Tag Archives: BDN

Luke Kennard is a name to watch

kinnardNorth Augusta, SC - Keep the name Luke Kennard in mind for you will be hearing more of the 2015 SG from Franklin, Ohio in the coming days.  Kennard is a major target for the Ohio State Buckeyes and he was recently offered by North Carolina and yes, it looks as if Duke will get involved as well.  Coach Mike Kryzewski joined Tom Izzo, Roy Williams and many other coaches just moments ago for his game and Blue Devil Nation caught up to the rising star and obtained this one on one interview with Kennard last evening.  So join BDN Premium and get to know a new prospect on the radar. [private]

More to come!  Discuss this article as a member on the BDN Premium message board. [/private]

Big Man Prospect Payton Dastrup Shows Keen Interest in Duke

dastrupRising senior Payton Dastrup has had a bevy of high-major hoop programs calling him over the past year. But on Tuesday the 6-foot-10 and 230-pound big man’s camp finally heard from a program he’s had a strong affinity for: Duke.

“Coach K is legend, maybe one of the best if not the best coach in history,” the Mesa, Ariz. native said [private] two weeks ago over the phone. “He’s sitting on the top. Overall, the Duke coaching staff and the program is definitely high on my list.”

A polished post prospect with an ability to stretch defenses from the four spot, Dastrup saw his recruitment explode after a stellar series of performances last spring on the AAU circuit, which he has since built off of to push his scholarship offer count to 21 at the moment. Describing himself a “rebounding machine,” the devout Mormon—who runs with the Los Angeles-based California Supreme squad on the Nike EYBL—holds scholarship offers from the likes of Florida, Virginia, USC, and Arizona, while he continues to garner increasing interest from Kansas, Ohio State, Georgetown and Indiana, among many others. Jayhawk head coach Bill Self attended all of his games in Los Angeles during the first session of the Nike EYBL session.

Despite the heavy interest from a multitude of programs, Dastrup has not narrowed his list of schools down yet.

While healthy, Dastrup has averaged 12.7 points on 54 percent shooting from the field and 7.8 rebounds per game in his first year on the uber competitive Nike EYBL circuit.

Back in April, Dastrup—the No. 38 overall player and No. 7 power forward in the class of 2014 by ESPN—had a golden opportunity to showcase his game to Blue Devil head coach Mike Krzyzewski, who was perched front and center to watch coveted point guard target Tyus Jones of Howard Pulley take on Dastrup and California Supreme in Hampton, Va. during the second session of the Nike EYBL. A dislocated ankle injury, however, kept Dastrup on the sidelines for that entire weekend, an experience that was agonizing.

“It was frustrating. I took it the best I could,” Dastrup said in regards to the injury and being forced to sit out. “I had to help be my team’s support system. On the bench I was the loudest.”

Closing on its primary big-man targets has been difficult lately for the Blue Devils. Tony Parker, Mitch McGary, Austin Nichols, Marcus Lee and Tarik Black are some of the more deflating misses experienced lately. On the surface, Dastrup fits the Blue Devil profile at position that is at a premium. He excels in the classroom and possesses ideal size and athleticism to be a valuable asset in a high-major frontcourt, not to mention his upstanding character and a grounded personality.

A large driver in his humbleness, faith plays an integral role in Dastrup’s recruitment. As a deeply committed member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Dastrup is gravitated to the Blue Devil program due to is its receptiveness to Mormon players, in addition to it being one of the premiere academic and athletic intuitions in the country. Krzyzewski coached Matt Christensen, a fellow member of the Mormon Church, in the 1990s. Beginning in July, Krzyzewski and his staff will instruct incoming freshman and devout Mormon Jabari Parker, who is the No. 2 overall player in the class of 2013 according to ESPN.

The Mormon and hoops connection has led to a friendship between Dastrup and Parker.

“I consider us friends. We have texted. We have talked on the phone a little bit, sharing some of the similarities in the recruiting process,” Dastrup said. “We have gotten to know each other pretty well. He’s an unbelievably humble guy. I have kind of patterned myself a little bit after him I guess you could say. Our relationship has definitely grown over the years.”

