Tag Archives: Duke Basketball

Everybody’s All-American: Jabari Parker

Duke is involved with Habari Parker who gave BDN an in depth interview on the latest on the recruiting front. BDN Photo

Last year, we profiled 6'8," 220 lb Jabari Parker after a Nike AAU event in Dallas, Texas. In the time since, the young man from the South side of Chicago has continued to lead an ambitious and altruistic life.

In June, Jabari led the United States U-16 Team to a gold medal at the 2011 FIBA Americas U16 Championship in Cancun, Mexico. For his considerable efforts, he won the tournament's MVP award and USA Basketball later named Parker their 2011 Male Athlete of the Year, joining such notables as Kevin Durant, Elton Brand, and Chris Paul. Afterwards, Parker helped his Mac Irvin AAU 17U squad to successful runs at Nike's Peach Jam and the Fab 48 in Las Vegas.

This past high school season, the junior small forward led his Simeon (HS) to a 33-1 record and its record-breaking third consecutive Class 4A Illinois state title with a 50-48 victory over previously undefeated Proviso East. In the state title game, Parker finished with fifteen points and five rebounds, while being the primary focus of the opposition.

6'8" Jabari Parker, Photo by Andrew Slater

Over the past two seasons, while playing a competitive national schedule, Jabari Parker, now 17, has led the Simeon Wolverines to a 63-3 record. This year, he became more assertive and, as an upperclassmen, took more of a leadership role on his Simeon team. As a result, his statistics all jumped across the board. The son of NBA veteran Robert "Sonny" Parker ended up averaging over twenty points, nine rebounds, five assists, and three steals per game, while achieving the primary goal of winning a third consecutive state title.

This month, Gatorade named him their National Player of the Year, becoming just the fourth junior to ever earn that distinction. This latest accolade came with the added recognition of his academic achievements (18th in a class of 377 students at Simeon) and community service (work with Salvation Army and Operation PUSH). For the first time in thirty-two years, a junior, Jabari Parker, won Illinois' Mr. Basketball, winning by a sizable margin (400-72) over the next closest runner-up. Jabari was Simeon's fourth Mr. Basketball, joining Derrick Rose, Nick Anderson, and Deon Thomas.

After a tough loss to a well-coached BABC team geared to shutting him down, Jabari sat down with me to talk about a variety of issues, including dealing with fame, recent accolades, the loss of Mac Irvin, winning a third consecutive state title, advising Jahlil Okafor, and embracing being a role model to Chicago's youth.

First things first, what was your reaction to the passing of Mac Irvin? Can you tell the audience the impact that he had on your life and the lives of other Chicago young men?

Sure, him passing took a toll on me.

I was sorry to hear that.

Yeah, I didn't really have a grandfather growing up. I really didn't know him and, so I would really look up to him as another father figure in my life and that was my dad's mentor growing up, when he was in the NBA, he had a chance to talk with him a little bit and so him not being here is like we're missing a piece of the puzzle. Without him, we don't have an inspirational guy. That means that everybody else needs to step up his role and get everybody involved.

Jahlil (Okafor) was saying that you guys have effectively dedicated this season to him, with the hope that you can win the whole EYBL in his memory.

Yeah, that's the hope. This was really probably the first trip that he wasn't able to come with us.

[private]

Mac was always very nice to me and I appreciated that.

Yeah, he was always a very respectful guy and it's a shame that he's not here.

On a more uplifting thought, you just won your third state title.

Yeah, that felt pretty good. You know being the first Chicago team to win three consecutive downstate titles. It really just makes us want it more. We don't want to get complacent or become satisfied. We just wanted to go out and execute.

Did this one differ from the first two, for you personally, as your roles and responsibilities have changed? Did you feel differently about this one in particular because you're more mature and had more of an impact?

Yeah, it was more different. The first two years, I was more humble, but, with this third one, I was a little bit satisfied. I had a big chip on my shoulder and the game caused me to humble myself. It reminded me that I've always got to be prepared that everybody will try to give their best game.

You had a few close victories against Proviso East in the title game and against Whitney Young (52-48) before that.

Yeah, they were real close, definitely.

You also had a huge honor recently when Gatorade named you their national player of the year. It's a significant one because, when I spoke with their guy who handles it, he said that they're always very cognizant of a player being well-rounded, in terms of being a high character person who balances athletics, academics, and charitable work. They basically want to try to make sure that the kids who win won't embarrass their brand off the court.

