It's been a while since I threw out an edition of Monday Musings so let's try an abbreviated version to hold you over -
Next stop for Rasheed Sulaimon ... Duke University
As you know already we covered the Nike Jordan Brand All Star game this past weekend and Sulaimon showed well for the Dukies earning praise along the way from many recruiting types. Sulaimon will be on the Duke campus in early July which is just over two months away and he will take the time in between to reflect on all that has happened to date and continue his workouts. Having seen Sulaimon play in person over 20 times now, I can tell you that Duke fans will love his ability to play good defense and his first step is as good as it gets. While not a total speed demon, Sulaimon has a way of being all over the place as an active player.
We hardly knew you ...
Word started to leak out yesterday that Michael Gbinije would transfer and this has long been floating around the rumor mill. Well, it is all but a formality at this point and we should hear official word from the Duke Sports Information Department any time now. Gbinije has a history of transferring from schools, several stops in high school and seems to be having trouble finding the right fit. We wish Gbinije the best and it looks as if he will take a long look at Big East and Virginia are schools. He is a talented young man and a great student, so he will do well. Normally, the school handles official announcements but the rush for a scoop caused a lot of issues. The sad truth is any kid transferring is not newsworthy enough to have been handled in the way it was and bordered on being meddlesome but that is simply one mans opinion.
Amile Jefferson come on down ...
Duke still has a shot at Amile Jefferson who is still deciding between several schools making hard, late runs for his services. I expect we'll know what the deal is as early as this week. The general consensus is that he is the last prospect Duke has a shot at in 2012.
Unless, Tony Parker comes around at the midnight hour. Sources have told Blue Devil Nation that he will make his selection known at his high school on Friday of this week. Parker was rumored heavily to be UCLA bound this weekend, but he has been the center of many rumors and many national analyst washed their hands with him once he started being all over the place with his comments. Parker shows little respect for most of the media and is a young kid funning about with the process. In the end, do not be shocked if he stays in state and goes to Georgia, His recruitment has frustrated many fans, especially those of Duke for there is a glaring obviousness that he has a spot at Duke where he would play. I am think the parents who strongly favored Duke will settle for him staying near home. Parker is a good kid with a nice skill set but looking back on his decision will be interesting. Who knows, maybe he will have another last minute change of heart but I would not wager the house on it at this point.
Nike EYBL kicks off this week
The Nilke EYBL gets underway at Minneapolis, Minnesota this week and Duke will have a bevy of prospects there. The coaches will be out in full force this week during an earlier open period than years past. The bigger names they will watch are Jabari Parker and Julius Randle but several others are on the radar which members of the Blue Devil Nation know about. For more on the recruiting front, join BDN Premium as we start our unmatched AAU coverage which has now become a site tradition.
Tom Konchalski has been evaluating high school basketball players for nearly forty years. In a business filled with fly-by-night operations, charlatans, non-athletes, and simpletons, he's the exception. Mr. Konchalski is a disciplined, compassionate, learned man of faith who keeps his eyes open and his ears to the ground.
In an age of social media, where a seventeen year-old with a Twitter account can call himself a recruiting analyst, the 6'5" Queens native still utilizes a typewriter for his HSBI Report and sends it via mail to more than two hundred college programs. Author John Feinstein '78 once wrote of the veteran scout that he was the "only honest man in the gym." Unfortunately, it's a fairly apt description of the AAU circuit on many summer nights.
Recently, I spoke with my mentor, consigliere, and friend about twelve players who have, at least, received interest from Duke in the classes of 2012, 2013, and 2014. Never prone to hyperbole, the McDonald's All-American voter graciously gave his candid assessments.
Rasheed Sulaimon: "He's a very good player. He's athletic and has good size. He has skill. He plays a team game and lets the game normally come to him. He's a guy who I think is going to be a good team player at Duke.[private] I think he'll be a good system player at Duke and Duke's system fits him quite well. He should become a very good player for them and I don't think he's going to be a player who will be a one or a two years and done for them. He's going to be around for three or four years. You need those kind of players because those are the types of players that Duke has had most success with. Defensively, he has the body, the strength, and the quickness to be a very good defensive player."
