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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]

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.

EYBL Session 2 – Scouting Duke Prospects

 

Duke Recruit 6'2" Tyus Jones of Apple Valley, MN, Photo by Andrew Slater
Duke Recruit 6'2" Tyus Jones of Apple Valley, MN, Photo by Andrew Slater

I take a look back at the Nike EYBL Session 2 and give my thoughts on prospects and how they may have improved from a season ago.  Here is my take on some of the key Duke prospects with some added tidbits -

 Justise Winslow - The thing that most impressed me about Justise Winslow was his court vision which makes him a really good passing wing. Winslow plays on a very talented team which is interchangeable at some positions. There are times when he [private] brings the ball up the court which is a testament to his getting better with his overall handle since a season ago. Winslow is a team oriented player who seems well versed in what he can and cannot get away with in that he is in touch with his capabilities. He can take his man off the dribble an moves strong to the rack when he gets his man on his hip or a screen is set. Winslow can also battle inside due to his strength. I can certainly understand why Krzyzewski and the staff prefer him over Theo Pinson. IMO, Winslow has done a better job of harnessing his skill set and it certainly doesn't hurt that he's a high character kid on and off the court, valuing education and showing a wise mind when dealing with media and teammates alike. Duke is in sold shape here and Winslows' brother probably prefers the Blue Devils but he glows when talking of Arizona too, so there is work to be done and this one will likely come down to the wire.

Theo Pinson - The athletic wing has moments where he seems to lost his focus and that does not always allow for a consistent effort. But when he is on, he's a very talented young man who plays at a high level. Pinson still needs work on his stroke and finishing better on drive. Actually, he would be better served kicking out more often when he finds traffic on drives instead of trying to create a sensational shot. Duke is still recruiting Pinson but it is clear that he is their second choice to Winslow at this time but as we know in recruiting, things can change in a days time.

Tyus Jones - Jones is a flat-out competitor and a cool customer. I have said in the past that he's a silent killer at times and this season he demands the ball even more when the game is on the line. And his Howard Pulley teammates want the ball in his hands for he always seems to come through at crunch time. Pulley seems to always play in close games and they overachieve due to Jones play. I joked with him during an interview that he was "Jack Frost," in that he is so cool in the clutch, almost always coming through. In fact, it would be story worth and draw attention if he flopped when the game is on the line for it is so rare it happens. Jones has a shifty speed which is not jet like but is effective in that he changes speed well. His handle is solid and he can get shots off even when everybody in the gym knows a shot is coming often getting to the line. He's also a deadly three-point threat even when not open and he can find the seams in the defense making him a ridiculous stat stuff with concerns to assists. Jones maintains that he will be a package deal with Jahlil Okafor and Coach K and Izzo among others were at all of his games.

Devin Booker - Duke is still recruiting or staying in touch with Booker despite getting a verbal from Grayson Allen. Booker has good defensive footwork and likes playing on ball defense. He has a nice stroke from the outside or can break you off the dribble. He also hustles non stop or at least he did in my views. He seems well versed in the game of basketball and plays with a quiet, cool confidence.

Elijah Thomas - He is not a super flashy big man, just one who gets the job done, defends well and can throw down dunks with ease. Thomas is still getting use to his frame and he can intimidate opponents. He plays with enthusiasm and confidence and is alight hearted kind of kid off the court, whose Mom plays a huge role in his life. He is a big time prospect in next seasons class that likes Duke a lot but he has other schools who are right there as well. Thomas will draw more and more attention, so strap yourself in for a long recruitment on this one.

Harry Giles - Coach K really, really like this kid and was the first coach in the gym to see him in his opening game. Giles? He's a long, lean, sure-fire talent who is incredibly coordinated for his height and age. Potential. He's oozes in it and he was one of the few kids playing on the 16U teams which drew a bevy of major college coaches, Giles mentioned that he is already tiring of the media process, so stay tuned. He seems a bit shy off the court but not so much so on it. While he can not always be super vocal, he does talk on the court and directs teammates for he understands spacing well at his age. He took it the length of the court for slams, made sweeping hook moves where he kissed the ball off glass and attributes his handle to wanting to be a guard when he was growing up. Ridiculous upside. [/private]

Devin Booker updates his status for BDN

BDN Photo
BDN Photo

HAMPTON, VA -- The Nike EYBL tour continued this past weekend as session 2 took place in Hampton, Virginia, and BDN was once again there to cover the grassroots event. One of the players who continues to impress with his hustle and great footwork is Devin Booker, a 6'5" WG from Mississippi.

