Tag Archives: Julius Randle

Duke Basketball Recruiting Update – Key visits taking place


In our latest premium update for members, we have new information on Tyus Jones and more. Join today and get all the latest on the recruiting trail. Photo copyright Blue Devil Nation

As many of you know, the Duke Men’s Basketball staff has been on the road for official in-home visits with many key prospects. For our members only, BDN Premium recaps the latest happenings and previews what is to come (and there is a lot) in our latest team and recruiting update.

As a refresher, let’s start by recapping the visits that have already occurred.  The first was with Semi Ojeleye, who went against the grain by not inviting the full-on media onslaught that so often accompanies these things. Ojeleye is considered a perfect fit at Duke and he knew exactly where he wanted to go after Blue Devils Coach Mike Krzyzewski gave his final presentation.

In committing to Duke, Ojeleye, of course, joins shooting guard Matt Jones in the (current) two-man Class of 2013.  Jones committed to the Blue Devils long ago, but he still received a visit last week, which we’ll recap in a later update.

The Blue Devils then checked out the Tennessee home of Austin Nichols. Nichols is as close to a prototypical Duke frontcourt player as you can get, being a 6’11” guy who can go inside/out. The worry from a few involved is that [private] Vanderbilt and Tennessee provide him an opportunity to play closer to home, and it is worth noting that his sister goes to Tennessee as well.  Many continue to mention Virginia as a player in this recruitment too, but the style of play employed in the Cavaliers’ system is a known turn-off. Nichols also raised some eyebrows when he decided not to participate with Team USA this past off-season, but that has not diminished Duke’s interest in him.  As mentioned in the last update, Duke gets an official visit with Nichols on October 6th, and the goal is to close the deal at that time or at least have a good indication of what will happen. One thing to look for is how he gets along with the players here. While Nichols is far from a sure thing, the staff does seem to feel good about him. Nichols was more of a priority for Duke than was Marcus Lee, the talented California frontcourt prospect who recently dropped the Blue Devils from his list.

Julius Randle likes Duke, but has 10 other schools currently listed as well and Kentucky making their play.

The Blue Devils also went into the home of Julius Randle, but minus the gimmicks and bling the other coaches used. This week, five more schools follow Duke, Kansas, Kentucky, and North Carolina with in-home visits, yet the puzzling thing is everybody with a pulse knows not one of these other five will make the final cut. A lot of people have been in Randle’s ear lately, and his recruitment is now the most hyped of his class. This one will go on for a long, long time, so strap yourself in for one stressful ride. I have been covering Duke recruiting for a long time, and I hoped to avoid the dog-and-pony show, but it never fails: one player changes his whole demeanor going into his senior year. It wasn’t that long ago that Randle gave four schools every indication that they would be announced as the finalists and then bam, we now have ten in-home visits? In any event, at the in-home they were straightforward with Julius as to what they have to offer and why Duke presents such a good opportunity for him, and Duke still feels they are in good shape with him.  The Blue Devils will be in it the day Randle chooses, but that day will not come until Spring.

But yes, Kentucky is in the mix in a big way and the Blue Devils cannot or will not match some of the things that Kentucky is about, offering a den of luxury and simpleton classes, easing the path for kids to coast to the League.  They are pushing the envelope to the edge with NCAA rules. They use the hip-hop culture, power personalities that show the bling and spoils of the life many only read about, and then they convince kids they’ll be in an environment that caters to their every whim. School? Really? Anyhow, Calipari and his assistant Orlando Antigua go to events like the Peach Jam, sit right in front of the NCAA Compliance people, and push the edges of the rules.  They know exactly where the boundaries are, and have found ways to use them to their advantage. Kentucky doesn’t hide the fact that they are a luxurious pit stop for prospects on their way to the NBA, and the lifestyle they offer is now swaying kids who valued education when growing up —  see Alex Poythress.  The school is at the forefront of overhyped dog-and-pony shows and in today’s culture, prospects who cannot see the bigger picture in life easily get caught up in it, making it a tough act for a school like Duke to go up against.  Until something is done and the charade is halted, Kentucky will be a regular thorn in the side of everyone involved in the recruiting process.

Justise Winslow is set to visit Duke during Countdown to Craziness. BDN Photo

Now, despite what I just said, I would not concede Julius Randle just yet. In no way do I feel BAD about Randle and Duke, but there was a time not long ago I thought the good guys were a prohibitive favorite. That in turn caused me to downplay Jabari Parker a bit, and I am not the only one who did so. The truth is Duke and other schools were asked to back off a bit on his recruitment awhile back, but they have been and will be in this one until the end as well. Despite what you have heard to date, let it go and start with a fresh take.  Duke’s in-home with the Parkers is on Friday, and it’s a big deal as Coach K will join Chris Collins to sell the Duke way and their vision for Jabari. Duke would of course take both Parker and Randle but realistically, that will not happen in the current landscape.  But they sure as heck would love to get one of them.  Expect Krzyzewski to go after both equally hard. In fact, he is doing so already.

As you know, the staff also goes to see prospects work out in open gyms. The most recent visits have been to see Trey Lyles, Justise Winslow, Karl Towns and Grayson Allen. They will continue to monitor each of them closely. Duke went to Memphis on Wednesday to watch Austin Nichols and Coach Krzyzewski will go to see Trey Lyles again today, because he wants a firsthand view.

Duke will visit Jahlil Okafor as well, now that the teachers strike in Chicago is coming under control. The Blue Devils have stayed strong with the big man and feel they’re in great shape at this time, but much work still needs to be done.

