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A Blue Devil Nation Update With New Hampton’s Noah Vonleh

New Hampton's Noah Vonleh, Photo by Andrew Slater/BDN

Noah Vonleh, who has developed a reputation as a tireless worker, enrolled as a student at the New Hampton School in New Hampshire last month as a 2014 student. Vonlehwas looking to challenge himself in arguably the toughest high school league in the country, the NEPSAC, and in the smaller classrooms, while enjoying the accessibility of his new coaches, teachers, and facilities. As a result of his success during the AAU season with the Mass Rivals, he caught the eyes of college coaches and evaluators. This fall, they’ve traveled en masse to observe the Haverhill, Massachusetts native in “open gyms” alongside his New Hampton teammates. Vonleh added that this was a marked change from the open gyms held last year at his local public high school.

Noah noted the hard work that he and Coach Pete Hutchins put in to refine the mechanics of his perimeter shot. They’ve tried to improve his accuracy by working to shoot straight up off of his right hand, as opposed to gaining leverage by crossing the body on the long-distance jumper. With three years to fine-tune it, it’s a worthwhile “work in progress” that will enable him to gain more consistency and a quicker shot release, enabling the 6’8″ sophomore forward to enjoy the versatility of being able to play the small forward position on the next level or be a potent face-up four. He also has embraced the classroom attention and increased workload that the smaller teacher-to-student ratio provides at New Hampton.

This past weekend, Vonleh spent the Columbus Day weekend in New London, CT on the campus of Connecticut College. He was teamed with his high school teammate and close friend Zach Auguste, a Notre Dame commitment, on the Mass Rivals, as they competed in the BasketBull Columbus Day Challenge.

Noah Vonleh, Photo by Andrew Slater/BDN

On the opening night, Vonleh was hit with an unusually high amount of foul calls ( three in less than five minutes of playing time) against the smaller frontline of the Raritan Roundballers and Coach Vin Pastore was forced to sit his sophomore star more than he would have liked. Noah came out more focused in the second half. He scored all eight of his points from close range, rebounded the ball with ferocity (11 rebounds), and tied up the shorter, opposing three. In the nightcap (literally beginning at 10 PM), Vonleh used his combination of soft hands, tenacity, and 7’2″+ wingspan to dominate the glass and cause hesitation in low-post shooters. He finished with six blocked shots, four steals, and fourteen rebounds.

Between the games, Noah mentioned that he has been working consistently with Coach Hutchins on improving his ball-handling. Three times during the final game, Vonleh was able to grab a defensive rebound, navigate traffic and ultimately go coast-to-coast for a finger roll, twice getting fouled as he made the transition basket.

The following is a quick update from Noah Vonleh, New Hampton forward and Duke recruit:

How has the transition to New Hampton gone for you so far?

The transition’s been pretty good. It’s way different from high school. The classes are harder. You’ve got less kids in the classes. The teachers are very close to the students.
You live with some of them.
Yeah, exactly, dorm parents.

Right, what are the facilities like? Maybe touch on that.
Yeah, the gym is open. The area for lifting is open and the coaches are always there to help you.
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That’s great for you, I remember that you said you worked out like crazy and now you have access all of the time.
Yeah, it’s great. We get to work out and work on lifting all of the time.

Has you body changed at all or not really?
Not yet, but it will be by the time I’m done.
I guarantee it will be.
Yeah, we’re lifting all the time.

How has your training changed? Have you done things differently in terms of things you want to work on?
In terms of training, I’ve been doing different ball-handling drills.
Yeah, I saw you working on that before this game.
Yeah.
Is that so you can play more on the perimeter?
Yeah.

Can you talk about the open gym experience? I’m sure plenty of coaches came to see you. What was that like?
It was great. We had Roy Williams, we had all types of coaches, we had Duke, North Carolina, Syracuse, other schools. A lot of different schools.

Was that a major difference in terms of the open gym this year versus last year or, rather, last year to this year?
Yeah, last year, we didn’t really have any.
So, that’s great for you.
Yeah, it was a great experience.

