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The Duke Basketball Program is Soaring

A season ago, Duke Basketball was besieged with early season injuries to Marcus Bolden,  Jayson Tatum and a setback to Harry Giles.  Then there was the incident with Grayson Allen and a hobbled Frank Jackson later in the year.  Add to that, Coach Mike Krzyzewski went to the sidelines.  Everybody was missing games for Duke.

Duke never recovered completely and would eventually lose to South Carolina in their second game of the NCAA Tournament. The bad luck seemingly continued as Frank Jackson made an unanticipated departure in the off season..  Harry Giles and Jayson Tatum declared early for the NBA Draft as expected but then Luke Kennard, who blew up last year cast his lot into the league as well.

The cupboard was bare for the Blue Devils.  If the aforementioned leaving was not enough, consider Duke lost Amile Jefferson and Matt Jones to graduation as well as Chase Jeter who transferred to Arizona.  The only returning  scholarship players would be Grayson Allen,  Antonio Vrankovic, Marques Bolden, Javin DeLaurier and Jack White.

For the longest time, Alex O'Connell was the only committed Blue Devil coming in.  But Duke would later get  big time prospects Wendell Carter Jr. and Gary Trent Jr. into the fold.  It would take some time before they got what they desperately needed in point guard, Trevon Duval.

But then the Blue Devils missed out on Kevin Knox who surprised many by picking Kentucky.  It had been a while since the Blue Devils lost a recruiting battle and this one really stung at the time as Duke was struggling by their lofty standards to fill their roster.

Duke would go on to sign Jordan Tucker and Jordan Goldwire and it seemed as if they were finished recruiting.  Fast forward to the Nike Peach Jam EYBL Finals in North Augusta, South Carolina.

Standing in the lobby surrounded by reporters galore was Marvin Bagley III.  As always, he was flanked by the watchful eye of his father as his talented son fielded questions.  It was obvious that nobody knew what was really going on in his recruitment that day when listening to the questions.

Bagley was being recruited by Duke and Mike Krzyzewski and his staff attended every game he played.   Duke had never put a high pressure push on Bagley.  Instead, it was a slow and methodical recruitment where honesty and knowledge played a key role.

Bagley was cleared to play for Duke by the NCAA after enrolling in school a year earlier than expected. Duke is now the team to beat in the ACC and a national title contender.

The honesty was telling Bagley, a superstar to be how they would make him a better man and player.  The knowledge would be that Duke knew he had what it takes to come out early and that he had been angling at doing this by taking his education seriously.

By the end of the EYBL tournament it became known that Bagley might consider coming out a year early.  This was a surprise to most in the media but the truth of the matter is that there had been an orchestrated effort by the Duke staff in the works.

Not long after this news, Mike Krzyzewski announced that he would have yet another off-season surgery.  This time he was to have his hip replaced.  Duke would then announce that they had cancelled a trip to the Caribbean where they were to play three exhibition games.

Once again, the fan base and nation could not help but think that the storied program still had a little bit of a dark cloud hovering around. But few college basketball experts knew Bagley would be committing to Duke a short time later.

Many thought that everything was just talk with concern Bagley and that he was still open to all opportunities.  Actually, he was to an extent.  Duke encouraged him to go ahead and visit USC and other schools if need be.  They simply remained confident in their position and what they had to offer and it worked out.

In the coming weeks, Bagley officially announced he would seek to come out of school early and before you could blink he had chosen to attend Duke University.  After visiting one last time, Team Bagley knew exactly where their son would attend college.  They may have known or had an idea all along or at least a good while.

Duke was suddenly the center of the college basketball universe again.  The bad luck seemed to be wearing off.  I mean, Mike Krzyzewski not only got Bagley into the fold, but Tre Jones and Cameron Reddish for the following season.  And all that happened while he was literally on his back.

Marvin Bagley was cleared to play by the NCAA today.  If you had ever talked to the young star to be, you would realize this was never in doubt for he is a smart young man.

Add to that news, the photos coming out on Duke social media which shows Mike Krzyzewski on the practice court and there is reason for joy in the Blue Devil Nation.

So, yeah.  Duke lost some players to the NBA Draft in a season when they had an incredible run in the ACC Tournament only to go out early in March Madness.