And let’s not forget the consummate winner, the outstanding point guard Tyus Jones. I got word last evening that Coach K will drop in on him today, which leads me to talk of the fast approaching Countdown to Craziness. Jones has confirmed he will visit for the affair, as will Justise Winslow, a key target in his own right.

Duke expects to get 2015 big man Karl Towns in Durham for CTC, as well as Theo Pinson, who is still on the mend from an injury. The injury to Pinson seems to have made his camp a bit more proactive, possibly out of fear of falling behind in the process. The Pinsons have taken their time with the process, but it’s getting to the point where they are starting to do some more serious looking, as well as watching more closely what other key players are doing in their recruitments.

That pretty much sums up the latest, and as always we ask that you keep the information here per contract agreement. A lot of times recruiting information is sensitive and does not belong in public forums, as those can give competitors unfair advantages. For me to continue to share information we all covet, it is important to adhere to set standards.

In closing, thanks for being a member of Blue Devil Nation Premium and supporting our efforts to bring you the best coverage available. Please let others know about us, and if you have further questions on hoops recruiting, Andrew or myself will do our best to answer them on the message board. [/private]

BDN Premium – Under Armour Elite 24 Recap

Julius Randle throws down a dunk – BDN Photo

It’s difficult to make any hard and fast judgments about players based on a game like the Elite 24, because it is a glorified pickup game, there is little defense played, and the guys are all just playing loosey-goosey and enjoying it as an end-of-summer outdoor event on the courts of Venice Beach, California. I mean, the final score was 164-138, OK? Nevertheless, there are always things to learn about guys any time you watch them, especially when playing against other elite-level players. Here’s what I saw on Saturday.

First, the “Marques Johnson” team had a huge advantage. Why? Coaching. Head coach for the squad was Duke’s own Kyrie Irving. While Kyrie spent more time on his phone texting than he did strategizing, it was good to see him out there and it was obvious how much respect he has from the guys. At halftime, he spent almost the entire time talking with uncommitted Pennsylvania forward Rondae Jefferson, but he also hung out with Julius Randle too, and they seemed to have an easy rapport as well.

OK to the game. Starting with the kids Duke is known to be recruiting heavily:

Might as well start with Julius Randle. First of all [private], he has a pro body right now. He’s been downgraded in some circles for having short arms, as that supposedly makes it harder for him to finish against length. His arms didn’t look short to me, especially when he was taking over the game in the second half, scoring five consecutive hoops en route to his game-high 27 on 13 of 14 shooting. He also has a very good handle for a guy his size, and likes to utilize it. When he does so and gets into the lane, he’s so big that the defense just sort of parts for him because they know they’re not going to stop that freight train. In real games, of course, guys will step in and try to take a charge, and he’s going to have to adjust to that. But seeing his game and his body, I don’t think he’d have any trouble playing some 5 in college if his team needed him to, though PF will obviously be his primary position.

Justise Winslow also has a very solid body and is much more athletic than I anticipated. He led his team with 21 points and scored them in a variety of ways. He drove to the hoop, he pulled up for short jumpers, he got put-back dunks, and he got out on the break (though everyone did in this game!) for some throw-downs as well. One thing I really liked was Winslow D-ing up one-on-one against stud guard Aaron Harrison and forcing Harrison to retreat after attempting to drive, and then to take a very difficult three-pointer instead. Justise took on that challenge, even in a game like this, and won it.

Marcus Lee out of California is a real string bean. He’s 6’9″ or so, but there’s no meat on the bones at all. He has excellent hops and blocks shots very well, including a big one Saturday against Kuran Iverson right at the rim and another on Austin Nichols as well. But Marcus didn’t display any offensive game at all, scoring only one point in a game in which his team scored 138. He looks like he’ll be better defensively in college than Casey Sanders was, but his body type and his lack of offensive game reminds me of Sanders, including when he airballed a free throw.

When you watch Tyus Jones play, you can tell the Minnesota point guard is an outstanding player. No. Better than that. He’s a special player. But he didn’t have his best game on Saturday. His handle wasn’t as crisp as it usually is, and he never really fully got into the flow of the action. One thing I did note is that when he and Andrew Harrison went one-on-one on a couple of occasions, Tyus seemed to have a hard time staying in front of Harrison when he went to the hoop, but at the other end Harrison bodied up on Jones and made him take tougher shots on his drives. But I wouldn’t be concerned about Jones at all, especially given the setting. The kid is a flat-out stud ballplayer, and Duke would be very fortunate to get him.

Austin Nichols, 6’8″ out of Memphis, impressed me with his athleticism and his body. This kid is not skinny at all. He’s not rocked up to the degree of a Wayne Selden or Justise Winslow, but he has some mass to him, and he’s going to gain more weight this year. He can jump too, though, and he runs the floor very well. He has good hands and finishes well. He didn’t shoot many outside jumpers in this game — not many of the kids did — so I couldn’t evaluate that, but what I did see of his game, I liked.

Other quick takes:

I thought the best player on the floor was 6’7″ Aaron Gordon out of San Jose. This dude has it all. His handle is very smooth, he’s got a strong body, he can shoot it, and he jumps out of the gym. If there was a gym. He wowed the crowd with a series of spectacular dunks midway through this game, and scored his 25 points in a variety of ways. The whole crowd was talking about him all day.

Carolina signee Nate Britt has a real good handle, but his lefty shot is awkward. And he shoots too much, or at least did in this game.

