Tag Archives: Coach K

Semi Semi Ya: Duke Lands Semi Ojeleye

 

Semi Ojeleye, Copyright BDN Photo

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore is not an act, but a habit.

-Aristotle

Semi Ojeleye was born in Overland Park, Kansas and his family’s tale is one of the American Dream. His father, Victor, arrived in Kansas from Nigeria, looking to do an internship and residency at the University of Kansas Medical Center. Dr. Ojeleye now operates as a family physician in Ottawa, Kansas, roughly fifty miles south of Kansas City, Kansas, with his wife, Joy, a registered nurse.

The Ojeleyes had two boys, Victor and Semi. Victor, the oldest, was heavily involved in community service, became Ottawa High School’s all-time leading scorer, and was valedictorian of his graduating class. After not receiving much basketball interest coming out of Ottawa high school, he opted to do a postgraduate year in North Carolina, where he played under veteran coach, Chris Chaney. It was there that then Kansas St. assistant coach, Dalonte Hill spotted the 6’5″ Ojeleye and ultimately convinced him to walk-on for his home state Kansas State Wildcats. Victor wound up being a reserve player for the Wildcats, led his teammates in Bible studies, and was an All-Academic Big XII winner in each of his three seasons, culminating in this season’s inaugural Dr. Loge Award for the Big XII Conference’s highest academic honor. Last May, he received his degree in Finance and Accounting before joining Koch Industries.

Semi has the ability to stretch the floor with his three point shot. Photo copyright BDN

Semi Ojeleye was blessed with the same genetics and work ethic as Victor. He’s been a 4.0 student, but will shatter Victor’s basketball records for the Ottawa Cyclones. The 6’6″ wing averaged nearly nine rebounds and thirty-three points per game this season, never scoring below twenty-five in a single game, while leading Ottawa (KS) to a third consecutive Class 4A State Title game. The high water scoring mark for this season came when he knocked down eight three-pointers and hit all ten of his free throws for a fifty point game and a win in front of Missouri Coach Frank Haith.

Last season, Semi, a devout Christian, played all five positions for Coach Jon McKowen’s Cyclones and knocked down seventy-eight three pointers at nearly a forty percent clip on the season. In the state semi-final game, Ojeyele grabbed fourteen rebounds and scored thirty-two points. In, ultimately, a close 56-52 loss to Basehor-Linwood in the Championship game, Ojeleye, who has tried to slowly convert himself from more of a post player to a perimeter force, scored thirty-two points and snagged twelve rebounds. For his efforts, the 6’6″ senior, who now has 1,811 career points and helped his team to a 24-2 final record, earned an All-State distinction.

This AAU season, the versatile wing first caught the eye of the Duke staff for a half of a single game at the Nike EYBL Minneapolis, but it was his performance at the EYBL Boo Williams that was a turning point. According to Semi, Coach K felt he saw a lot of his untapped potential at this event. Rather than get satisfied, Semi continued to improve, mesh with his Mo-Kan Elite teammates, and was, without any college coaches in attendance, the critical player for a run of EYBL wins in Oakland that enabled his AAU squad to earn a trip to the coveted Peach Jam in July.

When June began, Semi and his family came to the Gothic Wonderland in Durham for an unofficial visit. The trip was meant to provide a bit of due diligence and gauge his comfort level with the staff, program, and University. It coincided with the Coach K Academy, a fantasy camp for charity that pairs former Duke players with fans looking to experience a taste of what it's like to play at Duke. By the end of the weekend, Semi was offered a full scholarship to Duke.

Over the next few weeks, Ojeleye played at the NBAPA Top 100 Camp in Virginia and competed alongside fellow Duke recruits Austin Nichols, Julius Randle, Matt Jones, and Theo Pinson at the elite LeBron James Skills Academy in Las Vegas.

At the Peach Jam, which collects twenty-four of the best AAU teams in the country, Semilore Ojeleye elevated his undermanned team to new heights, catapulting his squad to the semi-finals of the ultra-competitive July tournament. His standout Peach Jam game was against Detroit's The Family AAU program, which featured a consensus top ten player in 6'6" James Young. After holding Young, a talented wing, to a woeful five for twenty shooting game by "bodying him up" in a win over The Family in Oakland, Semi once again out-dueled the well-promoted wing in a win at the Peach Jam. In this playoff game, Ojeleye would score a whopping thirty-three points in twenty-nine minutes on a highly efficient ten of thirteen shooting (four of six from beyond the arc) and a perfect nine for nine at the charity stripe, grab eight rebounds, and hold Young to seventeen points.

Versatile Wing Semi Ojeleye, Photo by Andrew Slater

Semi Ojeleye was the first person that Coach Mike Krzyzewski of Duke was scheduled to make an in-home visit with. Yesterday, shortly after the visit with Coach K and Coach Steve "Wojo" Wojciechowski, Ojeleye told the staff that he would like to join Duke's program. There were some efficiently placed phone calls and texts to various services, but none of the three-hat monte, self-indulgent forty minute speeches, dancing cheerleaders, awkward satellite interviews with cable services, or amateurish "off-broadway" productions with teammates that have become somewhat customary amongst elite-level players.  This "old school" way of handling your recruitment was not surprising for a player that is concerned more with the collective measure of success, wins, than his individual game totals.

Duke is getting a cerebral, physical 6'6" wing who has the versatility to defend tall shooting guards, athletic small forwards, and even undersized college power forwards. Offensively, unlike some wings, he brings a comfort level with playing on the inside that speaks to his natural and earned strength, former responsibility as an interior player as a younger player, and fearlessness to the physicality that is relatively commonplace among interior players. He's got good elevation on his jump shot and, although streaky, has improved his three-point shooting to the point that he must be guarded at all times. As a hard worker on and off the court, Semi undoubtedly will continue to work on conditioning as well as skill development, including improving his mid-range game, his left hand, and making his three-point shooting more consistent.

Coach K returns to Durham with Gold

After leading Team USA to consecutive Olympic gold medals, Coach Mike Krzyzewski, along with assistant coaches Chris Collins and Steve Wojociechowski will return home to Durham at approximately 5:30 PM today, arriving at Terminal 2.