The injuries and set backs stung a bit, but that is all in the rear view mirror now.  Duke has once again reloaded like only they can do and will be the favorite to win the ACC this season while being a title contender.

Yes, it was a bit of a roller coaster ride to get here.  Now, Duke fans have to pinch themselves when realizing their good fortune.  It has been a good month of so for the program and they are far from finished.

After all, Duke Basketball never stops.

 

The Hype Begins – Duke Basketball Picked 4th Nationally

Rodney Hood being instructed by Duke HC Mike Krzyzewski.
Rodney Hood being instructed by Duke HC Mike Krzyzewski.

Due on newsstands across America this week will be the glossy pre-season college basketball magazines, the publication of which means that the start of practice is not far away.

We've learned that the Duke Men's Basketball team will be ranked 4th in the nation by the Sporting News, which has Kentucky in the top spot. IN addition to the Blue Devils, the ACC is represented in the top ten by Syracuse and North Carolina.

The Duke Women are ranked second in all the land, just behind UConn. Blue Devils Elizabeth Williams and Chelsea Gray will be named to their ten player first team All-American squad.

On the men's side, the pre-season All-American teams consist of five players each, and the interesting thing is that neither of the two Blue Devils who made the teams have ever dribbled a ball in a Duke uniform in an actual game. This is certainly consistent with the trend in selecting these types of teams these days, where the choices often seem to be based more on potential than actual performance.

Jabari Parker was selected pre-season First Team All-American. He is perhaps the first true freshman at Duke to earn such pre-season honors. Parker, who graced the cover of Sports Illustrated as a high school player, is no stranger to this kind of hype. Parker is also predicted to be the top player in the ACC.

Joining Parker as an All-American selection is redshirt sophomore Rodney Hood, who is picked to the magazine's Third Team. Hood, a rare transfer to Duke from Mississippi State, sat out a season ago per NCAA transfer rules, but has garnered high praise since arriving in Durham, and consequently now has high expectations.

Rasheed Sulaimon, who seems like a veteran on the Blue Devils squad even though he's just a sophomore, was selected High Honorable Mention and if you ask me, he'll be right there for honors higher than that by season's end.

In the projected standings, the Blue Devils are picked to win the Atlantic Coast Conference, followed by Syracuse and North Carolina.

In full, the predicted ACC standings are as follows:

1- Duke

2- Syracuse

3- North Carolina

4- Notre Dame

5- Virginia

6- Pitt

7- Maryland

8- Boston College

9- Florida State

10-NC State

11-Georgia Tech

12-Wake Forest

13-Clemson

14-Virginia Tech

The Sporting News merged with old school legend Street and Smith's. The magazine doesn't have a lot of meat to it anymore, which is disappointing given its history. For instance, it doesn't even include the teams' schedules anymore. But it is the first glossy magazine to hit the stands. The Triangle area cover will feature a UNC and an N.C. State player.

Practice for Duke starts in mid-October and Countdown to Craziness kicks off the season on October 18th at 8:00 in Cameron Indoor Stadium. The Blue Devils will then play their first exhibition game against Bowie State on October 26th and open the regular season against the Davidson Wildcats on November 8th.

The Blue Devils will then travel to Chicago to meet Kansas, ranked #7 in The Sporting News preview magazine. There the top two incoming freshman in the nation, Jabari Parker and Andrew Wiggins -- both pre-season All-Americans on the TSN teams -- go head-to-head in the Champions Classic.

Coach K, USA Basketball fills staff

USA Basketball and Syracuse University veteran coach Jim Boeheim, Chicago Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau, and New Orleans Pelicans head coach and former USA Basketball player Monty Williams, today were announced as USA Basketball Men’s National Team assistant coaches for 2013-16 by USA Basketball Chairman Jerry Colangelo.

USA Basketball announced on May 23 that Duke University’s Naismith Hall of Fame mentor Mike Krzyzewski, who directed the USA National Teams from 2006-2012 to a 62-1 overall record and back-to-back Olympic championships, would return to lead the USA National Team program for a third quadrennium.

