next defensive stopper?

Nolan Smith struggled to achieve consistent play as a freshman.  He was brilliant at times particularly in games at Maryland and Wake Forest, scoring 14 and 21 points respectively, but ineffective at times, such as the seven games where he did not score a point.  Additionally, Smith did not have back-to-back double digit scoring games.  But that is the life of a freshman in the tough ACC, especially a combo guard who is expected to score, handle the ball, play pressure defense, and make very few mistakes along the way.  Smith’s freshman season statistics were a respectable 5.9 points in 14.7 minutes per game, and those numbers were hampered by Smith nursing a sore knee over the last month of the season.

 

In his sophomore season, Smith will be competing for an open spot in the starting line-up due to the graduation of DeMarcus Nelson.  Jon Scheyer and in-coming McDonald’s All-American Elliot Williams will be his main competition with redshirt junior Marty Pocius also in the mix.  Smith’s main advantage should be his on-the-ball defense.  With a year of experience under his belt, Smith will be more comfortable with Duke’s defensive schemes and should be competitive to step into the role of shutdown perimeter defender previously occupied by ACC Defensive Player of the Year DeMarcus Nelson.  Whether he earns the starting spot or comes off the bench Smith will need to play aggressive defense to earn significant playing time.

 

On offense, Smith demonstrated the ability to knock down the 3-point shot, making 38.6 percent during his freshman season, or explode to the rim with athleticism.  Improving his assists to turnover ratio of .92 will need to be a focus area this coming season.  This is paramount if Smith aspires to make the transition from combo guard to legitimate point guard the position many analysts see as his ultimate destiny at Duke and beyond.  He has the explosiveness and court vision to play the point and making better decisions should come with experience.  If Smith demonstrates the ability to distribute the basketball, he should challenge for a slot in the starting line-up.

 

Comparing Nolan Smith to previous Duke guards results in the name Daniel Ewing.  Ewing was a combo guard who successfully quarterbacked the offense in his senior season.  As a freshman, Ewing’s numbers of 6.5 points in 18.2 minutes per game are comparable to Smith’s 5.9 points in 14.7 minutes.  Ewing’s numbers increased to 12 points in 27.9 minutes as a sophomore and while it is unlikely Smith will see 27 minutes a game due to Duke’s deep roster it is not unrealistic to expect his points per game to approach double digits.  Moreover, Ewing was a consistently strong defender who drew the assignment of guarding the opponent’s top perimeter player.  That is the role many expect Nolan Smith to fulfill in his second season as a Blue Devil.

New Duke AD meets with the media

New Athletic Director Kevin White met with the media on Monday and came off as a breath of much needed fresh air for Duke Athletics.  If he were a politician, one might say he said all the right things, not only addressing many long standing issues, but going into detail about fund raising and college athletics in general.

He left no doubt that he will bring new ideas to the table and that he already loves Duke University and what it stands for.  White admitted to not having all the answers to the media questions, stating that he was still familiarizing himself more with many of the programs faculty and coaching.

It’s safe to say that he is familiarizing himself with the community as well and that he would also be acclimating his family to the area.  In fact, his wife and daughter are driving down today and they along with their two Labs, will settle in to an apartment near campus until they can shop for a home.

Yes, Kevin White was very personable even sharing his concerns about his daughter, a rising senior adjusting to a new school and having to leave her long time friends in Indiana.  He took the time to introduce himself to all of the media and showed a genuine interest in the questions with quick and solid answers all while occasionally nibbling on a chocolate chip cookie from the prior buffet.

While down to earth,  White certainly showed the ability to see the big picture and seems to be man of action.  The  media wasted no time asking about the dormant football program that new Coach David Cutcliffe will try to resurrect.  “Everybody has got to get behind the program, especially when it’s down, said White.  He continued, “David can’t do it by himself.  He’s hired an outstanding staff and he was a tremendous hire.  It will take the whole university to rally around David to make this happen.”

Naturally the conversation then segued into Wallace Wade Stadium.  In terms of Wallace Wade … we need to do a lot in Wallace Wade.  White quipped, “This facility is antiquated at best and we have got to come in here and do a pretty significant makeover.  Not a face lift, but a make over.”

When asked if Duke Football had already outgrown the Yoh Center, he paused and then responded, “I think our needs are out here in Wallace Wade.”  FWIW, the media was seated at a table in the Yoh Center in which Wade was the backdrop. “I think we need to get some experts in here, so that they could kind of give us a sense of what it could be.”  White even talked of price point breaks and expressed the need to look at a lot of “what ifs”.  “We need to make it fan friendly.  The whole environment needs to be reshaped and re cultured.”

White did mention that a new Field House was first on the horizon and talked of elongating the practice field.  He also expressed the need for a great game day experience.  Some of those close to him at his former school Notre Dame, say that he is a hands on guy with concern to game day atmosphere.

