Tag Archives: Duke Basketball

Deep roster will compete to support a solid core

Duke returns a solid core of players from last year's 28-6 squad. Kyle Singler, a 6-8 220 power forward, was the ACC Rookie of the Year and 3rd Team All-ACC. Versatile 6-4 wing Gerald Henderson had a breakout sophomore season. Jon Scheyer was invaluable as Duke's Sixth Man playing the third most minutes and was the team's fourth leading scorer. Greg Paulus recovered from the injuries that plagued him as a sophomore, displayed a deadly 3-point shooting ability, and earned 3rd Team All-ACC honors.

The challenge for the coaching staff this season will be managing the five or six players required to support the solid core of Singler, Henderson, Scheyer, and Paulus. Which players emerge and secure spots in the rotation is a question which will be answered during intense practice sessions throughout the season. With 12 scholarship players healthy and available to compete, Duke is deeper and more experienced than they have been in recent seasons.

The first question is how improved will Nolan Smith be as a sophomore? He tallied 5.9 points in 14.7 minutes per game as a freshman and displayed flashes of greatness at times. In a key victory, on the road at Maryland, on January 27th, he scored 14 points and grabbed six rebounds in twenty minutes of action. His highest scoring game of the year was on February 17th when he dropped 21 points on Wake Forest. Unfortunately that was in a losing effort. Smith was slowed, down the stretch, by a hyper extended knee so his season statistics under represent his actual contribution on the court.

Duke is going to need Smith to be a consistent performer this season especially on defense. With defensive stopper DeMarcus Nelson lost to graduation, Smith is the likely candidate to draw the assignment of guarding the opponent's best perimeter player. With solid freshman to sophomore season improvement a la Gerald Henderson, Smith could emerge as a star for the Blue Devils. Smith is currently slated to be Duke’s starting point guard. In recent comments, Coach Mike Krzyzewski stated, “Right now, Nolan would be a starter.” With Smith in the starting line-up, it appears Greg Paulus will take over the Sixth Man role occupied by Jon Scheyer last season.

Next, is Miles Plumlee a viable option to fill the starting post player position? He has been especially impressive in early practice and the exhibition game against Virginia Union, a game in which he started, played 16 minutes, scored 14 points, and grabbed seven rebounds. With Plumlee slated to break into the starting line-up, it appears Duke is set to address their post presence short-comings of a year ago. Coach Krzyzewski on Plumlee, after the Virginia Union game: “Good hands, good feet, a shot blocker, runs and it’s just a matter of him getting experience. He’s got a great feel for the game. He’s a very good athlete.”

A center-by-committee of Miles Plumlee, Brian Zoubek, and Lance Thomas is a definite possibility. After the Blue-White game, Coach Krzyzewski praised Lance Thomas for his defensive pressure. “When he’s in the game we need to pick up our pressure in the full court, because defensively he’s outstanding. You have to give him the opportunity to use those talents when he is in there.” Brian Zoubek has put up impressive numbers in limited minutes: five points and six rebounds in just 12 minutes against Virginia Union; 10 points and three rebounds in the Blue-White game. It appears all three players will get minutes and the opportunity to shine. Over the long haul of the season, their combined efforts should develop into a situation where the whole is greater than the sum of the individual pieces.

Before proceeding any further, it must be stated that Duke, like every other team, must avoid the injury bug. The past two seasons have been negatively impacted by injuries. Paulus broke his foot on the first day of practice in 2006, Zoubek broke his foot twice last season, Thomas suffered from a respiratory infection, Henderson hurt his wrist, the flu bug struck hard with inconvenient timing, and who knows what other minor injuries never leaked to the press. A healthy 2008-2009 season would be a nice change.

Finally, who will emerge to take over and secure spots as the ninth and tenth men in the rotation? Dave McClure, Elliot Williams, Marty Pocius, and Olek Czyz will be fighting for playing time as role players off the bench. All four of these players should have an opportunity to contribute early in the season, but when the ACC season starts competition for playing time will stiffen and it is not unrealistic to expect Coach Krzyzewski to shrink the rotation to ten players. Fifth year senior Dave McClure has the advantage of understanding the system, red shirt junior Marty Pocius is healthy and coming off a summer spent playing with the Lithuania National Team, and freshman Elliot Williams is extremely athletic. “I think he could be one of our better on-ball defenders,” Coach Krzyzewski said. Freshman Olek Czyz is a natural athlete and a guy who will be looking to make an impact when given the opportunity.