Yeah, that was a huge honor for me. It was a really special one in terms of giving us a lot of exposure.

There was an interview you and your brother Christian did and I think he said of you, "Basketball is what he does. It's not who he is."

Yeah, definitely, basketball is what I do, but I really just try to use it to be a role model to the kids. I'm just trying to be a role model in my community.

Let's quickly get back to basketball. Do you still train with your dad, brothers, and, from time to time, I think, Tim Grover?

Well, I haven't really trained with Tim Grover in a while, but I've just been going on my own…to my own school and getting a lot of shots up. With my dad, he really doesn't coach me anymore.

So, it's just mostly your brothers at this point.

Yeah, it's just mostly my brothers right now.

What about you and Rahm Emmanuel hanging out? It's sort of unusual for a kid your age to be hanging around with the Mayor of Chicago.

Well, yeah, it's been kind of special because my mom was assigned to show him around during the games and we've got a relationship for a while…, well, from last year, so meeting with him again this year, we all just felt a lot of support. He's a very big Simeon fan actually.

Oh, is he? Well, that's good for you guys.

Yeah, that's been good for us.We definitely feel the love.

Speaking of your mother, I saw that she said,paraphrasing, "We all struggle together. Fame is fleeting. We're no better or worse than anyone else."

Yeah, that's true. Fame is fleeting

I took it mean that effectively we're all in it together, so to speak.

Absolutely, we're all in it together and, with respect to fame, it can either bring you down or make you humble. With that, you can't let it get to you and think that you're bigger than anyone. You need to be there for everyone and be of service.

Has it been an adjustment for you as you've gotten older and people are obviously asking you for pictures and autographs?

I give them my time because I know that they're probably only going to see me once in lifetime. So, it's good and fantastic the things that I'm doing now so, you know, why not take a little time out to sign an autograph or take a picture.

There was a bit of controversy over you guys leaving your sneakers on the court after you won the state title, as a way of leaving your mark.

Oh, yeah, it was nothing really. We just thought that it was our way of leaving our mark on history. It wasn't meant as anything too egotistical, but people are going to take it out of perspective. They were going to build into something that was a little bit more than what it was.

Another issue that came up recently was Cory Dollins (his best friend) going to DePaul as a walk-on and your high school coach trying to get in the running for a job at Illinois. Do those specifically or similar things have a legitimate or serious impact on your ultimate recruitment?

Oh, no, not really. I've got to go through the process and just go to the program that suits me the best. I can't look at everybody and make everybody satisfied. Sometimes, I've got to be selfish on my own behalf.

What would you say that you've improved on most for fans that haven't seen you play in the past year?

Oh, working on my defense would probably be the most noticeable thing. Rebounding has also been something that I've tried to improve on, but really just trying to be a better overall player. Not taking anything for..well, playing every possession like it's my last. I'm starting to do that a little bit more than I used to. Looking back, I think that I used to take more plays off.

I think you're also a little bit more assertive this year, particularly offensively, than you were in the past.

Yeah, I think a little bit. That's a good word. I think I've become a little bit more aggressive on the offensive end.

Yeah, just a little bit.

Yeah, yeah, definitely

 

If you could target one aspect of your game, what would you like to tighten up most before you hit college?

Probably my body. I need to strengthen up. I've got to try to get, well, toning up. I've got to tone up my body.

Do you hit the weight room at all right now or not really?

No, not really.

You were mentioning before about being a role model, like the anti-Charles Barkley. I know you work with Operation Push, the Salvation Army, and prayer groups.

Oh, I don't look for any attention. It's just to help me out. It's what I do. It's part of my benefit. That's what makes me happy. A lot of people see that and it seems to bring them joy and hopefully inspires them too.

So, there will hopefully be some ten and thirteen year-old kids running around Chicago wanting to follow in the footsteps of Jabari Parker?

Yeah (laughs).

Do you have any visits planned and have you taken any visits recently?

No, I'm going to take my visits in the Fall time or possibly in the summer, but that's if I cut it down in the end.

Outside of that trip to Utah, have you taken any other visits recently?

Oh, no, not really.

Have you given any advice to Jahlil (Okafor), by the way?