It should be easy to write about Coach K and his career, right? Well, it isn't. The problem with writing about Coach Krzyzewski and his vast and varied  accomplishments is the sheer volume of them. And this Duke beat guy has seen them all, from the day in 1980 the relative unknown was first introduced as the next coach of Duke Basketball to his righting the ship for the national program and leading our country to those consecutive gold medals.

I cannot even begin to list all the successes he has enjoyed in between, be it all the thrilling victories on the court -- he does have the most wins in the history of college basketball and four national championships --  or all that I have seen him do behind the scenes as a steward for the game of basketball, not to mention the genuine caring he has for his fellow human beings.

Frankly, my head swims when I go to beat out words trying to capture this man, for his career is still fluid, still a work in progress, and that means the train keeps a-rolling. That roll has been nothing short of amazing, and it's a ride I feel fortunate in having shared. While I didn't go to London to cover his latest golden achievement, I was there in spirit, and the tension I felt was due to my so wanting him to succeed.

Coach K is more than just the Duke coach now. He's the man who changed the culture of a USA Basketball program that, frankly, was struggling. He's the coach that got rich and famous athletes to put their substantial egos aside and come together for a greater cause, that being the red, white and blue. He's a coach that has acted as an ambassador for the game, challenging silly rules and seeking constant betterment of the game he loves.

If Mr. Naismith himself were alive today, he'd have been proud of what Coach K has given back to the game he created. Even one of the most famous coaches ever to grace the hardwood, his one time rival Dean Smith, the legendary coach of North Carolina said, "There is nobody who can connect with the players better than Coach K."

When Jerry Conalgelo went searching for the right coach to lead USA Basketball back to its spot atop the basketball world, he made the call to Krzyzewski. The coach responded, in his words almost jumping through the phone for the opportunity. There was never a second thought for Krzyzewski, who is a patriot in every sense of the word. Nothing, not even Duke Basketball, would keep him from serving his country.  At the time, Krzyzewski was an extremely experienced and accomplished college coach, but he quickly developed relationships with all the nation's top players, and the rest is history.

My vantage from Blue Devil Nation has provided me an opportunity to see many sides of Krzyzewski over the years, and to learn many lessons.  I have rarely missed a chance to talk with him when that time presented itself. I have many stories I will share one day when the time is right, but one thing the Duke head man has taught me is to not bask in the accomplishments to date, for the story has yet to be finished.

True to his word, when he is asked to reflect on his records and achievements, Coach Krzyzewski will quickly deflect the question, and for good reason. He is not a man that wants to rest on his laurels. He's a man who still has plenty of hunger and love for the game of basketball. Even now, somewhere over the Atlantic on his flight back to the Triangle, Coach is likely to have been charting out recruiting plans with his assistants, while reviewing his 2012-13 roster and preparing for fall practice.

And that's the beauty of it all to his fans, be they fans of the Blue Devils or of the U.S.A., or both.  Krzyzewski is not finished.

Welcome To The Hood: A Rodney Hood Exclusive

6'8" Rodney Hood of Duke University, Photo by Andrew Slater

Blue Devil Nation was the first to have an exclusive one on one interview with Rodney Hood after he transferred to Duke from Mississippi State.  This interview ran for our BDN Premium members in early July and we are now opening the article up for the public to give you an idea of the articles you will find in our extended subscription service.  Enjoy getting to Rodney Hood -

In early April, Rodney Hood announced he would transfer from Mississippi State after his freshman season. It was a tumultuous year, one in which Hood, along with recent NBA lottery picks Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, and Brad Beal, earned SEC All-Freshman honors, but which also ended with his Bulldogs getting knocked out by UMass in the opening round of the NIT.

With Hood looking for a fresh start, Duke, a program that had recruited the former McDonald's All-American in high school, quickly rose to the top of his new list. In early June, the Meridien, Mississippi native made the journey up to Durham to visit Duke and to meet face-to-face with the coaches. Basketball was the one constant throughout the visit, as Rodney enjoyed hanging with his prospective teammates -- eating, talking, and of course playing ball.  Hood also was impressed by the refreshing candidness of Coach Mike Krzyzewski, who watched Hood's game footage at Mississippi State with him. He pointed out things that they could work to improve upon, and also reviewed footage of Grant Hill playing at Duke. The freedom that Grant Hill played with while at Duke certainly appealed to the 6'8" 204 lb Hood.

After narrowing his list down to Ohio State and Duke, Rodney chose to be a Blue Devil. On Wednesday, he officially moved in, and will be roommates with sophomore point guard Quinn Cook. Hood and Cook, a born salesman, talked throughout the recruiting process and have built a relationship. Hood, a good student in high school, has enrolled in classes in Psychology and Advertising during this second summer session at Duke.

Along with Duke rising seniors Mason Plumlee and Ryan Kelly, Rodney is one of the select college players invited by Nike to its prestigious LeBron James Skills Academy this weekend. The left-handed wing player shot the basketball very well in the opening session, impressing several NBA scouts with his mix of size, skill, and versatility.

In his first interivew since enrolling at Duke, Hood spoke exclusively with me about a variety of topics, including a NCAA Championship run, improving his body in this coming year, what he will bring to the Duke program, being a competitive teammate, and unpacking his bags.

 

We’ll get into why you chose Duke in a second, but why don’t we start off with your reasons for transferring?  Your dad had mentioned in an article that this wasn’t a last-second decision, that you had thought about this for a few months. 

Yeah, it was just a situation where we had a coaching change and there were a lot of changes throughout the program, so I decided to look elsewhere. It was just a personal decision and that’s what I decided to do.

What were your reasons for choosing Duke?

You know, it’s just a high level of basketball. Coach K is evidently the best coach in basketball.  It also gets me out of my comfort zone. We are going to have a chance to compete for a National Championship.

I’d like to talk to you about that in a moment, but one of the things that I saw that you had mentioned that you liked in your meeting with Coach K was that he talked about specifics. What did he envision for you?

He just envisioned me being one of the best players in the country on one of the best teams and being able to play there.  He was very honest with me.  We watched tape and he was honest about my game.

He watched tape with or of you at Mississippi State?

Yes, and he told me what I needed to work on and, for me, there were just a lot of little things that I didn’t know about myself and my game.

That’s interesting. 

And so it was great. 

Out of curiosity, did he compare you to any players? I know that sometimes he does that. I remember, for instance, him talking with Kyle Singler about that.

