The N.C. Pro-Am provides fans an opportunity to get a look at incoming players for the first time, and those who saw Duke freshman Amile Jefferson last evening came away impressed. Jefferson led his team to an easy win with a game-high 29 points, which included six dunks, many of which came off assists from teammate Quinn Cook. Jefferson graciously took the time to talk to Blue Devil Nation after his performance. Here is our latest video offering:
In our latest update, Blue Devil Nation Premium recaps what has happened recently on the recruiting trail and gives you an idea of what to expect next.
It wasn't that long ago that many were writing the Blue Devils off after being shocked by Lehigh in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. For several weeks after the upset, there was only criticism. But three months have now passed, and the dark skies have cleared considerably, as Duke has added several key pieces for the future in incoming freshman Amile Jefferson and transfer Rodney Hood.
Amile Jefferson has arrived on campus. He will spend plenty of time in the weight room, for there is a big leap from high school ball to the high major college game, and Amile needs to get stronger in order to contribute in a big way. Jefferson will have the luxury to play behind Mason Plumlee and Ryan Kelly in his first season while learning the ropes, but the coaches will give him every opportunity to play when he is ready.
The Duke Men's Basketball staff continued its recent momentum on the recruiting trail, landing coveted Mississippi State transfer Rodney Hood this weekend. Hood is right around [private] 6'8" and is long, lean and athletic. He is an outside/in player, meaning his game is geared towards the perimeter; he likes to get touches just beyond the free throw stripe, from which he is comfortable taking it to the hoop or popping the mid-range J. His ability to knock down those mid-range jump shots draws bigger players away from the hoop, keeps the opposing defense honest, and opens up things for his teammates. Hood is also a good defender and likes to get after it by using his length to his advantage. While he did not dominate the SEC as a freshman, Rodney was a very steady force on a veteran team.
Hood's game has changed little since I saw him on the AAU trail, with the exception of some natural physical growth. But his frame can still use some muscle, and that is what Duke Strength and Conditioning Coach Will Stephens will focus on as Rodney sits out his transfer season at Duke. One of the things that impressed Hood on his visit was the Duke facilities, which are NBA-quality, and frankly a far cry from what he was used to in Starkeville. Sources also say he liked the structure of the team and its organization, something that he found lacking at MSU.
For the record, we here at BDN never wavered from the position that Hood was a Duke lean, and by now you guys should know how to interpret my cryptic messages enough to have figured this one out.
Rodney will be on campus this coming Wednesday, July 4th, and he will participate in the N.C. Pro-Am. We'll head over to that event provided we can stand the ridiculous heat.
Freshman Rasheed Sulaimon is already on campus and getting accustomed to his surroundings. He is hanging with the guys, including Nolan Smith who is in town. Quinn Cook arrived today as well, and he is ready to hit the ground running after spending a lot of time with Nolan in Portland. Tyler Thornton and Josh Hairston will be back around the 4th of July as well, and all should play in the Pro-Am. Seth Curry played in the opening night of the event and played well. He and some teammates even picked up Sulaimon at RDU yesterday.
Ryan Kelly has fully recovered from his injury and Mason Plumlee is looking stronger than ever. Both benefited from their time at the Amare Stoudemire Camp, and they have both been working on adding new shots to their offensive arsenals.
Alex Murphy is stuffing the stat sheet for Finland's National Team this summer. The staff has been very impressed with his play and progress since he's arrived over a year ago.
Mike Krzyzewski and the staff circled the wagons after the Lehigh loss and decided they wanted more athleticism and toughness, and I believe they are on the road to reshaping future rosters in that way. But don't get caught looking ahead, for they are more than a little excited about this season's team, especially because Coach loves flying just under the radar on the national scene. The staff feels this year's team will be able to defend the perimeter better and is excited about using the length of Murphy on the outside along with Sulaimon, Thornton, Curry and Cook. One thing does seem odd though: Murphy and Marshall Plumlee have a year in the program under their belts, and seem like old-timers compared to Sulaimon and Jefferson. Yet all four of them will be getting their first real minutes when the Blue Devils tip off the season.