Oh, yeah, I always try to get on him. (laughs) I tell that it's going to be different next year than it was as a sophomore. He's going to get a lot more attention. So, he's going to have to be a lot more responsible. He's going to have to choose his friends wisely and keep his inner circle tight. There's going to be a lot of people trying to get involved. I just try to be a big brother to him because he doesn't really have any siblings and, me, I don't really have any younger siblings. So, I, sort of, look at him as a younger one.

You're sort of going through some things now that he'll have to deal with in a year from now, in terms of his recruitment and the attention.

Yeah, yeah, I'm just sort of giving him some feedback that I think he needs to hear.

How about, in terms of him, physically getting in better shape or conditioning? You mentioned earlier how you wanted to tone up your body, but I thought a major turning point for you was when you lost all of that body fat during your sophomore year. It took your game to another level.

Yeah, that's a good point, but, with him, you know, it's just genetics. He's part Nigerian. So, you know, they're naturally big people.

Some of my best friends growing up were Nigerians.

Yeah, yeah, so, with him,  I just tell him that he's got to improve his wind. He's got to run even better and be able to keep it up. If he can run, at his size, he doesn't really need to worry about losing weight.

He's got a bright future as well.

Yeah, he does.

Where was that when you wrote "All of my guys eat like kings?" It looked like a nice place.

Oh, (laughs) that was after the Gatorade award. I just wanted to show my teammates my support and how thankful I was for their help in getting me that award. It was a really nice place. I just wanted to show them my appreciation.

That's it for me, Jabari

Oh, thank you very much for your time.

Absolutely, I'm just glad for all your successes. I was really happy for you.

Oh, thank you so much.[/private]

The Next Big Thing: 6’9″ Marcus Lee

6'9" Marcus Lee, Photo by Andrew Slater

Some talents are identified early, but every year there are a few players that blossom later in life. One young man, 6'9" Marcus Lee, used his unusual mix of speed, size, and jumping ability this weekend to catapult onto every major program's radar. [private]  Lee, who is a gregarious and fun-loving young man, is from Antioch, California, an East Bay city of more than one hundred thousand people.

 

An all-league volleyball player with a wingspan of 86", he's tried to carve out a niche as a superior shot-blocker and rebounder. This past season for his Deer Valley HS, he registered fifteen triple-doubles and averaged nearly fourteen rebounds, fourteen points, and just over nine blocks per game en route to being named co-MVP of the Bay Valley Athletic League. The Northern California big man helped the Deer Valley Wolverines win their first league title and make their first NCS title game. He ended the season on a tear registering a triple-double of twenty-one points, twelve rebounds, and eleven blocks in the NCS semi-finals and scoring twenty-two points in the title game before fouling out with with 3:54 in regulation. Offensively, he demonstrates good court vision for a big man, a trait which may be attributable to spending a little time playing some point guard for his high school team.

 

This past weekend, he helped the California Supreme and head coach Miles Simon, the former Arizona player and coach, go undefeated at the Minnesota leg of Nike's EYBL. Duke coaches Krzyzewski, Capel, and Wojciechowski all watched Lee, a B+ student, score twelve points, block four shots, and grab five rebounds in a win against the Louisiana Select in twenty-six minutes.

 

Marcus' older brother and mentor, Bryan Lee, was an all-Pacific West player at Grand Canyon University, a Division II program in Phoenix, and currently works as a technical recruiter for Google. Lee, who played last year for the Bay Area Hoosiers on the AAU circuit, credits his older brother for his development. When thinking about colleges, he's looking for a warm climate and a coach that makes him feel comfortable, in a similar manner to his AAU coach, Miles Simon.

 

After the last game was over, Marcus, spoke with Blue Devil Nation about a variety of issues, including Duke's interest and Miles Simon.

 

Let's just start with a basic one. How do you feel that you and the team played this weekend?

Oh, I feel that I played great. I love playing in the national events and the team really played well together,  which helped us get wins and was probably unlike any other team here. We played really as a unit. It was just great.

Shot-blocking is obviously something that you're known for. Talk about that skill and your background in volleyball.

Oh, yeah, sure, volleyball is just a different type of jumping. It helps and I wish could explain it, but it just does.

Well, one guard that I know said that the plyometrics training in volleyball helped with his explosion for basketball.

