Tag Archives: Duke Signing Day

Signing Day – BDN and Tom Konchalski break down Duke’s 2011 class

The Duke Blue Devils Men’s Basketball team landed a stellar class for the 2011 season including ESPN’s top rated prospect Austin Rivers.  The Florida native told BDN last evening, “I’m looking forward to playing for Duke and want to sign as soon as possible, so I’ll send my letter of intent first thing in the morning.” Rivers joins Quinn Cook, Micheal Gbinije and Marshall Plumlee in one of the nations consensus top 4 classes.

We elicited the help of Tom Konchalski, the publisher and editor of High School Basketball Illustrated, has been covering high school basketball for more than thirty-five years. The 6′6″ sexagenarian, with an eidetic memory, is a McDonald’s All-American voter and a ubiquitous presence on the summer AAU circuit and the recruiting scene.

Here is a look at the class -

Duke got a stud in Austin Rivers pictured here at Coundown to Craziness with Quinn Cook. Join BDN Premium to check out our interview with Rivers and gain full site access. BDN Photo, Rick Crank

AUSTIN RIVERS – ESPN #1 rated player in his class [6-4, 190 SG, PG from Winter Park, Florida], Lead Assistant – Chris Collins, committed to Duke in September, Plays wor Winter Park H.S. and Team Stat on the AAU ciurcuit.  BDN Articles on Rivers.  Austin originally committed to Florida but reconsidered and ultimately chose Duke over UNC and Kansas.  He is a prolific offensive scorer who is unafraid of anyone or anything, meaning he loves a challenge.  He is friends with Duke PG Kyrie Irving and is the son of Glenn “Doc” Rivers, coach of the Boston Celtics.

Tom Konchalski’s take -Well, first of all, there’s no one in high school basketball who has a better skill set, regardless of position. He’s great playing off of the dribble. He can get to the basket. Because he has been parented and coached by a former pro and a current NBA coach, he has a lot of the tricks of the trade. He’s spent intensive time developing his point guard skills at the Steve Nash Skills Camp as well as the Deron Williams Skills Camp. He has a lot of SteveNash’sunorthodox skills. He drives to the basket and takes what I call a half-volley shot, where he takes a half-volley layup in the lane off of the wrong foot to throw off or stay a step ahead of the defenses. In spite of the fact that his left thumb affects his shot far too much..to the point where he almost shoots a two-handed jump shot, just by repetition, he’s made himself into a lethal three point shooter. Somewhat streaky, but he’s a lethal three-point shooter when he gets into a groove. When I first saw him, as a ninth grader, I thought he made his teammates better. I thought he saw the court really well and made his teammates better. I think he’s gotten a little caught up recently with playing one-on-one. I think he looks for his offense too much. A player who is highly touted always in the back of his mind wants to be the number one player in his class and he’s absolutely a contender to be that, but I think because of that he’s tried to change his game.  At the next level, he’s got to change it back and return to making plays for others, instead of only for himself. In the event that he and Kyrie play together, I think they’ll share the ball and whoever gets the ball will just take it up and initiate the offense. Duke has played that way in the past and quite well.

Andrew’s take – Rivers is as dominant a scorer as currently exists in high school basketball. He is dangerous at all three levels on the court. He’s both willing and capable of pulling up for a deep three, either in transition or if there is small opening in a half-court set. His three-point shooting has become more consistent, but he’s still got a tendency to be relatively streaky with this aspect of his game. Fifteen feet and in, Rivers has a preternatural ability to dissect a defense with either hand (although his dominant hand is clearly his right one) and frequently draw contact for additional points as he slices to the rim. He’s added strength in the last year, which has enabled him to finish plays at an even higher rate close to the rim and withstand the frequent contact he receives on his drives and patented floater. His defense has improved, but he’s more developed and committed on the other end of the court. Rivers has become much more explosive over the past year as his body, which now stands at a prototypical size for a shooting guard at 6’5,” has begun to match his considerable skill. Four things have helped set him aside from even the other elite players in this class: an incredibly competitive nature, an advanced knowledge and adaptability of the game for his age, a comfortability with the spotlight and scrutiny, and a consistent level of professionalism, maturity, and openness to coaching that set him aside, even as a freshman going at the LeBron James Skills Academy.