What were some of the schools that came?
Duke, North Carolina, Kansas, Syracuse, and Georgetown.

How has role and position changed from last year to this year ?
It was different last year because I was the tallest guy and they were focused on trying to stop me and so you had to fight for position. That’s why I did most of the ball-handling, too. I’d be at the top of the key and teams would be able to set up their defense and they could focus on me, but now they can’t do that.
With Zach (Auguste)
Yeah, there are so many guys that they can’t key on me or any one of us.
Oh, that’s gotta be great and it’ll be a good experience for in college.

What’s it like living with Zach?
Oh, it’s been cool. He’s been showing me around. We go everywhere together.
Have you guys been driving each other in practice?
Yeah, we’ve been pushing each other.

Have you taken any visits since August? Do you have any plans?

No, I haven’t, but I think I’m going to go out to Arizona in a few weeks with Coach Hutchins.

Oh, okay. Are you going to any midnight madness? I know some people go to those.

I think I’m going to go to UConn for theirs.

What would you say you’ve tried to work on most since the summer?
My jumper. I’ve been trying to work on that.

Well, I saw you, before the game, working on your three-point shot. Are you trying to work on your three-pointer or are you trying to concentrate on your mid-range and beyond?
Yeah, my three-point shot and my pull-up.

How’s it going? Are you seeing an improvement?
I am trying. I’ve been working with Coach Hutchins trying to change my shot. (motioning) He’s trying to work with me on taking my shot from this side (pointing to the left) and instead on going straight up.

Is it sort of a work in progress?
Yeah, it’s coming.

That’s good to hear and I’m sure it will. When does your season begin for fans that want to catch you play?
We start practicing on November 1st and then our first tournament will probably be around Thanksgiving.

Right, I thought I was going to catch you next month at one of the tournaments that they’re having in New Haven.

Oh, yeah, yeah, definitely.

What does your coach expect out of you in terms of production and your role on the team?

AAU or high school?
Both, actually, is probably best.

In AAU, to be a better leader on the team, be our primary rebounder.
You did a pretty good job at rebounding in very limited time in this game.

Yeah, it was frustrating with all of the early foul calls. It was kind of frustrating.
Yeah, tell me about it.
(laughs)

Okay, and now, what about the prep school level?
In prep school, I’m just trying to get into the system or the things that Coach Hutchins asks. Coach wants me to be able to knock down shots.
I didn’t know if they expected more scoring out of you on one team or the other.
Yeah, now I’ve got to step up and try to do it on both teams.

Thanks, Noah, and good luck to you.
Thanks a lot and good to see you again.
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Leadership In Training: An Interview With Miles Plumlee

Duke

Blessed with a reported thirty-six inch vertical, a 6’11,” 247 lb. frame, and the mind of a high school salutatorian, Miles Plumlee is a rare specimen. On a relatively young squad, Miles, a twenty-three year-old third generation college basketball player, has started more games, forty-one, than any current Duke player. The team will need him to provide leadership, experience, and low-post production to a more featured frontcourt.

Already a national champion, having grabbed three rebounds in nine minutes against Butler in the 2010 Championship game, the eldest of four Plumlee progeny brings the hunger of a man anxious for one last good meal. The psychology major has tried to take advantage of the opportunities presented to him this summer. Initially, the one-time engineering student with an entrepreneurial zeal worked in New York for Jesse Itzler, a serial entrepreneur who created Marquis Jet. The Winona Lake, Indiana native followed that experience up by participating in the college portion of the LeBron James Skills Academy, as one of the twenty invited players, including his talented and gracious brother, Mason. Most recently, the former high school track star enjoyed a thirteen day around the world trip with his Duke University teammates as part of Duke’s Friendship Games, playing in Dubai and three Chinese cities, Kunshan, Shanghai, and Beijing.

In the three games competing against the Chinese junior national team, Miles Plumlee, who is the team’s second-leading returning scorer, rebounder, and shot-blocker, averaged nearly eleven rebounds and eleven points, while providing a vital role as a low-post scorer and offensive rebounder (corralling eight offensive rebounds in the final game against China’s large front court).

