Tag Archives: Matt Jones

Dallas’ Real J.R. : An Interview With Julius Randle

6’9″ Julius Randle at the LeBron James Skills Academy, Photo Provided by Position Sports

Despite being the youngest member of the United States U-18 team, 6’9″ Julius Randle led the squad, which included one college sophomore and nine incoming college freshmen, in scoring, rebounding, and blocked shots.

Duke Recruit Julius Randle, Photo by Andrew Slater

When speaking of Randle, USA Men’s U-18 National Team finalist and fellow Duke recruit Austin Nichols said, “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.” In the FIBA Americas Championship game against Brazil, the tournament’s home country, Randle rose to the occasion, as the McKinney, Texas native scored eighteen points and grabbed twelve rebounds to help Team USA secure the gold medal.

This was not the first championship for Randle, an avid Lakers fan, this year. In March, he led Prestonwood Christian Academy in Plano, TX, to its second state high school title in his three years. The left-handed Randle scored twenty-six points in the team’s championship victory over John Paul II HS, also of Plano.

Julius Randle of the Texas Titans, Photo by Andrew Slater

Prestonwood played a very challenging schedule, competing in the Beach Ball Classic in South Carolina, the HoopHall Classic in Massachusetts, and the City of Palms in Florida, where the then-junior Randle captured the MVP award, after outplaying seniors Ricardo Gathers, Shabazz Muhammad, and Isaiah Austin in consecutive games.  For the season, Randle, a MaxPreps Junior All-American, averaged 21.1 points, 9.2 rebounds, and 2.7 assists for the Lions.

On the AAU circuit, the ultra-competitive Randle forms a lethal one-two punch with 6’5″ Matt Jones, a sharpshooter who has committed to Duke University, for the Texas Titans. One Titans parent described them as their version of Batman and Robin. They play with the trust, comfort, mutual respect, and seamlessness that is formed by playing together over the years on the hardwood and asphalt. The duo has helped lead the Titans to a 15-5 record during Nike’s EYBL games, where Randle’s mother, Carolyn, a former basketball player at University of Texas-Arlington, has been a constant and steadying presence.

Julius Randle, who veteran scout Tom Konchalski described as having “a Wayman Tisdale body,” has been as dominant as any player over the duration of the Nike EYBL season. Despite being frequently double-teamed, he’s leading or among the leaders in multiple statistical categories, including total points, rebounds, free throw attempts, and defensive rebounds, and in total has averaged ten rebounds and nearly eighteen points per game during EYBL play.

Point-Forward Julius Randle, Photo by Andrew Slater

In the marquee matchup of the AAU season, Randle and Jabari Parker, the consensus top two players in the class of 2013, went head-to-head in Oakland, California as part of the Nike EYBL. On a court with as many as four future professionals, Randle dominated the game, scoring 23 points and snatching 13 rebounds, while Jones helped hold Parker to fourteen points and six rebounds in the Titans’ 63-59 victory.  Many were hoping for a rematch at the upcoming Peach Jam, but Parker suffered a foot injury while competing with the USA U-17 team in Kaunas, Lithuania, and will reportedly be sidelined for Nike’s marquee AAU event.

After Randle visited the Duke campus in Durham, NC last January, the Blue Devil coaching staff was a fixture at Randle’s AAU  games in April. Duke coach Jeff Capel has now developed a lengthy and strong relationship with the Texas star and his mother.  The recent commitment of 6’8″ wing Rodney Hood may mean that the 6’9″ Randle becomes Duke’s primary recruiting target in the class of 2013.

Prestonwood Christian’s Julius Randle, Photo by Andrew Slater

Over the past year, Randle’s work with trainers Jeff Webster and Tyler Relph, both former college basketball players, has helped him improve his ball-handling as well as his conditioning and speed by trimming his body fat through intensive cardiovascular work.

Recently, Julius Randle spoke with me about a variety of topics, including what he’ll be looking for in a college program, the matchup with Jabari Parker, and playing alongside Matt Jones.

 

Let’s start with USA Basketball. 

It was a great experience. I mean, it was a way different experience than anything I ever had. It was really amazing for me and I really enjoyed it.

I didn’t talk to you right after the matchup with Jabari, but it seemed like both of you guys were pretty emotional both before and after the game.

Yeah, yeah, it was highly anticipated all weekend. I just had to go out there and do what I had to do.

What was the mindset going in and what were you feeling after you got the win and you played great?

My mindset was pretty much the same as any other game, which is to go out there and destroy. To just go out there and be who I am. I put a lot of hard work in and it helps me to build my confidence and so I expect to see results.

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I had wanted to ask you this awhile ago, but I’ll ask it now. Was winning the second state title different for you than winning it as a freshman? Do you feel more ownership or leadership on this one?

I mean, it’s always a special thing, but you win one and you just feel like you want to get another one.  It’s always a special experience for me. 

 

You had games during the regular season when you were putting up 50 points, 46 points.

(laughs) It just felt like the basket was an ocean that day.