The coaching staff is very happy with their recent recruiting successes, but there will be no rest at all. After spending some time with their respective families, Mike Krzyzewski, Chris Collins and Steve Wojciechowski will head to Las Vegas on the 4th to work with the national team. So while they will only see the new kids on campus in passing, there are no worries, for Nate James and Jeff Capel will break them in before going back to hitting the recruiting trail hard themselves.
So where does Duke stand now with other recruits? Which direction will they go in? First of all, the staff can now afford to be a bit fluid in its approach, meaning the strategy can most certainly change depending on how some dominoes fall, but for now, let me share how I feel things are shaping up. These are educated guesses.
The top targets are always the most talented and that means Jabari Parker and Julius Randle. However, the addition of Hood makes Randle, who is more of a banger, the top priority. Duke is all-in on Randle and they've made good inroads through Krzyzewski making regular calls, with Capel taking the lead assistant role. Duke will of course face the Tar Heels until the end on this one, and they too have gone all-in. Some would even say that Randle may tip the balance of power in the rivalry. But keep in mind that UNC has other offers out and a bevy of bigs on their roster, while Duke can make him realize he is their man, and there are no others. When I say "no others" for Duke, I mean the Devils are not pushing hard with a lot of other big men at this time, but of course that could change. Randle has reshaped his body in the off-season, but what a lot of people do not know is that it was Mike Krzyzewski who made a suggestion for this to happen. If we're not the leader for Randle, we're certainly one of the leaders.
Meanwhile, Parker has been flirting a lot with Michigan State, but with a player of his stature, Duke will most certainly hang around.
Duke will also remain hot on Semi Ojeleye and quite frankly, I think he is the Blue Devils' to lose, and they feel he is as enamored with them as they are with him. The bottom line is the kid is a perfect fit. This situation looks good, and it may only be a matter of time before he pulls the trigger -- and it may even come soon.
Austin Nichols is a Duke-type big that would replace the loss of Ryan Kelly, so they are on him and could turn up the heat a bit more in the coming months. Nichols is being hit up hard by other schools too, but Duke remains in decent shape. The Devils are also still interested in Nichols's AAU teammate, shooting guard Robert Hubbs.
The picture is a little less clear past these two. Al Freeman has faded a bit but remains a possibility. Duke could chase another big man, but are not doing so now. We are completely out of the picture with scoring point guard Anthony "Cat" Barber, who was never formally offered.
The Blue Devils still have interest in Ish Wainright and Marcus Lee as well. I still think it may be hard to pry Lee away from the west coast, and the need for Wainright could diminish should Ojeleye pull the trigger for Duke.
Everything is still good with 2013 commit Matt Jones, although I can hear many of you getting worried about us being too loaded at that shooting guard spot. Well, we are. But it will play out -- as it always does. I'll be discussing this later.
As for players beyond the class of 2013, we'll cover that the next go-round.
To summarize, there is an overall positive feel around the program right now. Recruiting is in a good place. Duke and Coach K will remain in the limelight all summer, as Team USA goes for gold in London. We'll cover several more recruiting events this summer and the Pro-Am, and we continue to work behind the scenes on site changes, including a facelift.
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With Amile Jefferson's announcement he would be attending Duke University, Duke's recruiting efforts for the 2012-13 season came to a successful end. Jefferson, a power forward, joins combo guard Rasheed Sulaimon in a class that also includes forward Alex Murphy and center Marshall Plumlee, two players who redshirted last season.
While ESPN ranks Duke's 2012 class at number 11, that ranking only factors in Sulaimon and Jefferson. Including redshirts Murphy and Plumlee, as part of the incoming class, results in a very strong group, which certainly deserves a Top 5 ranking. Duke has been unfairly criticized recently, by certain elements across the recruiting world, as having been left behind. Results certainly outweigh the rhetoric.