Amile Jefferson: "He's a young colt who's waiting for his body to blossom, but he has a really good feel for the game. Right now, he's probably more of a 4/3 and, obviously, he's going to have get stronger, but, in the ACC, it's not as if he's going to the Big Ten or the Big East, which is even more of a physical conference. In terms of style of play, if he were to go to Duke, that would be a good pick, but he's still got to get stronger in order to be able to play both sides of the court. He's a guy who has some perimeter skills..not an explosive athlete, but, when he starts to working to improve himself physically, his legs will get stronger. He will get quicker and he'll get more lift off the ground. He's a guy who has a good feel for the lane and the baseline. He's almost like an old-time player around the lane. He knows how to finish without going above the rim or jumping over people. He knows how to use his body to get between the defender and the ball. He knows how to shield the ball and reverse it. He has a really good feel for the game and he's a really good kid. He's also a good student."
Shabazz Muhammad: "Shabazz Muhammad is a guy who may be the best senior in the country right now. I don't think he has the potential to be a superstar. I think there are other people who may have a higher ceiling, such as guys like Jabari Parker, Nerlens Noel, and Julius Randle. Right now, he just plays so hard. He's high energy, but he has some holes in his game. For example, he never beats you going right. When Mater Dei, for example, beat them in the fifth place game at the City of Palms, Stanley Johnson did a really good job of defending him because he overplayed him to his left. He ended up with thirty anyhow, but most of those came in the second half after they were already down twenty. He's an extraterrestrial athlete and he has great work habits on the floor. He gives you great second effort. He's left-handed, which is an advantage. He can hit some threes off of the catch. He's got to work at getting the ball on the floor and being able to change direction. He's got to build up his right hand, but he's a terrific athlete. He's a guy that when he goes to college, I don't know if he's going to be ready to go to the NBA after one year because he does have these areas of his game that he needs to develop. He's a guy that you'd love to coach. He's a classic coaches' player because he plays so hard, especially for a guy like Coach Krzyzewski that sees in him the kind of effort that he was used to as a player and a coach for Army and in his earlier, lesser talented teams at Duke, where they just showed so much toughness and great effort. I think that was the attraction there."
Tony Parker: "Tony Parker is a good player. He's a really good kid. He has good hands. He has good skills. The key thing for him is conditioning. He's lost some weight and he's got to lose some more weight. He's actually in better shape now than he was over the summer, but he's got to lose even more weight and improve his conditioning. I don't think he'll ever be a star, but I think he'll be a very good, solid player and kid who's a good student and I think he probably sees himself as staying around a while and not leaving. He's a four or a five, depending on where he ends up. He can step out and hit a mid-range shot, but he's never going to be a perimeter scorer. God didn't give him that body to shoot jump-shots and play on the perimeter. That body has got to be used inside. What he's got to do is sculpt that body, change his body somewhat, and ultimately use it as a weapon."
Jabari Parker: "Now, he's a guy, who, since the end of his sophomore season, really did change his body type. He shed a lot of that baby fat. He's gotten quicker. He got a lot more lift off of the ground and he's also improved his perimeter skills. He's become a pretty good three-point shooter. The one thing that I haven't seen with him… and I'm looking forward to seeing more of him this summer.. is that I'm not sure if he has the disposition to dominate a game, although, maybe… when he was younger, he was looking to simply defer to his upperclassmen. He's got to become a little bit more assertive. In big games, he's got to learn to take over games, which I think is a learning process for him. That said, if you want to talk about guy that has athleticism, a good feel for the game, plays the game the right way, and has a really good skill set for his size, he certainly is one of the best players in the country, regardless of class. When I saw him at the Peach Jam, for example, he showed certain things, but I think a lot of it has to do with his personality. He wants to defer to the older players somewhat. He doesn't want to try to take over completely. He hasn't become a prolific scorer in the Chicago Public League just yet, but there are a lot of weapons on his Simeon team so I don't think you're going to see him average twenty-five or thirty points. He does, however, need to come up big for them in their biggest games. With his size, athleticism, and skill set, he's got to be even more of a factor for them. Right now, I don't know that he quite realizes how good he is and can be. Everybody says that he's a very humble, grounded kid, but he may not realize just how good he is."
