Category Archives: Duke Basketball

Krzyzewski talks of “Duke Standards”

[private]"When I talk to our team, I tell them these are our standards."  Those are the words that came out of Coach K's mouth during a recent practice.  He then referred to a very good team meeting where he asked the players to participate intalking of a practice tape from the previous day and adding their take.   "We record all of our practices," stated Coach.  And they do, there are six state of the art cameras along the walls in the new practice facility.

The "Duke Standards," mean communication, togetherness and all out effort among the many.  Coach demands that his players look coaches and each other in the eye when talking.  "I asked them to contribute in the meeting and no fooling around."  This discipline afforded Duke another opportunity to grow as a team and when Coach K instructs or suggests, you can hear a pin drop and echo through Cameron.

The HOF coach will talk to the media about last seasons tournament ending game versus West Virginia, but it's clear that he's ready to put that game to bed and move on as is his team.  During the off season his staff discussed the reasons for that loss and adjustments have been made in order for Duke to make a deeper run in March and quite likely April.

"It's obvious that we have a deep team.  Anybody wh has had the opportunity to watch this team in the pre season knows that," stated Krzyzewski.  He then went on to hintt of a plan which willkeep his team fresher down the stretch.  Just one of those reasons is the pleasant play of incoming freshman Miles Plumlee, who

Coach K instructs Singler and Plumlee
Coach K instructs Singler and Plumlee

has enabled Kyle Singler to play a more natural position where he's able to showcase his immense skills set.  But it doesn't stop there.

Players like Marty Pocius have picked up the system better and as of right now Nolan Smith has been running with the first team ahead of senior co captain Greg Paulus.  Anytime, you can bring a hard nosed competitor like Paulus off the bench, well, it's the sign of a team with depth.

It remains to be seen if Krzyzewski will play more than the seven or eight players he usually does, but he certainly hinted he would and that having their legs late in the season is a priority.  After several views of the 08-09 Blue Devils, I feel certain that they will go nine deep, even ten when necessary.

You can also look for some of the Gold Medal Team USA experience to rub off on their style of play.  "Fans will see an exciting style of play this season," said Krzyzewski.  He went on to say it would be similar to the Olympic team, especially concerning spacing in the motion offense and break.

All in all the table is being set for an outstanding season and fans are getting excited about what they are hearing.  Duke plays it's last tune up game versus Lenoir Rhine this evening, before tipping off the season for real on Monday night against Presbyterian only to come back against the winner of the Georgia Southern-Houston game the following evening.

Stay tuned to Blue Devil Nation for coverage of all things Duke Basketball and individual breakdowns.[/private]

Communication plays a key role for Duke Basketball

[private]Communication plays a big role for Duke Basketball.  During last weeks Coaches Clinic, Coach K told the audience that his team is instructed to talk to the ball, and see the ball.  He expects his team to look him in the eyes, and that goes for their interactions with the other coaches and teammates as well.  "There is no fooling around," said Coach K when telling of a recent team meeting where he asked his troops to contribute in a meeting after a film session. 

During practice, all of the players are vocal and if they do not call for the ball or the switch, they will be told to do so.  In my years of coaching, I can attest that the tight knit team which plays together via communication is almost always in the game even when less talented.  Fortunately, Duke is supremely talented, so the learned skills could make the difference in making the Sweet 16 or the Final Four.   Check back for a complete report on the Coach K Coaches Basketball Clinic tomorrow.[/private]

Behind the scenes – Practices are providing a preview of what to expect

We will get the ball rolling on our coverage from this past weekend, starting with some of Coach K's comments and my take on the pecking order.  I have now seen, 5 practices, the Blue-White and Virginia Union game and some individual workouts.  This has given me enough looks to form what I consider a valid opinion.  I will be examining the team in a close manner, breaking players down individually in segments.  At the bottom of the page is Brian Zoubek.  The next installment will feature four more players.  Of course, I will see the Lenoir Rhyne game on Wednesday night and incorporate those thoughts into the analogies as well.  There will be plenty more of Coach K comments coming too.  There will be a thread on the premium message board, where you can ask questions, and I will add them into the articles.  If you are not signed up for the message board, please do so.  If you are signed up and yet to be approved, send me the user name you chose and e-mail me that information at  Premium members will also get an updated state of recruiting report and the usual interviews with key prospects.  For non members, step inside for the latest skinny for we'd love to have you aboard.

So, whats the pecking order looking like? [private]

The lineup-  Make no mistake in that the starting lineup to this point is Nolan Smith, Gerald Henderson, Kyle Singler, Jon Scheyer and Mason Plumlee.  Coach has gone with this lineup since the second practice.

First off the bench- Greg Paulus, Lance Thomas, Dave McClure, Elliot Williams

Close behind- Brian Zoubek, Marty Pocius

When the game is in control- Olek Czyz, Steve Johnson

What is K saying about his team?

"We have three great players, those being Gerald Henderson, Kyle Singler and Jon Scheyer.  That's not to say that a Nolan Smith or a Greg Paulus might not lead us in scoring, but that's the three stars we are built around."