Yeah, I think that's it.

How much of shot-blocking for you has been about improving your timing?

Yeah, well, that's been the key and volleyball has been great about that because it's all about timing. Now, that I think about volleyball also helps you to calm down and just concentrate on timing. It's very calming and you just block out other things.

 

So, you find it almost peaceful.

Oh, yeah, definitely.

 

I know that you've grown a little bit. What's your reach right now, if you happen to know?

Oh, yeah, it's 7'2."

 

I heard that you were trying to carve a niche as a shotblocker and rebounding specialist. Playing to your strengths to set yourself apart from some other guys.

Oh, yeah, well, I mean I started to think about blocking shots first and about how that was something that I was really good at and I'm 6'9"…So, I thought that I should first just concentrate on making myself the best at that and then the rest of my game would improve as well. It was just something that I thought I was good at and, you know, I thought why not concentrate on trying to make myself really good at that.

 

What position are most schools recruiting you as, a four or a five?

Dude, I just don't know.

Well, what position do prefer to play?

I just want to play. So, wherever they tell me to play, I'll go do it, man. I'm just happy to be out there.

 

How do you feel that your offense is coming along?

Oh, it's been great. I'm having fun. When you're having fun, you can't lose.

 

Let's move onto recruiting. What programs are recruiting you right now?

Everybody really. A lot of schools

 

What about a timeline? Do you have a time when you'd like to decide by or cut down on your list?

No, I'm in no real rush with that. I don't have any plans or anything like that.

 

Who will be some people that you will turn to for guidance, whenever you do decide?

Oh, yeah, my brother, Bryan, and my coach, I mean, my Uncle Mark.

 

I was reading that a school with warm weather is something that you were serious about. Is that accurate and will distance be a factor as well?

Oh, yeah, I've got to be in warm weather, but distance really doesn't matter or bother me.

 

Is there a player that you've tried to model your game after?

Actually, my brother. I've tried to model his game.

 

That's unique. Usually, guys will say a pro or hot college player. Were you a fan of any team growing up?

I've always been a North Carolina fan.

North Carolina?

Yeah.

Well, that may make the next question a bit rough.

(laughs) Oh, really.

What about Duke's interest in you? They watched you play a few times this weekend. How do you feel about their interest in you and would you be open to them, given your prior answer?

Oh, yeah, man, it was funny because we actually were talking them watching us for, like, the whole time while we were on the bench. It was amazing. We loved it.

 

Alright, well, then let me just ask if you personally would be open to them?

Oh, yeah, man, totally. I'd be way open to them. Way open!

 

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

No, I haven't taken any visits recently and I actually don't have any really planned either.

 

Let's talk about Miles Simon and his coaching.

Oh, he's been amazing. He's very encouraging and he's a high energy guy. He's very supportive and encouraging to everybody on the team. He's always ready and prepared. He's an excellent motivator. Even when we're a bit sluggish or not ready, he'll be like, "Yeah, let's go! Let's go!" (laughs) He gets the guys energized and motivated. It's been fun to play for him.

 

What are you hoping to show coaches this AAU season?

I really don't know. I'm not sure.

 

What would you like the audience to know about you away from the court?

That I'm just a really good, chill guy.

 

What's your current height?

Oh, 6'9"

 

How does AAU compare to the high school ball for you?

Oh, everybody's much bigger and the teams are just stacked at this level. Almost every player here will be college ball at some level. Everybody's huge too.

 

What are your goals, short and long-term?

Just to never really get big-headed. I don't want to become someone else or ever think that I'm too good for people. To always be approachable and grounded..

 

What style of play do you prefer to play?

A good, chill running gazelle type of play. (laughs) Just let's run. That's what I like. 

 

Do you actually watch a lot of basketball?

Actually, between school and basketball, I really have a hard time watching basketball. There's just not enough time.

 

Lastly, what will you be looking for in a college program, other than the weather?

I'll be looking for a coaching staff that's encouraging and supportive.

Like you were saying about Miles Simon?

Yeah, someone like him and a place that I can feel comfortable in and a fun place to play basketball and go to school.

 

By the way, where did your play basketball?

Oh, Grand Canyon University.

 

Thank you very much, Marcus. I know you guys are trying to catch a plane.