Julius Randle: "I'll tell you what... he was spectacular down at the City of Palms. Against Riverside (Riverside Academy of Louisiana), I thought he was bothered by the size and I thought he tried to initiate too much of his offense, after he was bothered by the size of Riverside in the first half. In the second half, I think he played too much on the perimeter to try to counter them. Now, here is a guy that has a Wayman Tisdale body, he's left-handed, and he can shoot the ball. He's actually strong with his dribble. He can take the dribble through traffic. He has a tremendously high ceiling. He could be a great, great player. I really like him."
BeeJay Anya: "BeeJay Anya, as Coach Jones mentioned, is in so much better shape. He said that when he got cut from the USA basketball team that it really was a wakeup call to him. He took it to heart and became dedicated to improving himself physically. He trimmed down, lost weight, improved his conditioning, and just got in better overall shape. Right now, he's so much more active. He runs the floor more consistently. He can stay in the game for longer stretches. He has more range rebounding-wise. Before, his rebounding range was his arm length, which is considerable (astonishing 7'9" wingspan), but now he can really go out of his area and grab some rebounds for his team. His offense has gotten better too, but I think he's just so strong. As you know, he's retained his strength and he knows how to use his body and you saw the difference. He's a man-child. He improves and he keeps on working. The thing that you notice about the DeMatha kids, you know, Morgan Wooten isn't the coach there, but one of his disciples is and they've retained the same work ethic. Also, it's the same character that you're finding with their kids. They have good kids. They have talented players, but, if they're not good kids, they're going to get them out of there.
Theo Pinson: "Long, 6'5" to 6'6," he played with CP3. He's very thin, but a skilled player. He's a young guy, who was 6'5" to 6'6," who can handle the ball and shoot the ball with range. He looks like a fine prospect, but I want to see more of him.
Jahlil Okafor: "He's a big, strong post player inside. Because Thomas Hamilton tore his meniscus, there was more responsibility put on him. He's a terrific kid, very friendly, very smart. That's a good school. That's probably the best public high school in the Chicago system academically. He's a big, strong kid inside who doesn't try to be something he's not. He doesn't try to be a perimeter wannabe. He recognizes and utilizes his strengths. That's a valuable thing. He's not a 6'10" kid who wants to go outside, loft up threes, and show that he can dribble the ball or change direction with the ball. He knows what he is. He's a power player inside. Ben Franklin said that there are three things hard in life: steel, a diamond, and to know one's self. I guess he's read Ben Franklin."
Wayne Selden: "First of all, when you look at him, he has a man's body. He's a sophomore, but he should be a junior. So, he's a reclassified kid. When he goes to college, there's not going to be any physical adjustment that he's going to have to make when he gets there, which is an advantage. Even when you look at the guys who go from college basketball to the pros, the guys who give you the most instant impact are those that have already prepared their bodies for the next level. The two kids who went straight from high school to the pros who had the most instant impact and who wound up earning Rookie of the Year in their respective years, 2003 and 2004, were Stoudamire and LeBron James. They entered the league with NBA bodies. Well, he's got a college body, right now. He's a strong, tough physical kid, who's also very nice kid. His skill level has really improved. When I first saw him, which was the summer before his freshman year, he was more like a 6'4" power forward, but he has been able to develop his game and learned how to handle the ball, while keeping that physical mentality. They let him bring the ball up the court and sometimes play a little point guard, but he doesn't see the court like a point guard and he's certainly not a point guard. He can, however, handle the ball, get to the basket, and shoot threes. In terms of his shot selection, he can sometimes put up poor shots, but, overall, that's improved as well. He's a guy who has great physical ability and he's a guy who has elevated his skill level. The next thing is for him to further understand the game, but he'll probably end up as a big two guard or a big combination guard. Once again, he's a very nice kid. He's also a terrific prospect."