"As you can see, we are a deep team and it gives us a lot to work with.  This team should be a good rebounding team in that we can keep fresh guys on the court at all times."

"We're going to be good, we are good, we can be really good and make a run for it all."

"I want my team talking.  Communication is one of the most important things in basketball.  We want guys telling their teammates where to go - a shared vision.  We want out guys to call for the ball."

"Miles is going to be a good player.  He can do a lot of things.  He walked on to the track team as a senior and jumped for a school record.   He can be good for us."

Brian Zoubek - Brian is still recovering from the lack of cardio training he missed when injured.  The injury has not impeded his movement, which is still more mechanical than reactionary.  Duke has been using him thus far to simply plug the middle.  The players do not hesitate to challenge him in practice, especially his former roomate Jon Scheyer.  Both players now live alone, a perk for upper classmen.  What he does right - when he positions himself, it's hard for defenders to shoot anything over him.  He has developed a bit of a hook shot and is using the glass right underneath the basket in an efficient manner.  He moves fairly well for a big guy and is not moved too easily from the lane when his feet are planted.  What needs work - he is sometimes positioned wrong defensively with concerns to the baseline drives and cuts.  Brian has little hops and does not explode to the basket.  How he'll be used - Duke will look for him to log fifteen minutes a game and keep teams out of the lane.  He will play more against teams with top notch frontcourts and less when Duke can go small. [/private]

Deep roster will compete to support a solid core

Duke returns a solid core of players from last year's 28-6 squad. Kyle Singler, a 6-8 220 power forward, was the ACC Rookie of the Year and 3rd Team All-ACC. Versatile 6-4 wing Gerald Henderson had a breakout sophomore season. Jon Scheyer was invaluable as Duke's Sixth Man playing the third most minutes and was the team's fourth leading scorer. Greg Paulus recovered from the injuries that plagued him as a sophomore, displayed a deadly 3-point shooting ability, and earned 3rd Team All-ACC honors.

The challenge for the coaching staff this season will be managing the five or six players required to support the solid core of Singler, Henderson, Scheyer, and Paulus. Which players emerge and secure spots in the rotation is a question which will be answered during intense practice sessions throughout the season. With 12 scholarship players healthy and available to compete, Duke is deeper and more experienced than they have been in recent seasons.

The first question is how improved will Nolan Smith be as a sophomore? He tallied 5.9 points in 14.7 minutes per game as a freshman and displayed flashes of greatness at times. In a key victory, on the road at Maryland, on January 27th, he scored 14 points and grabbed six rebounds in twenty minutes of action. His highest scoring game of the year was on February 17th when he dropped 21 points on Wake Forest. Unfortunately that was in a losing effort. Smith was slowed, down the stretch, by a hyper extended knee so his season statistics under represent his actual contribution on the court.

Duke is going to need Smith to be a consistent performer this season especially on defense. With defensive stopper DeMarcus Nelson lost to graduation, Smith is the likely candidate to draw the assignment of guarding the opponent's best perimeter player. With solid freshman to sophomore season improvement a la Gerald Henderson, Smith could emerge as a star for the Blue Devils. Smith is currently slated to be Duke’s starting point guard. In recent comments, Coach Mike Krzyzewski stated, “Right now, Nolan would be a starter.” With Smith in the starting line-up, it appears Greg Paulus will take over the Sixth Man role occupied by Jon Scheyer last season.

Next, is Miles Plumlee a viable option to fill the starting post player position? He has been especially impressive in early practice and the exhibition game against Virginia Union, a game in which he started, played 16 minutes, scored 14 points, and grabbed seven rebounds. With Plumlee slated to break into the starting line-up, it appears Duke is set to address their post presence short-comings of a year ago. Coach Krzyzewski on Plumlee, after the Virginia Union game: “Good hands, good feet, a shot blocker, runs and it’s just a matter of him getting experience. He’s got a great feel for the game. He’s a very good athlete.”

A center-by-committee of Miles Plumlee, Brian Zoubek, and Lance Thomas is a definite possibility. After the Blue-White game, Coach Krzyzewski praised Lance Thomas for his defensive pressure. “When he’s in the game we need to pick up our pressure in the full court, because defensively he’s outstanding. You have to give him the opportunity to use those talents when he is in there.” Brian Zoubek has put up impressive numbers in limited minutes: five points and six rebounds in just 12 minutes against Virginia Union; 10 points and three rebounds in the Blue-White game. It appears all three players will get minutes and the opportunity to shine. Over the long haul of the season, their combined efforts should develop into a situation where the whole is greater than the sum of the individual pieces.

Before proceeding any further, it must be stated that Duke, like every other team, must avoid the injury bug. The past two seasons have been negatively impacted by injuries. Paulus broke his foot on the first day of practice in 2006, Zoubek broke his foot twice last season, Thomas suffered from a respiratory infection, Henderson hurt his wrist, the flu bug struck hard with inconvenient timing, and who knows what other minor injuries never leaked to the press. A healthy 2008-2009 season would be a nice change.