After Coach Trent Johnson left Stanford for Louisiana State, Miles Plumlee opted to open up his recruitment at Christ School in Arden, NC and ultimately decided to enter Duke University. At the time, he had a reputation for being more of a face-up four and had contributed to consecutive State Championships for the Greenies. Last summer, Miles transformed his physique and game by adding nearly twenty pounds of muscle. Near the end of the 2011 season, Coach Krzyzewski reinserted the eldest Plumlee into the starting lineup, where the Ft. Wayne-born big man immediately stepped up his game in the ACC Tournament, highlighted by his play against Maryland (10 points, 9 rebounds) and using his length against North Carolina’s finesse frontline (helping to hold Henson and Zeller to a combined 9 for 26 in the ACC Title game). Based upon his recent play, it appears as though he has continued to become more acclimated to the transition from a floating big to the team’s biggest physical presence, while seeking to maintain the athleticism that once allowed him to perform a 6’9″ high jump.

This year, with both brothers Marshall and Mason on the Duke’s campus, Miles Plumlee would like to take more of a leadership role in his final season of college basketball and go out with a second National Title. Miles spoke with BDN about a variety of topics, including stepping out of his comfort zone and into an increased leadership role, his relationships with both the coaching staff and his brothers, his team-centric focus, and an entrepreneurial future.

Maybe we can start with both leadership and your role on this team.

You know that’s the biggest thing I’ve been thinking about in this off-season. I’ve been focusing on it and, you know, I had an experience where I was doing an internship with one of the coaches’ friends.

I’m definitely going to get to that in just a moment…

Yeah, well, it kind of goes hand-in-hand.

Okay, great.

The biggest reason I wanted to go there is because I know [Jesse Itzler]’s a great leader in what he does and I learned a lot from him. I picked his brain and I got a lot of great advice. He started his own company a few times now, so he’s been successful and that was one area where I think it’s going to help me, but also coming back and being an older brother my life, you know, trying to apply that to the team. Just trying to bring that brotherhood to the whole team.

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I wanted to get to the issue of you and brothers, too.
(laughs)

What are the expectations from your perspective and the coaching staff? What have they asked you to work on?

Well, I don’t have any personal accolades in mind, but all of my coaches know how high my ceiling is and I know how high it is. So, I’m just trying to reach a level that I’m really happy with, but more importantly, I’m concerned about the team competing for national championships.

Yes, absolutely. I mean you’ve already accomplished that once.

Yeah, but now to do that and be a leader on the team would be another thing. That’s the biggest goal on my mind.

Is being a captain something you aspire to? Have the coaches talked about you being captain or part of a committee, so to speak?

Yeah, I know, they said they’re going to wait and see how everything goes in China. They want to see how people’s roles surface, but, you know, I’ve been through more than anyone else on the team.

Right.

I’ve played with a lot of great leaders, like Jon Scheyer, a lot of great seniors growing up.

Who was the best leader you’ve played with? Is Scheyer the best?

He and Lance did a great job that year. There’s a reason why we won it. What was the initial question?

It had to do with leadership and whether you aspire to be a captain.

Oh, yes, they’re not going to make a decision until after China, but I’m already trying to assert myself and get out of my comfort zone because I’m not the most vocal guy.

Neither am I, but I try to push myself too.

Yeah, well, I’m trying to talk more on defense and also off the court. Yeah, you know, defensively, I can talk to people on the court, but I’m really trying to become a leader off the court. It’s not something I’m really comfortable with, but it’s something that I’m trying to grow into. I want to get that role.

Just out of curiosity, as you were saying it, I was thinking about being the oldest brother. I’m the oldest brother as well and by nature, you almost have to a leader among your younger siblings. Do you think that will help and have you found that to be the case?

Definitely, I think it’s a huge advantage in my position. I don’t think I’ve been the best big brother in the world, but I think there’s some things I’ve done right, and if I can learn from them..

