Team BDN is in place in California where we are covering the Elite 24 for Premium members. Get all the latest updates from today's practice and Saturday's game by joining today! Several key Duke prospects are playing in the prestigious event, including Tyus Jones, Justise Winslow, Julius Randle, Marcus Lee and Austin Nichols, so you do not want to miss the action! Join BDN Premium today and discuss the latest happenings with fellow members on the BDN Premium Message Board.
For a self-described "goofy kid," 6'9" Austin Nichols of Memphis has a serious game. Blessed with a 7'2" wingspan, he is one of the most skilled big men in high school basketball, and has demonstrated the ability and desire to get out and run the floor.
On a senior-laden Briarcrest Christian team, the junior averaged over eighteen points and nearly ten rebounds, while leading the city of Memphis in shooting for a second consecutive year. Nichols, who has added twenty-two pounds (he is now up to 202 pounds) since last year, was named Tennessee's Mr. Basketball.
Nichols and fellow Duke recruit Robert Hubbs III, an ultra-athletic shooting guard from Dyer County in Tennessee, have been forming a nice one-two punch on the AAU circuit for M33M this year . They will be playing in Minneapolis and Las Vegas later this month.
Last summer, Austin attended Duke's camp, and began a relationship with the Duke coaches. Before being introduced to Head Coach Mike Krzyzewski, Nichols first spoke with Associate Head Coach Chris Collins and later Coach Steve Wojciechowski. Coach K came and watched both Nichols and Hubbs play. In April, Austin became the first player this spring to be offered a scholarship by Duke.
In June, Nichols trained in the high altitude of Colorado Springs, Colorado for the United States U-18 team that eventually competed for the FIBA Americas Championship in Sao Sebastio do Paraiso, Brazil. He was one of the fourteen finalists, playing alongside incoming Duke freshman Rasheed Sulaimon and fellow Duke recruit Julius Randle.
This month, Austin has been busy competing in the LeBron James Skills Academy in Las Vegas, NV and the Reebok Breakout in Philadelphia, PA before he rejoins his friend Hubbs for AAU competition around the country.
While his twin sister will be a freshman at the University of Tennessee and his oldest sister will graduate in August from the University of Memphis, where his mother is an alumnus, Austin Nichols, who has a 3.4 GPA at Briarcrest and a strong Christian faith, plans on cutting down on his extensive list of college suitors in about six weeks. Recently, Nichols, who has the deep Tennesseean voice of a young country music singer, spoke with me about a variety of topics, including playing alongside Hubbs and Randle, his improved overall game, and his faith.
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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For the first time ever, the Boo Williams Sports Complex is full of head and assistant coaches from all the major and mid major schools. By moving the event back a few weeks, they were allowed by the NCAA to have the nations elite play callers come to town. Speaking of the NCAA, changes always seem to come about and during day one of the Nike EYBL Session II, all the games started 45 minutes late. What happened was the NCAA was still in a dead period by definition and the coaches teams and players could come through the door when the games were originally supposed to start.
The Nike circuit is loaded this season and there is also a bevy of Duke prospects which BDN identified two weeks ago. All but one of those 15 players are still on the radar and of course Duke offered four prospects scholarships last week. During day one, [private] we concentrated part of our efforts on watching Marcus Lee, who we first told you held an offer. While we have an interview up from Andrew Slater, I needed to get my first view of him. In short, he's long, athletic, moves well and is a good defender and rebounder, but his offense is a work in progress. Lee sprained his ankle in the second half and did not scratch from the field but his talent is clear. He told BDN that UConn, Texas, UNC, Kansas, Florida, Missouri and Duke were all showing interest and that he almost passed put and was intimidated wjhen he looked down and saw that Coach Mike Krzyzewski of Duke had made a call to him. That video is coming.
I took in Matt Jones and Julius Randle as well and we have a Randle vid coming as well. Randle dropped 15 and Jones 20 playing just over half the game in a Texas Titan's romp. Randle seems leaner to me and he is in great shape and still plays like a bull in the blocks while also floating out more than he did last season. Jones seems to be improved in an overall manner and I will elaborated more as I get multiple views.