Mark’s take – I talked with Austin last evening and he was oh-so excited to officially be a Blue Devil.  Rivers has as much confidence as any player I have seen in my ten years of following the recruiting scene.  He should rock Cameron with his moves but will have to improve a bit on the defensive end.  Rivers said he is working on his post up game now and if you are a BDN Premium subscriber you will read later today.  I have seen Rivers play in about 24 games and each time he plays hard and he always wants to win.  He is now growing into his body and once he adds a little more muscle, good luck stopping him at the college level.

Quinn Cook rounded out Duke's talented class of 2011 - BDN Photo

QUINN COOK -Ranked #24 in the Class of 2011 by ESPN [6-1, 180 PG Washington, D.C.]  Lead Assistant – Nate James, Committed to Duke in November.  Plays for Oak Hill Academy and D.C. Assault AAU team.  BDN Articles on Cook.  Cook chose Duke over North Carolina and UCLA and had many suitors.  He transferred from DeMatha to Oak Hill Academy this season.  Good friends with Nolan Smith.

Tom Konchalski on Quinn Cook- I love him, but I don’t know how he could coexist with Kyrie Irving, if he’s still there.  He has great court presence, when I saw him this summer. Kevin (Armstrong) and I went down and watched him play and he just took over in the second half. He had seventeen second half points and not only did he score, but just made big plays and really took over the game completely. He’s DeMatha’s next really great player. {Quinn has since transferred to Oak Hill. He’s not a particularly great athlete. He’s smaller and he’s got to get stronger as well, but most kids who are sixteen year old juniors don’t have really have a major college body either. I love Quinn Cook.

Andrew’s take – Quinn is a stabilizing guard with a very advanced understanding of the game. He’s a duel-threat point guard, capable as either as a pass-first point guard, as he demonstrated recently in leading the United States team in assists and, more importantly, to a Gold Medal at the FIBA World Championships over the summer in Germany, or as a scoring point, as he demonstrated in matching what was then a career-high thirty points in a win for DeMatha in the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference final in March. Cook has tremendous court vision and a very good sense of spacing and pacing. He’s comfortable running a highly uptempo offense, but also capable of adding the patience, three-point shooting, and occasional penetration often necessary in pressurized, late game, half-court sets. Quinn is a very good leader and a well-liked, supportive teammate, who has improved his on-court communication skills over the past two years. Cook is not an explosive athlete, but he will give his teammates and coaches every ounce of his body, as he is well aware of just how fragile life can be. Defensively, he’s a capable and willing defender, but not necessarily a shutdown defender. Although he sustained a partially torn ACL in August, his initial results at his new school, Oak Hill, have been impressive, including setting a new career high in points in just his second game for the Warriors.

Mark’s take -I’ve seen Quinn Cook play in 15 games over three seasons in AAU Basketball.  My very first viewing left me more than a little impressed for Cook was playing with the older DCA team at Boo Williams.  That day he put the team on his back in a semi final match up and willed them to a win.  Cook not only led his team as a floor general, he got into the lane and scored 24 points, 14 down the stretch.  Cook is a pure PG who has played with top notch competition and he’s a good addition for Duke and the program.  Nate James worked with him and he was assisted by Nolan which helped land the talented prospect in Durham.

As Plumleegains strength, he'll be a load. During the N.C. Pro Am he went head to head against veteran players and held his own. Photo property of BDN

MARSHALL PLUMLEE -Ranked #44 in his class by ESPN.  [6-11.5, 215 Warsaw, IN] Lead Assistant – Steve Wojciechowski, committed to Duke in July.  Plays for Christ Scool in Arden, N.C. and Indiana Elite on the AAU trail. BDN Articles on Plumlee.  Chose Duke over Butler, LSU, Virginia and other suitors.  Very mobile big man rated the 4th best center in the class of 2011 by ESPN.  His brothers Mason and Miles will join him at Duke next season.

Tom Konchalski on Marshall - He’s big. I’ve only seen him play with Indiana Elite. His father played for a friend of mine down at Tennessee Tech. They‘re very nice people.  I haven’t seen him play in  lot of games, so will reserve comment.