 Well, we watched a little of Grant Hill’s tape.

Well, you’re around the same height.

Yeah, we’re kinda the same build, but we’re different kind of players. But the freedom that he gave Grant Hill back in the day, he said he would put me in those sort of situations.

That’s also interesting.

Yeah.

Did you know any of the guys on the team beforehand? Guys like Quinn?

Oh, yeah, I’ve been on campus already since Wednesday. I room with Quinn and we talked throughout the whole recruiting process. I also talked a lot with Rasheed and Amile and all of those guys.

Well, they’re all very nice.

Oh, yeah, definitely. 

What did Coach K say that he would like to work with you on in the next year?

More than anything, my body.

Your body?

Yeah, not just really adding weight, but adding a whole lot of strength. Just falling in love with being in shape.

Yeah, I think if you just got a little more developed in the upper body and keep working on your ball skills,  you’d be pretty unstoppable at this level.

Yeah, that’s what we talked about. We talked about falling in love with being in shape. You know, if you can get into shape, you can do a lot more things and it just elevates your game..stuff like that. Oh, and obviously skill work, but more just about getting my body in shape.

Now for you is it more about strength or conditioning or, frankly, both?

Yeah, it’s really both, really. You know, KD, Kevin Durant, he runs all of the time, and he’s not the strongest guy, but he’s effective because he’s mobile and he runs. But you know, I have to add strength to be the type of player that I want to become. 

I’ve been watching you a lot in the last two days, and it looks like you make a conscious effort to try to get open. Yesterday, you shot the ball really well, but you're constantly moving without the ball here.

Yeah, yeah, a lot of it’s just repetition, just staying in the gym.  Just focusing on getting better.

For fans who may not have seen you play at Mississippi State or in high school, what are you going to bring to the program? There are a lot of fans that are excited about you coming.

I’m a player that can play on both ends of the court. You know, gets out there on defense, and offensively I’m very versatile.  I can make plays, I can shoot the basketball, I can post-up.

You knocked down fifty three-pointers.

Yeah, I can do a lot of stuff. I’m just excited to get in there and try to win a National Championship. It’s one of my goals.

As a lefty, what advantages do you have?

You know, there are a lot of advantages. Guys are not used to going against lefties. That’s why Ginobili and guys like that, Zach Randolph, guys are not used to guarding them every single day. I think it gives you an advantage.

Also, as a shot-blocker, you’re facing a lot of righties and you have a natural advantage of being able to block their shot with your left hand. 

Yeah, it’s very easy to contest a right-hander’s shot. 

What would you say is your go-to move, for fans who haven’t seen you play?

I’d say my go-to move, well, I like to do a lot of jab series. That’s basically my go-to move -- I like to jab.

Where do you like to shoot the ball? It seemed like yesterday it was, like a lot of players, dead center.

Well, pretty much everywhere, but mainly dead center in the middle of the court. I try to get open spaces.

Then today you tried to work on the wing and down along the baseline.

Yeah, I was trying to work on that.

In terms of strength and conditioning, what do you currently weigh and what are you hoping to do in terms of your body?

Well, right now, I’m 204. 

Are you 6’8” or about there?

Yeah, I’m 6’8.” Definitely, I'm 6’8.”

Well, what are you hoping to get to?

I want to get to about 212 at least of muscle. I’m not a guy that wants to get real bulky and I’m never going to be that type of guy, but as long as I keep getting strength, I’ll be fine. 

You want to add that lean muscle.

Yes, absolutely.

Is there a guy you tried to model your game after, when you were growing up?

I love Penny.  Penny Hardaway. 

He’s another 6’8,” 6’9” guy that was skilled.

Yeah, I watched him play a lot and just tried to model my game after him. The way he makes plays and made his team better.

Do you think that you’re a pretty good passer?

I am. I can make a lot of passes. I can see over the defense a lot. Just like in football, where guys, well, quarterbacks can see over the defense. I can help find the open man.  

Yeah, it’s such an advantage if you can. Can you tell the audience a little bit about yourself? A little bit about your background. I know you’re from Meridian and your dad played ball. 

Yeah, I’m from Mississippi, born and raised. I love it there, but I also love to have fun. I’m a regular kid. I’m not going to get in no trouble..on purpose. You know, nobody’s perfect, but I just love to have fun. 

You’re not going to be a knucklehead off the court, right?

Oh, no. 

What about your family?

Yeah, my mom and my dad both played ball, my brother and sister both played ball on the Division I level. My dad played pro overseas.

Are you the youngest?

Yeah, I’m the youngest, so it’s good having that knowledge in front of you. 

It probably helps a lot, coming from a basketball family.  

It does. 

What are you hoping to accomplish at the skills academy?

Just getting better by playing against the best wing players and the best players in the country. Just getting better every single time you step on the court. 

Can you recap the visit to Duke?

It was mostly just basketball, really. You know, we talked basketball almost the entire time. We ate, we talked basketball. We played, we talked basketball. We talked basketball afterwards. That was pretty much it. (laughs) I liked it.

You mentioned before that you're looking to make a title run in 2014. You guys might be stacked. 

Yeah, definitely, we’re going to be pretty good. You know, in that year, we’re going to be pretty good. I’m just anxious, you know, the freshmen that are coming in now are going to develop and we’ve got some guys that will come in next year. 

It sounds like recruiting’s going pretty well. 

That’s what I hear. I think we’re also going to be pretty versatile as far as defense and, well, offensively, too. It’s going to be pretty exciting. 

What’s your schedule for the rest of the summer?

I’m going to be at summer school at Duke. 

The second session?

Yeah, I may be at a couple of more camps, but I’m not sure yet.

Since you just mentioned it, defensively, what are you going to do for the program?

I’m just a guy that can get out there and guard your 1, 2, or 3, and at the college level, even a 4.  

That’s impressive versatility on defense. 

Yeah, it is. 

On the AAU level, I always thought that you were a really good teammate.

Yeah, I just love to compete. I think I bring the best out of my teammates, you know, challenging them every single day and, well, they’re challenging me too. 

It’ll  be great in practice this year.

Yeah, it will.

What about your major? Have you thought about that at all?

No, not really. 

Well, it’s still early for you.

I’m taking an advertising and  psychology class right now for summer.

I remember you were a good high school student. 