Stanley Johnson: " He's a good basketball player, but a terrific teammate. He plays in a program where there's a lot of players and there's a system. I don't know if he'll ever be a star, but he knows how to play the game and he plays both ends of the floor. He's their designated defender and he can defend multiple positions. He's the guy who defend Shabazz Muhammad very well in the City of Palms and he defended Isaiah Austin, I believe, for several stretches in their prior game against Grace Prep. He's a strong, physical kid, who's about 6'6," who's not a great athlete, but he knows how to use his strength and his shot discipline is very impressive. He takes shots that he knows he can hit. He'll take an occasional three. He's not going to create off of the dribble or anything like that, but he's also not going to try to. He generally lets the game come to him. He's a very good team player and system player. They play a lot of people. They're like the Noah's Ark of basketball programs. They've got two of everything, (laughs) but he stays on the floor most of the time because he offers them a lot on both ends. He can handle the ball, defend the opposition's best player, and just really seems like a good teammate and a terrific kid."
Noah Vonleh: "He's a big, 6'8" kid with good skill. He can guard pretty well and he's also a versatile defender. He gets down in his stance pretty well. I think he wants to be a perimeter player. I think he needs to use his strength and size a little more than he tens to do right now. He seems very coachable. He's very athletic and has a good body. He has good skill for his size. Right now, he's not a small forward and I think he's got to realize that. His game has probably got to start a little more inside. He's got to get a little more developed. He's a guy that eventually with his size and, if he can develop his skill set, might become a three, but he's got to develop his game. He's another kid who should be a junior, but he'd, at least, be a young junior. He'll graduate at eighteen, whereas, before he would've graduated at seventeen. He's certainly one of the best players in that class."
Overall thoughts on the 2013 class: "Well, before, there were those three big three and there were the Harrison twins who are very close behind. Those twins will be very good. You like Andrew (Harrison) more, which is appropriate and fits in with today's Gospel (laughs). I think those three have more upside than anyone that was in this class. The seniors in this class…I'm just, well, I think that Shabazz and Kyle Anderson were probably the two best seniors in this class. They're very good players. Kyle, from the neck on up, is the best high school player in his class, but, from the neck on down, he just is not. Those three, however, can be really stars at the college level and they can be stars at the pro level. They have so much physical ability and they have skill."
On whether Jabari Parker and Julius Randle could play together: "Jabari can play with him. Randle is a four/five, with, for example, more perimeter skill than Nerlens. They could be interchangeable. The thing that I don't know is that, with the transcendent talents that they are, I don't know if any of them would want to share the spotlight, with the way kids think right now. That said, if two of them went to the same college and stayed for more than one year, that's a national championship team. If they stay together for one year, that still may be a national championship caliber team. Who knows?"
Best long-term potential of Parker, Randle, and Noel: "I couldn't say. I've seen Julius and Nerlens play four times this high school season and I just haven't seen Jabari play as often, but let's just say that they all have Brobdingnagian potential. The sky is the limit for each of them. They can be as good as they want to be. They can each be truly impact players not only at the next level, but on the level beyond that."[/private]
Well, it's that time of year again when AAU ball cranks up and for BDN that means we'll be hitting several big events. Austin Rivers decision to sign with an agent and enter the NBA Draft wasn't that big of a surprise to us and we all wish him luck. Rivers decision is the first thing that will set the future into motion as the staff will be hot on the recruiting trail. While many Duke fans hate to see Rivers lead, he can help the program at the next level and they will show that shot against UNC several times early on in his pro career. He joins Kyrie Irving as players kids will really identify with.
I expect Mason Plumlee will (you must be a BDN Premium member to read the 2000 plus word update, so join today!) [private] enter his name into the draft to get feedback as to his draft status which must be done by April 3rd. Plumlee from all accounts is torn about his decision but the departure of Austin Rivers could help. Had Rivers returned the offense would have been run through him and the Blue Devils would have been his team. His high school coach David Gaines said that he was weighing his options and that one thing he would want is more touches or to be used in a more prominent role, It seems part of Plumlee wants to return and finish what he started and play with his brother Marshall for a year. Marshall could surely use his tutoring and Duke could surely use his presence in the paint. But an equal part of Mason wants to go pro and it may come down to where he is projected in a deep draft. It's probably even odds right now but that could change. If I were to guess, I think Mase will probably want to go through his senior season and be a more focal point for the team but I am not majorly confident with the info I have received to date and it is worth noting that I have not talked this over with some of my usual sources.