Balance is a nice characteristic of this class as it contains a combo guard (1/2), combo forward (3/4), power forward (4) and center (5). Another characteristic is talent. In the final RSCI rankings for 2011, Alex Murphy was ranked 49 with Marshall Plumlee checking in at 61. For 2012, Rasheed Sulaimon is 17 while Amile Jefferson is 20. RSCI has not finalized their 2012 rankings.
Let’s take a look at each incoming player.
Alex Murphy (6’8” 220): Last summer Duke fan site message boards were buzzing about the possibility of Murphy breaking into the starting line-up. Comparisons to Kyle Singler were common place. After suffering a concussion in practice, Murphy fell behind in his preseason development and decided to redshirt. Considering he left high school a year early, the decision passed the common sense test.
The exciting element of the story is Murphy was talented enough to compete for a spot in the starting line-up 12 months ago. With a full year of practice and participation in the strength and conditioning program under his belt, Murphy is the leading candidate to be the Blue Devils starting small forward in 2012-13.
In regard to the redshirt season, associate head coach Chris Collins recently commented, “The biggest gains that we saw with Alex throughout this season were with his confidence and his strength.”
My expectation is Murphy will be in the starting line-up at small forward from day one. Additionally, when Coach Krzyzewski decides to go with a smaller line-up, Murphy is strong enough to slide into the power forward position.
Rasheed Sulaimon (6’4” 180): After winning the 3-point shooting competition at the McDonald’s All American game, Sulaimon proceeded to score 18 points including going four for eight on 3-pointers to help the West beat the East 106-102. At the Jordan Brand Classic, Sulaimon made three of six 3-point shots and scored 13 points as the West beat the East 99-95.
As talented an outside shooter as Sulaimon is, two different skills are what excite me. First, Sulaimon demonstrated significant defensive ability during three All Star games. Additionally, he displayed an ability to run the point. Those two skill sets compel me to compare Sulaimon’s potential to Nolan Smith.
My expectation is Sulaimon will come off the bench in the early season while competing to break into the starting line-up. Whether he eventually starts or spends the entire season as a reserve, he will play starters minutes as a freshman due to his talents on the defensive end of the court.
Amile Jefferson (6’8” 200): In the official press release announcing Jefferson’s decision to attend Duke, Coach Mike Krzyzewski stated, “We are ecstatic about Amile joining us. He is going to be able to help us right away.”
At the McDonald’s All American game, Jefferson recorded eight points, three rebounds and two steals in 14 minutes of action. Moving past the statistics, and just watching the game, Jefferson demonstrated versatility and smoothness on the court. He did not dominate, in fact he did not even standout, but to the seasoned eye, he looked like he belonged.
My expectation is Jefferson will average low double digit minutes per game as a freshman, perhaps as many as 12 to 15 minutes. With his length and low post offensive skills, Amile will be a key contributor in relief of Ryan Kelly. Over the course of his career at Duke, Jefferson has the potential to develop into another in the long list of versatile forwards to succeed as a Blue Devil.
Marshall Plumlee (6’11” 225): The younger brother of Miles and Mason, and McDonald’s All American is reputed to be more of a true low post player than either of his older brothers. Gaining muscle mass should be a major objective for Marshall over the summer and with an entire year already spent in a college level strength and conditioning program he should have plenty of success.
However, from a High School Hoops article I wrote in December 2010, after watching Christ School play Quality Education Academy, the following sentence stands out, “On offense, Plumlee operated mainly out of the high post and delivered a couple of nice passes for assists.” Duke will need Plumlee to operate out of the low post, while Ryan Kelly mans the high post, so hopefully my observation of his tendencies as a high school senior were more a function of his team’s offense and less a function of his comfort zone.
My expectation is Marshall will see consistent but limited minutes in relief of older brother Mason and to a lesser degree Ryan Kelly. His objective over the course of next season should be to gain invaluable game experience to facilitate his moving into a starting role as a sophomore. Marshall projects to be a four year player who will excel as a junior and senior.
Duke landed its second commitment of the 2012 class when Friends Central forward Amile Jefferson pledged to the Blue Devils. Jefferson, who was a McDonald's All-American this March, will bring length, skill around the basket, a good basketball IQ, and versatility to the Duke frontline. Although the courtship was quite lengthy, it heated up this January when Coach Krzyzewski extended a scholarship offer to the cerebral big man.