Yeah, I was. 

What are you interested in doing when you stop playing? Have you thought about that at all?

Well, I still want to be involved in basketball. 

Coaching or announcing?

I don’t know about coaching.  There’s a lot of personalities (laughs), but we’ll see.

Did you have a favorite team growing up?

You mean NBA team?

Yeah.

No, not really. 

I didn’t know, growing up in Mississippi, which direction you would be looking.

Yeah, I didn’t really have a team.

One person had told my privately that they thought you were really disciplined growing up. Is that true?

Yeah, my high school coach really instilled in me discipline, you know, on and off the court. You know, doing the little things can help you go a long way. It’s been paying off so far. I just got to keep focussing on doing the little things.

What do you like to do for fun off the court?

Play video games, card games, just regular card games. (laughs)

Have you had an opportunity to see any USA Basketball this weekend? Will you get to?

No, but I think we're going to go see them tomorrow. I’m very excited to see them.

You’re obviously a very good shooter. How are you trying to develop that?

Just repetition. You know, as a shooter, I’m just always trying to add repetition. 

In one of the articles I read for preparation, one of your ex-teammates said you might be a one-and-done.

I never said that. 

It was your ex-teammate, Moultrie, who said it.

Oh, no, it’s however long it takes to be ready. I never think of it that way. 

So, you’re “unpacking your bags,” so to speak?

Yeah, I am.

Thank you so much for doing this.

Oh, sure.

The Quiet Storm: An Interview With Andrew Wiggins

6'7" Andrew Wiggins of Canada, Photo by Andrew Slater

"Speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far."

-Theodore Roosevelt 

 

 

Andrew Wiggins of CIA Bounce, Photo by Andrew Slater

Over the past four months, Andrew Wiggins has helped strengthen his case for being the best young prospect in the world. Blessed with having two parents who possessed the genetics and self-discipline required to be world-class athletes, Andrew has not squandered his opportunity.

This April, at the Nike Hoops Summit in Portland, Oregon, the then high school sophomore captured the MVP Award after he helped lead the World Team Select by scoring twenty points and grabbing seven rebounds to an 84-75 victory over Team USA Select, featuring some of the best American talent, including Shabazz Muhammad, Kyle Anderson, and Rasheed Sulaimon.

The 6'7" Canadian followed that up by bringing his mix of elite athleticism, improved skill, scoring prowess, and competitive gusto to his balanced and deep AAU team, CIA Bounce, where they went on to dominate the Nike EYBL season, winning seventeen of their first nineteen games. Wiggins averaged over eighteen points and nearly six rebounds over the lengthy regular season, which included stops in Oakland, Dallas, Minnesota, and Virginia. In June, the patriotic young wing competed with the Canadian U-18 team in Brazil, where he averaged a team-leading 15.2 points, 7.6 rebounds, and 2 assists at the FIBA Americas U-18 Championships.

This July, he has continued his whirlwind tour by first heading to Las Vegas for the prestigious LeBron James Skills Academy. Even amidst some of the exceptional talent accumulated by Nike for this year's version of their All-American camp, Andrew Wiggins, who enjoyed the playing style of Allen Iverson, stood out with his performance on both ends of the court. Pressure can break some young men, but, although he later said he was nervous before the game, he shined in front of the United States Men's Olympic team, including his favorite current NBA player, Kevin Durant, at Durango High School in Las Vegas. After that event, he then headed to Alexandria, Virginia and later Washington, D.C., where he helped lead Canada to the Finals of the Nike Global Challenge. In the Championship game, Andrew Wiggins, who enjoys a 6'11" wingspan, rose to the occasion, scoring twenty-four points, snatching seven rebounds, and creating four steals in a narrow defeat.

Gracious Canadian Star and Duke Recruit Andrew Wiggins, Photo by Andrew Slater

At his most recent event, the Nike Peach Jam, competing against arguably the best AAU teams in North America, Andrew took his game to greater heights. In his seven games in North Augusta, SC, Wiggins averaged twenty-two points and nine rebounds, while leading CIA Bounce to the Peach Jam Finals, before suffering a painful one point defeat, 51-50, to the Oakland Soldiers. In the Championship game, while guarded by a versatile and tough defender in Stanley Johnson, Wiggins generated twenty-three points, nine rebounds, and swatted three shots.

Genetically significant, his father, Mitchell, was an honorable mention All-American at Florida State and a first-round draft pick in 1983 for the Indiana Pacers. Mr. Wiggins, who was born in Kinston, North Carolina, played shooting guard professionally for a span of sixteen years, including six in the National Basketball Association.

Andrew’s mother, Marita Payne-Wiggins, originally from Barbados, was an All-American track star at Florida State, where she met her future husband. At age 23, the 5’8″ track star,  won two silver medals, representing Canada, in the 4 x 100 meter and 4 x 400 meter relays at the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles. More than twenty-five years later, she still holds the Canadian women’s outdoor record for speed in both the 200 meter (22.62 seconds) and 400 meter (49.91 seconds). Although Mrs. Payne-Wiggins didn’t win another medal, she competed for Canada in the 1988 Seoul Olympics as well.

Andrew played briefly in America during the 2009-10 season for Ro Russell and Christian Center Faith Academy in Creedmoor, North Carolina, a thirty-minute drive from the Duke campus. Wiggins’ parents elected to take him back to Canada to go to Vaughan Secondary School, just north of Toronto, for one year. While competing for the Vaughan Voyageurs, the nearly 6’7″ wing averaged twenty points per game. In his only high school year in his native Canada, Wiggins enjoyed a storybook ending, scoring twenty-five points and grabbing thirteen rebounds in the gold medal game to lead Vaughan to a OFSAA AAAA Championship. A year ago, Andrew Wiggins and his family decided to take his talents to Huntington, West Virginia, where he attends school at St. Joseph's Central Catholic High School, lives with a host family, and plays basketball for Coach Rob Fulford at Huntington Prep. Andrew liked the improved competition in both practice and games in America, the familiar camaraderie of knowing several of his Huntington Prep teammates through the CIA Bounce AAU basketball program, and the college-level facilities available through Huntington at Marshall University Recreation Center.