Should Plumlee head to the league with Rivers, Duke will be in major need of a big or two. There are two options, one being Tony Parker and the other Alex Oriakhi, the Connecticut transfer. Should Plumlee go, it would be a match made in heaven with Oriakhi. As for Tony Parker, he announced that he would be making a decision on April 11th and I can tell you now that Duke is a definite player. Coach K locked in on his parents early on and there is a very solid relationship and trust between them. While Parker has seemingly bought into all of the anti Duke recruiting rhetoric and squirmed away at the mention of Duke, he may finally be seeing the light and the opportunity he has stepping right into playing time at Duke. Parker showed signs of getting a bit out of shape at the McDonald's All American drills but who knows the circumstances or that he didn't have something going on? Anyhow, he has trimmed his list to Duke, Kansas and UCLA. IMO, Los Angeles is too far from home unless all his pals go there and that means it is likely down to two, Kansas and Duke. I think the Blue Devils have proximity in their favor as well and may pull this one out. Their odds are much better than they were a month ago at this time and Parker knows he would plug right in. Parker's decision may also effect the aforementioned Oriakhi.
Shabazz Muhammad won the dunk contest and he will choose a school on April 11th as well on an ESPN special. His decision likely has bearing on Trey Zeigler, a recent visitor and I expect nothing will happen with him until Bazz pulls the trigger due to available slots. Duke can now show Muhammad that he can be there next one and done freshman and that may be enough to pull him in. Zeigler offers maturity and the ability to guard certain types of players on defense. It will be interesting to see how all plays out, but I feel one will be on the roster at this time. And there is still the shadow of an NCAA investigation over Bazz and this could effect him going to what many felt the leader has been for months, Kentucky.
The Duke coaches will assault the AAU circuit full throttle before July for that is when Coach K will be heading up Team USA and he'll take assistants Collins and Wojo with him. That means April is an important month and the staff will take in both Nike EYBL sessions and other events I will share at a later date. Jeff Capel, Nate James and Chris Spatola will fill in while the staff builds the team they hope wins gold.
Several Duke Assistants have been considered for other jobs but the info coming in is somewhat shaky so I will not share the rumors. The Illinois job supposed linked three Duke types, Johnny Dawkins who led Stanford to the NIT title game, Steve Wojciechowski and of course Chris Collins. It looks like the job has been filled and Collins was like the next one or two choices had the job remained open. Nothing official while I am typing this though ... It is looking more and more like a mid major stepping stone job may be the ticket for some. Back to Dawkins, he would probably like to go somewhere it is easier to recruit but his Stanford team will compete for the PAC 10 the next two season should he stay put and I expect him to do so.
The coaches will be meeting with players to tell them what to work on for the coming season and what role they envision them taking on. And you have heard a lot of transfer rumors by now and I fully expect some movement. It's hard for me to share too much on that front in that it is a sensitive and private issue for the program, but the most rumored kid to leave Michael Gbinije seems prepared to returned and told his AAU coach he knew Coach K knew what he was doing. It has also come out that Seth Curry can or will graduate and that he entertained going overseas but no firm decision has been made. It was odd that Austin Rivers seemed to slip and say he was gone in the locker room after the tournament loss, but there was a lot of emotion going on.
I can tell you that there will be a shake up and Duke will try to get back to playing better defense and I expect all players will be challenged and have to earn their time next season. The coaches, like us. have to let all shake out and each player or prospect move will effect one another with concern to the players/prospects in play.
The Carolina Classic has concluded and we'll add some late scouting reports and get the thoughts of others before weeks end. I would say Theo Pinson is the only prospect firmly on the radar and while there are other good players, none of them are past the evaluation mode. For those new to BDN Premium, the evaluation mode consists of players they are putting feelers out on. Many kids, like prospect Tyrone Outlaw will get a look and he will visit in an unofficial manner, but it is common for local star prospects to drop by campus. Jeff Capel is the lead guy for Outlaw but I'm not sure he would make the final cut. However he does add toughness to the team he will play for and he can guard bigger players. Outlaw will have to improve his perimeter game to become a real candidate. Duke has showed some interest in Jaquel Richmond as well but something tells me they may not pursue him as hard as some other names.