Jefferson, who recently won his fourth consecutive Pennsylvania Independent Schools State Title for his suburban Philadelphia school, visited Duke for a third time on March 3 and 4 with his dad, Malcolm Musgrove. Jefferson has been on Duke's radar for several years. Before his sophomore year at Friends' Central, an academically challenging Quaker school in Wynnewood, PA, Amile was one of two rising sophomores who attended Duke's Elite Camp. In the autumn of his junior year, Amile watched Duke unveil its fourth National Championship banner at the Countdown to Craziness.
The forward with a seven foot wingspan also considered N.C. State, Villanova, Ohio State, Kentucky, and Temple. Amile Jefferson was recruited by Duke Coaches Mike Krzyzewski and Chris Collins. Jefferson is Duke's first Philadelphia player since current Charlotte Bobcat Gerald Henderson suited up for the Blue Devils.
On March 28, he joined fellow Blue Devil incoming freshman Rasheed Sulaimon at the United Center in Chicago for the McDonald's All-American game. In fourteen minutes, Jefferon tallied eight points, three rebounds, two steals, and an assist for the East team. This April, the Philadelphian scored twenty-six points and grabbed five rebounds, earning the MVP of the Derby Classic at Freedom Hall in Louisville, KY.
For the second consecutive year, Jefferson won Pennsylvania's Gatorade Player of the Year and was named Pennsylvania's Class AA Player of the Year. Over the course of his career with the Phoenix of Friends' Central, alma mater of former Syracuse All-American Hakeem Warrick, Amile Jefferson scored over fifteen hundred points, grabbed over eight hundred rebounds, and swatted away nearly two hundred shots.
6'8" Amile Jefferson averaged twenty points, ten rebounds, and three blocks this year en route to a 21-5 record for his Wynnewood, Pennsylvania school. Jefferson provides Duke with a coveted second multi-year player with long-term pro potential in the 2012 class. To this point, Jefferson, the second highest-rated senior in the class of 2012 by HoopScoop, has largely been able to overcome having no strength regimen, but in a prior interview with me, Amile has said he's anxious to start a college strength and conditioning program in order to make his game more college-ready.
McDonald's All-American voter and veteran scout Tom Konchalski of HSBI said of Amile Jefferson, "He's a young colt who's waiting for his body to blossom, but he has a really good feel for the game. Right now, he's probably more of a 4/3 and, obviously, he's going to have get stronger, but, in the ACC, it's not as if he's going to the Big Ten or the Big East, which is even more of a physical conference. In terms of style of play, if he were to go to Duke, that would be a good pick, but he's still got to get stronger in order to be able to play both sides of the court. He's a guy who has some perimeter skills..not an explosive athlete, but, when he starts to working to improve himself physically, his legs will get stronger. He will get quicker and he'll get more lift off the ground. He's a guy who has a good feel for the lane and the baseline. He's almost like an old-time player around the lane. He knows how to finish without going above the rim or jumping over people. He knows how to use his body to get between the defender and the ball. He knows how to shield the ball and reverse it. He has a really good feel for the game and he's a really good kid. He's also a good student."
The Duke Blue Devils Men's Basketball staff will be more than a little busy in the coming weeks as the open recruiting period gets into full swing. Two prospects in Amile Jefferson and Tony Parker have yet to make their decision but the focus will soon shift to the Class of 2013 and 2014. BDN Premium takes a look at the new names and some you are familiar with in our latest team and recruiting update. And as always, our AAU coverage will be as good as it gets where recruiting analyst Andrew Slater will be updating you as the action happens this weekend from the Nike EYBL in Minneapolis, Minnesota. It's a great time to join BDN Premium where you are sure to be happy with what we feel is the best staff on the circuit.