I really like the Harrison brothers out of Texas. Andrew is the point guard, and he has a very smooth handle and gets to the rim at will. He reminded me a little of Will Avery, but maybe even a little quicker. Both brothers are highly athletic but seemed to have kind of a strange affect out there, like they weren’t that engaged. Well, Aaron was engaged enough to score 25 points on 11 of 14 shooting, so I guess he was paying enough attention to do that. Really, though, these twins are killer ballplayers.

Uncommiteds Jabari Bird out of California and Kuran Iverson are both long, athletic, and active, and they both jump very well. While he’s a couple of inches shorter, Iverson, with his body type and his style, reminds a little of Kevin Garnett. A little.  [/private]

Elite 24 logo

Elite 24 Coverage of Duke Prospects on BDN Premium

Team BDN is in place in California where we are covering the Elite 24 for Premium members.  Get all the latest updates from today’s practice and Saturday’s game by joining today!  Several key Duke prospects are playing in the prestigious event, including Tyus Jones, Justise Winslow, Julius Randle, Marcus Lee and Austin Nichols, so you do not want to miss the action!  Join BDN Premium today and discuss the latest happenings with fellow members on the BDN Premium Message Board.

Duke Basketball Team and Recruiting Update – New names and Vegas

 

Semi Ojeleye

 As the AAU season winds down, here is yet another BDN Premium Duke Basketball Team and Recruiting Update for our members.  Are you ready for a few thousand words on the latest?  If so, keep reading and be sure to join to get all the freshest info.   In this edition I reveal some new names on the radar, give an in-depth recap of the Duke targets from the recent Nike Peach Jam, and more.  Know that this is the perfect time to join BDN Premium in that we have recruiting analyst Andrew Slater reporting from Las Vegas all weekend long.

Let’s start with a recap of Peach Jam happenings :
Semi Ojeleye - What you see is what you get, and that is consistent effort.  Ojeleye has a college-ready body, and he uses it to his advantage.  In Augusta, he struggled a bit from the outside, and never really found his rhythm, but nevertheless he is a versatile stat stuffer who guards multiple positions, and who plays team basketball, so what’s not to like?  Semi is a classy young man on the court and off, and is a perfect fit for the Blue Devils — and some of the Duke staff feel it is just a matter of time with Ojeleye.  I think he’s a real Duke-type kid, and a player I would love to see in a Duke uniform.
Julius Randle – After his first game in Augusta, I was ready to proclaim him the top player in his class.  He dominated that game, but in the rest of the tournament, though his overall numbers were strong, [private] I saw him miss an unusually large number of chippies.  Part of that may be because, while he’s a real physical specimen, he’s not a great leaper.  Also, he moved outside more than expected.  He plays for a Texas Titans team that runs a three guard lineup, so it seemed unnecessary for him to handle the ball on the perimeter as much as he did.  Randle is great with the ball in his hands, but he will not be used that way in college unless he goes to a team with little talent.  Which is highly unlikely.  When he takes it to the hole,  he finishes with authority and when he draws fouls, he is a decent free throw shooter.  When Randle does go down to the blocks, he dominates, and while I realize he is trying to broaden his game, in my opinion he needs to go down in the low post more often, as at this point on the AAU circuit he is a man among boys down there.  He is also an intimidating defender down low.
I will say, however, that when Randle went against better competition, he struggled a bit.  He has the propensity to be a little foul prone; he is like a bull in a china shop, almost inviting contact on every play, and when he’s out of control, it gets him in trouble.
The gym was packed for each Titans game.  Coach Capel missed only one, and in that instance Nate James was there in his stead.  The highlight was the matchup with CIA Bounce and stud forward Andrew Wiggins, in a game for the ages.  Wiggins got the better of Julius, but not by a wide margin.  Randle struggled getting his shot off when he went one-on-one versus the ultra-athletic (though smaller) Wiggins; Randle also was saddled with two early fouls, which did not allow him to remain aggressive down the stretch, and ultimately he fouled out.
While Randle may have fallen to #2 or #3 in the imaginary rankings, he can reclaim the top spot by simply taking his team far in Orlando over the next several days.  Make no mistake, Julius is a special talent, and is one of the four best players in high school basketball.  He’s going to be an immediate impact player at the college level.  Randle, quite simply, is as likely as anyone to have a one-and-done type of freshman season.
Julius Randle

Matt Jones - Matt has improved his game.  He is better off the dribble, he is a good (but occasionally streaky) shooter and he now loves to mix it up on put-backs and other plays underneath.  He has improved defensively as well; he checked Andrew Wiggins for much of their matchup and did a great job on him on the perimeter despite giving up some size.  In fact, most of Wiggins’s hoops came on angles and also off of steals and breakaways, meaning there were few times when he faced up Jones for a jump shot.  Jones tried to carry his team after Randle fouled out, but a dribble off the opponent’s foot derailed that.  It was clear that he was the go-to guy when Randle was out.  Matt erupted for a couple of 25+ point games during the event, and overall played very well.