How has playing a challenging high school schedule in events like the City of Palms, the Hoop Hall Classic, Beach Ball Classic, etc. help prepare you for AAU ball and camps like this?

I mean, it just always has me well-tested. Every game I go out there just keeps me on my toes. It forces me to always play my A-game. It mentally keeps me sharp. It develops me as a player by putting me against good players every game. 

It also helps you deal with all of the traveling and everything.

Yeah, it does.

And what’s it like playing as a one-two combo with Matt Jones? You guys have that sort of coveted inside-outside game that programs really like.

I’ve been playing with Matt for years, so he’s a great player. He’s always been a hard worker and it shows up in the games.  I know whenever I’m in a game with him, I can always depend on him.

Can you give the audience a quick scouting report on Matt Jones?

He’s one of the best shooters in the country. He can score now in a variety of ways. He’s been working hard on his defense and can guard almost anybody. He’s got great size for a guard too. He’s definitely one of my best friends.

In terms of visits, I thought that I heard you were going to visit Kentucky and N.C. State officially. Have you visited anything recently? I mean, I don’t know how you’d have time. And do you have any others planned?

No, no, I didn’t have time to visit any schools recently, but I got to sit down and see what visits I want to take.  

If you had to choose between the two, would you choose a hard coach or more of a buddy coach?

I guess I’m just looking for a coach that I can really trust. A hard coach is fine with me because I know he’s going to push me, because I know in the back of his mind he has my best interest. That’s basically what I’m looking for. 

I know some guys seem to be looking for a friend.

Yeah, no, that’s not me. I’m just looking for a coach that’s going to push me to be the best player that I can physically be. That’s all I can ask for.

You were talking before about going out and destroying people. The one thing that I noticed about your game is that you have this sort of internal fire that if somebody knocks you, if somebody challenges you, that you sort of have this really competitive thing inside of you that you don’t necessarily see with a lot of big guys. Is that an accurate statement do you think?

Yeah, I just go out there and play with a chip on my shoulder. Anything, the littlest thing, can piss me off. 

(laugh) 

Yeah, anything can light a fire under me. I mean, any extra motivation is fine, but I’m self-motivated. 

That’s what I was getting at. What about a leadership role for you? Do you view yourself as a leader at this point?

Yeah, I mean, I try to be vocal a little bit, but I also go out there and show my teammates the level of effort that they need to bring. 

Did you have that on the USA team as well?

Oh, yeah. 

I didn’t know what the dynamics were.

Marcus Smart was probably our leader on that team. He’s the big-time leader. We kind of just wanted to take the identity of the team, just hard workers. We just try and prepare for the games and stuff like that. 

At this point in your career, what do you view yourself as? More of a face-up player or a back-to-the-basket guy?

I definitely feel that I’m more of a face-up guy at this point. I definitely feel more comfortable facing up. It’s something I’ve worked on to get me to this point. I like to play on the perimeter against great defenders and then take the smaller defenders on the post.  

I would say the one thing that has noticeably improved in your game over the last year is your handle. You’ve gone from doing maybe 2-3 dribbles and pull up to now bringing the ball up the court and looking like you’re more comfortable putting it on the floor in half-court sets. I used to think it was a bit of a vanity thing, but you turned it into an asset. I know you liked Lebron James. Was that the sort of model you were going for as a 6’8,” 6’9” guy? Was that the kind of mold that you were going for?

Yes, just a point-forward or whatever. 

Yeah, that’s what I mean.

Yeah, I feel like I can now do a lot of other things on the court. It’s just given me mobility.

In the past, you mentioned that one of your long-term goals was to win an NCAA Championship in your home area of Dallas. 

Yeah, it’s a goal of mine. That’s just something I want to do. 

Actually, speaking of Texas, do you have a rivalry with the Harrison twins at all?

No, not really. I mean, I haven’t played them in a while. They’re great players, so when we play, it’s always a battle. 

For the others who don’t know, describe your relationship with Coach (Jeff) Webster.

I’ve known him since the fifth grade. He’s always had my back. I know he’s always going to be there for me. 

In terms of your recruitment, what are the factors that will help you ultimately decide on a college?

Number one is a coach that I know I can trust, number two is education, and number three is of course going to develop me. Those are really the three things.

Do you know when you’re going to cut down on your list of schools?

I’m going to sit down and think about what schools I really want to get serious about and I’ll probably decide after the AAU season, after the summer probably. I haven’t really thought about the number of schools that I want to cut it down to.

(Another interviewer passing through) What’s your general interest level of Kentucky?

I mean, I guess it’s generally pretty high. They’ve been recruiting me since my freshman year.

What would you say you’ve worked on the most over the past year?

Just my in-between game. 

What are your expectations heading into the Peach Jam? 

I mean, I go in with the expectation that we’ll win it. 

Who would you say is the best defense against you?

I guess I’d say box-and-one.

When you see someone for the first time, like for example in this game, James Young, what are you trying to establish? What is your mindset heading into it?

My mindset is pretty much the same, even if it is for the first time.  It’s just attack, attack, attack.

In terms of that issue, do you think you have to intimidate your opponent with aggression?