God knows, I haven’t been.
(

laughs) Yeah, you know, I’ve made a lot of mistakes, but all of them are experience that maybe an older brother has to have.

They can, sort of, learn from your own mistakes.

Yeah, yeah. Then, they can make their own. (laughs)

How do you think you’ve developed, both physically and from a skills perspective over the past few years? Physically, you’ve gotten a lot bigger.

Yeah, you know, I’m still continuing to push my body.

Always a work in progress.

I’m trying to get stronger and that, but I got really pretty athletic when I got to college and you know, I was more of a face-up player, but I’ve tried to adapt my game and become more of a back-to-the-basket player since coming to college.

Yeah, I wanted to touch on that as well.
Yeah, so you know, that’s probably been my biggest focus and the other stuff’s there and we’ve got such great guards coming to Duke each year. Yeah, maybe down the road I’ll use that more at the next level, but right now I want to make the biggest impact I can for our team and so that’s inside, giving us a low-post game.

In terms of mentoring, it sort of goes hand in hand with leadership, but how do you feel you’ve done as a mentor to your brothers and some of your future teammates this year?

I think it’s something I’m going to have to make a conscious effort to do. We have so many young guys and I need to mentor them and show them the ropes. We need them to win. They don’t even realize it yet. I mean, I was in that position as a freshman too, I didn’t know where I was at. We’ve got to bring them on board real fast and mentoring will be a big part of that.

You know him better than anybody, what dimension do you think Marshall can bring to program? Maybe give a scouting report on him to the fans that may not have seen him play.

Yeah, he’s surprised me. He’s really grown into his body. I think the number one thing if you’re scouting him is his motor. He never gives up, he goes full blast all the time he’s out on the court.

He’s a really nice kid, too.

Oh, yeah, he’s really nice, but he’ll take it to you on the court.

Yeah, he’s very serious and competitive on the court though.

Oh, yeah, definitely.

He said he’s very good at video games too.

Yeah, he is. Me and him always go at it.

In terms of a scouting report…

Yeah, a scouting report..he’s going to be going at you every minute of the game. He’s going to be busting his ass 100%. Yeah, I think that’s his biggest attribute right now is just running the court.

How do you think he differs from you and Mason at the same point in your lives?

You know, his whole life he always wanted to be a big guy for some reason, and it just so happened that he kept growing. You know, a lot of guys want to be big buys, but you can’t control that. So, I think he’s grown up wanting to be in the post doing the dirty work. He has fun just running the court and getting the ball. A lot of big guys don’t want to do that, they get spoiled, lazy, and they don’t want to do all of that work if they’re not going to get the ball every single time. That’s huge for a team. That changes the game.

Yeah, it does. I was just curious about that. What are you trying to work on this summer primarily on the court?

The same thing, but you know, just taking that post game to another level and getting more comfortable. I really thought that I made huge strides towards the end of last year, just having confidence when you get the ball in the post, and wanting the ball, and in the end, that makes a huge difference in the game when it comes down to the wire. You’ve got to want it.

Is it a “no hesitation” kind of thing for you?

Yeah, exactly. I really think that’s been my biggest setback is really getting out of your own head. You catch it and you immediately react.

I remember going to one of your practices a few years ago and Coach Krzyzewski was talking about how you were very hard on yourself, but that was a few years ago.

Definitely, that’s been my biggest problem. In practice, I play great for three years. Well, my freshman year was kind of tough, but for the last few years I played great in practice, and now the thing is to try to translate it to the games.

And it can happen, it’s just a matter of time and concentration.

Yeah, absolutely it can happen.

Can you touch on being an engineering student and how that differentiates your game? I remember you used to be an engineering student.

(laughs) Oh, no, that was way too much.

I was an Economics major there.

Yeah, my first semester there was the hardest of my life.

What’s your major now?

Psychology. You know, I think it’s something that’s applicable to anything I do in life, but, you know, it’s way more flexible for basketball.