Andrew Wiggins, Whose Parents, Marita and Mitchell, Were World-Class Athletes, Photo by Andrew Slater

After a stellar 28-2 sophomore season at Huntington Prep, which included trips to Ohio, Illinois, New Jersey, Canada, and Washington, D.C., the accolades flooded in for the soft-spoken young man with a loud game. Andrew Wiggins, who very well may be the best Canadian basketball player since two-time NBA MVP and eight-time NBA All-Star Steve Nash, was named the MaxPreps Sophomore Player of the Year nationally and won the Gatorade Player of the Year in West Virginia after averaging more than twenty-four points, four assists, and nearly nine rebounds per game on a deep Huntington Prep Express squad. Off the court, he earned a solid B average at St. Joseph's Central Catholic High School. Basketball can be a mercenary's life, but Andrew will enjoy the stability of being back at Huntington Prep for, at least, one more season.

Andrew Wiggins of Huntington Prep, Photo by Nike/Position Sports

Seemingly every year, there is a new middle-school phenom unearthed and hyped as the "next big thing," but, for a variety of reasons, a very small percentage ever ultimately live up to the initial billing. When Andrew was thirteen, a highlight video or mixtape, which has now been viewed more than 4.1 million times, spread virally throughout the internet, billing him as "the best thirteen year-old on the planet." Now, at seventeen, with significantly more skill and physical development, he has managed to navigate the waters and be even closer to realizing his ultimate potential, through sheer competitive drive, guidance, and maximizing his natural talent.

In an ongoing interview with the friendly Andrew Wiggins, who visited Duke when he was younger, we spoke about a variety of topics, including his lethal mindset when he steps on the court, Duke's interest in him, and playing in front of LeBron James.

 

 

 

How has the transition to Huntington Prep gone and what you’ve gained from that experience?

It’s been good…probably because I knew a lot of people and know a lot of people from AAU or other things. That’s helped a lot. They've helped treat me like I’m family. 

[private]

You actually lived with a host family. How has that aspect of the experience gone so far?

Oh, that’s been great. They’ve been treating me like it’s a real family. They’ve taken me into their home, they help me out when I need it. 

Well, that’s great.

They’ve acted like parents. They’ve been really nice to me. 

You’re lucky in that regard.

Yeah, I am.

For the audience that may not know, you go to a local Catholic school, but you play for Huntington Prep. Explain how that works. It’s probably a solid school.

Yeah, it’s a private school, it’s a great education. Teachers support us 100%. They’ll help us when we need help. 

I saw that you had a B average this year in school.

Yeah, I’m working hard this year in school. I don’t want any problems. (laughs)

Exactly, that’s a casualty I don’t want to hear about. 

Yeah, yeah.

What are you working on most over the last year in terms of skills, body, etc.?

I would think my shot has improved a lot. 

That would be the thing that people would notice most?

Yeah, that and my ball-handling, probably. Playing without the ball.

There’s been some talk about you re-classifying. Maybe you will, maybe you won’t. Can you address that issue? 

Oh, well, that’s something I haven’t really thought about yet. 

I didn’t mean to put you on the spot. Alright, we’ll move on. You’ve had a lot of international experience. How do you think that’s benefited you? What was the Nike Hoops Summit experience like for you?

The international experience has been great. You get to meet new people. 

You get to travel.

Yeah, that’s cool and we’re all friendly. We love each other. 

And, in terms of the Hoops Summit, you got the win.

Yeah, that was good. I thought I played a good game. I got my shots. My shots were falling. I had a lot of fun and a lot of support from my teammates. They’re all friendly. 

Now transitioning into EYBL, can you compare this year versus last year in terms of experience? How have you benefited?

Well, this year and last year, I think our teams are great. Last year, I think we did great. We went to Peach Jam. We played good. Last year, we didn’t win it, but we still went out hard. This year, I think we’ll win it. I think we actually have a better chance of winning it this year. Our team is pretty deep this year.

Pretty balanced.  Last time we talked about working out with your Dad. Do you still work out with him in the off-season and, if so, what do you try to work on most?

Oh, yeah, yeah, I definitely work out with him. He teaches me a lot.

Well, he was an ex-pro, that must help a lot. What does he teach you?

He tries to tell me what he knows and what it will take to get to the League. 

What advice does he give you now? I know in the past, he would always try to tell you to stay humble.

Yeah, he likes to say, “Stay humble and the sky’s the limit.”

I saw that your brother committed to Wichita State.  What was your and your family’s reaction to that?

Yeah, I was happy for him. He had a lot of options. He was looking at Baylor, Oregon, but he felt most comfortable at Wichita State.

Are you guys pretty close?

Oh, yeah, we play all of the time. We’re very close.

You guys must kill it at the local YMCA when you two walk in.

(laughs) Yeah.

I was looking back at a prior interview with you. You said defense is where you wanted to focus a lot of your energy. How would you assess that aspect of your game at this point?

I’ve tried to improve my man defense and my off-the-ball defense. I try to really get up on my guys. I’d say that my man-to-man defense is pretty good at this point, actually.

What’s your current height, by the way?

I’m about 6’7 ½” and that’s my real height..unlike some guys. (laughs)

Is the number one ranking still very important to you? I know in the past that was something that you were striving for.

I would say more than anything, it would really be an honor to me. I don’t want to say it’s incredibly important, but it would definitely be an honor and something I’m certainly shooting for and working hard to get there.

Talk about Allen Iverson being your role model. Well, not role model, but someone you’re trying to model your game after.

Oh, oh, I wouldn’t say role model.

God forbid.

(laughs) What I liked about him is he was under 6’, he was under-sized, but he could score whenever he wanted to. He played hard both ways and we really don’t have any superstars like him anymore. He helped them to the Finals.

I would think to a degree that you would try to model your game after guys like LeBron, Kobe, and Kevin Durant.

Oh, yeah, those guys are all like the best players in the League right now.

 For better or worse, I just thought those guys are versatile wings like you.

My favorite player in the League right now is Kevin Durant, but probably all-time is still Allen Iverson. It's amazing to me that he was able to get his team to the Finals and play like he did at that size.

The only time I ever spoke with him was the day before he was drafted. He had an amazing watch on his wrist. I used to like to watch how he used his hands and feet on defense. He had an amazing ability to rip point  guards with weak crossovers.

Yeah, he was amazing.

 Your parents both went to Florida State and you grew up as a Florida State fan from a very young age watching them on the television. It’ll obviously have some influence on your decision.