Unlike Parker, who is not expected to serve on a Mormon mission trip, Dastrup plans to do a two-year mission immediately following his high school graduation, which will delay his arrival on a college campus until the fall of 2016. The hiatus from the hardwood, however, will give a program a mature, 20-year old big man with four years of eligibility remaining. With no social media or use of phones for two years, Dastrup wants to sign with program that has a very stable coaching situation before he departs for his mission.

“The things I’m looking for the most [in a school] is to be able to come in as a freshman and either contribute as a starter or a significant role player,” he said. “Also, having a solid relationship with specifically the head coach, but also the entire coaching staff and being assured that the whole staff is committed to that program and not wanting to take a job somewhere else. Academics are really high with me too.”

The Duke coaching staff has offered 2014 elite big man Jahlil Okafor, a projected one-and-done player. Hybrid forwards Kevon Looney, who is more of a big wing, and Trey Lyles—another potential one-and-done prospect who seems to be a long shot to end up in Durham—also hold offers from Krzyzewski. So, there looks to be room for more 2014 Duke frontcourt offers to be extended as the staff gets a better feel for the big men in the class.

With the spotlight now brighter and Duke in the picture, Dastrup will compete in this weekend’s NBPA Top 100 Camp in Charlottesville, Va.

And luckily for Dastrup, California Supreme eked its way into the Peach Jam thanks to a 53-51 win in the final game of the Minneapolis EYBL session, giving him a chance to prove himself in front of the Duke coaching staff during the most intense live evaluation period of the summer. [/private]

2016 7-Footer Thon Maker Can Be a Game Changer — BDN Chats With Him

Thon MakerThon Maker is a 7 footer who is incredibly long and with arms that never seem to stop.  He is Class of 2016, which means he's finishing up the 9th grade.  But the young man is very much on the radar of numerous major powers, and he played very well at last weekend's Pangos All-American Camp in Long Beach, making the all-star game.  Thon originally comes from the Sudan, then lived in Australia, before settling a few years ago in Virginia.  He runs with the Boo Williams AAU squad.  In a separate post to come, I'll describe what I see in his game, but suffice it to say at this point that based on the skills he already possesses, if he learns to maximize his height and length, and puts on weight, the sky is the limit.

One of Thon's coaches at Boo Williams accompanied him to Long Beach last weekend, and sat in on our interview as well.  He also chimed in with regard to a few of the questions, when Thon deferred to him.  Here's how it went:


BDN: All right.  I’m here at the Pangos Camp with Thon Maker, who is certainly the tallest and longest young man that I’ve seen here so far at the camp.  So Thon: I thought that first, you’re kind of a new guy on the radar for a lot of fans, so I thought maybe you could introduce yourself a little bit and tell us a little bit about yourself.  I know you have an interesting back story.  If you could just tell us a little bit about yourself and your background.


TM: I’m Thon Maker.  7 feet tall.  Just turned 16.  From Australia.  Right now living in Martinsville, Virginia.  I play for Carlyle School.


BDN: Before you were in Austalia though, you come from where?


TM: South Sudan.


BDN: How long have you been in the States?


TM: Two years now.


BDN: And did you start playing ball in Sudan, or in Austalia, or not really so much until you got to the States?


TM: In Australia.


BDN: Any of your family come over with you, or is your family still in Australia?  Could you tell us a little bit about your support system here?


TM: Coach Smith right here is the family I have right now in the States.  I’ve been with him since 2009-2010.  2009 actually.


BDN: So like I said it seems like your kind of new on the radar.  You’re getting a lot of attention here in a relatively short period of time.  If you could give us a sense of what that’s like.  Is life just crazy with all the attention from everybody or are you able to keep it under control or how’s that been?


TM: I have a plan and I just gotta keep it focused and keep on working hard.


BDN: What’s your plan?


TM: Eventually to get into the league.


BDN: Yeah, I think you share that with a lot of the guys that are here, of course.  If you, for the fans that haven’t seen you play, how would you describe your game?  Tell us some of the things that you think are your strengths, maybe some other things you think you need to work on . . .


TM: Well first off, I play hard to win.  You gotta play to win first.  And anything else . . . as long as I’m winning, I’ll have fun within the game.  And I just got to keep my team in control so we can get that win together.  And play hard.


BDN: I have to say, as I was just watching you play right now, for a guy your size, the handle that you have and the smoothness of the shot is pretty impressive.  You must’ve spent a lot of time working on that part of your game.