Way more merciful too. They’re tough in terms of grades too.

Oh, yeah, it’s just tough.

The reason I was asking was because I was wondering if you saw the court differently by having somewhat of an engineering background.

Oh, yeah, you know I always thought I see angles differently. I don’t think a lot of basketball players realize what they’re seeing. I think it gives me a better sense of what I’m seeing…helps to visualize.

Would you describe your summer job as more of a finance job? How would you categorize it?

Yeah, well, it’s sort of hard to explain, it was really more of a company that Jesse Itzler founded, more of like a marketing thing. He founded Marquis Jets and now it’s like more of a marketing agency and a brand incubator. We came up with a few of our own products.

Would you like to get into that post-basketball? Perhaps be an entrepreneur?

Yeah, you know, that’s what it really opened my eyes to. An amazing opportunity would be to play in the NBA and not just squander it.

I’m glad you have your eyes wide open. There are so many sad stories, unfortunately.

Yeah, I know there are. Yeah, I want to make things happen. There are a lot of guys from Duke that have done great things like here or in China and you know, really have an entrepreneurial mindset just like him, and you know, it was a great experience.

What is your emotional reaction to finally get the opportunity to play with all of your brothers and be at the same school together? Excited? Happy?

So excited! I really think this is going to be the funnest year by far. You know, I’ve always had a blast, but you know, me and Marshall, we grew up hanging out together like non-stop and I was so much older than him, but, now, you know, we’re competing on the same level and it’s an adjustment.

Do the three of you ever just walk into the Y or something like that? Did the three of you walk in and people just go “Holy cow?”

(laughs) Yeah, I mean, we did, but we didn’t used to be this tall. Yeah, the last time I was at a place like that was back home and I was only like 5’9” or 5’10” as freshman. But I think it’s going to be a blast. It’s going to be a great senior year.

And what’s Mason’s take on all of this?

Oh, yeah, he’s been great. We both just love Marshall to death. It’s just fun to have all three of us together again.

Can you talk about the addition of the freshman class and Coach Capel? Those are the two big post-season additions to the program.

Yeah, I mean, everybody in the freshman class seems to have a great attitude. They’re really skilled, they’re really athletic. I think they all really have a great attitude, they all really want to get better. Coach Capel is just a great addition because he knows so much, he’s coached great players, and I love his positive attitude. He’s really good at pumping everybody up.

He can also relate to players. He’s still young and yet he’s got that head coaching experience, which is a great combo to add the staff.

Yeah, everybody’s pretty young and it’s a lot of fun. It’s a great group to be around.

What’s your relationship like with both Coach K and Coach Wojo?

First of all, I’ve got to say it’s like family. I mean, they’ve been there for me in more than just basketball. That’s just one small part of the whole thing. You..you come to Duke and I had no idea what it was all about. You become part of this family. They’ve become like fathers to me. There’s a bond. I come to them for advice on everything. I know..I know I’m going to stay in touch with them for the rest of my life. It’s something that’s really special to me.

I don’t think a lot of recruits necessarily realize that, to paraphrase Coach Holtz, it’s not a four year thing, it’s a forty year thing.

No, you know, I don’t think a lot of them realize it. You don’t realize what you’re signing up for. If they did realize it, I think even a lot more would jump on it, but I know that I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.

How comfortable do you feel you are with your back-to-the-basket game and how far out do you feel your range is at this point? Because you still have that face-up game that you were talking about before.

I’ve always felt that I’m really versatile and now it’s not just a matter of how to use it, but when and where to use it, what opportunities you have and reading the defense. So, becoming a lot smarter and putting it all together. It’s something I’ve really worked on in the last year.

And in terms of your back-to-the-basket game?

Yeah, I’m realizing how much you can control the game with your back to the basket. Seeing, you know, guys like Tim Duncan and those kind of guys..taking your time, seeing the floor.

Is that what you worked on at the LeBron James Academy?

Yeah, you know, it was great playing against some of the best players and some of the best bigs. I was just trying to see where I stack up.