Yeah, it’ll definitely have an influence on my decision and Florida State did big things this year, but I still have to make my own decision.

You had mentioned in the past that you appreciate playing such a tough schedule. How would you assess the competition this year and compare it to what you faced in Canada last year?

The competition this year was very good. It’s a lot different than Canada. A lot of people knock Canada.

Oh, no, I wasn’t trying to insult Canada at all. I love Canada.

(laughs) Yeah, me too. I wasn’t trying to knock it either, but the people are a lot bigger and stronger down here.

Well, there’s a lot more people. 

Yeah, there definitely is a lot more people and, yeah, the competition is much better down here.

Who will you turn to for guidance whenever you do make your college decision?

It will pretty much just be my parents.

Coach K was watching you earlier in the year. Can you talk about that?

It’s an honor. He’s a big-time coach. He’s been able to coach and develop some great players. 

What do you know about the program?

I watched a game there a couple of years ago. It’s a great basketball program. They’ve been winning for a lot of years. They’ve developed a lot of pros. They play really fast and fun. 

Well, you actually lived in North Carolina for a couple of months a few years ago, but we don’t need to talk about that. What has it been like to have Tyler Ennis as your point guard?

Oh, he’s a great point guard. He’ll find you wherever you are. He’s a pass-first point guard and he has to be ready to get the ball. He’s very fast in transition. He’s very unselfish. 

He’s very efficient as well.

Oh, yeah, he definitely is. He’s a smooth passer. He can score whenever he wants to score. 

What do you think he’s like off of the court?

Oh, he’s a great kid off of the court. He’s unselfish, he’s humble, he’s friendly.  He’s a good person to be around.

One of the things you wanted to improve on was your three-point shooting. You can be a tough self-critic, but how would you assess your three-point shooting at this point?

I think I’ve actually improved a lot since last year. I feel much more comfortable shooting the ball up there. I’ve tried to take away my weaknesses.

Yeah, I think you have in terms of the three-point shooting. Last year, you felt comfortable anywhere from your mid-range and in. I think the word you said was you could “kill,” but you wanted to push it out this year.

(laughs) Yeah, yeah. 

Your handle is another thing you wanted to improve on. You mentioned that you think that was something that you improved on.

Yeah, that’s been an area I was trying to work on all winter. 

Have you taken any visits and or do you have any planned?

Well, I visited unofficially to WVU. 

That’s a pretty local school.

Yeah, exactly, it was pretty close to me and I don’t have any plans at this point, no.

What about your strengths? You look a little more ripped in your arms, so to speak.  Is that something you guys work on at Huntington?

Oh, yeah, we go hard. You know. (laughs)  

Yeah, I've heard.

We work hard on and off the court. We play hard on the court and in the weight room.

Do they have a good weight room facility there?

Oh, we have great facilities there.

Who would you say the toughest competitor  is that you’ve ever gone against? Would Shabazz be up there?

I think I would go with Anthony Bennett instead. (laughs)

Oh, a little hometown shout-out!

(laughs) Yeah, he’s my boy.

Do you have any lingering injuries?

Well, my back hurts just a little bit, but it's nothing.

I’ve seen you lying on the floor occasionally. I just hope everything will wind up being okay for you.

Yeah, definitely, thanks.

Now, in terms of Huntington, you’re going to go back next year. Is that definite?

Yes, it’s definite.

What’s the latest in your recruitment? There’s not really any new schools?

It’s the same schools that have in there. 

For the sake of the fans and my writing, can you please reiterate what schools are in the running? I just want it for the record.

Florida State, Kentucky, Duke, Syracuse, UNC.

What was it like playing in front of LeBron?

Oh, that was great. It was like a once in a lifetime opportunity. It was a huge opportunity and a real honor. I was a little nervous before the game. You know, these guys are big-time players and they’re coming to watch you. 

Well, the only guy I know at all on the team is Kyrie and I just quickly tried to tell him to make sure to watch you.

Oh, yeah, thanks. It was a great experience and a real honor to play in front of those guys. 

I thought you played well, too.

Thank you, thank you. 

Have you felt any changes in your recruitment now that these coaches are allowed to text all of the time?

Oh, no, not at all, cause I haven’t given out my phone number. (laughs)

Oh, smart man.

(laughs)

You mentioned before that Duke is recruiting you. What do you know about the program?

Yeah, they've been speaking with my coaches. It's obviously a tremendous basketball program and a great school. Coach K is a legendary coach and now he's working with the Olympic team. They've had great players develop and play at Duke. I visited the school when I was younger. They've been winning for a long time. 

You guys are traveling like crazy, but what are you working on most on your down period?

When I get a chance, I work out with my AAU coach and my dad. We’re working mostly on jump-shots whenever I’m home. I try to work out really hard whenever I’m home.  

By the way, are you ever home?

(laughs) 

What’s the story with that? Are you ever home?

(laughs) Hardly ever. 

What’s your mind-set whenever you’re on the court? Is it attack? In the past, you said like to think of you as a killer or that others think of you as a killer on the court.

Yeah, I guess I would say more than anything, I just to kill them.

(laughs) That’s what I love about your game- that you have an absolutely killer attitude, totally cold-blooded.

Yeah, I just try to play my game, play hard, and take the other guy out. 

Would you say you try to intimidate guys?

No, I can’t say that. What I would say is that when I step on the court, if they’re not intimidated, I’ll try to, well, they’ll….

They’ll learn?

(laughs) Yeah, they’ll see very soon learn that they should be. 

By the way, what does your father think of all of this? The success, the notoriety, your recruitment, your development?

Oh, he’s very proud of me.

I’m sure.

He sees me working very hard in the gym. 

Did he think this would happen for you?

Oh, yeah, he always thought since I was really young that I would be up for something special. He told me that I would be something special, very special. 

Yeah, well, hopefully, he turns out right. It looks like you've got a good head-start.

Thanks. 

What are your goals for next year?

I just want to make the ESPN tournament at the end of the year and win it. I’d really like to go undefeated. I’d just like to keep improving my game, that’s all. 

Lastly, I've mentioned this to you before, but I'm counting on you to bring a little basketball glory to the name Andrew. You and Andrew Harrison are my two current hopes. We've got Drew Breeze and now Andrew Luck in football, but Bynum is just not cutting it. You're my hope. I'm looking for single name recognition like Kobe, Shaq, or Michael.