Another name which has popped up is Christian Harrison of Greensboro Day. Harrison grew up a Duke fan and of course says he would accept an offer on the spot. He's a nice late bloomer in the rankings but has very thin shoulder width which needs a lot of added muscle. He can finish very well and is a smooth player but hangs outside a bit too much for my tastes. His second game was his worst and his defense was awful at times in that game. He wasn't playing help D or using his length a lot. His third game would have one drooling and he played much better after motivational speeches. I would have to get more views on him to get a real feel. We will have an interview up soon with him.
The Nike Jordan-Brand Classic is on my agenda where I will see Rasheed Sulaimon play and hopefully one or two more future Blue Devils. The even on April 14th will allow us to know where Tony Parker and Shabazz Muhammad are going. There are a slew of UNC and N.C. State guys playing in the event, a game of local North Carolina ballers and an International game. continues to work Duke prospects as does his future teammate Matt Jones.
The Nike EYBL season starts in April as well and it gets underway with session I in Minnesota on April 20-22 and then session II in Hampton, Virginia the following weekend. The event is loaded with Duke prospects and among them are Chicago studs, Jabari Parker, the top rated player in the class of 2013 and Jahill Okafor, the paint eater and key Blue Devil target as well. Both will suit up for the Mac Irwin Fire again and Parker has been the Blue Devils top target for a long time and as I have said for a year or so now, I feel Duke is in great shape with him. Then there is the Texas Titan duo of MattJones a shooting guard who has already pledged to Duke and his teammate, the bullish post man, Julius Randle. If Duke misses on bigs this year, their need for Randle will be dire. Duke is in good shape and will surely make his final cut and he is right there with Jabari Parker as the most important prospects they will work before Olympic duties. But rest easy for Duke Assistant Jeff Capel is the lead recruiter for him and that bodes well. Then there are the two PG prospects, Anthony Barber 2013 and Tyus Jones 2014. Long time members know I rave when speaking of Jones and I will finally get more views of Barber. Both are legitimate standouts but Jones to me is special and a winner. But Jones has the nation after him and he will be a tough get. Duke will also have their eyes open for other players and by the end of April we should have some new names popping up. Other names to watch are big man Bee Jay Anya and Theo Pinson to name a few.
By all accounts, Ryan Kelly is healing nicely and he should have plenty of time to have his game together before the season starts. Duke players had a lot of nagging injuries by seasons end but the Blue Devils do not broadcast them until later and maybe no even then. Coach Krzyzewski has never been one to share too much in the past. But it was certainly evident that the loss of Kelly effected the team concept and in hindsight, Kelly added a lot of value to the team.
The take on Amile Jefferson in interesting. Talk to the NCSU types and they are majorly confident he comes. Their spin is he is waiting to see what C.J Leslie does, well, I will tell you that he is going pro. Jefferson has a great relationship with the Wolfpack staff but I feel his heart is with Duke. I though his decision may be tied in with the McDonald's game but it seems he will watch what happens with team rosters as well as others now. Jefferson is a nice young man who is likely having trouble telling certain teams no. Villanova continues to make the hometown push and they are still hovering about but it is down to the ACC schools and I still feel Duke is in the best shape to get his services. But it's recruiting, so who knows 100% sure what might happen.
So, we are all waiting to watch the McDonald's All American game this evening and to see how things shake out for Duke Basketball. You have heard me say the following on numerous occasions but it applies more than ever to current situations. Let it play out. Freaking out and over speculation is a waste of ones energy. Watch what prospects do and not what they say. Actions speak louder than words.
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We just posted our latest team and recruiting update on the Blue Devil Nation Premium message board which is a members only forum. For accurate and timely updates, BDN will always be a go to site. There is movement on the recruiting front and we break that down for you and let you know what to expect. We'll also tell you which players we've been positive on for almost a year while others are just jumping on the bandwagon. Our staff has background on Amile Jefferson with information you will only find here and we were on prospects like Tyus Jones before many realized the Blue Devils interest on him. Whether you're a former member or one on the fence, don't wonder what you are missing, join today. We have had a monthly option for a while now, but the yearly deal is by far the best value.