Many have wondered aloud if Grayson Allen's recent commitment to the Blue Devils would affect Booker's recruitment. We sought out the answer to that in our chat with Booker.

Duke Head Coach Mike Krzyzewski [private] watched him play in his last game yesterday and Booker showed well. Before that, Steve Wojciechowski took in one of his games.

Booker told Blue Devil Nation that Duke is still in contact with him and that the Blue Devils are still on his list. But he also admitted that the verbal from Grayson Allen does have some effect. At the same time, though, he followed up quickly by saying he is not afraid of competition and having to earn a spot wherever he decides to go to school. The most important factor in choosing a school will be the trust he feels with his eventual coach.

Booker said this his recruitment would slow in the summer while he just concentrates on getting better. Michigan State, Michigan, Missouri, Duke, Kentucky, North Carolina and some others have continued to show interest. He is set to cut his list by the end of summer but at this point he doesn't know how many teams would make the list.

As for camps, it looks as if he will attend one of the Nike Skills Academies, but he was undecided on which one. He also mentioned a desire to compete with USA Basketball.

It remains to be seen what the future holds with concern to Duke recruiting him, but sources close to the situation indicated he was still on their list. [/private]

Justise Winslow Values Education and Basketball

Peach 12 more pics 011LOS ANGELES – Over the years Texas has mostly been known as a football state. High school football runs rampant in small and big towns all over the state. It’s become a ritual for cities to flock to their local high school games on Friday nights and watch the stars of the future. However, there’s been a change over recent years in Texas. What once was a football state has now brought out some of the top basketball talent in the country. One only needs to look at the team listings for the Nike EYBL and see that the state of Texas alone has four AAU teams in the league, more than any other state.

Next year Duke will sport two players from the state of Texas in sophomore Rasheed Sulaimon and incoming freshman Matt Jones. Duke will hope to continue the Texas pipeline by adding 2014 wing Justise Winslow. Winslow, who attends St. Johns School, a very strict academic institution, has been on Duke’s radar for quite some time now. The 6’6 wing has a chiseled frame that would allow him to step onto a NCAA court right now. Recently he was awarded the Gatorade Boys Basketball Player of the Year for the state of Texas, an honor that was won by Oklahoma State point guard Marcus Smart last year.

Winslow, who hails from Houston, credits his excellent academics to his brothers, specifically his older brother, Joshua Winslow, who plays defensive back for Dartmouth. Being an excellent student, Winslow says that academics will be a factor in his decision. His brother Joshua is pushing him to [private] choose the best academic school possible when Justise makes his final decision.

In the first session of the EYBL in Los Angeles Winslow’s Houston Hoops team went 4-0 with an average margin of victory of 24.5 points. His team is filled with athletic Division 1 prospects which include future North Carolina Tar Heel Justin Jackson, Khadeem Lattin and Kelly Oubre. On a team filled with talent Winslow still shines through. Winslow ran point-forward for Houston Hoops and looked very natural doing it. Perhaps his best attribute is his passing skills which allow an offense to be run through him. His strong frame allows him to get to the basket and finish through contact. Winslow also has a knack for not taking bad shots, a quality lost on many young basketball talents. In 4 games of the first session Winslow averaged 14.5 points, 4.3 assists, 6.8 rebounds, and 52 percent shooting from the field.

BlueDevilNation caught up with the top priority prospect and discussed his recruiting, his high school, why he likes to read the Wall Street Journal and other topics.

BlueDevilNation: What do you feel like you’ve most improved on over this past year?

JW: I think really just being a leader out there. Someone who my teammates can respect. Also my shooting and ball handling, reading pick and rolls and things like that.

BDN: What do you feel you still need to improve on?

JW: Well everything. You never can be satisfied, but, you know, especially my shooting and ball handling.

BDN: I don’t believe I’ve seen one yet but have you made a final list?

JW: No, not a final list. I’m down to 10 right now.

BDN: Who are those final 10?

JW: North Carolina, Duke, Florida, Kansas, Texas A&M, Baylor, University of Houston, Arizona, UCLA, and Stanford.