TM: Yes, we have.  (laughing)


BDN: Now tell me, what are some of the areas that you think you need to work on the most?


TM: Right now, I’m watching “Kobe Doing Work” and  . . .


BDN: Kobe’s doing some work on his Achilles right now . . .


TM: (laughing) The show “Kobe Doing Work”


BDN: I know.


TM: And I got to get the same mindset down or even better and doing a lot of skipping and working with a lot of squeezing a tennis ball to get my hands stronger.  You know, catching the ball.


BDN: Yeah, that’s an important thing obviously for a big guy cuz when you get a guy dishing to you, you want to be able to handle it.  That’s a smart thing, to work on your hands, your forearms, to strengthen that area?


TM: Yeah.


BDN:  What did you say you weigh?


TM: 200 pounds.


BDN: 200.  Most people would probably take a look at you and say, “hey.  It would be good for him to put on some weight.”  Is that part of the plan, or not necessarily?


Edward Smith:  We have a four year plan and so we figure that at 200 by his senior year he should be around 235.  We’ve come from 2011 when he was 165 and we’ve come –


BDN: Still 7 feet?


ES: No, he was 6’9”.  And so we’ve progressed.  You know, we’re putting on the weight smart and he’s working, doing a lot of band work and he’s lifting a little bit, just touching upon it, but you know, we don’t want to lose his speed, his quickness.  That’s his asset.


BDN: So many guys make that mistake.  They just put weight on for the sake of weight and then they lose their quickness, their agility.  Seems like you’re pretty determined to make sure that doesn’t happen with Thon.


ES: Well, it’s a different game these days.  The stretch 4 or combo forward is important in the game and he’s able to facilitate the offense from different areas, so we’re trying to get him to work on the elbows, the top of the key and the mid-post right now, for now.


BDN: Work on the low post later?


ES: He posts deep right now against these guys.  I think at the next level they’re going to move him so much because you want to get other big guys to chase him.  Bring him off pindowns.  If you can bring him off screens, with his shot, you get a big guy trying to chase him, you have a switch-out with a little guard.  He’s shooting over the top of the little guard and  --


BDN: That’s what the Heat’s doing with Bosh.


ES: Yeah, but (laughing) you want to give a little bit more –


BDN: (laughing) You don’t want to go there . . .


ES: (laughing) I’ll leave that . . .  I don’t want him to just sit on the perimeter because he could be a little bit more effective like . . . Chris Bosh could be a little bit more effective rebounding.


BDN: He could.


ES: That’s what you want him to do.  You don’t want him to be a guy that drifts.  You want him to get there, not just sit –


BDN: With a purpose.


ES: Yeah.  So he can find his game in other areas rather than sit in the corner.


BDN: Totally makes sense.  Thon, let me ask you:  list of schools.  Who’s been reaching out the most, who’s kinda making an early impression on you school-wise.  Of course everyone’s going to want to know that.


TM: Again, that’s his answer.  (laughs)


ES: It’s so early in the picture and so when you start looking at schools like Duke, you start looking at Carolina’s from our area being in Martinsville, Virginia, you look at Virginia in the ACC, Maryland, those types of schools.  You want to make sure, even Duke, will the coach still be around in four years?  Because it’s more so than the institution, it’s also the coaching staff.  And so that’s important.  So when coaches are like, around like late sophomore year you start focusing on.  We’ve heard from Ohio State, Memphis, LSU, Arizona, UConn, Miami, Kentucky, Kansas, Georgetown.  I mean, those are the guys that  -- Virginia, Maryland – guys who have been in the mix.  We haven’t really heard from Duke yet.


BDN: That was going to be my next question.  Have you --  Duke hasn’t really reached out yet?


ES:  No, not yet.


BDN: You think they will, though?


ES: I think they will.


BDN: Let me ask you, Thon.  When it does come time, and I know it’s early, but how big of a factor is the educational quality of the school going to be for you.  Some guys it is and some guys, honestly, “I’m there to ball” and the academics may not be as important.  What about for you?


TM: I take my academics serious, you know.  I gotta compete on the court and with my books.  So right now I’m sitting on a 4.08, is it?  And the same thing, being on the court and with my grades.  I look forward to it.


BDN: What do you think, when the time comes are going to be the biggest factors for you?  Obviously we’re a very long way from a decision, but at this early stage what do you think are some of the most important factors that are gonna go into it when you have to decide between schools?