(We have now made this a public video) I had the pleasure of talking with ESPN's Jason Jordan about Duke Basketball Recruting during the recent Holiday Invitational in Raleigh. I got Jordan's thoughts on Julius Randle, the latest on Tony Parker, Theo Pinson, Jaquell Richmond and Tyus Jones and more in this exclusive BDN Video for our premium members.
Most people are adjusting back to a normal routine after the holidays, but I found myself quite busy covering two Duke Basketball games and three days worth of high school prospects. In fact, I'll finally make it back to the gym today, but only after another edition of Monday Musings.
17 assists, 0 turnovers
During last evening's post game press conference with Duke Coach Mike Krzyzweski, he quipped, "Quinn Cook has 17 assists and no turnovers in his last two games." I tweeted that and within a few minutes noticed there were a bevy of retweets. For those counting, Cook has played 62 minutes without a turnover. The freshman point guard wasn't quite the same after his injury last season, but after surgery and rest, he's just now getting back to form. I'm seeing flashes of what he did before the injury when I covered him on the AAU circuit and that means you will see it as well as the season progresses. But the true test for Cook will be how does he handle hostile environments like he will in the next two road games with Temple and the ACC opener with Georgia Tech. Cook is the only true PG on the Blue Devils roster and if he can continue to adjust to the college game and improve his defense, he'll get plenty of burn. One must remember a PG eight miles down the road named Kendall Marshall burst onto the scene last year, but in his case, he had to. Duke has a steady, calm leader in Tyler Thornton, a swing guard, who was making three point shots look like a three inch putt in his last two outings, but that is an area he needs to be consistent in to keep opposing defenses honest. My thinking is that there will remain a combination of the two in some manner all season long
Austin Rivers is the ACC Rookie of the Year
Rivers had trouble finishing off his moves in his last outing, but the freshman is destined to break out before seasons end. With Duke seeking chemistry going into ACC play, he's finding his spot and once again adjusting. The keyword though is adjusting for he has had a huge transformation with his game since he was in high school. His willingness to do so has proven that he is all about team first. Rivers, provided he stays healthy is a lock for ACC Rookie of the Year and he leads the 12-1 Blue Devils in scoring as a freshman for a reason, that being he's pretty darn good.
There was one possession Mason past up an easy shot to dish to his brother Miles who was maybe a foot closer to the rim. The play didn't set well with the bench but it showed that Mason is looking to get Miles going in his senior year and how close these guys and family really are. Next time, take the shot but don't worry with that play too much for Mason has been a rebounding machine and a very consistent option for Duke. He's definitely struggling from the free throw line for sure, but he also leads the team in FG%. And FWIW, his four blocks last evening tied his career high at Duke. Meanwhile, Miles had solid back to back games and it seems as if the senior is finding more consistency in his last season as a Blue Devil. And, for one, think that he will continue to improve.
Ryan Kelly getting aggressive
If you watch the videos we provided from last evenings game, you'll hear junior forward, Ryan Kelly, state that he sought to play more aggressively. Kelly recorded hi first double-double at Duke with 18 points and 12 rebounds and his 26 minutes played in the 85-55 blowout of Penn was tops on the team. Kelly had struggled a little bit of late but it always seems like you can count on him to come back. Duke will need Kelly to be a presence in upcoming road tests and the ACC season.
Covering Rasheed Sulaimon
I am as impressed as ever with Rasheed Sulaimon. The future Blue Devil will join Alex Murphy and Marshall Plumlee who are both red shirting provided there are no injuries in next seasons class. Sulaimon was flat out sick as a dog during the Holiday Invitational but he reached deep and helped his team, Strake Jesuit, win their last two games to go back to Texas 2-1. Sulaimon visited Duke with his father and brother for the win over Western Michigan and he continues to recruit for the Blue Devils hoping to add players to his class.
Julius Randle visits
While the students were gone, Randle still got the "Julius Randle come to Duke," chant which he smiled about. Randle is a flat out stud in the post and a player the Blue Devils staff covets. Randle visited UNC yesterday and then caught the entire Duke game. It'll be a good while before Randle, a junior in high school this season, decides, but there is already panic at every turn. If you do not believe me take a look at the message boards.
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