Jahlil Okafor –  There is always a game in each tournament when he is just not impressive, but he always bounces back.  As I’ve mentioned before, Okafor continues to be plagued by the fact that his Mac Irvin teammates simply do not look for him in the blocks as they should.  The result is they get dusted.  It didn’t help that Jabari Parker did not play for Mac this past week due to his foot injury, and that certainly changed the team’s dynamic.  It took them awhile to adjust as a team, but when they finally started going inside to Okafor, he answered the bell, shooting an efficient 7 of 8 from the field and grabbing 13 boards.  In the team’s remaining games, his teammates continued to feed him, and Okafor really responded with solid numbers the rest of the way.  His body is still a work in progress — it is truly frightening to think what he may look like once all the baby fat is off.
Marcus Lee - Two words.  Foul prone.  In three of his games, he landed on the bench with five fouls, and his numbers were down due to the reduced minutes.  But when he did play, he was good, and he did save his best two games for late.   But overall, I was disappointed by his play and that of his team, as California Supreme layed an egg, winning (if I’m not mistaken) but a single game.  Lee is athletic and long, but tends to disappear for stretches.  Personally, I think he hurt himself here, and he is not what I consider to be a super elite player.   The staff watched some of his games, but to be honest, most of them were a bore.
Theo Pinson - Pinson is steady and he’s been that all summer long, and in the process he has solidified himself as one of the very best players in his class.  His jumper is ugly but it works for him, and his slashing ability is quite nice.  He’s getting better and is just starting to get a bit more serious in thinking about schools, which is good because he and his dad have been talking for a long time about having a lot of time to decide.  Make no mistake, the offer to Justise Winslow did not go unnoticed by the Pinson camp.  While there was some concern, the fact is that Pinson has visited Duke, played at Duke, been to games at Duke, and he stays in contact with Duke, so there are no real worries.  I have to admit, it upsets me that I cannot share more about this, but the reason is the unwarranted knee-jerk reaction from some on the board who state that there has been no TLC for Theo from the staff, when in reality, that is hardly the case.  Again, Pinson has just not been that serious about his recruitment.  So why should Duke be all over him if he hasn’t been that focused on it?  Duke has done its due diligence; Theo has an offer and has had an offer, but it simply got lost in translation.  Sure, he was excited by the UNC offer as well, but he and his dad know Duke features wings, so some members need to chill out a bit and try not to go into “sky is falling” mode when you really have only limited information on the details.  Pinson likes Duke and Duke likes Pinson, and thus the offer.  For now, enough said.
Justise Winslow

Justise Winslow - I love his game and I liked his demeanor during my interview, as he was respectful, he took his time with each response, and he said all the right things.  Justise is another kid who would be a great fit at Duke, as his education truly matters to him.  On the floor, in addition to a terrific skill set, he plays bigger than his size at times and he is ultra-athletic.  He is also a leader.  It’s no surprise that so many analysts are raving about him now and all the top coaches are at every one of his games.   It was truly ridiculous the lengths that some coaches went just to be seen by him.  Anyhow, the Winslow offer is exciting;  I would take him on the spot.  But then again, I would take Pinson too.  There is room for one of them, but not both, at Duke.

Tyus Jones -  He is the best PG in his class.  He is a winner.  He is a team player.  He is a scoring point, but an unselfish one, and can put his team on his back despite their lacking much of an inside presence.  While Jones is not super athletic, his feel for the game is a thing of beauty.  Tyus is also a young man of character and maturity, and he will make any school he attends an immediate Final Four contender.  Lastly, every coach in America wants him. Did I mention his feel for the game?  Give him the ball, surround him with talent, and take home a trophy.  I hope Duke lands him.
Damien Jones - One assistant told me he was a long shot, so I did not pursue him initially.  I sat with Johnny Dawkins and Mark Madsen for a game, and they love him — it’s not surprising that a good ballplayer and good student like Damien would draw interest from the likes of Duke and Stanford.  Now Duke is a little more interested, so I am setting up an interview.  He’s rising in the rankings, but it’s hard to rate his game because he plays on the Texas Titans with Matt Jones and Randle, and as one coach said, it’s hard to figure out just how good anybody is on the Titans because of Randle.  At this point Damien Jones is solid but not spectacular; he’s a bit slender and needs to put on some muscle.  But in a class with few quality bigs, he has suddenly become a hotter commodity.  He told me he liked Duke a lot and that he would be open to them if they came calling.  Duke is evaluating him and will take another look in Orlando.
Tyus Jones

Peach Jam tidbits - I had a pretty incredible seat in between Bill Self and Leonard Hamilton for the classic matchup between the Texas Titans and CIA Bounce.   I cannot begin to tell you how entertaining this back-and-forth game was, and how good Andrew Wiggins looked.  Several times he drew the “wow” from the coaches seated next to me.  I had a good conversation with both.  Self, of course, was checking out Julius Randle and joked several times about all the ACC guys on his trail, not forgetting that he lost Matt Jones to Duke.  We discussed recruiting a bit, and he said that one of the challenges at Kansas is the lack of much local high school talent.   Still, kind of hard to feel sorry for him.  Hamilton warmed up and talked about last season as well as the future, and he seems happy that Syracuse and Pitt are coming into the league. He also feels that football needs to be better in order for hoops to be.  Not sure I agree, but he’s a good guy and a heck of a coach, one who is getting a lot out of the pool of players he works with.  He  seemed to have a quiet confidence that the rebuilding job this season would be ahead of where most media and fans might think.  I sat with Coaches Capel and James as well.  While I try not to talk about that kind of thing too much, it is always cool to be near any of the Duke staff and just hang out and chat.  The gym was brutally cold and most coaches had on long sleeve shirts or jackets, including our guys who were both probably glad to get home and thaw out —  as was I.  Capel had a nasty bug and sure enough I caught it the last day as well, and it has slowed my reporting.  Thus the late update.