No, no, it’s just my mindset of attacking. 

Before you were mentioning about playing with a chip on your shoulder. Away from the court, has it ever been an issue in terms of you shutting it off? I mean, you seem to be a pretty happy kid.

No, it really hasn’t been a problem for me. I’ve been able to separate the two pretty well. 

When you talk with college basketball coaches, do you prefer to talk about purely basketball or other sort of life things?

It really doesn’t matter to me. Any conversation is fine.

Sure. I remember that you were a Lakers fan. What did you think of their acquisition of Steve Nash and what do you think their chances are next year?

I mean, I just hope they play good next year and they have a chance to win it. 

Do rankings matter to you at all?

No, not at all. I just want to be the best that I can be.

Is trust an issue for you? Before you were saying that you wanted to be able to trust the coaches.

No, I mean, I have my circle of people that I trust. 

I saw that you tweeted about being a dream chaser on NBA draft night and why you wanted to be drafted two years from that night.

It’s just something I set out to do. It’s a goal of mine. 

What do your mother and your sister think of all of this? I know that they’re very tight with you. You had told me that you loved them to death.

They just support me in all of the different things that I do. They make me have the confidence to move forward and work. It’s unconditional. 

Do you hate doing interviews? (laugh)

(laughs) Oh no, it’s fine. 

In terms of position, what do you think of yourself as? 

I like to think of myself as a point-forward.

You work with Tyler Relph…

Yeah, he pushes me. He’s been a great trainer for me.  

Physically, one thing that’s clearly noticeable about you this year versus last year is that you’ve gotten leaner. What’s been the key to that? Cardio? Nutrition? Changing your diet?

I would say diet and cardio. That’s what I would tell anybody to work on. It’s helped me a lot. 

What are you down to in terms of weight and body fat?

I’m down to 235 and I don’t really know my body fat. 

Speaking of recommendations, one of your teammates out here was a talented freshman named Diamond Stone. What would be your advice be for a freshman like him? I mean, you’re not that far removed.

I would say don’t get caught up into the hype. Just focus on yourself and getting better and how you can help your team. Don’t get caught up in all of the rest of the stuff that will come at you. 

Because you were once that highly touted freshman..not that you’re that old now.

Yeah, exactly. I feel like I was in those shoes just a little while ago. I know what they’re going through.

What is your relationship like with the Duke coaches?

I mean, I have a great relationship with them. I talk to them all of the time. They talk to my mom a lot. You know, it’s going to come down to a trust thing.

Would you say you trust them?

Yeah, I’d say I trust them. It’s just going to be about what system fits best for me.

Alright, that’s it. Thank you so much.

Alright, thanks a lot.

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This week in Duke Basketball

With the summer heat upon us, many are vacationing at favorite destinations or kicking back in their air-conditioned homes, trying to stay cool.  But if you are a Duke fan, it’s hard to relax for too long without turning on your computer or smart phone for the latest updates.  When you have a basketball program like Duke to follow, things are always hot, and this summer has been a constant sizzle.

Viva Las Vegas

Along with assistants Chris Collins and Steve Wojciechowski, Duke Head Coach Mike Krzzyewski is hard at work in the dry Vegas heat, and they’ve settled on who will represent Team USA in the fast approaching Summer Olympics in London, England.  In case you missed it, here is the roster that was announced over the weekend.  While there is an admitted shortage at the center spot, this team is athletic, long, and quick.  While there are a number of high-profile players unavailable due to injury or other reasons, Coach K has nevertheless assembled a team of men who badly want to represent the Red, White and Blue, and that is extremely important.  BDN’s Andrew Slater is on the scene in Las Vegas bringing you the latest; he will pay a visit to camp tomorrow and will provide his insights for members of BDN Premium, our extended subscription service.

USA U-17 dominates

The U-17 team representing our country rolled past all its competition in a display which truly reflected what teams can do when they play together.  Of all the American international teams in the past decade that I’ve personally seen, this team had perhaps the best chemistry.  No less than five players on the team have caught Duke’s recruiting interest, including PG sensation Tyus Jones.  The kid will not wow you with his athleticism or with his frame.  But this stat sheet stuffer always gets it done on the court while playing with a cool beyond his years.  Jabari Parker also returned from an injury to help Team USA cruise to an easy win, and Jahlil Okafor was named MVP of the event after the team walloped Australia 95-62 yesterday to win the gold medal.   For more on Team USA’s U-17 victory, go here.

Speaking of recruiting interest

BDN Basketball Recruiting Analyst Andrew Slater is battling the Vegas heat to cover the Lebron James Skills Academy, which is just loaded with prospects.  Julius Randle tops the list of interest for Blue Devil fans, but there are many more kids showing off their skill sets in front of the nation’s top NBA and college scouts, in an event that winds down today.  Among the players who have the Blue Devils’ interest are SF Semi Ojeleye, who told Slater his list would soon be trimmed to a more manageable number.  We are also taking another look at Marcus Lee, Andrew Wiggins, Austin Nichols, and the already committed Matt Jones.  Live reports from Vegas are on our Premium Message Board (for BDN Premium members) and more interviews are on the way.  As always, BDN pays close attention to the national recruiting scene as well, and we’ll be sharing all the latest we’ve gathered from our extended network of sources.