(laughs) All right, I'll definitely try.

Thanks a lot for your time, Andrew.

Sure, thank you.

[/private]

Duke Basketball Team and Recruiting Update – Where does Duke go from here?

Matt Jones and Julius Randle of the Texas Titans

In our latest update, Blue Devil Nation Premium recaps what has happened recently on the recruiting trail and gives you an idea of what to expect next.

It wasn't that long ago that many were writing the Blue Devils off after being shocked by Lehigh in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.  For several weeks after the upset, there was only criticism. But three months have now passed, and the dark skies have cleared considerably, as Duke has added several key pieces for the future in incoming freshman Amile Jefferson and transfer Rodney Hood.

Amile Jefferson has arrived on campus.  He will spend plenty of time in the weight room, for there is a big leap from high school ball to the high major college game, and Amile needs to get stronger in order to contribute in a big way.   Jefferson will have the luxury to play behind Mason Plumlee and Ryan Kelly in his first season while learning the ropes, but the coaches will give him every opportunity to play when he is ready.

The Duke Men's Basketball staff continued its recent momentum on the recruiting trail, landing coveted Mississippi State transfer Rodney Hood this weekend. Hood is right around [private] 6'8" and is long, lean and athletic. He is an outside/in player, meaning his game is geared towards the perimeter; he likes to get touches just beyond the free throw stripe, from which he is comfortable taking it to the hoop or popping the mid-range J. His ability to knock down those mid-range jump shots draws bigger players away from the hoop, keeps the opposing defense honest, and opens up things for his teammates. Hood is also a good defender and likes to get after it by using his length to his advantage. While he did not dominate the SEC as a freshman, Rodney was a very steady force on a veteran team.

Hood's game has changed little since I saw him on the AAU trail, with the exception of some natural physical growth.  But his frame can still use some muscle, and that is what Duke Strength and Conditioning Coach Will Stephens will focus on as Rodney sits out his transfer season at Duke. One of the things that impressed Hood on his visit was the Duke facilities, which are NBA-quality, and frankly a far cry from what he was used to in Starkeville. Sources also say he liked the structure of the team and its organization, something that he found lacking at MSU.

For the record, we here at BDN never wavered from the position that Hood was a Duke lean, and by now you guys should know how to interpret my cryptic messages enough to have figured this one out.

Rodney will be on campus this coming Wednesday, July 4th, and he will participate in the N.C. Pro-Am.  We'll head over to that event provided we can stand the ridiculous heat.

Freshman Rasheed Sulaimon is already on campus and getting accustomed to his surroundings. He is hanging with the guys, including Nolan Smith who is in town. Quinn Cook arrived today as well, and he is ready to hit the ground running after spending a lot of time with Nolan in Portland. Tyler Thornton and Josh Hairston will be back around the 4th of July as well, and all should play in the Pro-Am.  Seth Curry played in the opening night of the event and played well.  He and some teammates even picked up Sulaimon at RDU yesterday.

Ryan Kelly has fully recovered from his injury and Mason Plumlee is looking stronger than ever.  Both benefited from their time at the Amare Stoudemire Camp, and they have both been working on adding new shots to their offensive arsenals.

Alex Murphy is stuffing the stat sheet for Finland's National Team this summer.  The staff has been very impressed with his play and progress since he's arrived over a year ago.

Mike Krzyzewski and the staff circled the wagons after the Lehigh loss and decided they wanted more athleticism and toughness, and I believe they are on the road to reshaping future rosters in that way. But don't get caught looking ahead, for they are more than a little excited about this season's team, especially because Coach loves flying just under the radar on the national scene. The staff feels this year's team will be able to defend the perimeter better and is excited about using the length of Murphy on the outside along with Sulaimon, Thornton, Curry and Cook.  One thing does seem odd though: Murphy and Marshall Plumlee have a year in the program under their belts, and seem like old-timers compared to Sulaimon and Jefferson.  Yet all four of them will be getting their first real minutes when the Blue Devils tip off the season.

The coaching staff is very happy with their recent recruiting successes, but there will be no rest at all. After spending some time with their respective families, Mike Krzyzewski, Chris Collins and Steve  Wojciechowski will head to Las Vegas on the 4th to work with the national team. So while they will only see the new kids on campus in passing, there are no worries, for Nate James and Jeff Capel will break them in before going back to hitting the recruiting trail hard themselves.

So where does Duke stand now with other recruits? Which direction will they go in? First of all, the staff can now afford to be a bit fluid in its approach, meaning the strategy can most certainly change depending on how some dominoes fall, but for now, let me share how I feel things are shaping up.  These are educated guesses.

The top targets are always the most talented and that means Jabari Parker and Julius Randle. However, the addition of Hood makes Randle, who is more of a banger, the top priority. Duke is all-in on Randle and they've made good inroads through Krzyzewski making regular calls, with Capel taking the lead assistant role. Duke will of course face the Tar Heels until the end on this one, and they too have gone all-in.  Some would even say that Randle may tip the balance of power in the rivalry. But keep in mind that UNC has other offers out and a bevy of bigs on their roster, while Duke can make him realize he is their man, and there are no others. When I say "no others" for Duke, I mean the Devils are not pushing hard with a lot of other big men at this time, but of course that could change. Randle has reshaped his body in the off-season, but what a lot of people do not know is that it was Mike Krzyzewski who made a suggestion for this to happen. If we're not the leader for Randle, we're certainly one of the leaders.

Meanwhile, Parker has been flirting a lot with Michigan State, but with a player of his stature, Duke will most certainly hang around.

Duke will also remain hot on Semi Ojeleye and quite frankly, I think he is the Blue Devils' to lose, and they feel he is as enamored with them as they are with him. The bottom line is the kid is a perfect fit. This situation looks good, and it may only be a matter of time before he pulls the trigger -- and it may even come soon.

Austin Nichols is a Duke-type big that would replace the loss of Ryan Kelly, so they are on him and could turn up the heat a bit more in the coming months. Nichols is being hit up hard by other schools too, but Duke remains in decent shape.  The Devils are also still interested in Nichols's AAU teammate, shooting guard Robert Hubbs.