Duke is in good shape to make a deep run in the NCAA tournament. The team has a solid core and a talented supporting cast. By avoiding the injury bug, having a ball or two bounce the right way, and improving as the season unfolds, a trip to Detroit and the Final Four is a realistic expectation for this edition of the Duke Blue Devils.[/private]

BDN catches practice #12 of the season (updated)

The Duke Blue Devils held practice #12 today in the Mike Krzyzewski Center for Athletic Excellence Practice Facility.  The Blue Devils were coming off a hard fought scrimmage where they had ACC refs come in the previous days.

Since the start [private] of the season, Duke has had just two days off.  So today they decided to run no contact drills, working on several aspects of their shooting.  Coach K and the staff watched on as his team went through free throw drills, where Marty Pocius beat Jon Scheyer to face off with Elliot Williams for the most accurate of the day.

Despite those two ending up the drills, Miles Plumlee hit more than 18 in a row in one stretch.  Plumlee looks as good in the drills as he did in the season opening exhibition games and he is a pleasant surprise for those unfamiliar with his game.

Coach K said that his team had been getting better all preseason, but they had plateaued of late.  He stressed the importance of backing off at times like this, but said they will go full throttle tomorrow and that he wanted to see how his team responded.   He also mentioned that his team was nursing some minor injuries from going at it so hard of late.  Despite that, nobody looked but so hobbled to the naked eye.

The HOF Coach said it should be obvious that his team would be deep and that was easy to see.  He mentioned that Duke would have a chance to win against anybody, anytime, anywhere if they played to their abilities.

David McClure looked healthier than ever and showed some solid hops which I hadn't seen before.  In fact, the whole team is athletic and all can dunk with authority with the exception of Paulus.  Before you get on Paulus, he showed tremendous leadership, egging on his teammates, saying to Olek with fire, "Come on, you have to finish that off, after he missed a dunk on a drill.

Singler looks solid and Henderson is primed to fulfill his potential.  Miles Plumlee continues to impress with his athletic ability.  All in all, this is as K said, a very deep and talented team.  After tomorrow, I will have seen 5 practices, the Blue-White game and the Virginia Union game.  Now that I have had several viewings of the 08-09 team, I will begin to tell you my thoughts on each player.

Josh Hairston's father also attended today's practices with AAU coaches from his daughter's team.  Coach K's family was also present, or at least his wife, two of his daughters and five grandchildren.  The kids were dressed in their Halloween outfits and there was as always a family atmosphere.

I will report on two practices tomorrow and you are sure to hear something you like.  Check back in tomorrow night.[/private]

Harrison Barnes talks to BDN about his visit to Duke in an in depth interview

So, you just got back from a visit to Duke.  Can you tell me a little bit about the visit?

I thought it was great to down there and get a full feel of just what Duke University is all about and what the basketball team was like and how the players were treated.

What was the atmosphere like?

I would say that they act in a very professional manner.  Academically?  It rates really high for them and that the players there are treated with a lot of respect from Coach K and the staff as a whole.  I thought the practice facility was very impressive.  They had two gyms in there and that was nice.  They also had a very large weight room.

I understand you sat with 2010 commitment Andre Dawkins during the game ...

[private] Yes, I met Andre during the LeBron James Camp.  So, we've had a chance to become friends for awhile now.

He told me during a recent interview that he gave you a call after Josh Hairston and Tyler Thornton became future Blue Devils ...

(laughing) Yes, it is.  He wanted me to join in with them as well.  I told him that I was going to take my time.

Do you know Tyler and Josh?

Yes, I got a at the chance to meet Tyler at the Nike Hoop Jamboree and I met Josh there as well and the NBA Players Association Camp this year.

I understand it was parents weekend and that the Cameron atmosphere was far from what it normally is during your visit.  Did that bother you that the Crazies were a bit scattered and not up to their usual standards?

Andre actually explained most of that to me.  I have not seen the Duke Atmosphere in a full game.  But it was nice with the community repore and the little sections that were there to see how excited they were.  So, it gave me a good idea of what a game would be like.

Man, he's quite the recruiter, isn't he?

Yes, he is. (laughing)

Did you talk with any other prospects or commitments?

Ryan Kelly and I talked a bit.