Rodney Hood

For Duke fans, the Lebron James Skills Academy has been a debut of sorts for recent Mississippi State transfer Rodney Hood.  The sleek 6’8″ newcomer has been impressive.  He gave Slater a wonderful in-depth interview, in which he shed light on many issues, including the one-and-done rumors that circulated after a former Mississippi State teammate’s comments suggested the possibility.  Want to learn all the latest on Hood?  Join BDN Premium and you will get just that, with this detailed and informative interview.  Here is the Welcome to the Hood piece from Slater.

Other Dukies shining in Vegas as well

Duke got a major shot in the arm when Mason Plumlee decided to return for his senior season, and the big man has been working all summer long on his game.  Plumlee seems more focussed, and we have the latest reports from firsthand views of him going up against the nation’s best in Las Vegas.  And then there is Ryan Kelly, who has been working just as hard as Mason; we will unveil a revealing interview with the rising senior captain later this week.

N.C. Pro-Am starts back on Tuesday

The Pro-Am will kick back into gear this week, and several Duke players are expected to play, though it will be hit-and-miss for a bit.  With three players in Vegas and others committed elsewhere, it may be the end of this week or even into next week before Duke is represented in a big way.  Still, it will be nice for local fans to get a shot at seeing off-season improvements, and BDN will be in the house to bring you all the updates.  We have a long relationship with the promoters of this fine event, and we encourage everyone to head over for some serious summertime fun in one of the nation’s top events of its kind.  Here is a link to the official site.

Alex Murphy to London

If you have read our past reports, you know that redshirt freshman Alex Murphy has  been having his way against the competition while playing for the Finnish National team.  Murphy has a good sense of humor and always jokes with BDN about our traditional lead-in, “This is …. with Blue Devil Nation.”  I can tell you firsthand that Murphy is both excited and confident about this coming season, and that gives us reason to feel good right along with him as the summer unfolds and we look forward to Fall.

Austin Nichols invited to Nike Hoops Summit

Okay, so a lot of players are invited here but we thought we would mention that Austin Nichols, a key Duke prospect, has confirmed that he will be in Washington. D.C. for the event.  We have a nice interview with Nichols on the way and, for the record, he earned high praise this weekend from our pal Dave Telep, who raved about his skills.

Andrew Wiggins a Kentucky lock?

Not according to our own Andrew Slater, who was told by the ridiculously talented Canadian that he did not understand where those rumors came from, and that he was still wide open.  Wiggins also mentioned that the Duke staff had been calling his coaches.  Of course, you can learn more by becoming a member of our site.

Less than 100 days

We are under the century mark in the countdown to the start of the college basketball season.  Just sayin’.

Kyle Singler dunk impresses

In case you missed the news, former Duke star Kyle Singler is coming back from Spain and will ball with the Detroit Pistions this season.  He had one heck of a dunk recently.

More to come

We took a few days off last week recharging the batteries.  With renewed energy, BDN will soon be reporting live from a number of basketball recruiting events, and football will start to come into focus as well, with ACC Operation Football kicking off in Greensboro later this month.

In closing, we ask for your continued prayers for injured Duke football player Blair Holliday, who remains in a coma at UNC Hospital after a tragic boating accident.  We will let you know of any changes in Blair’s status, and hope all continue to send their best wishes and positive thoughts to his family, while respecting their privacy.  Thanks.

 

Matt Jones and Julius Randle of the Texas Titans

Duke Basketball Team and Recruiting Update – Where does Duke go from here?

Matt Jones and Julius Randle of the Texas Titans

In our latest update, Blue Devil Nation Premium recaps what has happened recently on the recruiting trail and gives you an idea of what to expect next.

It wasn’t that long ago that many were writing the Blue Devils off after being shocked by Lehigh in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.  For several weeks after the upset, there was only criticism. But three months have now passed, and the dark skies have cleared considerably, as Duke has added several key pieces for the future in incoming freshman Amile Jefferson and transfer Rodney Hood.

Amile Jefferson has arrived on campus.  He will spend plenty of time in the weight room, for there is a big leap from high school ball to the high major college game, and Amile needs to get stronger in order to contribute in a big way.   Jefferson will have the luxury to play behind Mason Plumlee and Ryan Kelly in his first season while learning the ropes, but the coaches will give him every opportunity to play when he is ready.

The Duke Men’s Basketball staff continued its recent momentum on the recruiting trail, landing coveted Mississippi State transfer Rodney Hood this weekend. Hood is right around [private] 6’8″ and is long, lean and athletic. He is an outside/in player, meaning his game is geared towards the perimeter; he likes to get touches just beyond the free throw stripe, from which he is comfortable taking it to the hoop or popping the mid-range J. His ability to knock down those mid-range jump shots draws bigger players away from the hoop, keeps the opposing defense honest, and opens up things for his teammates. Hood is also a good defender and likes to get after it by using his length to his advantage. While he did not dominate the SEC as a freshman, Rodney was a very steady force on a veteran team.