But the one thing that may tickle members is the musical chair show that Calipari and UK assistant Orlando Antigua played. Word is Kentucky covets a big-time PG.  So the two strategically scoped out and sat on the corner seats with the partition in between them in back to back seats while PG prospects Joel Berry and Tyus Jones were playing on opposite courts.  The two coaches would switch back and forth in an unapologetic fashion, literally pushing other coaches out of the way in an SRO crowd.  Antigua nudged a Western Kentucky assistant to the side without even a look, much less an apology.  They were by no means breaking any rules, but still.  Not cool.  Oh, and yes Virginia, Kentucky did start that rumor via Adam Zagoria, who sat beside me in the media area for most of the event.  If you missed it, they used Zagoria to put it out there that Duke leads for Jabari Parker, probably trying to sabotage it somehow.  As for Zagoria, he’s a nice enough guy, but if you are being lured in by his sensationalist blog, you are not getting an accurate picture of what is really happening, for he is simply going for hits and hits alone, accuracy be darned.  Coaches know which media members to go to when they want to propagandize, and Zagoria is but one of many.  Other coaches leak a kid’s secret on where he will go to school and ruin his big moment out of spite, even after the kid has the decency to make a courtesy call to show some respect to the coach who has lost out.  And some coaches even leak when a kid verbals to them in an effort to keep him from changing his mind.  You gotta love recruiting!

What happens in Vegas, goes on Twitter - Andrew is in Las Vegas and will be bouncing to various tournaments while following the nation’s elite prospects.  Be sure to follow our site updates and our Twitter feeds for the latest information.  I have turned up a few names of kids catching the Blue Devils’ eye, and one of those is Austin Grandstaff, a 2015 guard from Rowlett, Texas, whose father coaches his Team Texas AAU team.  He will be visiting Duke.  I originally kept that on the down low to avoid other local schools trying to get him on their campuses for an unofficial while he’s in the area.  Grandstaff’s teammate Elijah Thomas caught my attention too, and that of Coach Capel as well.  Thomas wasted no time retweeting our interview with him just moments ago.  Duke is evaluating a lot of young talent in an effort to lay early groundwork.  I will be checking in with Grayson Allen, who is a 2014 shooting guard that has contacted Duke and grew up rooting for the Blue Devils.  He carries a 4.0 GPA and played in the Peach State Classic down the road from the Augusta in Aiken, SC this past weekend.  He does not play for a  big-time AAU program, so like Robert Hubbs, he has flown under the radar.  I have two other names I need to keep on the down low until I can talk to them, but they will come out soon as well.  Once we put names out there, everybody jumps on them.
Orlando - I elected not to go due to the overall lack of #Duke prospects as well as the cost.  But Coach Capel is following the Texas Titans targets as well as a couple of other kids.  As Andrew has mentioned, Nate James is in Vegas.  We will surely be hearing a lot from the weekend as it’s a loaded event out there, and Andrew is sure to do his usual excellent job of reporting.
A lot going on - I thank all members for their patience as we have been beyond busy. More members means more content, so encourage others to join.  I am in the process of doing whatever it takes to make BDN better, and will leave no rock unturned as we move towards making the promised changes actually happen.
Pro Am - Tonight is apt to be the last night Duke kids play, so take note.  I will let you know if something changes.  Some have asked if Murphy will play.  I think he’ll be resting up after a long trip home, but we’ll see.
ESPN U - will carry some games from Orlando, so check the listings.
Please note: I recently had to remove some information because the reaction to it was basically negativity and excessive paranoia.  I have said it before and will again: do not read so much into every little thing you see and hear on the Internet, and don’t believe every little thing either.  After all, the reason you subscribe to BDN is to get accurate information that you can bank on.
Thanks to all of you who make up the Blue Devil Nation, and remember, Members, to check out Andrew Slater’s work all weekend long.  Let’s go Devils! [/private]
Julius Randle is tearing up the Nike Peach Jam and BDN is here to bring you all the action.  Check out Andrew Slaters in depth interview with the "Real JR" and then watch our 2 videos of Randle from Augusta as a premium member and get all the updates as they happen.  A ton of information awaits you as a BDN Premium member, so join today and see what you are missing out on.  Photo copyright Rick Crank and BDN

Nike Peach Jam Friday Day Session Updates – Duke prospects shine

Julius Randle is tearing up the Nike Peach Jam, and BDN is here to bring you all the action. Check out Andrew Slater’s in- depth interview with the “Real JR” and then as a Premium member you can watch our two videos of Randle from Augusta and get all the updates as they happen. A ton of information awaits you as a BDN Premium member, so join today and see what you’ve been missing out on. Photo copyright Rick Crank and BDN

The Nike Peach Jam is in full swing and we are here in South Carolina to bring you updates on all the action and the latest on the many Duke prospects here.  Austin Nichols, Matt Jones, Julius Randle, Justise Winslow, Theo Pinson, and Jahlil Okafor are but a few of the informative interviews we have on tap.  In addition, there are some younger kids starting to catch the staff’s eye as well.  You can learn about them and much more as a member.  Considering the bevy of interviews we have up for Blue Devil Nation Premium members, if you’ve been on the fence about it, this is the perfect time to join.