Let's start with the class of 2012 and Amile Jefferson. The hybrid forward is expected to [private] make his decision at the earliest late this week and the latest next week. Jefferson has likely cooled on N.C. State with the return of C.J. Leslie but many will tell you they are still in the lead. Okay, NCSU types will tell you that. Had he been such a sure thing to the Pack he would have popped by now. The real competition for his services are Kentucky and Villanova. Both are making hard late runs but the recent transfer of Michael Gbinije certainly shows that their is playing time in Durham and I feel this is the Blue Devils biggest attraction.
Tony Parker on the other hand switched his announcement date for like the fifteenth time and is now slated to make his pick known at his Miller Grove High School next Monday. The buzz around the Jordan Brand All Star game was that he was UCLA bound and they are attractive to him. But Parker is a bit of a momma's boy and I think it will be hard for him to stray too far. He seemingly is still bucking going to Duke despite his parents being in their corner and that opens things up for Georgia. After all that has happened, a Georgia choice would be almost a great end to what has bordered on comedy. Truthfully though, I don't think Tony knows where he is going as I type, so there is still a crack in the door.
The coaches have been active at open gyms where Coach K went to see Julius Randle yesterday. The Blue Devils have the full court press on the behemoth in the paint and he is exactly what the doctor would order especially if they lose Parker which most feel will happen. Randle of course, is teammates with Duke bound Matt Jones for the Texas Titans AAU team and assistant coach Jeff Capel stays in regular contact.
This weekend kicks off our infamous AAU coverage where our resident recruiting analyst Andrew Slater will be in Minnesota for the Nike EYBL Session I. He will see the aforementioned Julius Randle and Matt Jones while there and we hope to hear from Randle. We hesitate to put too much of where our guys will be out for our comp tries to hire a stringer and the way I see it, we're not going to help them do their jobs or allow them to ride our coattails at events. The AAU events provide some of the most unprofessional media types you will run up on and the rumors, gossip and games played are tiresome. BDN only wants to concentrate on what we do while avoiding drama being dropped at our door step without provocation. We will continue to adhere to high standards and bring you accurate coverage.
The Nike circuit is loaded with prospect this season and Andrew will also take a look at Jabari Parker (2013) and Jahlil Okafor of Mac Irwin Fire. Parker is the top rated player in his class with Randle close behind. Jabari had long been a Duke target and Coach K has a great relationship with the Chicago native. Okafor is in the class of 2014, a bruising post player who has showed early interest in Duke and the Blue Devils got on him early. Watching the Fire will be a lot of fun this spring and summer.
Boo Williams is back on the radar, the system that produced Andre Dawkins. Allerik Freeman who made a name for himself as a Duke prospect of late and Anthony Barber are firmly on the radar. Barber is probably the prospect which best fits the Blue Devils needs while Freeman is a bit of a swing man without a set position at the college level at this time. Coach K will be taking a close look at these and other players on Saturday and possibly Sunday.
During last seasons Peach Jam, Blue Devil Nation took notice of Howard Pulley and PG Tyus Jones where we were the first Duke site to interview the fabulous 2014 prospect. He caught my eye the season before and I could see where he would gain interest thus the interview. Since that time, he is the nations PG of choice. While not a flashy player, he is a stat stuffer, a winner and far ahead of his years with concern to maturity,
Then there are a bunch of kids we like to say are being evaluated. This means Duke wants to take a good hard look at them and determine which will make the cut or deserve further evaluation. Team Takeover features Ismail Wainwright and Beejay Anya. It will be interesting to see how their organization reacts after Michael Gbinije transferred. Anya has been on the radar and teams will look to see how his body is shaping up as he gets older. Wainwright is under evaluation.
CIA Bounce out of Canada has been producing some big time talent and Duke will take a look at Tyler Ennis and Andrew Wiggins. You have seen several interviews here past with Wiggins and he will be a tough get with everybody on him.
MoKan Elite will feature Semu Ojeleye, another player Duke will consider and then there is CP3 and Theo Pinson, another player you have heard from in 2014. Pinson is not expected to get serious for another year yet.