Over the course of the 2013-16 quad, the USA Men’s National Team coaching staff will direct the USA through a team mini-camp in Las Vegas, Nev., July 22-25, 2013; the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup (formerly the FIBA World Championship) Aug. 30-Sept. 14 in Spain; if necessary, the 2015 FIBA Americas Olympic Qualifying Tournament (dates and site TBD); and if the USA qualifies, the 2016 Summer Olympic Games (Aug. 5-21) in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

“Circumstances change for individuals, and it was time to make some coaching staff changes. We’re excited about the coaches we have coming on board,” said Colangelo, who has served as the Managing Director of the USA Basketball Men’s National Team program since 2005 and seen those teams compile a 62-1 record. “I think we have assembled another outstanding coaching staff, one that I believe will continue to lead our program to success on the court as well as off. Coach Boeheim is a Hall of Fame coach who knows the international game as well as anyone and has been an invaluable part of the national team program since its inception in 2006. Coaches Thibodeau and Williams are outstanding additions to our staff, and both of them have already made their mark in the league.

“I also want to acknowledge and thank our previous national team assistant coaches Mike D’Antoni and Nate McMillan,” added Colangelo. “They were both huge parts of our successes over the last seven years, and I want to publically thank them for all their time and many contributions.”

“I’m really excited about the USA Basketball National Team coaching staff,” said Krzyzewski. “To work with Jim Boeheim again, who’s as close of a friend as you can have in this profession and also one of the brilliant coaches in the history of our game, to have him right along side me is fantastic. We’ve done that for the last seven years, we’re going to do it for four more.

“To have Tom Thibodeau join us, I think his reputation speaks for itself. He was a great assistant who has become an outstanding pro coach, and nobody wants to play the Bulls. The toughness that they show, their togetherness, their competitiveness, and the preparation that is there, that is shown by he and his staff. I think he is one of the best defensive coaches, his defensive game plans are incredible, and so I’m really looking forward to working with him. Then in Monty Williams, it’s ironic that he was an assistant with Nate McMillan, and again he is someone who is well respected in the NBA. The players love playing for him. I actually know him some because is a very close friend of Grant Hill, I’ve met him a number of times, and I’m looking forward to working with him.

“I think the different personalities that we have on this staff and the different strong suites of each coach will make all of us better,” Krzyzewski concluded. “I’m anxious to get started.”

The USA Men’s National Team begins its 2013 training with a July 22-25 mini-camp in Las Vegas that concludes with the 2013 USA Basketball Showcase, featuring a Blue-White intra-squad game, on July 25 at UNLV’s Thomas & Mack Center. The mini-camp will feature rising NBA stars, newly minted All-Stars, and members of the 2012 USA Basketball Men’s Select Team. A full roster will be announced later this month.

To continue reading the official release, go to USA BAsketball Official site.

Duke Basketball – Notes from Indy

SONY DSCThe Duke Blue Devils advanced to the Elite Eight where they will take on Louisville for a chance to go to the Final Four. BDN takes a look at the frenetic pace of events in Indy as we continue our coverage.

A good win over Michigan State

A lot of people were worried about this game and for good reason in that Tom Izzo and the Spartans are always good, but the Blue Devils seized the opportunity at hand pulling out a 71-61 win. On a night when Quinn Cook struggled, Tyler Thonrton played well off the bench and Seth Curry was quite simply the best player on the court by evenings end. Curry of course, dropped 29 points to lead all scorers and he got help from fellow seniors Ryan Kelly who scored 9 points to go with his team high 7 rebounds. Actually, Mason Plumlee tied him for the lead in rebounds with 7 of his own and scored 14 points himself.  It is also worth noting that Kelly was also the games leader in blocked shots with 4 rejections. Rasheed Sulaimon tallied 16 points as well, knocking down 12 of 16 free throws. As a team, Duke went a more than acceptable 24-26 from the free throw stripe as well. And then there is the defense which you have probably read about by now, but if not is was stellar and should the level of play continue, Duke will be a tough out.