Hood’s game has changed little since I saw him on the AAU trail, with the exception of some natural physical growth.  But his frame can still use some muscle, and that is what Duke Strength and Conditioning Coach Will Stephens will focus on as Rodney sits out his transfer season at Duke. One of the things that impressed Hood on his visit was the Duke facilities, which are NBA-quality, and frankly a far cry from what he was used to in Starkeville. Sources also say he liked the structure of the team and its organization, something that he found lacking at MSU.

For the record, we here at BDN never wavered from the position that Hood was a Duke lean, and by now you guys should know how to interpret my cryptic messages enough to have figured this one out.

Rodney will be on campus this coming Wednesday, July 4th, and he will participate in the N.C. Pro-Am.  We’ll head over to that event provided we can stand the ridiculous heat.

Freshman Rasheed Sulaimon is already on campus and getting accustomed to his surroundings. He is hanging with the guys, including Nolan Smith who is in town. Quinn Cook arrived today as well, and he is ready to hit the ground running after spending a lot of time with Nolan in Portland. Tyler Thornton and Josh Hairston will be back around the 4th of July as well, and all should play in the Pro-Am.  Seth Curry played in the opening night of the event and played well.  He and some teammates even picked up Sulaimon at RDU yesterday.

Ryan Kelly has fully recovered from his injury and Mason Plumlee is looking stronger than ever.  Both benefited from their time at the Amare Stoudemire Camp, and they have both been working on adding new shots to their offensive arsenals.

Alex Murphy is stuffing the stat sheet for Finland’s National Team this summer.  The staff has been very impressed with his play and progress since he’s arrived over a year ago.

Mike Krzyzewski and the staff circled the wagons after the Lehigh loss and decided they wanted more athleticism and toughness, and I believe they are on the road to reshaping future rosters in that way. But don’t get caught looking ahead, for they are more than a little excited about this season’s team, especially because Coach loves flying just under the radar on the national scene. The staff feels this year’s team will be able to defend the perimeter better and is excited about using the length of Murphy on the outside along with Sulaimon, Thornton, Curry and Cook.  One thing does seem odd though: Murphy and Marshall Plumlee have a year in the program under their belts, and seem like old-timers compared to Sulaimon and Jefferson.  Yet all four of them will be getting their first real minutes when the Blue Devils tip off the season.

The coaching staff is very happy with their recent recruiting successes, but there will be no rest at all. After spending some time with their respective families, Mike Krzyzewski, Chris Collins and Steve  Wojciechowski will head to Las Vegas on the 4th to work with the national team. So while they will only see the new kids on campus in passing, there are no worries, for Nate James and Jeff Capel will break them in before going back to hitting the recruiting trail hard themselves.

So where does Duke stand now with other recruits? Which direction will they go in? First of all, the staff can now afford to be a bit fluid in its approach, meaning the strategy can most certainly change depending on how some dominoes fall, but for now, let me share how I feel things are shaping up.  These are educated guesses.

The top targets are always the most talented and that means Jabari Parker and Julius Randle. However, the addition of Hood makes Randle, who is more of a banger, the top priority. Duke is all-in on Randle and they’ve made good inroads through Krzyzewski making regular calls, with Capel taking the lead assistant role. Duke will of course face the Tar Heels until the end on this one, and they too have gone all-in.  Some would even say that Randle may tip the balance of power in the rivalry. But keep in mind that UNC has other offers out and a bevy of bigs on their roster, while Duke can make him realize he is their man, and there are no others. When I say “no others” for Duke, I mean the Devils are not pushing hard with a lot of other big men at this time, but of course that could change. Randle has reshaped his body in the off-season, but what a lot of people do not know is that it was Mike Krzyzewski who made a suggestion for this to happen. If we’re not the leader for Randle, we’re certainly one of the leaders.

Meanwhile, Parker has been flirting a lot with Michigan State, but with a player of his stature, Duke will most certainly hang around.

Duke will also remain hot on Semi Ojeleye and quite frankly, I think he is the Blue Devils’ to lose, and they feel he is as enamored with them as they are with him. The bottom line is the kid is a perfect fit. This situation looks good, and it may only be a matter of time before he pulls the trigger — and it may even come soon.

Austin Nichols is a Duke-type big that would replace the loss of Ryan Kelly, so they are on him and could turn up the heat a bit more in the coming months. Nichols is being hit up hard by other schools too, but Duke remains in decent shape.  The Devils are also still interested in Nichols’s AAU teammate, shooting guard Robert Hubbs.

The picture is a little less clear past these two.  Al Freeman has faded a bit but remains a possibility. Duke could chase another big man, but are not doing so now.  We are completely out of the picture with scoring point guard Anthony “Cat” Barber,  who was never formally offered.

The Blue Devils still have interest in Ish Wainright and Marcus Lee as well.  I still think it may be hard to pry Lee away from the west coast, and the need for Wainright could diminish should Ojeleye pull the trigger for Duke.