How did you do and what was the toughest guy for you to defend?

Dude, you know, everybody’s tough. Everybody’s good. I feel like I did as well as anyone. It was a great experience and I’m looking forward to where it takes my game.

What are your expectations or goals for the team this year? A National Title?

A National Title all the way, that’s all I’ve got to say. We’ve always got talent. I just feel like we’ve just got to bring it together and develop that chemistry along the way.

Thank you very much, Miles.

No problem.

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Final Four: A Perry Ellis Update

Perry Ellis BDN/Andrew Slater Photo

This past weekend, 6’8″ rising senior Perry Ellis of Wichita helped his USA Red team to a third place finish at Adidas Nations in Compton, California. In his final game, the three-time Kansas Gatorade Player of the Year scored twelve points and grabbed six rebounds. Since he was last profiled, Ellis, a 4.0 student, has cut his lengthy list of suitors down to a final four: Kansas St., Kansas, Kentucky and Duke University. He is working on setting up future visits.

Over the past month, Ellis has teamed with improving guard Buddy Hield for the Kansas Pray and Play program in events from the NY2LA Summer Jam outside Milwaukee to Las Vegas’ Super 64 to cap off his final AAU campaign. In two weeks, the driven forward, who battled tendinitis in June, will once again be participating in the Elite 24 event in Venice Beach, CA.

The always cordial Perry Ellis sat down with BDN for a quick update following a close defeat to discuss what he’d like to find in the college of his choice and what he hopes to view on his upcoming visits.

How much momentum carries over from event to event or tournament to tournament? Either as an individual or a team?
With our first game, we always seem a little sluggish.

I noticed that. Then, you guys seem to pick it up in the second game, for whatever reason. The team seems to get into a groove and build from there.
Yeah, and then we get into a flow and we get momentum and we’re running up-and-down and things seem to click a lot better. When we’re not, we’re missing easy shots and easy lay-ups.
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Even just one or two tip-ins would’ve changed the course of this game.
Yeah, it’s the little stuff. I mean we lost by what? Three?

Two. It was killing me. (laughs)
Two? Jeez. Man, I can’t believe we lost by two and we missed all of those little things. We should’ve won by twenty or something. There’s no excuse, but we’ve just got to keep our focus.

Yeah, I was just thinking about momentum and what your thoughts were on it. Is there any new news in terms of recruiting or visits?
Um, I’m not really sure when exactly I’m going to visit the schools. I don’t have nothing really planned right now.

Where do you feel most comfortable catching the ball?
Right around the free throw line..

Facing up around the wings?
Wings?

Yeah, I’m sorry, like the free throw line extended.
Yeah, exactly, right around there, you know, just facing up.

How about defending fours versus threes? Which do you feel more comfortable defending against? It seems like you’ve defended everyone from fives to threes.
I mean I like getting out on the wings, but it just depends on what we needed.

Yeah, that’s why I was more curious about what position you felt most comfortable guarding versus what the team needed in a given game or match-up.
Well, I like getting out on the wings because I think you get out on more breaks, you know. I mean most of the time if you’re down low and you throw an outlet pass, it’s already too..

You’re too late to score on the break. (laughs) You want to have some fun out there.
Yeah, exactly. (laughs)

And what position are most schools recruiting you for now? There seemed to be some back and forth the last time over some schools recruiting you as a face-up four versus a three.
I’d say most schools are saying three and, if I’ve got a mismatch, than a four. That’s what they’ve said.

What are you looking for ideally in the college that you ultimately do decide on? What are some things that you hope that they have? Looking big picture now.
The first thing is being comfortable. Being comfortable around the school and just knowing people. Being comfortable there is the first thing.

That’s step one. You’ve got to feel comfortable.
Then, playing on TV. I want to be able to play on TV.

Sure.
Putting out players..they’re developing players.

So, exposure and developing players..
Yeah, definitely.

What about urban versus rural? Will distance play a big factor? You’ve got them both very close by and a few states away.
Yeah, no, distance won’t really matter to me. Just whether I’m more comfortable there than on the other campuses.