Oh, sure, no problem.[/private]

Rumors about Dawkins forces a press release

Dre throws down a slam! BDN Photo

How bad were the web based rumors surrounding Andre Dawkins?  So bad that the Duke Sports Information Department released a brief statement saying he will remain at Duke but could redshirt this coming season.  It's a shame that we live in a world where some feel compelled to break something like this once they get wind of it.

But whether there is smoke or a blaze want-to-be insiders who are self appointed experts via an anonymous posting name or a twitter account force the issue to light before it's time.  This has been the case with Andre Dawkins this off season and there seems to be no end in sight of fans that clamor to know all the details be they private or not and hang on every false and outlandish rumor.

While it is certainly natural for fans to show concern and want to know why a possible redshirt could take place, you can bet there are personal reasons.  And personal reasons mean just that and are sensitive in nature.  Unfortunately that leads to more speculation and people have a tendency to think the worst.

Dawkins came to Duke a year early out of high school and he is attending his dream school.  And it is also a well known fact that he lost his sister to an very unfortunate automobile accident in season not that long ago.  In short, he's been through a lot.  But what I just said may or may not have something to do with what is going on, so you can see the danger of speculation which will lead to yet another probable release.

So while many of you are curious I encourage you to not speculate and be a part of the ridiculous rumors that surround the program these days.  Allow the process to work it's way out for I can assure you it is a bit liquid in nature.  Give Andre and the team for that matter a modicum of privacy.

And support Andre with well wishes instead of questions.  Just act the way you want others to if you were in his place.  Athletes are under a red hot light where almost everything they do is scrutinized and it's sad that every time you turn around, some fan wants to play insider on a message board and speculate so much it becomes real to many.

Just give Andre a break yall and if you want to come in out of the Wild Wild West of reporting, join BDN Premium and get accurate and timely info you can depend on.  I'm unsaddling my high horse now and hope I at least made some of you think before you participate in the next rumorfest.

 

Duke Basketball Monday Morning Notebook

The Duke Men's Basketball team headed back to Durham yesterday morning where they turned their attention to the announcement of the 2012 NCAA Tournament pairings.  As expected, Duke landed in Greensboro where they'll take on Lehigh around 7:10 on Friday and should they advance, they take on the winner of the Notre Dame vs Xavier game.  The Blue Devils have been one of the top eight seeds in 14 of the last 16 NCAA Tournaments.

Taking a quick look back at the ACC Tournament

I can assure you the team is already focused on Lehigh but let's take a quick look back at what happened in the tournament.  First off, it was clear that the Duke offense missed Ryan Kelly and that they were adjusting to his absence.  The Blue Devils managed just 59.5 ppg while shooting 37% in the two games.  The Blue Devils got 17 ppg from Austin Rivers and 12.5 from Seth Curry but the rest of the team struggled to score.  Of course, that was partly due to playing some really hungry teams and the Duke defense played as well as it had all season, thus the close games.  The loss to Florida State certainly hurt, but the Seminoles then beat North Carolina proving that they were the best team in Atlanta.  Had Duke got another stop or had a made bucket here or there, they would have been in the final game.  The Blue Devils have dominated the tournament in recent years winning 10 out of the last 14 and the experienced Seminoles won their first tournament ever.   The Blue Devils played with effort but a few mental lapses proved their undoing but in the end, there is no shame in losing to a red hot FSU team that earned a 3rd seed in the NCAA Tournament with their play. The one thing which Duke will need to control going forward are their turnovers if they want to advance.  The Blue Devils had but 8 against Virginia Tech but that number doubled against Florida State with a total of 16.

The seeding

Duke was selected as the #2 seed in the South Region which means they will head to Greensboro and if they survive two games, they will head right back to Atlanta.  One might call me biased, but the Blue Devils got one heck of a Road to the Final Four.  The South Region features the #1 overall seed in Kentucky who will play on familiar turf.  Then there are three of the last four teams from last seasons Final Four in the field not to mention the last two national champions.  Duke faces a pesky Lehigh team in their opener and could run into Mike Brey and Notre Dame in the next game should they advance or an Xavier team that started the season ranked 14th in the A.P. poll.  And then there is an ultra long and athletic Baylor team should they advance to Atlanta.  It is clearly one of the two toughest regions and as I said, I think it's the toughest of them all.