Everything is still good with 2013 commit Matt Jones, although I can hear many of you getting worried about us being too loaded at that shooting guard spot.  Well, we are.  But it will play out — as it always does.  I’ll be discussing this later.

As for players beyond the class of 2013, we’ll cover that the next go-round.

To summarize, there is an overall positive feel around the program right now.  Recruiting is in a good place.  Duke and Coach K will remain in the limelight all summer, as Team USA goes for gold in London. We’ll cover several more recruiting events this summer and the Pro-Am, and we continue to work behind the scenes on site changes, including a facelift.

Thanks for being a member of Blue Devil Nation Premium.  Go Duke! [/private]

Texas Shooter: A Matt Jones Update

6'5" Matt Jones. Photo by Andrew Slater

Note – We’ve opened up our most recent chat with Duke bound Matt Jones to the public in order to give you an idea of the types of interviews you will gfind as a member of BDN Premium.  On the Monday after Thanksgiving, Matt Jones committed to Duke, but that didn’t make him any less hungry. Embracing the target on his back, the now 6’5″ DeSoto (TX) junior shooting guard led his DeSoto Eagles to a 33-6 record.

 

At times, his Eagles were nationally ranked and reached the Texas 5A regional finals, but fell to Naaman Forest 56-49 to conclude the junior’s high school season. For the season, Matt Jones, regarded as arguably the best long-distance shooter in the 2013 class, averaged nearly nineteen points, nine rebounds, and over three assists per game. After the season, MaxPreps named the sharpshooter to its Junior All-American Team, along with Duke recruits Julius Randle, Jabari Parker, and Al Freeman.

 

His older 5’9″ sister, Jordan Jones, who committed as a point guard to the Texas A&M Aggies, played in the McDonald’s All-American Game and won the Powerade skills competition. Ten months from now, Jones is likely to join her in the small fraternity of McDonald’s All-Americans.

 

Right now, the spiritual Matthew Jones is teaming up with his close friend and 6’9″ running mate, Julius Randle, to form a dangerous one-two punch for their Texas Titans AAU team. The team has gone 8-1 so far over the first two legs of Nike’s EYBL. Through the first nine game in the competitive EYBL, Jones is the eighth leading scorer (17.7 ppg) and fifth in three-pointers made, 26 (shooting 48.1% from beyond the three-point arc). He’s tried to become a more well-rounded and dangerous scorer, while adding an improved rebounding component by taking advantage of his prototypical shooting guard frame and willingness to battle big men for rebounds.

 

After an EYBL game, Jones spoke with BDN about what the coaches have asked him to work on, recruiting Julius Randle, his development as a defender, and playing with a target on his back, amongst other topics.

 

You guys were nationally ranked at times and made it to the regional finals. How did you feel overall about your high school season? 

Well, it was a tough loss. Being one of the favorites to win it all, I mean, it was definitely a disappointment at the end of the season, but I mean I really loved the guys on this team. Overall, it was a good season, though. I mean I’m proud of my guys and I wish we would’ve went further, but it was a really great season and a lot of other programs would’ve loved to have made it as far as we did.

 

How was the Hall of Fame Game? It’s an interesting idea to have a postseason tournament that includes a few top juniors and plays it in the Final Four city.

Yeah, it was pretty fun. I mean I loved it. Just the experience. It got me better as a person and as a player. It showed me some things that I can work on and improve on.

 

Your sister, Jordan, was a McDonald’s All-American. Most people don’t seem to ask you about her at all,  but I was just curious what were your emotions when you saw her at the event and when she won the skills competition? You must’ve been very proud.

 

Oh, yeah, I love my sister. I mean we’re very competitive and I do mean very competitive, but she definitely raised the bar in the family. I mean I don’t want to be in her shadows. So, I have to make it. I have to do what she did and go beyond. (laughs)

 

You guys must have an incredible gene pool.

Yeah, we did. We’ve been blessed.

 

The odds on that are staggering. The coaches have been watching you and checking in on you recently.

Yeah, we’re definitely talking. They’ve just told me to play hard, play defense, and just show what I can do besides shooting. Just show my whole game.

 

Well, I was going to ask you about that. What have they recommended that you concentrate on?

Dribbling. Just dribbling and focusing more on the defensive end. That’s gotta be my focus. Mostly, just hard work

 

For those that haven’t seen you play since last summer, what’s the one aspect of your game that you’ve developed most over the past few months?

Dribbling. I can dribble more now. I mean if they needed me to now I could play a little point. My decision-making is better. My IQ is better.

 

With exceptional shooters, there’s always or often an issue of pushing your boundaries and expanding your game, while not taking away from your core strength or letting it deteriorate. How do you try to balance the two?

Yeah, I mean I work on my shooting with my shooting coach, Coach Jerome. I get a lot of shots up with him and we just always shoot, but, at the same time, we also work on a little dribbling.

In DeSoto?

DeSoto, yeah, and some other places. I just try to get a lot of dribbling in. You know in between the shooting and sprinkle in some defense here and there. You know ball handling and IQ and stuff like that.