I watched part of Ish Wainright game where his team lost by a point late and that meant his coach would go into a curse-fest while whaling about and would not allow him as was the case last week, interviews. Well, after a loss I understand and we are luck Andrew had such a long sit down with him and good luck ever finding a better interview at any Duke related site. Yes, I am bragging on him a little. In fact, Tom Konchalski was here and he raved about Andrew within 2 second of our annual Boo Williams event handshake. Wainright finished with 8 points and 9 rebounds and I need more views of him before I can get into my take on his game.
Austin Nichols was rolling it up in Arkansas in front of Coach K and Jeff Capel. He had 26 points, 10 rebounds and 6 blocks with 7 minutes to go in his game. Thins is that he was drawing a lot of attention and I will give you one guess which ugly colored team I am talking about. A guy from a rivals site told me they were at his games and such but I think Duke is in the door with him. Word is he will not pick a school before some visits.
I'll continue to share some updates but the wireless is not working in the arena and that means it is really hard to get to information as quickly as I'd like. Coach K will be flying in any minute now and will join Collins tomorrow when we embark on the marathon day or hoops from dusk to midnight. I will add some more stuff as it comes to me on the message boards. [/private]
There is a lot to talk about in this weeks Monday Musings column with concern to Duke Basketball, especially on the recruiting front. As you already know, Duke made an offer to 6-10 forward Austin Nichols and that kicks off the AAU season.
Speaking of the AAU season, Blue Devil Nation Recruiting Analyst, Andrew Slater covered the Nike EYBL and showed his prowess on the beat. Slaters' twitter site blew up this weekend with premium like information as it happened. Our premium members know that Slater is the best at what he does and now the secret is out that Team BDN is as good as it gets. My side kick is a protege of the infamous Tom Knochalski, a legend and pioneer on prospect evaluation and his in depth interviews and analysis on the front is unmatched.
Slater will unveil an interview with Marcus Lee who plays for California Supreme, a prospect who caught the Blue Devils staff eyes this past weekend. BDN tipped the nation off last night that there is a new kid firmly on the radar. But Slater also spoke with Jabari Parker and a dozen more true Duke prospects, so BDN Premium is the place to be this week, so join today and see just how awesome our AAU coverage is. You will love the value and knowledge we bring to the table, I guarantee it.
Is today the day Tony Parker decides? Well, if it is, it will put an end to one of the more bizarre recruitment's of the season. Parker has frustrated some national recruiting analyst to the point where they will not even give him the time of day with coverage. This talented young man would fit well with Duke next season but whether the golden opportunity dawns on him before his 4:00 scheduled decision remains to be seen. Parker has had a bit too much fun with the media and there will be a collective and anxiously awaited sigh from the schools still in the running for him in that the roller coaster will finally come to a halt.
There is still no word on when Philly product Amile Jefferson will decide but many feel it is down to Duke and N.C. State. I would think his choice would come this week, so lot's going on this week beyond the pending NFL Draft. Yep! Basketball recruiting is in bloom and Duke fans anxiously await the Jefferson decision to see if he will be added to the roster next season.
Congratulations to the Duke Men's LAX team for downing arch rival North Carolina to win the ACC Championship. The boys in royal blue scored 10 second half goals in a furious comeback for the victory and now it is on to the NCAA's.
Now that the Andre Dawkins news forced it's way out, there should be no more happenings around the team in that manner. I didn't say there would not be rumors, but hopefully people will learn to follow those sources with long time proven track records and not some poster who tells you he's the man and he said, she said the neighbors dog groomer, cuts Skippys' coat and Skip belongs to the guy that runs the cleaners where a player goes and a player told that player that another player said that so and so was unhappy at Duke . Silly, isn't it? Still, many would fall for it hook, line and sinker in the steadily growing and unstable world of web based reporting.
In ending, again, consider joining BDN Premium and see for yourself what you are missing. Duke will be on the trail this weekend at two events and we'll be out there just like this past weekend. And be sure to follow Andrew Slater on his twitter site and our resident football analyst Patrick Cacchio here and then there is of course my BDN site here.
Have a good week Blue Devil Nation and visit often for there will be a lot to talk about in the coming days.
The Duke University Men's Basketball staff has been and is currently still on the recruiting trail and there are lots of updates on Blue Devil Nation Premium, our subscription based service. Come on inside and discuss the latest happenings and be made well aware who is receiving those visits and how they are going. It's a great time to join BDN Premium! We want you to be a part of the most Dukecentric subscription site on the planet. And not to worry, we will still have plenty of free stuff for all! Go Duke!