Here is the recap of the Friday day session:

Howard Pulley 74 Team Texas 65

First of all, this game had some intensity to it, as Roy Williams, Billy Donovan, Tom Izzo, the Duke staff and others crowded the court to the point where they would not let any more people into the gym once the game started.  The game was much closer than the score indicates. A Julius Randle turnover allowed Pulley to go up 4, but he then came down to score and “and one” inside, which cut it to 1 with little time left. Pulley’s Tyus Jones drew a triple team and found an open teammate for a 3 and that pretty much sealed the deal. After a Team Texas miss, Jones quickly scored again on a drive and then assisted on another trey and that made the final score 74-65.  Despite his team being upset, Randle was a beast again, scoring 31 points and grabbing 17 boards.  While aggressiveness is something Randle thrives on (and as he told BDN, he feels he can take anybody off the dribble at any time) his aggression sometimes causes turnovers and could also make him foul prone at the next level.  But the big picture with Randle is he is a big-time force on the floor.  One coach sitting beside me quipped, “It’s hard to evaluate the players around him and those who defend him in that he’s so good.” I have to agree. Then there was Tyus Jones, a smooth, spunky leader on the court who thinks [private] “team first,” yet still gets his own shots too. Jones’s late heroics helped his team to a win; he finished with 24 points, 8 assists and 4 rebounds. Randle and Jones are now the number one and two scorers at the entire event.

Capel will follow Team Texas

Jeff Capel has been sitting with his brother Jason for much of the camp today. Capel said he would go to Orlando and the AAU Nationals and be anywhere Julius Randle and Matt Jones were playing. So, yes, there will always be a Duke presence as Randle nears his decision.

Semi Ojeleye continues to play well

Ojeleye scored 20 points and grabbed 3 boards as his team coasted past Bluff City Legends. I just love his size and strength.  I have a mini-interview coming with Semi.  I will tell you that the Duke staff feels really good about their chances with him, and that it could be over in the near future. He’s just a Duke kid through and through.

Jahlil Okafor struggles?

Part of the problem is his own play, but part is his teammates just not looking for him.  While I think the latter is the main culprit, still Jahlil was not impressive in Mac Irvin’s loss to CIA Bounce. He fouled out in 15 minutes of play and his numbers were dismal:  2 points and 0 rebounds. He has not helped himself here so far.  By the way, Andrew Wiggins had 21 points for CIA.  He is one of the four best players in camp.

Oh Boo!

The dysfunctional bunch known as Boo Williams is again winless. In their first game, Anthony “Cat” Barber and Al Freeman jawed hard at one another, and it took a while for Barber to let it go. Talent and no production makes college coaches pause.  Freeman and his game are still a bit of a wreck.  Note: the Duke staff has not watched a single game this squad has played. And wasn’t star forward Troy Williams supposed to have decided? Hmm.

Marcus Lee struggles as well

Marcus Lee is foul prone in a big way, and he once again finished the game on the bench as California Supreme lost again, and is now 0-3. Lee had 2 points and 5 boards; his offense is anemic. Yes he’s talented and long, but putting all the hype aside, he is a little overrated and I am not the only one who feels that way.

Justise Winslow

From my conversation with him, this really seems like a good kid. He has recently been offered by Calipari and Kentucky, and he spoke highly of them, but Duke is on his list and he also spoke well of Coach K and his recent U-17 camp experience with Team USA. His production here has been good; he went for 16 points and 8 rebounds in his team’s two point win this morning.

Yes, Theo!  You do have an offer!

Theo Pinson has had an offer for over eight months.  Odd how nobody knew, but the bottom line is he does now.  More may come out from this, not that it even matters at this point.  In the morning game he scored 23 points to lead CP3 to a 75-71 win over California Supreme.

Nichols Interview

Don’t miss Andrew’s interview with Austin Nichols.  The Duke coaches feel he will take all five of his visits before deciding.

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6'9" Duke Recruit Austin Nichols, Photo by Andrew Slater

The Running Man: An Interview With Austin Nichols

6’9″ Duke Recruit Austin Nichols, Photo by Andrew Slater

For a self-described “goofy kid,” 6’9″ Austin Nichols of Memphis has a serious game. Blessed with a 7’2″ wingspan, he is one of the most skilled big men in high school basketball, and has demonstrated the ability and desire to get out and run the floor.

On a senior-laden Briarcrest Christian team, the junior averaged over eighteen points and nearly ten rebounds, while leading the city of Memphis in shooting for a second consecutive year. Nichols, who has added twenty-two pounds (he is now up to 202 pounds) since last year, was named Tennessee’s Mr. Basketball.

Nichols and fellow Duke recruit Robert Hubbs III, an ultra-athletic shooting guard from Dyer County in Tennessee, have been forming a nice one-two punch on the AAU circuit for M33M this year . They will be playing in Minneapolis and Las Vegas later this month.

Last summer, Austin attended Duke’s camp, and began a relationship with the Duke coaches. Before being introduced to Head Coach Mike Krzyzewski, Nichols first spoke with Associate Head Coach Chris Collins and later Coach Steve Wojciechowski. Coach K came and watched both Nichols and Hubbs play. In April, Austin became the first player this spring to be offered a scholarship by Duke.

In June, Nichols trained in the high altitude of Colorado Springs, Colorado for the United States U-18 team that eventually competed for the FIBA Americas Championship in Sao Sebastio do Paraiso, Brazil. He was one of the fourteen finalists, playing alongside incoming Duke freshman Rasheed Sulaimon and fellow Duke recruit Julius Randle.

This month, Austin has been busy competing in the LeBron James Skills Academy in Las Vegas, NV and the Reebok Breakout in Philadelphia, PA before he rejoins his friend Hubbs for AAU competition around the country.

While his twin sister will be a freshman at the University of Tennessee and his oldest sister will graduate in August from the University of Memphis, where his mother is an alumnus, Austin Nichols, who has a 3.4 GPA at Briarcrest and a strong Christian faith, plans on cutting down on his extensive list of college suitors in about six weeks. Recently, Nichols, who has the deep Tennesseean voice of a young country music singer, spoke with me about a variety of topics, including playing alongside Hubbs and Randle, his improved overall game, and his faith.