How about knowing players either on the current team or in your recruiting class?
Yeah, that would definitely help. It would help as far as knowing other people and being comfortable. Just knowing guys that you might get to play with. That’s definitely something to think about.

Yeah, I was just thinking that might ease some concerns. What are you hoping to see on your visits?
As far as..

Where would you like to go? Do you want to see the facilities, the campus, and the players’ dorms, etcetera?
Yeah, exactly, I’d like to see all the little stuff like what do they do before the games.

Pre-game rituals and preparation.
Yeah, see all that they have to do, where they live, see their classes and so forth.

Have you thought at all about what you’d like to major in or what interests you? I know you’re Mr. 4.0 student.
Yeah, (laughs) I’m not really sure. I’ve been concentrating so much on basketball lately.

Sure, will immediate playing time be a major factor in your decision?
Yeah, I mean, on the one hand, I definitely would like an opportunity to play early on…just like I’m sure everybody does, but, on the other hand, I don’t want people to just tell me that I’m gonna play..I want to work for it. I want people to tell me that. I don’t want to just be given anything.

See, but I remember the last time that you said that you didn’t like guys that were too demanding on you all of the time. How does that..would you like them to push a little bit, but not too much?
Oh, I meant as far as practice.

But you just meant off the court.
Yeah, yeah, breathing room.

Because the last time you were talking about how you liked how some of the programs recruiting you gave their players freedom, but now I understand that you want the freedom off the court, while being pushed on it.
Yeah, yeah, exactly.

Okay. That’s it for me. I really appreciate it. Good luck tonight.
Alright, sure. Thank you.
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Dakota Jackson was impressed by Duke's academics

2012 TE prospect Dakota Jackson takes a 2nd trip to Duke

Dakota Jackson was impressed by Duke's academics

With national signing day wrapping up, football recruiting will officially transition from the class of 2011 to the class of 2012. Duke kicked off the 2012 recruiting season this past weekend with the first of two Junior Days in Durham. Over 100 prospects made the trip to campus and most came away impressed with the Blue Devil program. BDN kicks off our coverage of the class of 2012 with a series of interviews with this weekend’s visitors.

Dakota Jackson is a 6’4” 245 pound tight end prospect from Roanoke, VA. He already has been contacted by an impressive list of schools, and recently made his second trip to Durham for Duke’s Junior Day. Highlights from his junior year, during which he helped Northside High School to a state championship, can be viewed here.

BDN: Can you start off by describing the strengths and weaknesses of your game for someone who hasn’t had a chance to see you play?

Hard nosed football. That’s how I base everything I do. Just getting after it until the whistle blows, basically.

 

BDN: What are some of the things you’ve been working on this offseason?

After last season, my goal is to get up to about 240-245, and I’ve already gained all that and it’s not fat at all, it’s all muscle. I’m gonna stay in the weight room, try to get my 40 time to about 4.6 flat, around in there. Just keep working with the team and everything, try to get better and try to win another state championship next year.

 

BDN: You mentioned winning another state championship this fall. What are some of your other goals for yourself individually and your team?

We do like a line, like grading, because we run the ball a lot, and I want to grade out above 95% for the whole year. I want to have at least like 4 or 5 pancakes each game. Catching-wise, probably like about 10, 15, or even 20 touchdowns this year.

 

BDN: What are the most important things you are looking for in a college?

Whether I fit in there, if it’s a program that uses the tight end, that isn’t just a glorified tackle, that use them in their scheme. It’s all about just finding the right home and that kind of stuff. It all fits in. Just if it fits for me and everything clicks. I mean all the campuses I’ve been to so far, they were all nice so it would be tough to say which one sticks out the most because I like them all so far.

 

BDN: What schools have you recently heard from? Who was the first school to contact you?

