Tag Archives: Duke Basketball

Andre Dawkins talks of his dream coming true and more

One of the highlights for Duke fans during the Peach Jam was a chance to view Andre Dawkins, the first commitment in the class of 2010.  DeMarcus Nelson still holds the distinction of being the youngest player Duke has signed, but Dawkins is not far behind.

[private]Dawkins is one of three 2010 kids that plays for Boo Williams U-17 team.  IOW, he is playing with the older guys.  Boo Williams is loaded as well with the likes of Deshawn Painter, Steve Pledger, Kendall Marshall,  Marshawn Powell, Ricardo Ratliffe and Tristan Spurlock.  This means, Dawkins comes off then bench and is depended on for his scoring ability.

In this past weeks games, Dawkins wasted little time showing why he is such a component off the pine.  Immediately upon enetering the game, he dribbled to the right of the key and drained a three.  Just seconds later he hit another.  Yes, outside shooting is his strength and he's clearly the best at this on a talented team.

There are games which his minutes are cut, but next year, he'll be one of if not the go to guy on a team that will still have Marshall at the PG and Travis McKie and James MacAdoo among others.  When he gets more minutes, he will be scoring around 18 ppg during the AAU season and will still have another year left.

Dawkins is still very much a youngster.  He has a baby face and his body is still developing.  Development will be the key for Dawkins and he knows it.  "I think I need to work on getting to the basket more and not being known as a one trick pony.  To be just a shooter ... eventually you can be stopped, so I have to add more than just one dimension.  The Duke coaches have told me to be more aggressive," said Dawkins.

During the high school season, Dawkins takes to the court with teammate Oklahoma bound Steve Pledger from the class of 2009.  Having played together on Boo Williams helps.  Dawkins had this to say about Pledger, "He can see the floor very well.  He's definitely a pass first guy.  To be that good of a scorer and passer makes him easy to play with."

I then asked him what it was like to be a Duke Blue Devil and he stated, "It's cool.  I can say I'm a Blue Devil and that I've accomplished a goal."  He went on, "Once you commit, you get a little ribbing.  Kendall Marshall and I go into our Duke-UNC mode, but we're still alright."  He went on to say that he looked forward to carrying the new found rivalry to the college court in the future.

Dawkins attended a couple of games this past season and plans on getting down for more.  I asked if he envisioned himself dropping a three as the Cameron Crazies erupting ... "Oh yeah!  That's the stuff you dream about."  Dream was the keyword throughout the conversation.  There were four instances where he said being offered by Duke was a dream come true.

Finally, the world wants to know about his fiend Josh Hairston, so I asked about him and Dawkins responded, "I like playing with Josh.  He's a good guy and we stay in touch.  I would love to play with him.  I thought he would have already committed,  It's a big decision for him, so you don't want to rush it."

Blue Devil Nation will have a complete scouting report on his game later this week.  I have now seen him play in seven times and have a pretty good feel for his game.  We will also have an extended, in depth interview with Andre coming next week.[/private]

Jamil Wilson talks of when he’ll make a decision

Some sites have reported Jamil Wilson has stated he will not announce his college decision until 2009.  If that were true,  he might could  play his way into a scholarship offer over the next year.  If Duke had to make a choice today, I am of the opinion that Jamil would be on the outside looking in with concerns to a Blue Devil offer, but I am not privy enough to state that as a solid fact.

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Wilson has been anything but consistent all summer (AAU season) long.  During the NBAPA Camp, he drained some threes or blocked key shots.  During the Peach Jam, Wilson grabbed one board, took the ball the length of the court and finished the play off with a driving lay in.  Any observer who saw certain plays would quickly recognize a budding star.

If one were to keep watching Wilson, they would see inconsistency.  Much like Daniel Orton, he plays very well in sequences only to get lost on the court making one wonder if they are watching the same player.

One of the things that bothered me during the Peach Jam was his not so emotional attitude.  It could have been sheer frustration, I mean, I'm not a psychologist.  Whatever it was, it just didn't seem positive or assertive.

Despite that, he would come out of nowhere to get a block or crash the board for a key rebound.  His offense simply wasn't there.  He scored just two points in one game and averaged around 8.5 for the tournament, his team going hime with a 2-3 record.

I had noticed one time when it looked as if he tweaked his ankle and subsequently talked to him about this and the recruiting process.  He mentioned that he had twisted his ankle a few weeks back and that it bothered him during the LeBron James Skills Academy, so I asked if he was still feeling the effects.  Wilson replied, "I came down wrong and kind of tweaked the ankle, but I'm fine.  I really try not to think about it, but I feel it's a lot better now."