He then stated that Duke need an athletic master facility plan which would address the next seven to ten years.  “It’s really important that we show people exactly what we are trying to do,” said White in reference to benefactors.  White was then asked about a capital investment plan and responded, “When institutions get to the point where they feel that they need to make a significant investment, they typically go about the business of creating one and I think we are just at that point.”

Oddly, White wasn’t asked of Coach K until five minutes left in the thirty minute session.  “”What Mike K has created here is  unparalleled at this point and has a mystique.  As a department we need to leverage that and I know Mike is very interested in helping the other programs.”  He also mentioned the basketball facilities, saying, “We will find ways to maintain the mystique of Cameron Indoor Stadium, the cathedral of college basketball, but at the same time move forward into the 21st century.”

The keyword for me during his interview was “Excellence,” which was used in reference to a common theme among those he has already met in his short time at Duke.   “There is a real strong theme of excellence.  Everybody wants to excel and compete at the highest level.”

Synopsis – White seemed well versed in the need for change in football and mentioned the baseball team and Coombs Field as well.  There is little doubt he will put emphasis on these two sports and maintain the behemoth men’s basketball program.  White seems to have a lot of contacts in college athletics and hands on experience in many important areas which will certainly help him on the job.  In a nutshell,  White was again, very personable, articulate and more importantly approachable.

Interview with 2010 prospect Harrison Barnes

Harrison Barnes (6-6, 182) Class of 2010, HS _ Ames Senior, Ames, IA AAU Team – All Iowa Attack

Barnes is the real deal.  He has a great overall package on the court.  He slashes to the rim, can take his man inside or out and is a capable rebounder.  His defense is really good for a young kid and he spaces and moves about the court well.  Plays within himself and is selfless.  He’s bright, well mannered and attentive.  As a soph, he averaged 16.8 PPG.  He is in nearly everybodies 2010 Top Ten Prospects list.  He is being evaluated by Duke this week.
[private]

If someone had never seen you play, how would you describe your game?

I would just say that I can do anything I need for the team to win.  I can post up, go out to the perimeter, take the ball in, play defense.  I would sacrifice my time and stay on the bench or do whatever to help my team win.

Where are you in the recruiting process at this time?

Iowa State and Iowa have been on me for a long time being that I play in state.  Indiana, VCU, Maryland, Oklahoma, Kansas, Texas, USC have all offered.

Wow!  That’s quite a list.  Are you open for anybody else to come in?

Oh yeah.

Are you hearing from other schools?  Who have you heard from of late?

LSU, Georgetown and Duke

What about Georgetown?

They just say that they want to talk to me.  They’ve called and expressed that they have interest in me.

What about Duke?

One of the coaches called recently.

Being from the Midwest, are you opposed to possibly going east?

Right now, I’m just waiting it out.  I haven’t ruled out going far yet.  I am open to anyone.

What about your family, how would they feel about you leaving the area?

My Mom is okay with it.  She has always said it was my decision to make, so she will support me anywhere I go.

Do you come from a big family?

Just me and my Mom and my sister.

Where does education come into play?

It’s top of the list.  It’s ahead of basketball.  You can only play basketball for so long.

Have you thought about what you might want to take in college?

Business

Give me three words that best describes you as a person?

I’d say I’m personable, I’m a talker, I can talk … communicate and I’m humble.

So, is there a timeline?  Will you take all five officials or will you make a choice when it feels right?

I’m just taking my time right now.  I am in no rush.

Who do you pattern your game after?

The skills?  Somebody like Durrant.

How tall are you right now?

I’m 6-6 … 6-7

And you are how old?

I just turned 16.

So, you have a long ways to go … a lot of big schools are coming at you now.  How do you stay grounded?

(At this time Travis McKie walked up and messed with Barnes)  I said, “Hey, you got your time,” as he walked off.  Barnes stayed focused)

You just take it all in stride, one level at a time.

Do you go to a public school or a private school?

I go to a public school.

Do you have a preference in college?

As long as I get a good education … that’s all that matters.

Have you thought about being in classrooms that had like 130 as opposed to say 40?

I’d kind of like a small classroom.

Can you see yourself in the future and how you might use a business degree?

I just want to learn some managing skills and how money works in certain settings.  I’d just like to start my own business.  I would be willing to work in a larger firm until I figured out what I wanted.

What do you need to work on?

My dribbling so that I can play the 2 or 3 better in college.

Tell me one thing about Travis McKie that nobody knows?

(Looking at McKie who appeared again, laughing) Travis McKie, he’s a punk.  Seriously, I have had a chance to meet a lot of people at the camps and it has been enlightening.

Thanks for your time!

Thank you.[/private]

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.