TM: Coaching, personnel also, you gotta see what type of school it is, basically that.


BDN: When it comes to Duke, coach, is it actually a concern, coach, as far as Coach K’s longevity and being there, because I haven’t heard of him showing any signs that he’s going anywhere.


ES: No.  Four years from now, things change for guys.  He does so much for the game.  USA Basketball, gets another gold medal.  Wins a couple more national championships.   Sometimes guys want to hang it up, and you have to look at that situation.  You kind of look at, guys who are getting guys to the league, guys who can say --  how he’s (Thon) going, if he keeps working as hard as he is, you’re looking at a two year window, at max, in college.  If we all do what we’re supposed to do, including everybody around the situation.  So you want to make sure that the right people are there, the right people are there to facilitate that and you stay along the path.  We have some good people in our AAU circle, Boo Williams, work with John Lucas also. We have a small little circle of people between Boo and John Lucas  that we work with, and so we have a plan with that.


BDN: That sounds good.  What are your plans for the rest of the summer?


TM: Just finish strong.  A lot of camps this month and leave a great impression.


BDN: What camps are you gonna be at?


ES: We have the Elite 100 in St. Louis from the 5th to the 9th.  Then we have the NBA Players Association Camp in Charlottesville the 12th through the 16th.    Then we’ll be at one of the Skills Academies, either Amare or Kevin Durant Skills Academy.  And that’s still June.  And then we have, early July if he makes it, the LeBron camp.   That would be capping your camp sessions.  Then we have the Peach Jam. And then we have Nationals in Orlando.  We shut it down after that.


BDN: He’ll be ready to shut it down.  He’ll be ready for a rest.


BDN: Well listen, I really appreciate your taking the time, actually both of you, to speak with us, and I hope to see you again on the circuit and catch up with you soon.


TM: Thank you.



Duke Basketball Notebook – Hairston, Michigan, Schedule, Scheyer, James, Black

DSCF0032Welcome to another edition of Blue Devil Nation's Duke Basketball Notebook, where we take a look at the happenings around Coach K's program with some personal commentary thrown in.

Josh Hairston recovering from surgery

If you have ever been to a game at Cameron, you have seen the extroverted Josh Hairston getting the Cameron Crazies revved up during player introductions. It's one of the reasons Josh is a fan favorite. Please send Josh well wishes as he is recovering from surgery to repair ligament damage in his right thumb.  Josh is expected to be sidelined for 6-8 weeks.  He injured himself during practice last season, but played through the pain. He joins Marshall Plumlee among the walking wounded;  Plumlee has been seen in a cast in and around Durham. Although nobody likes being injured, we can at least take comfort in knowing that all Blue Devils receive some of the finest medical care available through Duke University, one of the nation's leaders in health care.

And Duke will play Michigan

The ACC/Big Ten Challenge is alive and well for now, but with the added depth in the ACC, it makes one wonder how long the league coaches will want to schedule an extra big-time game going forward. But this coming year, on December 3rd in Cameron, Duke is slated to take on a Michigan team that will be one of the nation's best.  The Crazies and the entire Duke fan base love these kind of games, so expect this one to be one tough ticket. Adding to the interest is that the beastly former Duke recruit Mitch McGary comes to town wearing Maize and Blue.  Interestingly, the day he signed with the Wolverines, he mentioned the possibility of going to Cameron and getting booed.  Congratulation, Mitch.  That dream will come true. It will be interesting to see how Coach K and company defend the aggressive McGary with a roster with some challenges in the post. That is the Blue Devils' only apparent weakness at this point, so look for them to try to compensate with solid play on the wings.

IMG_20110430_110052Wiggins vs Parker

Over the past three years, Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker and to some extent, Julius Randle have played musical chairs as the top-rated high school prospects in the nation. Wiggins signed with Kansas yesterday, spurning the ACC's Florida State Seminoles. But ACC and Duke fans will still see him up close and personal when Duke travels to Chicago for the Champions Classic in November, where they'll face Kansas. That means a matchup between Parker and Wiggins. Parker, of course, suffered an injury setback and many feel that may have cost him the top spot in the mythical rankings, but regardless, having watched these kids play over 20 times each in my coverage of AAU ball, I can tell you that they are both supremely talented. Look for the game to get a lot of hype from the Parker-Wiggins angle, but the winner of the Duke vs Kansas matchup will come from how the rest of the Blue Devils and Jayhawks perform.