Andrew’s take -Marshall is a mobile seven footer who hustles at all times. He’s more of a traditional low-post player than either brothers Mason or Miles were at a similar point. Like a lot of big men his age, he’s been more dependent upon scoring off of dribble handoffs, offensive put backs, and vanilla post moves, when the guards make a concerted effort to get him the ball. I felt that he didn’t receive enough offensive touches this summer on his Indiana Elite team, but that can be the nature of AAU basketball. He’s expected to have an increased role at Christ School this season, which should be helpful for his development. Some players take time adjusting to the college game because they are suddenly playing with comparable talent, but I think this aspect will be an easy transition for Marshall as he has played on quality teams on both the high school and AAU level. As with many players his age and position, he needs to add more muscle in order to be able to withstand the constant physicality that he’ll deal with at the next level. Marshall’s a solid rebounder and shot blocker, but he’s capable of improving in both facets. Marshall is a relatively good free throw shooter for a big man as well. For a center, he’s relatively good at passing out of a double team, but still has room for improvement. Like his older brothers, he’s been a supportive and friendly teammate on both programs. He can be hard on himself, but I think his best days lie ahead and it will be interesting to see his post skills, both low and high, develop in the coming years. Of the four players, I feel like I don’t have as clear a read on Marshall’s potential as the the other three players.

Mark’s take – Hey, I’ll take all the Plumlee’s that hatch!  Marshall suffered a bit from lofty expectations bestowed upon him where it was said he’ll be the best Plumlee.  He’ll be the tallest of the Plum 3 crew and he has a bundle of potential.  He will run his own race at Duke and while he may not contribute in his first season, he’ll develop and be a load when he gains some experience.  Of the three Plumlee’s, he’ll be the youngest coming out of high school when he lands at Duke.  He always plays hard and runs the floor well, but does not have the reach of say, his brother Miles but is very coachable which is always a good attribute.

Michael Gbinije does it all well. Here, he rocks his Blue Devil hat while attending Countdown to Craziness - Photo BDN, Rick Crank

MICHAEL GBINIJE -Ranked as the #25 player in the class of 2011 by ESPN.[6-6 194, Chester, VA.] Lead Assistant – Nate James, committed to Duke in March.  Plays for St. Benedictine H.S. and Team Takeover on the AAU circuit. Gbinije was a great get for the Duke staff in that he is the epitome of a team player.  He is very effective  on the court and should score high in Duke’s True Blue ratings of efficiency.  Averaged 17,5 ppg and  6.0 rpg as a junior.  One of 10 Micahel Gbinije articles at BDN.

Tom Konchalski’s take -Gbinije is a good player, very skilled perimeter player. There are some guys who are more explosiveve, but he has very good skills and size. He plays within the flow of the game and generally lets the game come to him. He plays with a very good AAU team and a good high school team, Benedictine, and so he doesn’t have to do everything himself. It’s not as if he has to be a volume shooter for the teams to be successful. I think he will be a very good player for them.

Andrew’s take -Mike Gbinije is a silent killer of a wing. He can fill out a stat sheet and has no glaring weakness. As with the aforementioned Rivers, he’s capable of connecting on shots at all three levels, with a mid-range game that helps to differentiate him from other wings. Gbinije is currently a slightly above-average defender, who is more focused on containment, with an eye open to the occasional opportunistic steal and open-court layup. He’s got a very good frame at 6’6″ and is capable of rebounding in traffic. The only real debate is how far does he want to take his game and how committed is he to reaching his potential. He brushes the fine line between rarely forcing ill-advised shots and not being aggressive enough as a scorer, which doesn’t allow him to reach his productive capabilities. As with Quinn Cook, Gbinije is a steady hand, who rarely gets rattled and is capable of giving Duke minutes off of the bench as a freshman. Although he lead Team Takeover to the inaugural NIKE EYBL title at the Peach Jam, he will probably benefit initially from not being the primary focus of defenses, as I believe he can initially be a solid, complimentary player at an elite program such as Duke with the ability to grow his role and responsibilities later.

Mark’s take -This is one cool customer on the court who makes his team better.  He plays within himself and has a tremendous all around skill set which could earn him immediate time.  Gbinije got better and better as he progressed and earned his way into the consensus top 30 playersrankings  and has since been a mainstay.  The kid never get flustered and keeps playing no matter what happens.  He was a quiet assassin down the stretch for his AAU club Team Takeover and his play led his over achieving team to great things.  In short, he is very efficient.

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