Battled tested Blue Devils

Duke is battled tested due to playing one of the toughest schedules in the land.  With wins over Kansas, Michigan State, Michigan, North Carolina, Florida State they can play with anybody, so don't think this team cannot make a run.  This team now has some tough skin and they know what it is like to play in close games, be they high scoring or defensive stand offs.  When the games get tight in the tournament and they will, Duke has been there before and that will certainly help.

Duke finishes 8th in the Coaches Poll

Rankings mean little right now, but unlike the A.P., the coaches poll comes out again after the conference tournaments and Duke is ranked 8th in the final poll.  Duke started the season as the 6th rated team in the country.

Getting Andre going

Dawkins is in a shooting slump as teams have learned to play him for the three point shot and the Blue Devils could sure use one of his explosive 20 point efforts in the NCAA Tournament.  Not a single point from Dawkins in the ACC Tournament is a red flag indeed and Dawkins is vital to the Blue Devils long term efforts.  Sometimes a player just needs to do all the other things on the court, such as crashing the boards, a pass for an assist or a defensive play and let his offense come at it's on pace.  If Dawkins plays well off ball or without touches, his offense will come back.

Austin Rivers

Rivers has scored in double figures in 29 games this season and he's been the Blue Devils most consistent scorer but his defense impressed me this weekend as did his hustle.  If there was a loose ball on the floor, Rivers was there and his overall game is catching up to his offense.  Rivers probably should have just pulled up for his missed three pointer against Florida State and that only proves that the freshman still has a few lessons to learn but perhaps the lessons to date will prove vital in the NCAA Tournament. 

Day to day for Kelly

Ryan Kelly has made progress with his foot injury but it's be slow going for the Duke junior in an attempt to fend of reinjury.  Kelly is the 3rd leading scorer for Duke and his points were missed in Atlanta as was his ability to stretch a defense with this outside stroke.  Here is to a quick recovery for a key player in the Duke rotation.

 

Duke NCAA Tournament Factoids

Duke is 12-0 when playing NCAA Tournament games in Greensboro, N.C. Duke won the 2001 NCAA Championship after playing its first two games in Greensboro.  Duke has beaten a No. 1 seed eight times, the most No. 1 upsets in NCAA history. From 1991-93, the Blue Devils won 13 consecutive NCAA Tournament games which ranks as the second longest streak in NCAA history behind only John Wooden's 38-game run at UCLA from 1964-74.  As the No. 2 seed in the tournament, Duke owns a 23-7 record. Duke won the 1991 NCAA Championship as the No. 2 seed.  Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski is 79-23 (.775) in the NCAA Tournament and is college basketball's all-time leader in NCAA Tournament wins. North Carolina's Roy Williams is the next closest active coach with 58 NCAA wins.  Duke is 96-31 (756) all-time in the NCAA Tournament, ranked as the highest NCAA Tournament winning percentage of any program. Duke's 96 wins are the third most behind Kentucky (105) and North Carolina (105) per Duke Sports Information.

A look at Lehigh

Lehigh gained an automatic NCAA bid as the Patriot League Champion and they ride an eight-game winning streak into tournament play. Lehigh has played NCAA Tournament teams Michigan State, losing 90-81 and Iowa State, losing  86-77  all on the road. Lehigh's roster boasts the nation's 5th leading score,  C.J. McCollum (21.9 ppg.)  This is the 5th NCAA Tournament for Lehigh.

 And tickets remain for Greensboro at Ticketmaster for face value, so hustle up and support the Blue Devils!

 

 

Duke Hoping That The Third Time Is A Charm

Duke Recruit Amile Jefferson, Photo by Andrew Slater/BDN

"Duke is definitely a great school and so I definitely have to take a close look at them. Coach K is a great guy and Coach Collins is a great guy. I've enjoyed talking with both of them and it's just been great and I look forward to learning more about the school."

-McDonald's All-American  Amile Jefferson

 

Amile Jefferson, Photo Courtesy of Getty/Adidas

This weekend will be the third time that 6'9" forward Amile Jefferson, who is HoopScoop's #2 senior in the country, visits Duke. The versatile big man with a seven-foot wingspan first came to Duke as one of two sophomores invited Duke's Elite Camp over two years ago and came back as a junior to the Countdown to Craziness for the unveiling of Duke's fourth National Championship banner, but this will be his first Carolina game, which takes the passion of the Duke fan base to another level. This will be his first time visiting Duke University since receiving an offer from Coach Mike Krzyzewski in January.