As an aside, the Blue Devils will also play in the pre-season NIT, where they could run head-on into Arizona, another team destined to be in everyone's pre-season top 10. So, do you think Duke will be atop the strength of schedule ratings next year? Of course they will. This looks to be one of the most challenging slates in years, and the full schedule won't even be released until it is hot-hot-hot outside.

Kyle Singler takes his own path

Former Duke forward Kyle Singler has always marched to the beat of his own drummer.  One attribute Kyle has is something that few men in the game possess these days: patience. Singler joined the Detroit Pistons this season after spending time playing for CB Lucentum Alicante, a professional team in Spain. When Singler was on the court this season, the Pistons flourished, so he earned plenty of playing time in his rookie season this year.  His play earned him a berth on the recently released All NBA Rookie 2nd team, which is quite an honor.

2011 K Academy Pictures 020A tougher path for Scheyer but the road is now clear

First of all if you missed this  recent article, you should take time to read it. Jon Scheyer is like many young men growing up playing the game in Chicago in that he has long been a gym rat. Scheyer loves the game of hoops and after helping Duke to win a National Championship in 2010, he sought to continue a career in basketball. There were setbacks along the way, but none more devastating than an eye injury in an NBA summer league game which would eventually cost him his career as a player. Scheyer has now landed on his feet in Durham. As Coach K (per Duke Sports Information) said after his hire, "Jon Scheyer is one of the amazing champions we’ve had in this program and he’s certainly one of the greatest young men to ever wear the Duke uniform."  Scheyer like many other Duke grads under Coach K came to the one man who could help him, the one man who could help him remain in the sport he loves -- Mike Krzyzewski. One of the things which often goes unseen in the world of Duke Basketball is the importance of the "family" nature of the program. Former players can always seek wise counsel and an open door on the top floor of the Schwartz Butters Athletic Building on the Duke campus. Scheyer will now take on Nate James' former role on the staff as a Special Assistant. During this time, Scheyer will have plenty of time to consider which direction he wants to go with his career. And for the record, the Special Assistant spot is fast becoming a very coveted position in that is offers a springboard into the world of Duke Basketball.

James hits the road running

Nate James gained an assistant coaching job a few years back, but when Jeff Capel, a former player, became available, it only made sense that he move into that assistant's position, as Capel had previous head coaching experience. The move for James back to the Special Assistant role was only temporary and he was still able to learn from the best, which included Capel, Wojo and the now-Head Coach at Northwestern, Chris Collins. James is no rookie, and he's hit the road running on the recruiting trail where he has been one of the lead guys on several key prospects.  There is much more information on Coach James and his impact available to you when you join us as a member of Blue Devil Nation Premium, our subscription service. For instance, James is also taking a lead role with ...

... Tarik Black

Black was on the Kansas campus yesterday, a day after his visit to Duke, which by all accounts went well. Duke and Black are in a bit of a win-win situation should they choose one another. Duke offers the best roster situation for Black, monster national exposure and he can play for a school which has had NBA first round picks of late with players that didn't always see major minutes in college. Of course, there is no lack of time at Duke for Black, as the Devils need a big man to round out next season's roster. If you read my comments on Scheyer, you will realize that Black can become a part of the Duke family and the family takes care of its own. Black would get maxiumum national exposure with the Blue Devils being a media darling and he would also have an opportunity to achieve his dreams of a championship. I don't think it will be long before we know where the former Memphis player is going, so look for a decision sooner rather than later. Many feel that Josh Pastner never really used Black correctly while at Memphis, while others point to Black's not being a good rebounder as the primary issue. Either way, Black is a most coveted "get" at this juncture.  It'll be interesting to see how this plays out.  There are a lot of rumors on this one, but mostly just folks' speculation taking on a life of its own.

It is also worth noting that Coach Nate James is the lead assistant on the recruitment of Black. James actually took a long look-see at Black during his junior season in high school, so Duke was involved with the young man earlier than most realize. In fact, Blue Devil Nation interviewed Black that same season and looking back on that chat, it was clear that Black valued education and hoops.  Which is the combination that Duke still offers.