The picture is a little less clear past these two.  Al Freeman has faded a bit but remains a possibility. Duke could chase another big man, but are not doing so now.  We are completely out of the picture with scoring point guard Anthony "Cat" Barber,  who was never formally offered.

The Blue Devils still have interest in Ish Wainright and Marcus Lee as well.  I still think it may be hard to pry Lee away from the west coast, and the need for Wainright could diminish should Ojeleye pull the trigger for Duke.

Everything is still good with 2013 commit Matt Jones, although I can hear many of you getting worried about us being too loaded at that shooting guard spot.  Well, we are.  But it will play out -- as it always does.  I'll be discussing this later.

As for players beyond the class of 2013, we'll cover that the next go-round.

To summarize, there is an overall positive feel around the program right now.  Recruiting is in a good place.  Duke and Coach K will remain in the limelight all summer, as Team USA goes for gold in London. We'll cover several more recruiting events this summer and the Pro-Am, and we continue to work behind the scenes on site changes, including a facelift.

Thanks for being a member of Blue Devil Nation Premium.  Go Duke! [/private]

Duke Basketball Notebook – A busy month ahead!

In this week's edition of Duke Basketball Notebook, we've got a number of things going on in and around the program that we wanted to let you in on.  As you probably can imagine, there is no off-season for Duke Basketball and this month and the rest of summer feature a bevy of interesting "happenings."  Let's take a look:
- The NBA Draft goes off this week and the Duke Blue Devils will have two players selected, Austin Rivers and Miles Plumlee.  Rivers seems to be moving up as the draft nears, which is exactly what we told you would happen when he was initially projected to go around 17th in the first round.  Rivers's transition to the NBA will likely be much easier than others' due to the guidance of his father, and perhaps NBA types are considering Doc's influence as well as the skills that Austin brings to the table.  We are also going to honk our horn on Miles a bit, in that we let you know early on that the eldest Plumlee was impressing many with his measurements and skill set at pre-draft workouts.  Now everybody is raving about Plumlee, and it could not be happening to a nicer kid.  It also goes to show that playing less at a top flight program is sometimes better than playing a lot at a bad one.  Miles wears his NCAA Championship ring with pride and we hope one day he has another ring to add to it.
- Speaking of rings, Shane Battier added another one as the Miami Heat won the NBA title.  Battier played a huge role, knocking down timely three point shots and making key steals, tips, and other heady plays to help seal victories.  Shane is already benefitting from the hype.
- In other NBA news, former Duke star Danny Ferry is the new General Manager of the Atlanta Hawks.  Ferry has deep roots in the league through his father Bob Ferry, who was the long-time GM of the Washington franchise.
- While the rosters have yet to be officially announced, the N.C. Pro-Am kicks off later this week, and as we have been since the event's inception, Blue Devil Nation will be there to report.  This event provides some of the best basketball entertainment that can be found in the dog days of summer, and the price is right -- attendance is free.  This year, they've cut back to eight teams and there will be three nights of action.  We'll have more on the logistics and other particulars in the coming week.  But regardless, we'll be in our customary spot in the end zone, so stop by and say hello.
- The Duke Men's Basketball staff will head to Las Vegas shortly, and be gone through July 4th.   Mike Krzyzewski is trying to bring another Olympic gold medal home from jolly old England this summer, and he'll have his trusty blokes, Chris Collins and Steve Wojciechowski, in tow.  Several exhibition games have already been set, and we'll follow Team USA as we always have in the past, so be sure to bookmark the site for updates.
- During the coaches' absence, assistants Jeff Capel and Nate James will take center stage on the AAU circuit, so Duke will still be well represented at the great events remaining this summer, many of which BDN will cover.
- Don't forget that Alex Murphy will be playing for the Finnish National Team this summer.  He will earn a lot of burn, which can only help him in the coming season.  We told you long ago that Alex would be suiting up for Finland, and here is a video from last March where he spoke of his redshirt season and playing for Finland.
- Meanwhile, Mason Plumlee and Ryan Kelly are participating in the Amare Stoudemire Big Man Camp.  If you were a BDN Premium member, you would have known about this weeks ago.  Plumlee and Kelly will be seasoned senior leaders this season for Duke, and if history repeats itself, that should bode well.  Having veteran leaders is big come March.
- This is the week coveted transfer Rodney Hood will suppoosedly announce his decision.  Hood is down to Duke and Ohio State, and I feel good about the Blue Devils' chances.  As you may have learned in an interview BDN Premium had with Hood before his senior year in high school, he grew up a Duke fan, and some say that by Thursday we will know where the long and lean prospect will be balling for the remainder of his college career.  Many leakers are saying he is bound for Columbus, but our suggestion is to take a wait-and-see approach.
- For more on where other Duke players will be this summer, join BDN Premium.  Speaking of our Premium service, our interviews continue to draw raves for their timeliness and their detail.  Andrew Slater is doing a great job for us (as is the rest of our staff) and we invite you to join and discuss all the latest with fellow members.  We have a lot of interviews coming soon, an early bird Duke hoops preview, as well as much more on the football recruiting trail, where Patrick Cacchio's work is second to none.  If you are looking for a reliable source of timely information, BDN Premium is that place.  In our latest offering, for example, recruiting insider Van Coleman takes a look at Duke and national prospects in an exclusive with BDN.  BDN Premium features the nation's best talent scouts, from Tom Konchalski and Clark Francis to the aforementioned Coleman, to give our members the best information available from a variety of well known, tried and true sources.
- Finally, BDN is looking for a couple of people to add to our team.  Most recently we have added Tom Rubinson, who will act as our lead editor and will write some feature articles as well.  Tom has already added a lot to our site and his wordsmithing will be part and parcel of a new and improved BDN as we make some important changes to the site.  We'll talk more about those changes when we get closer to implementing them.  If you are an outstanding writer, we have a soap box for you.  You must know the program well and have some experience in the field.  We are looking for a person to cover "Dukies in the NBA" on a regular basis next season, and somebody to help us get more proactive and creative with our use of videos.   Our football coverage has grown  immensely and Patrick is looking for a sidekick to help there too.  In addition, we are looking for somebody who has a keen interest in Duke Women's Basketball and who can cover their games and the program as a whole.  If you have any interest in these volunteer positions or want to know more, please contact me at watzone@bluedevilnation.net