BDN: Do you have a timeframe for when you’d like to make your decision?

JW: I’m going to narrow it down pretty soon, probably going into June. Hopefully I can sign and be committed by November.

BDN: So the early period then.

JW: Yea, hopefully.

BDN: You had a few in-home visits recently. Take me through the Arizona one if you could.

JW: Well they were my first one. It was Thursday at noon. They came over and it went pretty well. Coach Miller thinks I’m the key to him getting to his first Final Four. But, you know, over the years I’ve built a good relationship with Coach Miller so it was really a comfortable visit.

BDN: You also had one with Duke as well. Could you take me through that visit?

JW: You know, Coach K, I had an unofficial visit with them this past spring also. Coach K thinks I can come in and step in and be that elite wing that they’ll be missing in the next couple of years with probably Jabari leaving and Hood leaving also. They just think I can come in and have an instant impact. And just the Duke brand and education.

BDN: What’s your relationship like with Coach K?

JW: Great. He was the USA basketball coach and I made the USA 17U team so I got to meet him there and talk to him there. He’s a great guy.

BDN: Speaking about your USA experience. Do you think that has translated over to your high school and AAU playing?

JW: I think with the USA experience, you know, no one’s really playing selfishly so it kind of helps you identify your role on whatever team you’re playing with. I think that’s something I carried into school and into AAU just to know my role and try to play to the best of my abilities.

BDN: Have the Duke coaches compared you to anyone by any chance?

JW: Well they compared me to Gerald Henderson and Grant Hill, things like that. But they also say that I’m special and unique in my own way.

BDN: You ran a lot of point for Houston Hoops, does that differ from your role in high school?

JW: Ah not really. I would just say in school ball I have the ball in my hand a lot and I run the floor. But out here, I do whatever the coach wants me to do and it goes back to just knowing my role and playing my role.

BDN: Are you taking any official visits soon?

JW: Official? No. I think I’m going to try and take an unofficial to UCLA soon because I haven’t been out there with Coach Alford there. So that’s something I’m looking to do.

BDN: Have you spoken with Coach Alford recently?

JW: Yea I had an in-home with him.

BDN: How do you like him?

JW: Oh he’s cool. He’s young, energetic. I like his style of play.

BDN: Other than a school championship next year, what are your personal goals?

JW: To win the Gatorade Player of the Year again for Texas.

BDN: You won it this year. Congratulations.

JW: Thank you. You know, to make those McDonald’s All-American game and the Jordan Brand game.

BDN: Did you get a chance to watch those games this year?

JW: I watched the McDonald’s game but I didn’t get a chance to watch the Jordan Brand game. You know that’s just one of my goals since growing up.

BDN: Oh absolutely. I wanted to ask you about your fantastic competitive drive. Where does that come from? Was it natural or did you learn it over the years?

JW: I think that just, being the youngest in my family, never winning, I just tried so hard to win. I used to get, not picked on, but, my older siblings would bug me and pick on me a little bit. Toughen me up. So I think that’s really what makes me a tough competitor.

BDN: You have an older brother at Dartmouth, correct?

JW: Yes sir.

BDN: What’s his influence on you like?

JW: He’s a great influence on me. He wants me to be the best player, but, in this recruiting process he wants me to go to the best academic school possible.

BDN: Well he’s at a great school. I saw you recently tweeted a picture of you reading the Wall Street Journal. Do you read that often?

JW: (laughs) Kinda, not really. But I think it’s good to be up to date with the current events, with the things going on in Boston and Korea. It’s good to know about those things.

BDN: Do you have a favorite subject in school at all?

JW: Math and physics.

BDN: You also said you recently saw the movie 42 (Jackie Robinson Story). How was that?

JW: Oh it was great. In school ball I actually wear 42 kind of for that reason. So that’s just a big role model in my life because he did so much for baseball and for other sports.

BDN: Oh I had no idea. You go to a fantastic academic school in St. Johns. How did that decision come about?

JW: Just, you know, my siblings, my brother, the one at Dartmouth went there. He was a big role model in my life. Going back to the academic thing he just wants me to go to the best academic school possible. So going there provided me with a chance because if basketball doesn’t work out..

BDN: You’d have something to fall back on..

JW: Exactly. Exactly.

BDN: Thanks a lot for your time. Good luck the rest of the weekend.

JW: No problem. Thank you. [/private]