 

You’ve been on a nice run this year, winning Mr. Basketball and being a part of USA Basketball.
I mean, I definitely worked hard for it. It’s a dream come true, especially to become a part of USA Basketball. Even though I got cut, it was a great experience in Colorado and I had fun and everything like that. I met some new guys. And then winning Mr. Basketball, that was a great experience.
It’s the highest honor in your state.
 Oh, yeah. I was just excited and I worked hard to get it and I realized I want to work harder to get another one.
What was it like when you received the Duke offer? You were the first guy that they offered this spring.
 Yeah, I talked to Coach K two or three times before he offered and I was shocked, just shocked. It was April. I started talking to Coach Collins first and then I started talking to Coach Wojo and then I finally started talking to Coach K and he offered in early April. 
What was your initial reaction like?
 I really didn’t believe it at first. It really hit me about a day or two later. 
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Coach K had seen you play a few times at that point?
 Yeah, well, I went to their camp the summer before. They saw me there and then, yeah, over the early summer, he saw me a couple of times. 
I watched you a few times last year on the AAU circuit. In your opinion, what would you say you’ve improved on most over the past  year?
 Getting stronger, improving my jump-shot, keep running the floor, I think my offensive rebounding has improved. 
You look a little stronger as well, I must say.  Or at least bulked up from last year.
Yeah, I was 180 last year, I’m now up to 202.
What would you like to be? What’s the next step for you in terms of weight and size?
I’d like to get all the way up to 220 by Christmas. 
Oh, wow. 
Yeah, I think it’s going to be hard, but I think I can do it, adding lean muscle. 
For the majority of the audience who has never seen you play, what would you say are your strengths and weaknesses?
My strengths are I have long arms, I can run the floor. Man, my weaknesses are probably my jumpshooting.
Oh, really? You think that is your major weakness?
Yeah, I can hit that 15-footer, but my 3-pointer really needs a lot of work. 
Oh, you’d like to move your range out even further?
Yeah,  I would. I just don’t feel as comfortable that far out.
By the way, do you view yourself as a 4-3? What position do you view yourself as?
Usually as a 3-4, sometimes even a 5, depending on the match-up or the line-up in the game.
With your twin sister at Tennessee, how will that affect your decision?
She’s going to be a freshman at Tennessee this year. I’m actually about 3 minutes older than her. She got held back, I mean, I got held back in 7th grade.
I assume it was purely for athletic reasons, right?
Oh, yeah, yeah. Absolutely, that’s right. And she, I mean, we always talk. We’re really close, so whatever she thinks that I might be interested in.
Does it give Tennessee a competitive advantage?
No, not really. She is there for me, regardless of what I decide.
Does she play basketball at all?
Oh, yeah, she played until 6th grade.
I was just curious about your various connections. By the way, who do you try to model your game after? You have, sort of, a unique one. 
 I’d have to say Dirk (Nowitzki) and then secondarily, I’d have to say Pau Gasol.
 So, you like to model your game after sort of tall, relatively athletic guys who have the versatility to step out and shoot it?
Oh, yeah, yeah, definitely, those are my type.
What about the pull of Memphis? 
Great coaching staff.
Great recruiters.
Yeah, they definitely are. 
Your mother went to Memphis as well, as I recall.
Yes, she went to the University of Memphis. She didn’t play basketball, but she was I think part of a band.
 Well, that counts for something. She’s bringing spirit.
(laughs) Yeah, thanks. She wants me to go to Memphis, but that doesn’t necessarily mean anything. She‘ll support me. They’re really aggressive at recruiting me. I have to see. I’m neutral right now.
I was reading that you were planning on cutting down on your list relatively soon. What would you like to get it to and what is the mindset behind it? Is it to try to cut the list to a more manageable number?
 Probably in a month and a half. I’m not really sure how low I’m going to cut it to, but yes, to make it more manageable. 
By the way, are you a pretty good student?
Yeah, I’m pretty good. A’s and B’s. I’ve got about a 3.4 GPA. 
That’s about double most guys here.
(laughs)
Well, that’s at Briarcrest Christian, where Leslie McDonald went. Speaking of Leslie McDonald, has he tried to influence you about North Carolina?
 Yeah, about four weeks before school was out, he came by the school, he came to talk to me about going to North Carolina. Well, not just going to North Carolina, but being a college player. He was kind of getting me ready for it, waking me up early, telling me you had to get ready to go to practice, and just setting my mind right.
Do you think you have a good work ethic?
Yeah, I tend to think so. I get in the gym pretty constantly. 
Well, for the most part, you have to to maintain at this level. What about public versus private? Will that be an issue for you when picking a college? You obviously go to a private school right now, but I didn’t know if that was an issue. Will size be a factor as well?
 Well, actually, I went to a public school until 7th grade, so no, I can’t say, not really. 
So, it doesn’t really matter to you, per se?
 No, it doesn’t really matter.
This really varies from player to player, depending upon the level of competition or talent they face and what the level of talent they’re accustomed to playing with, but how would you compare your high school basketball versus AAU? How does the competition compare as well?
High school versus AAU ball? Well, AAU ball is definitely faster. School ball is definitely slowed down a little bit more.
What style of play do you prefer?
Fast, loose, let’s push the ball. I like to run, I think it’s an advantage I have. I like to push the pace.
You shot about 67% from the field this year in high school. How did you remain so efficient? Was it you were primarily playing inside? 
Yeah, I led the city of Memphis two years in a row in field goal percentage, but I really don’t know how I do it. It sort of just happens.
Having seen you play the last few days, I know how. Can you give a quick scouting report on Robert Hubbs?