 

What about your body? Have you been working out too?

Yeah, I’ve been hitting the weights a little bit, you know. You can see in the upper body (laughs).

(laughs) Yeah, you look a little more defined. A little less baby fat

Yeah, I’m trying to get there.

 

Since you brought up your defense, how would you assess it right now? Where is your defense compared to where you want it to be?

I want to be the guy who can lock down the best player on the other team. That’s where I want to get to. I feel like I’m getting close, but I’m not there yet. That’s the goal. I try to use my size.

 

How tall are you now, Matt?

I’m 6’5″ now. So, I feel like I’ve been blessed with good height. I’ve grown a little bit, but I just want to be a lockdown defender. I like taking the other guy out and locking him down. I want people to view me that way. That’s the thing that I’ve tried to take my pride in. My defense.

 

More people need to take some pride on that side of the ball. This next one is sort of a touchy or awkward issue. People are always interested in recruiting and you’re obviously very close with Julius. Are you helping to recruit him to Duke with you or do you just stay away from that area or topic completely?

Yeah, I mean I’m always in his ear. I try not to be in his ear too much, but I mean at the same time we’re brothers and we’ve got a good relationship. So, we’re pretty comfortable talking about anything. I definitely whisper to him here and there. (laughs)

 

What are you hoping to accomplish this summer?

Simply, just getting better. I want to show the coaches at Duke that I’ll be ready to play as soon as I get on the courts at Duke. I want to prepare as much as I can now. I want to show them how hungry I am. I hope you can see that I’m hungry.

That’s important.

Yes, sir.

 

Just out of curiosity, Texas is obviously very strong in 2013, but do you have any sort of rivalry with either Keith Frazier, who is both from your area and plays your position, or even the Harrison twins?

Yeah, I mean people compare us, but I mean it is what it is. I don’t really have rivalries, but I mean, if you’re good, I just want to take the challenge. I want to take you down.

I noticed that you guys didn’t play against each other this season.

No, we didn’t, but I would’ve liked to. If you’re good, I want to take the challenge of guarding you. That’s my thing.

I’d like to see the two of you match-up. No ducking.

Yeah, me too (laughs).

 

Alright, we’ll settle it. This is your second year playing in the EYBL. Last year, you guys were a little young and then you had to step up and score more in Dallas when Julius went down with an injury. How do you think you’ve benefitted from that trial by fire last year?

Just facing all of that talent and you know so many of those or these guys are going to be college-level players. You know, game in and game out, Nike or EYBL has been great about having all of these really good teams. It’s just a really good experience. These are some of the same guys that you’ll be facing in college. So, it’s good.

 

Well, you also personally stepped up your game last year.

Yeah, yeah, well, I needed to for my team.

 

For the younger guys in the audience, what do you think is the secret to your three-point shooting success?

Repetition. Just repetition. You’ve got to get out there and shoot. Figure out what’s working and just keep repeating it.

Repetitions.

Yes, and being focused.

 

Other than dribbling and defense, what are some things that the Duke coaches have asked you to work on?

Just being a better teammate and being a better leader.

 

Does your football background help you at all?

No, not really. (laughs)

 

Your rebounding numbers were way up in high school this year? Was that something you concentrated more on? Some fans seemed happy to see a guard that could rebound.

Yeah, it was something that I thought I could do. There aren’t too many rebounding guards in the country if you look around. They don’t want to get in there with the big guys. That’s what I want to bring. If that’s another way that I can separate myself, then I’ll just stick my nose in there and be tough.

 

Did or do you feel like you’ve had a target on your back since you committed to Duke?

I feel like it. I feel like it. It just keeps you on your toes. It’s been a good motivator for me.

 

For fans that don’t know you, what do you like to do away from the court?

Bowling. I love to bowl.

A regular Lebowski. Really? That was something that Nolan Smith was into. I think he thought it helped him.

Yeah, me too. I don’t know what it is, but I love it.

 

You’re moving better this year without the ball. Was that something that you’ve tried to work on more this year?

Oh, yeah, I’m constantly trying to move around, throw my defender off, and just get open for my teammates.

 

Lastly, you were mentioning before working on your handle and strength? How far along are you, compared to where you eventually want to get to be?

Yeah, I work on those two things constantly with Coach Jerome. He’s right here. He’s the key to my success.

Yeah, I can see. Nice work, coach

(laughs)

I’ll see you guys later.

See you later. (in chorus)

Nike EYBL Session II Day 2 – The Duke angle

Coaches look on

Day Two of the Nile EYBL Session II is in the books and it was a long one where the coaches were in the gym all day and night. It’s hard to figure out where to start tonight in that my head is swimming from information overload. Let’s start with Tyler Ennis who is still [private] on the radar and while he is listed as a PG, he shows off more shooting guard skills to me despite being just 6-3. I spoke with him after his game. And then there is Andrew Wiggins who if NBA rules allowed would go straight to the league. Of course Duke has interest but this will not be an easy get, so I would call that interest somewhat luke warm in that they know it would be quite the battle.