SONY DSCNo time to reflect

In talking to the Duke players during  the press conference here in Indy and what they call break out rooms where they speak individually with members of the media, it was clear they were tired due to the late end of the game.   Some members of the team had to take mandatory drug tests late last evening and the other players while they did not have to, waited for their teammates, putting them in their rooms about 2:00 in the morning. Krzyzewski and others saw this as being ridiculous in nature for many reasons. The team had to be back at Lucas Oil Arena by noon today for the aforementioned interviews and according to many of them, it took some time to wind down from the  Michigan State game they had just won. It was impossible for them not to think about that with the dreaded overkill thoughts before bedding down for the evening and to make matters worse, Louisville had to be on their minds as well. While these are indeed young men that can run circles around me, the responsibilities they have which are demanding in nature go unnoticed by fans. But the media knows, for they are on the same schedule with dead lines and in my case it was around 2:48 before I left the arena. Anyhow, Krzyzewski mentioned this as he should, hoping the NCAA will do a study on the situation. There was no reason why today's pressers could not be pushed back at least until say, 2:00. Another thing worth mentioning is that the coaching staff gets very little sleep if any, breaking down film and preparing for the job at hand in order to advance.  How tired were Coach K's Devils?  Tired enough to only conduct a simple walk through practice today.

SONY DSCThe Final Four Regional

Again, I have dubbed this the Final Four regional in that this region is and or was,  flat out loaded. For the record, Duke and Louisville are the top two seeds left in the entire tournament and many feel the game tomorrow could in a sense be the national title game. It's almost a crime that these two-storied and strong programs could not meet for all the marbles. I mean it is Pitino vs Krzyzewski for gosh sakes and both teams are playing great basketball.  Some feel the winner of this game could actually get a break when they hit the Final Four and I would not argue against that and actually agree with the analogy.

Keep in mind ...

Keep in mind that we'll see these two programs going head to head in the future when Louisville joins the ACC. In that vein, this is an all ACC match up in slightly skewed way. The one thing I noticed when talking to both teams players was the fact that I saw a lot of character. Covering the Duke program up close and personal over the years and even the AAU trail and the kids who eventually go to school in Durham, the one thing I can say with 100% objectivity, is that the Blue Devils players all have immense character in that they are all great kids and citizens on and off the court.

SONY DSCNobody better than Coach K in Elite Eight play

Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski is 11-1 in Elite Eight play which is an amazing record. Blue Devil faithful are lucky to have him at the helm and who the heck else would you want in this situation? But the fan base should be grateful win or lose tomorrow and not take for granted how hard it is to advance in these tournaments. Remind yourself how it felt to go out last season against Lehigh in order to enjoy the accomplishments which are earned with hard work that starts the very next day the season ends. It's a long process and the season will be full of ebbs and flows but the last team standing will always be the happiest. Duke is one victory away from going to another Final Four which would be the eleventh for Coach K and company, one shy of John Wooden at UCLA.

30 wins, again

Duke won its 30th game of the season and while no fan wants it to end, that in itself is a dream for any school. It's the 13th time in history Krzyzewski has won 30 games at Duke. In fact, he is the only coach to win 30 in Durham and he has more 30 win seasons than any other coach in the long history of college basketball.

SONY DSCDuke just doesn't have it ... Duke will win it all

It amazes me how wrong the talking heads can be with their predictions as the year goes along and their flipping and flopping is akin to being manic. Going into last evenings game, BDN picked the Devils to win and we did so confidently. Maybe it comes from being around since the dawn of the K era for me or maybe it was just luck. Anyhow, Duke is starting to get some favorable press again. After the Maryland loss, everybody assumed a single game performance meant that Duke would continue to play like that and the ship was destined to sink. Maybe those NBA types will start to do their homework a bit more going forward. After all, it is not like anyone invited them to invade their living room trying to pose as college hoops experts.

Sidebar - Duke is 26-8 all time as a no. 2 seed. Duke is playing in their 18th consecutive NCAA Tournament which is the longest such streak of any program. Did you know there were seven couch fires in East Lansing, Michigan last night?  Seth Curry knocked down six three pointers, a new Lucas oil Arena record and his is 29 points were the second most scored in the arena.  Duke's free throw percentage last evening was the highest in their NCAA tournament history.  Cook moved to 19th on the all time Duke assist list.

Stick around, for a lot more is coming from Indy.