Finally, who will emerge to take over and secure spots as the ninth and tenth men in the rotation? Dave McClure, Elliot Williams, Marty Pocius, and Olek Czyz will be fighting for playing time as role players off the bench. All four of these players should have an opportunity to contribute early in the season, but when the ACC season starts competition for playing time will stiffen and it is not unrealistic to expect Coach Krzyzewski to shrink the rotation to ten players. Fifth year senior Dave McClure has the advantage of understanding the system, red shirt junior Marty Pocius is healthy and coming off a summer spent playing with the Lithuania National Team, and freshman Elliot Williams is extremely athletic. “I think he could be one of our better on-ball defenders,” Coach Krzyzewski said. Freshman Olek Czyz is a natural athlete and a guy who will be looking to make an impact when given the opportunity.

Duke is in good shape to make a deep run in the NCAA tournament. The team has a solid core and a talented supporting cast. By avoiding the injury bug, having a ball or two bounce the right way, and improving as the season unfolds, a trip to Detroit and the Final Four is a realistic expectation for this edition of the Duke Blue Devils.[/private]

BDN catches practice #12 of the season (updated)

The Duke Blue Devils held practice #12 today in the Mike Krzyzewski Center for Athletic Excellence Practice Facility.  The Blue Devils were coming off a hard fought scrimmage where they had ACC refs come in the previous days.

Since the start [private] of the season, Duke has had just two days off.  So today they decided to run no contact drills, working on several aspects of their shooting.  Coach K and the staff watched on as his team went through free throw drills, where Marty Pocius beat Jon Scheyer to face off with Elliot Williams for the most accurate of the day.

Despite those two ending up the drills, Miles Plumlee hit more than 18 in a row in one stretch.  Plumlee looks as good in the drills as he did in the season opening exhibition games and he is a pleasant surprise for those unfamiliar with his game.

Coach K said that his team had been getting better all preseason, but they had plateaued of late.  He stressed the importance of backing off at times like this, but said they will go full throttle tomorrow and that he wanted to see how his team responded.   He also mentioned that his team was nursing some minor injuries from going at it so hard of late.  Despite that, nobody looked but so hobbled to the naked eye.

The HOF Coach said it should be obvious that his team would be deep and that was easy to see.  He mentioned that Duke would have a chance to win against anybody, anytime, anywhere if they played to their abilities.

David McClure looked healthier than ever and showed some solid hops which I hadn't seen before.  In fact, the whole team is athletic and all can dunk with authority with the exception of Paulus.  Before you get on Paulus, he showed tremendous leadership, egging on his teammates, saying to Olek with fire, "Come on, you have to finish that off, after he missed a dunk on a drill.

Singler looks solid and Henderson is primed to fulfill his potential.  Miles Plumlee continues to impress with his athletic ability.  All in all, this is as K said, a very deep and talented team.  After tomorrow, I will have seen 5 practices, the Blue-White game and the Virginia Union game.  Now that I have had several viewings of the 08-09 team, I will begin to tell you my thoughts on each player.

Josh Hairston's father also attended today's practices with AAU coaches from his daughter's team.  Coach K's family was also present, or at least his wife, two of his daughters and five grandchildren.  The kids were dressed in their Halloween outfits and there was as always a family atmosphere.

I will report on two practices tomorrow and you are sure to hear something you like.  Check back in tomorrow night.[/private]

Boynton, Knight, Smith updates up on Blue Devil Nation Premium (updated)

The Kenny Boynton watch was in effect this past weekend.  Boynton visited the Gators on his official visit and despite some [private] pressure by Donovan to get him to commit, Boynton came away saying he would take his other visits.  In short, this means he will be in Durham.  I suppose a little excitement may ensue when he comes to town on November 8th.  ***Breaking - Despite the rumors, I have not confirmed any of them with those who really count.  While it looks as if he is a bit of a UF lean, I will wait for confirmation from legitimate sources.

ADDENDUM - Kenny has made a decision to forgo his visit to Texas this weekend and will choose his school live on ESPNU at 6:30 EST.  As of last evening, he had told the Duke staff, he'd be making the visit to Durham.  As of noon today, he had not told the coaches it was Florida for sure.  However, the prevailing feeling among those who count is that Florida is the choice.  The Duke coaches felt very good about Kenny up until last night.  So, they are allowing him to have his day in the sun whether it's good for them or not.

A lot of you are wondering about Brandon Knight.  Well, he's a huge priority, but is somewhat on hold until the Blue Devils finish up with Boynton.  If KB chooses elsewhere, Duke puts on the full court press.

Harrison Barnes had a nice visit and left with a good idea of what Duke was about.  He will certainly consider the Blue Devils who are a lock to make his final five or less.  Duke will stay in close contact with Barnes until the time he decides.

I talked to Josh Smith Sr. the Father of Josh Smith Jr. while setting up an interview.   Coach James just so happened to have talked with him earlier that evening.  When asked which teams were the most active Duke, Georgetown and UNC came up with of course UCLA.  He said his son would make a decision by the end of this summers AAU season.  He also mentioned that he could decide early, but that he expected they would visit the Triangle before a decision.  He grew up watching Michael Jordan at UNC, but also mentioned he loves Coach K. [/private]