Your family payed out of pocket to come on an unofficial visit which was probably pretty expensive.  What was your reasoning for visiting Duke as one of just two unofficial visits? 

Duke has been very consistent in their recruiting of me.  I felt that it came to a point in our recruitment that they deserved a visit, so I went down there.  I just wanted to get a feel for what the university was about and to see Duke University up close.  What they had been telling me on the phone was what the university was actually like.

What are your thoughts on Coach K?

I think he is very humorous as well as very personable.  I think he's easy to talk to (it was his first face to face discussion with K) and that overall he's just a really good guy with very good morals.   I felt that it was very team oriented both on the basketball court and off.  I felt that Duke had a very good family environment where they all watched out for each other.

Who has been the primary contact person from Duke?

Coach K has been the primary recruiter.

Did your Mom and sister enjoy the visit to Duke?

Yes, they thoroughly enjoyed it as well.  We all felt it was a great time to meet the team and coaches and get to know one another.  We're just getting to know each other now and then we'll see where this all goes.

Is there a timeline on your decision?

I'm not in any rush.  After the high school season I will get back into the process.  Right now, I'm in no hurry to make a decision.

What stood out on your Kansas visit?

It was just a great experience to see a sold out arena and the support they get in general. 

How far is Aimes, Iowa from KU?

I live about three and a half hours away.

Will proximity come into play?

Right now, distance is no factor.

Let me make sure I have this right.  When are you likely to make a decision?

After my official visits

... and will you take all five allotted officials?

I have not determined how many I will take yet

Which schools have been the most proactive in your recruitment?

Duke, Kansas, Iowa State, Florida, Oklahoma are the ones that come to mind right now.

What impressed you the most about Duke?

Mostly the academics

How important is academics to Harrison Barnes?

It's a key for me because I want to go to a university that will set me up after my career.

I appreciate your time and wish you the best of luck in the process.

Thank you.

According to sources close to the team, Harrison Barnes spent two full days at Duke.  The visit went very well from the staffs standpoint and the feeling is that he enjoyed himself enough to make Duke one of the favorites in the race for his services.  He was able to attend class rooms, talked with K extensively and play a litlle pick up among other activities.  Members - talk about this on the BDN Premium (members only) message board.  If you are not registered, you need to do so in order to get the full effect of BDN Premium. [/private]

Q & A with Duke co-captain Jon Scheyer

[private]How will this year's team have a deeper tournament run?

Last year we questioned ourselves a little bit and had an up and down season.  This year we realize how good we can be.

What happened last season?

We did have a great year last season until we lost our confidence in the tournament.  As a team some of us believed we were good in the press ... we are not missing any pieces this year.

What do you and the other captains bring to this season's team?

We can all work off each other.  Gerald does so much on the court and he's a great guy.  He's somebody we can look up to because he's so good.  He's a competitor and we play off that.  Greg being a captain before - his experience is so valuable.  Myself?  I'm just going to use my instincts.  These last few years I feel I've learned a lot and just being able to share that with the team.

What's the process one goes through to be a captain?

The team voted on it and the coaches made the ultimate decision.  Your teammates have your back and support you, so that's good.

How is this season's team different from last year?

I think the biggest thing for us is that we are a different team this year.  We're going into it fresh, with a lot of confidence.  You have to be confident and believe in yourself as an individual and as a team.  This summer, just looking around in the locker room we realize how good we are.  The freshman add some athleticism - we just feel confident.[/private]

A more confident Nolan Smith is ready to roll in 08-09

[private]I caught up to  Nolan Smith on Media Day while he was goofing around with Lance Thomas.  Lance was filming Nolan as he walked about the media interviews for the team website Blue Planet. They were there to have a good time and lighten the mood.

How was your summer?

It was great.  I really worked hard to improve my game and get better.

So, what's going on here?  You have Lance filming every move you make in the background.

Lance?  (smiling) This is um, the Nolan Smith Report.  I am kind of playing player, slash reporter going around and interviewing the guys.  I'm just seeing if they are ready to head into practice today and start the season.

So, what have you learned since walking around and filming these guys?

I learned that this team is ready to kick some butt!  Everybody is ready to go and excited.  It should be a lot of fun.  I'm having fun with the camera - players are smiling when I slip in over the media's shoulders.

What did you do in the off season?