 Oh, he’s a great player. He can run, he can jump, he can shoot the ball. He’s a great ball-handler. He’s just a great player overall. He’s been great to play with.
Back to you, what about your defense? You obviously take pride in it. You’ve been a good shot-blocker in the past and I know you put up some good numbers in high school. Also, how much do you attribute that to your length?
Well, in school ball, I average about four or five blocked shots a game. 
Well, you’ve got the length or wingspan.
Yeah, I’ve got the length and when I’m guarding a defender out, I try to use my length to keep them at a distance. I don’t try to play right up on them and they don’t quite realize my length and jumping ability. Some guys find it pretty frustrating.
On this year’s Briarcrest team, will you take on more of a leadership role? Do you think of yourself as a natural leader?
Yeah, well, on the high school team, I’ve been one of the youngest kids. Like last year, we had six or eight seniors on the team, so I didn’t have an opportunity to be a leader, but this year, I’m definitely going to take the role. I’m definitely going to take the role.
What about Faith? I was reading in several of the accounts that that was an important issue for you. It’s not something that I usually get into, but it came up Jabari Parker as well. Is it an important issue for you and will it factor into making your college decision?
Yeah, well, definitely when I make my decision for college, I’m definitely going to go with a coach that walks through Christ. That’s why I go to a Christian school, to be close to Christ. My parents are both Christian. 
 I always wonder. There are some guys that say it and there some guys that walk that life. It’s a difficult period in your life. 
 Yes, it is. 
In terms of visits, I know you’ve gone on a couple locally. Do you have any planned? 
Yeah, I mean, I may go on a couple in August. August 1st is the first day I can get back on the road, but I’m not sure yet though.
In terms of a basketball or a football school, will that factor into your decision at all? Some of the schools on your list are known more-so for their football programs. Does that matter to you at all?
No, it really doesn’t matter. It’s along the public-private lines.
In your mind, what would you like to improve upon to be “college ready”?
I definitely would like to add muscle. I’m not sure what weight. I’d like to improve my ball-handling and my shooting. Those are primarily the three things.
Can you tell the audience about your family and yourself away from the court?
Well, personally, I’m just a goofy kid off of the court. Like I said, I walk through Christ. I go to church. I’m just goofy, I’m just a regular kid, I guess.
What about your family? Are you close-knit?
Oh, yeah, definitely. We’re definitely close. I mean, especially with my twin sister, I can tell her just about everything.
Is it just the two of you or do you have any other siblings?
I have an older sister. She’s a senior at Memphis. She’s about to graduate in August.
Congratulations.
Thank you.
Do any of the guys on Team USA try to recruit you, would you say? It’s certainly an interesting dynamic. 
Well, first of all, Coach Donovan was there. He’s trying to recruit me.
No, actually, what I meant was more along the lines of the players. Guys like Nate Britt or Rasheed Sulaimon. 
Oh, okay, well, I wouldn’t say they really recruited me, but they talked with me about it. I mean, they’re good guys and everything. I met them and we talked, but I would just say they gave me positives about each of the schools. 
In an article about you and USA Basketball, it indicated that you had taken yourself out of the competition at the very end. Is that true and, if so, why did you do it? What was your mindset behind it?
The way I was playing, I don’t think I could play that way in Brazil. So I thought it would be better for me to drop out and let someone else take that spot. 
I guess that was selfless of you.
Yeah, well, hopefully. It’s just what I felt at the time.
Who do you turn to for guidance in big decisions?
Definitely my parents and my sister.
Your older one?
Actually, both of them. When we have time in August, we’re going to sit down and pray about it.
What are your overall thoughts on your performance at the LeBron James camp?
LeBron has definitely been a great camp. I’ve learned a lot. They have great teachers. 
What are your goals for next year?
Well, since it’s my last year, I’d like to just have some fun.
And win a state title, I would think.
Oh, yes, definitely.
Who are some guys that you are closest to on the circuit?
Jabari Bird is one, Robert Hubbs, and probably third would be Stevie Clark.
By the way, what is Hubbs like off of the court?
Oh, he’s cool. He’s real nice. You’d like to deal with him. 
Thanks, I haven’t talked to him.
He’s a real cool dude. You’d like him.
The next one is something that I was thinking about when I was coming in here. As you may have heard, they basically wiped out four AAU directors. In terms of AAU ball, how do you protect yourself against others that may have ulterior motives in helping you and helping your game? Do you ever think about stuff like that? What’s your mindset with that?
Yeah, I definitely thought about that. I just have to play my game.
I’m sure you’ve had people try to come at you and get into your life. 
It happens.
But you’ve been able to keep them out?
I have so far, yeah. I just try to keep my circle tight. I don’t know what to say.
All right, can you talk about keeping your circle tight?
Oh, yeah, one of my good friends Jarnell Stokes told me on the USA trip all about that. He told me that I had to keep my circle tight. He said you don’t know who’s watching you and who’s trying to come at you.
I think that’s very important.
Yeah, that’s the way I feel too. It’s definitely going to be my family and I don’t know much from there. 
And lastly, about Julius Randle, can you give the audience a scouting report about him and what was it like to play along side him?
 He’s like a 6’9” point guard. He’s huge, he can get in the lane whenever he wants to. He’s a great player. He can shoot it, he can dribble, he can do whatever. I love playing with him. He makes me better every single time. He raises your game. 
Who would you say is the best player you’ve had to guard so far or hardest guy to guard?
Probably Julius Randle or..no, it’s definitely Julius Randle. 
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