I then wondered if he might be a bit tired from the wear and tear of the AAU season and asked him if the circuit was taking it's toll.  "Ummm, sort of, but I love the game, so it's okay."

In the previous game, he had put up a goose egg in the first half, but came back with 9 points in the second half.  "I really wasn't being assertive.  I wasn't looking for my shot in the first half.  I was trying to get out and get ahead and was working on rebounding.  I need to be more consistent," said Wilson.

When I told him he was tied for the lead at the camp in blocks after three games, he did light up.  "You got to play defense too, that's the way I see it," said Wilson.  I then took the opportunity to ask him if he had noticed coaches in the stand that were recruiting him.  "I didn't really pay a lot of attention, but sometimes on dead balls, I'd look up and see them.  It's not like I was trying to pick them out though saying here is a coach who is recruiting me.

Many at the event said Michigan State was the team to beat for Wilson and Tom Izzo and an assistant were present at three of his games.  I asked him if this were true and Wilson responded, "I think every team is the leader.  I'm wide open.  I haven't put Michigan State on the top of my list."

Several coaches were seen during his play, Marquette had two assistants around at all times, Wisconsin was low key, but they were there and several smaller schools from the Wisconsin are watched, as well as Northwestern and Coach Wojociechowski from Duke.

Wilson seemed more open than ever which surprised me.  Perhaps he was playing it safe with his comments.  He still lists Duke, Wisconsin, Marquette and Michigan State, but added Texas.  "The end of summer," said Wilson when asked when he wanted to make his collegiate choice. 

That certainly differs with what other sites are reporting and he told me this in a clear manner.  My reaction was that's not long, so I asked how he could make a decision that soon. "Because I've been thinking and chipping away at it and my Dad has been doing the same.  So, by the end of Summer, we should be able to release something."

Of the schools listed, Wilson has yet to see Texas or Michigan State.  Take that for what it's worth.  I couldn't help but ask again about the original take that he would not go out of state to college.  "That was mainly my sister, but Dad and sister want me to go off and experience life as a young man.  People can say things, but if I don't say it, it's a rumor."

Nobody can say that Wilson is a selfish player and if he harnesses his skill set, he will be a solid player at the next level.  To his credit, he volunteered to work on the extra drills at the NBAPA Camp while most of the players elected to kick back and rest.[/private]

Is Nolan Smith Duke’s next defensive stopper?

Nolan Smith struggled to achieve consistent play as a freshman.  He was brilliant at times particularly in games at Maryland and Wake Forest, scoring 14 and 21 points respectively, but ineffective at times, such as the seven games where he did not score a point.  Additionally, Smith did not have back-to-back double digit scoring games.  But that is the life of a freshman in the tough ACC, especially a combo guard who is expected to score, handle the ball, play pressure defense, and make very few mistakes along the way.  Smith's freshman season statistics were a respectable 5.9 points in 14.7 minutes per game, and those numbers were hampered by Smith nursing a sore knee over the last month of the season.

 

In his sophomore season, Smith will be competing for an open spot in the starting line-up due to the graduation of DeMarcus Nelson.  Jon Scheyer and in-coming McDonald's All-American Elliot Williams will be his main competition with redshirt junior Marty Pocius also in the mix.  Smith's main advantage should be his on-the-ball defense.  With a year of experience under his belt, Smith will be more comfortable with Duke's defensive schemes and should be competitive to step into the role of shutdown perimeter defender previously occupied by ACC Defensive Player of the Year DeMarcus Nelson.  Whether he earns the starting spot or comes off the bench Smith will need to play aggressive defense to earn significant playing time.

 

On offense, Smith demonstrated the ability to knock down the 3-point shot, making 38.6 percent during his freshman season, or explode to the rim with athleticism.  Improving his assists to turnover ratio of .92 will need to be a focus area this coming season.  This is paramount if Smith aspires to make the transition from combo guard to legitimate point guard the position many analysts see as his ultimate destiny at Duke and beyond.  He has the explosiveness and court vision to play the point and making better decisions should come with experience.  If Smith demonstrates the ability to distribute the basketball, he should challenge for a slot in the starting line-up.