 

Ten days ago, the cerebral Philadelphia area forward won his fourth consecutive Pennsylvania Independent Schools State Title for the Friends School. Despite tweaking his ankle, Amile out-dueled future Villanova big man 6'10" Daniel Ochefu to go out with a state title, finishing with fourteen points, ten rebounds, and two assists in the Title game. Jefferson averaged twenty-one points, ten rebounds, and three blocks, while playing against the most competitive schedule of his high school career, including playing in the City of Palms and the HoopHall Classic.

On Saturday, Amile Jefferson will be joined at the UNC game by fellow McDonald's All-Americans Rasheed Sulaimon, a Duke commitment and vocal supporter, and Shabazz Muhammad, who was his teammate this summer for Adidas Nations. It will be a big opportunity for the staff to close out its 2012 class and for the blessed recruits to take in college basketball's greatest rivalry.

Amile Jefferson at the HAX, Photo by Getty/Adidas

 

The Final Courtship of Bazz

Duke's #1 Target, Shabazz Muhammad, Photo by David Becker/Getty for Adidas

Players dream of going out on top. In his final high school game, 6'6" Shabazz "Bazz" Muhammad finished in dominating fashion, making thirteen of his fifteen shots to finish with thirty-six points in the Nevada state title game for the Gaels of Bishop Gorman last Friday night. The chiseled Las Vegas native won three state titles in his four years, averaged thirty points, ten rebounds, and three assists this season, and will go down as the greatest high school basketball player in Nevada history.

6'6" Shabazz Muhammad, Photo by Andrew Slater/BDN

Muhammad, a born scorer who plays with the relentless effort that coaches dream about and opponents fear, has been the number one target for Duke in the 2012 class for the past three years and first visited Duke for the Carolina game in Duke's 2010 Championship season. He came back to visit unofficially again for the Virginia game last season with Chicago's Jabari Parker. On Saturday night, Shabazz will use his final official visit to fly to Duke University to catch them play their arch-rival UNC Tar Heels. He'll be joined by his dad, Ron, a former high-flyer from USC in the mid-80s, and fellow McDonald's All-Americans, Rasheed Sulaimon and Amile Jefferson, his Adidas Nations teammate.

Last month, Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski brought coaches Jeff Capel and Steve "Wojo" Wojciechowski to join him at the HoopHall Classic in front of a packed house in Springfield, Massachusetts, where the left-handed Shabazz Muhammad displayed his full arsenal of offensive weapons, unleashing everything from a windmill dunk to a step-back three pointer. Muhammad finished with thirty-seven points that night in a win against a very solid DeMatha team featuring multiple high-major caliber players.  In December, Coach K headed down to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina to watch Bazz play eighteen minutes and score twenty-two points in a blowout win against Lakota East at the Beach Ball Classic.

Shabazz Muhammad, Ron Holmes, & Rashad Muhammad, Photo by BDN

Throughout the AAU season, Duke coaches were a consistent presence at Shabazz' DreamVision games, including not missing a single game of his Super 64 run to close out the summer on his Vegas home turf. The prior summer, Duke coaches watched Shabazz as a rising junior and Muhammad, a die-hard Kobe Bryant fan, watched Coach K work with his Team USA Basketball hopefuls at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas.

Duke Coaches Mike Krzyzewski, Steve Wojciechowski, and Jeff Capel, Stanford Coach Johnny Dawkins, and Harvard Coach Tommy Amaker, Photo by Andrew Slater/BDN

After an AAU season where Shabazz led DreamVision to three tournament titles and a HS season where he led Bishop Gorman to a 28-4 record, competing from Florida to California in big national showcases, and a third state title, Bazz Muhammad will spend forty-eight hours starting Friday in the Gothic Wonderland in Durham, NC on Duke's campus. For the Duke coaches, this will be the culmination of their three-year courtship of this high-scoring power wing with a team-first mentality. For the Cameron Crazies, it will be their last shot to convince Shabazz Muhammad, the statuesque young man with a movie star smile and a violent dunking streak, to choose to spend his college year in the mecca of college basketball.