First ones to contact were area schools like VMI, Liberty, Richmond, and then [Virginia] Tech and UVA followed. Penn State, UCLA, Maryland, ECU, Duke, and Tennessee a little bit. I’ve been to Duke twice now, their Junior Day this weekend and I went to a game back in the fall. I’ve been to [Virginia] Tech twice – I went to see two of their games. I go there the 26th of February for their Junior Day. UVA – I went to watch one of their games and I went to a couple other games up there with a couple of my friends. Haven’t been able to go up to Penn State yet, but I’m planning on it either this offseason or next year. I go to Richmond the 20th of February for a visit.

 

BDN: I know you said earlier that you liked all the schools you have visited so far. Were there any schools you came away particularly impressed with?

I was impressed with Duke’s academics. They spend just thousands and thousands on just the academics alone and making sure that once you graduate you’re not only going to have a degree, but you’re going to have an education behind that degree. If football doesn’t work out for you, then you’re going to have something to fall back on. I mean I’m looking for that too, because it doesn’t always work out and you’re going to have to have that education to back it up. But all the football programs, they’ve all been great, so I couldn’t really put one ahead of the other right now.

 

BDN: It’s still very early in the process, but ideally, when would you like to make your college decision?

I’m not sure, I’m probably just going to have to play it by ear. If it happens soon, then that’s good. Just whenever the offer comes and whether or not it’s a fit for me. I’ll have to make that decision then, because I’m not sure, to tell you really right now.

 

BDN: Is there anything else you think is important for ACC football fans to know about you?

Off the field, I’m like a book guy. I just try and keep my grades as high as they can get and that kind of stuff. But on the field, I just play with tenacity, I just get after it every play and I hate to lose. I do everything I can and in the offseason, I work my butt off with my teammates and everything just so that we don’t lose. We just keep doing better and better and better.

 

BDN: Thanks a lot, Dakota and best of luck to you.

Thanks, you too.

Highly-touted freshman punter Will Monday will challenge senior Alex King

BDN’s Duke Signing Day Coverage

Will Monday signs his NLI at the USA U-19 game in Austin, TX

National Signing Day has arrived, and Duke fans are wondering who will be the impact players in the class of 2011. The Blue Devils received a signing day surprise as Alabama TE David Reeves committed to Duke this morning. Blue Devil Nation’s Mark Watson will have coverage today from Head Coach David Cutcliffe’s press conference introducing the Duke Football Class of 2011.

Visit our Duke Football section to read recent interviews with the members of Duke’s class of 2011.

DUKE FOOTBALL CLASS OF 2011

OL Matt Skura 6’3″ 265 pounds Columbus, Ohio

DL Sam Marshall 6’8″ 250 pounds – Fredericksburg, Virginia

DL Lucas Fisher 6’3″ 245 pounds – Monroe, North Carolina

LB Britton Grier 6’2″ 190 pounds – Charlotte, North Carolina

DL Mario Sanders 6’4″ 220 pounds – Greer, South Carolina

LB David Helton 6’3″ 225 pounds – Chattanooga, Tennessee

OL Lucas Patrick 6’3″ 280 pounds – Brentwood, Tennessee

ATH Jamison Crowder 5’8″ 180 pounds – Monroe, North Carolina

OL Carson Ginn 6’5″ 255 pounds – Belmont, North Carolina

K Will Monday 6’4″ 176 pounds – Flowery Branch, Georgia

DL Kyler Brown 6’4″ 210 pounds – Charlotte, North Carolina

OL Marcus Aprahamian 6’3″ 300 pounds – Brookfield, Wisconsin

DB Tim Burton 5’8″ 155 pounds – Fort Lauderdale, Florida

DB Jared Boyd 5’9″ 170 pounds – Stone Mountain, Georgia

OL Cody Robinson 6’2″ 305 pounds – McMinnville, Tennessee

WR Nick Hill 6’2″ 200 pounds – Nashville, Tennessee

DB Chris Tavarez 5’10” 195 pounds  – Atlanta, Georgia

TE David Reeves 6’5″ 245 pounds – Greensboro, Alabama

WR Blair Holliday 6’3″ 195 pounds – Westlake Village, California