 

Comparing Nolan Smith to previous Duke guards results in the name Daniel Ewing.  Ewing was a combo guard who successfully quarterbacked the offense in his senior season.  As a freshman, Ewing’s numbers of 6.5 points in 18.2 minutes per game are comparable to Smith’s 5.9 points in 14.7 minutes.  Ewing’s numbers increased to 12 points in 27.9 minutes as a sophomore and while it is unlikely Smith will see 27 minutes a game due to Duke’s deep roster it is not unrealistic to expect his points per game to approach double digits.  Moreover, Ewing was a consistently strong defender who drew the assignment of guarding the opponent’s top perimeter player.  That is the role many expect Nolan Smith to fulfill in his second season as a Blue Devil.

What will Singler do for an encore?

After a highly successful freshman season that saw Kyle Singler earn ACC Rookie of the Year and 3rd Team All-ACC honors, what will he do for an encore? Duke fans are anxious to find out. Singler averaged 13.3 points and 5.8 rebounds in 28.6 minutes per game last season but he appeared to lose his legs during March as a result of being worn out from guarding bigger, stronger players all season as Duke was thin in the front court due to injuries. Basketball pundits love to throw around the term "potential" when discussing players. Therefore, here goes: Kyle Singler has unlimited potential in terms of skills. At 6-8 220 pounds Singler is the size of a prototypical Duke power forward such as Shane Battier or Danny Ferry. He is an excellent shooter with 3-point range, can drive with the basketball or deliver a precision pass to a cutting teammate, post up a defender, rebound with aggression, and is a solid defender. The numbers from last season validate his skill level. Singler has the potential to develop into as good of a player as former National Players of the Year Shane Battier and Danny Ferry. This coming season he will not only be more experienced but he will be stronger. Undoubtedly, the Duke coaching staff has pinpointed areas for Singler to focus upon over the summer. Kyle Singler has the potential to be downright scary good!

Thoughts of an improved Kyle Singler is an elixir to Duke fans upset with early departures from the NCAA tournament the past two seasons. The arrival of freshmen Miles Plumlee (6-10 230) and Olek Czyz (6-8 235) should shore up Duke's thin front line. Plumlee and Czyz will be able to assist Brian Zoubek, Lance Thomas, and Dave McClure in sharing duties guarding opponent's primary big man freeing Singler up to defend the opponents second inside player. The defensive end of the court is key in regard to Singler's sophomore season. The objective is to prevent the scenario where Singler is constantly guarding bigger, stronger players. With a deeper front court available, Coach Krzyzewski should be able to orchestrate the line-up and create interior match up advantages for Duke.

In commenting on the recognition he received as a freshman, "It means a lot - I put in a lot of hard work throughout the season," Singler said. "I feel very honored, but like any individual award, you kind of want to match it with a team award." With an improved Kyle Singler and seven other scholarship players back from last season, plus the return of Marty Pocius, and the arrival of three freshman including McDonald's All-American Elliot Williams, the team award Kyle desires may arrive at the end of his sophomore season.

Bringing intangibles onto the court

Someone who desires to comprehend Lance Thomas’ impact on the basketball court should not look in the box score. Thomas brings intangibles onto the court that are not reflected in the after action statistics. Statistics tracking can be misleading and this observation is coming from a box score junkie. Throughout the course of a game, there is much action taking place on the court that is not reflected in the box score.

First, Thomas is a tenacious defender when Duke presses full court. His energy and aggressiveness disrupts the opponent’s offensive flow even if it doesn’t result in a turnover. An effective full court press will create turnovers and easy baskets, but not on every possession. The press is effective when backcourt pressure results in the opponent faltering in their half court offense. An effective full court press can drive an opponent’s offense into disarray and Lance Thomas is one of the Blue Devils dishing out that back court harassment.

Second, Thomas brings emotion onto the court. I’ve rechecked the box score categories and sure enough “emotion” isn’t tracked. However, Thomas’ enthusiasm for the game uplifts his teammates and motivates everyone on the court to excel and produce in the categories that are tracked in the box score. This emotion and enthusiasm is palpable to anyone sitting in front of a television watching a Duke Basketball game.

Lance Thomas has played in 63 games over the course of his first two years as a Blue Devil, starting 46 of those games. There is room for improvement in his game. For starters, he needs to shoot free throws better as he has made only 55.1 percent of his attempts. Grabbing rebounds on the defensive end of the court is another example. Thomas has secured only 87 defensive rebounds over 63 games. That averages out to less than 1.4 per contest. Thomas needs to be more active in limiting opponent’s second chance points, but I digress into statistics…

I’m not sure how to measure the intangibles that Lance Thomas brings onto the court but I am sure of two things. His teammates need his passion on the court and his effectiveness cannot be measured via the box score. Lance Thomas is another Blue Devil who is ready to breakout.