Andre had the foresight to talk with Wayne Selden of BABC and he is now on the Blue Devils radar as well and will get a good long look from the staff. A new name on the radar is E1T1 prospect Joel Berry.
Austin Nichols was a player we hoped to see with Nike but will not be in EYBL this spring and summer. He is playing with M33M team out of Memphis that will be playing in a local event this weekend and then will be at Real Deal on the Hill in Arkansas next weekend. Coach K will stop into see him on Friday in Memphis.
The Blue Devils are all in on Rodney Hood, a player we made you aware of three seasons ago who grew up a Duke fan. The staff is working with the Hood family for an official visit and they have made sure hood knows of their interest through contact. Hood would add versatility and a bit of seasoning after a good freshman year at Mississippi State but he will have to sit out a year,
The bottom line is that Duke will drop and add player/prospects over the next two weeks so things are very liquid. I will be at Boo Williams in Hampton next week with the Nike kids and Real Deal is going on as well, another event the coaches will cover. This will be the first year coaches are allowed in Hampton and I am expecting a bit of a mess in an already crowded venue. It is clear that the priority is to go hard after Jabari Parker and Julius Randle while keeping Matt Jones in their view. With the Olympics coming up, the Blue Devils will have the max limit of assistants out at all times. Note to premium members - if you are not registered for the premium message board, please do so, then e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org so we can have you approved after checking your paypal payment. [/private]
It's been a while since I threw out an edition of Monday Musings so let's try an abbreviated version to hold you over -
Next stop for Rasheed Sulaimon ... Duke University
As you know already we covered the Nike Jordan Brand All Star game this past weekend and Sulaimon showed well for the Dukies earning praise along the way from many recruiting types. Sulaimon will be on the Duke campus in early July which is just over two months away and he will take the time in between to reflect on all that has happened to date and continue his workouts. Having seen Sulaimon play in person over 20 times now, I can tell you that Duke fans will love his ability to play good defense and his first step is as good as it gets. While not a total speed demon, Sulaimon has a way of being all over the place as an active player.
We hardly knew you ...
Word started to leak out yesterday that Michael Gbinije would transfer and this has long been floating around the rumor mill. Well, it is all but a formality at this point and we should hear official word from the Duke Sports Information Department any time now. Gbinije has a history of transferring from schools, several stops in high school and seems to be having trouble finding the right fit. We wish Gbinije the best and it looks as if he will take a long look at Big East and Virginia are schools. He is a talented young man and a great student, so he will do well. Normally, the school handles official announcements but the rush for a scoop caused a lot of issues. The sad truth is any kid transferring is not newsworthy enough to have been handled in the way it was and bordered on being meddlesome but that is simply one mans opinion.
Amile Jefferson come on down ...
Duke still has a shot at Amile Jefferson who is still deciding between several schools making hard, late runs for his services. I expect we'll know what the deal is as early as this week. The general consensus is that he is the last prospect Duke has a shot at in 2012.
Unless, Tony Parker comes around at the midnight hour. Sources have told Blue Devil Nation that he will make his selection known at his high school on Friday of this week. Parker was rumored heavily to be UCLA bound this weekend, but he has been the center of many rumors and many national analyst washed their hands with him once he started being all over the place with his comments. Parker shows little respect for most of the media and is a young kid funning about with the process. In the end, do not be shocked if he stays in state and goes to Georgia, His recruitment has frustrated many fans, especially those of Duke for there is a glaring obviousness that he has a spot at Duke where he would play. I am think the parents who strongly favored Duke will settle for him staying near home. Parker is a good kid with a nice skill set but looking back on his decision will be interesting. Who knows, maybe he will have another last minute change of heart but I would not wager the house on it at this point.
Nike EYBL kicks off this week
The Nilke EYBL gets underway at Minneapolis, Minnesota this week and Duke will have a bevy of prospects there. The coaches will be out in full force this week during an earlier open period than years past. The bigger names they will watch are Jabari Parker and Julius Randle but several others are on the radar which members of the Blue Devil Nation know about. For more on the recruiting front, join BDN Premium as we start our unmatched AAU coverage which has now become a site tradition.