In the off season, I went to Philadelphia and stayed there all summer.  I worked out with Michael Beasley and DeAndre Jordon who is with the Clippers.  We did four or five workouts a day getting stronger and quicker and just getting the ego.  Coach K really speaks about ego a lot with our team and I gained my ego back and I'm just ready to come here and lead this team and do what I can.

So you're going to play with a little bit of an edge this season?

I will play with a nice edge.

A little bit of intensity ...

Yes, yes a whole lot of that and now that DeMarcus is gone I feel that's my spot - picking it up on defense and guarding the best player on the floor on the other team.

Do you feel like you have to step up and show a little leadership this season after having a year under your belt?

Oh definitely.  As you get older, you've got to get more wisdom and leadership.  I'm definitely looking to do that - talk more, last year I was definitely quiet, and that's all freshman.  Now, with a year under my belt, I know what to tell these guys. I know how to save coaches voice.

Can you tell me a little bit about the freshman?

Elliot is just athletic and he can play.  He can jump, score and defensively he can really get after it.  He's long and he's really going to help us a lot.

Miles Plumlee is going to give us some size.  He has great hands and he really knows the game.  We need a big 6-11 guy inside to help Kyle, Zoubs and Lance with the rebounds.

And then Olek, he can jump out of the gym.

How do you pronounce his last name?  Is it Chiz?"  I know  when you were playing over at NC Central during the NC Pro Am it was pronounced different on occasion.  It sounded different each time he said it as well ...

(laughing) Yeah!  Olek ...  He might pronounce it different each day, but I'm going to stick with "Chiz."

Okay, I think we'll adopt that.  They called him OC over there ...

Yeah, Olek Chizzzz.  He'll be an exciting player to watch.

You guys are really deep this year.  In your opinion will that allow you to play more people?

It's definitely going to allow us to save our bodies, play more people at every position - stay fresh and wear people down.

Is there a team motto or a key word going into the season?

Well, one would be don't be soft.  We've been working hard all summer to get strong and we don't want teams to push us around at all.  That's one of our (team) main focuses.  The other would be to have fun and win.  Everybody o n this team knows how to win.  We don't want to win by one or two.  We want to whip teams this year and have fun doing it.

You mentioned that edge ... will you take that into the Blue and White game?

Of course, of course.  You have to have that edge at all times.  Everybody on this team loves each other but when we practice, we've got to have that edge.[/private]

Brian Zoubek talks about the freshmen, his healing process and the coming season

[private]Brian Zoubek shares his thoughts on the freshmen and more importantly the status of his health after off season surgery.

How much have you been playing since the injury?

I haven't played in terms of organized basketball in a long time because I had surgery after the season.  We've been going at it as a team in pick ups since mid summer.

Can you give me a synopsis on how the healing process has or is going?

I feel great right now, I got an x-ray the other day and it's perfectly healed and I'm ready to go.  I feel strong and I hope I don't have any problems this year, it doesn't look like I'm going to.  So, if I'm smart about it all will work out. 

Being smart - can you elaborate a bit more on that?

I have some customized plans for workouts - agility and all that kind of stuff.  It's a little different when you are 7-1.  You can't always do what the guards do, especially with that injury.

You have been having a lot of fun in the Quad before football games with Jon.  You guys battle a bit in the various events -

Me and Jon are great friends and we just have to have fun.  That's what the whole attitude is with the team, we just try to have fun.

So, you are going at it pretty hard?

Yeah!  I've been doing everything.   My leg strength and conditioning isn't 100% back yet, but it's coming.

Might Coach play you with, say a Miles Plumlee?

It's possible.  We'll have to see what works.  I feel like I can work with anybody on the team.  We'll see what we see in the first couple of games.

What are your thoughts on Plumlee and Czyz thus far?

I think Miles is doing a great job.  He's really going to be able to come in and give us a lot of strength and a lot of size.  He knows how to play.  I think Olek is doing well and we  will have a lot more depth.

Can you tell me the differences in Miles and Olek?

What is Miles is obviously a little bit more of a five.  He protects the basket and plays off people really well.  Olek plays more outside, but he's really explosive and can get to the rim and rebound.  So, they both do very different things.

Is having a guy close to your height in Plumlee a good thing?

Yeah!  It's a great thing.  We can sub for each other in the game and help each other out.  Playing against each other in practice every day is huge.

Any personal goals for the coming season?

Most of it's team, but we all have some personal things we'd like to do, so I will have to see where I am.

Thanks for your time and good luck!

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