Category Archives: Duke Basketball

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.

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.