I was impressed with Wayne Selden (2014) today and he’s going to be a good one, I secured a video chat with him. Duke has a lot of interest in him but it is too early for them to concentrate on that class which includes Theo Pinson. The interest is there for Pinson but they know he is a long ways from making his decision.

Boo Williams continued their slide and will likely not make it to the Peach Jam or the EYBL finals, dropping to 2-7 with a loss to Mokan. Al Freeman has not been impressive in the event which I said from day one and I have yet to see him use his potential in a good way. When his offense struggles he allows it to effect his whole game and while he had a good game tonight shooting the ball, his other stat totals were again, non existent. I don’t think Boo uses him right. Anthony Barber is good, but not good enough to earn an offer at this point. He is a PG that cannot really pass that well and the chemistry with Freeman ia average at best. And Try Williams continues to regress with many questioning his work ethic.

Julius Randle improved his stock and that is hard to do when you are ranked 2nd in your class. His handle is nice for a big man and he dominated when he did take it to the paint. He told BDN he had so many triple teams he decided to take his game to the perimeter and it seems to be working. Yes Matt Jones is better and he told BDN he is now 6-5 but the same weight. I have vid interviews with both.

I spoke with ex ACC official Larry Rose for a good long time and what a chat we had. He is head of MEAC officials now. I laughed at him being ragged in Cameron back in the day.

I watched a bit of Jahlil Okafor and his game is about the same as it was a year ago in that he needs to be more aggressive. A ton of folks really pick my brain about Duke now and I found myself giving disinformation to a couple of the more obnoxious types:)

Semilore Ojeleye. Semi is pronounced Shimi. I sat with Coach for part of his game and he like him a lot as do the assistants. I was tipped off they thought he could be offer material on Friday and had a brief chat with him on video. Great kid. His game? Nice. Great stroke from 3, solid, strong finisher on dunks. Listed at 6-7, but said he is 6-6. And guess who he pulled for when he grew up but don’t they all;(. Anyhow, love his game and want him in royal blue. Unique player with incredible background, smart, solid student — the whole package.

Ish Wainright is a defender supreme who can guard almost anyone and wants all challenges. Coach wants to see more offense from him. He was a beast tonight and hit a three point shot at the buzzer and Team Takeover finally won and that meant we got to talk to him, yay. Yes, that was sarcasm in that his coaches are a trip an then some.

Coach was upset about the injury to Derrick Rose and spoke of the challenges in filling the Team USA roster. Of course. Dwight Howard is out too but all the studs are expected to play. He’s been on the road non stop and came in late from Arkansas where he saw Austin Nichols score 35 points, grab 15 rebounds and swat 7 shots away in a single game. Yeah, he’s good.

Okay, that’s all I have got off the top of my head but I have yet to get to my notes. I will close it out tomorrow before taking that four hour ride back, so do not expect a whole lot on Sunday evening. However, the video interviews will balance well with Andrew and the many interviews he still has. [/private]

Matt Jones and Julius Randle of the Texas Titans will be visited by the Duke Coaching staff this weekend and BDN will be there to bring you up to the minute coverage for premium members.  BDN Photo

BDN Premium – Duke Basketball Team and Recruiting Update

Matt Jones and Julius Randle of the Texas Titans will be visited by the Duke Coaching staff this weekend and BDN will be there to bring you up to the minute coverage for premium members. BDN Photo

The Duke Blue Devils Men’s Basketball staff will be more than a little busy in the coming weeks as the open recruiting period gets into full swing. Two prospects in Amile Jefferson and Tony Parker have yet to make their decision but the focus will soon shift to the Class of 2013 and 2014. BDN Premium takes a look at the new names and some you are familiar with in our latest team and recruiting update. And as always, our AAU coverage will be as good as it gets where recruiting analyst Andrew Slater will be updating you as the action happens this weekend from the Nike EYBL in Minneapolis, Minnesota. It’s a great time to join BDN Premium where you are sure to be happy with what we feel is the best staff on the circuit.

Let’s start with the class of 2012 and Amile Jefferson. The hybrid forward is expected to [private] make his decision at the earliest late this week and the latest next week. Jefferson has likely cooled on N.C. State with the return of C.J. Leslie but many will tell you they are still in the lead. Okay, NCSU types will tell you that. Had he been such a sure thing to the Pack he would have popped by now. The real competition for his services are Kentucky and Villanova. Both are making hard late runs but the recent transfer of Michael Gbinije certainly shows that their is playing time in Durham and I feel this is the Blue Devils biggest attraction.

Tony Parker on the other hand switched his announcement date for like the fifteenth time and is now slated to make his pick known at his Miller Grove High School next Monday. The buzz around the Jordan Brand All Star game was that he was UCLA bound and they are attractive to him. But Parker is a bit of a momma’s boy and I think it will be hard for him to stray too far. He seemingly is still bucking going to Duke despite his parents being in their corner and that opens things up for Georgia. After all that has happened, a Georgia choice would be almost a great end to what has bordered on comedy. Truthfully though, I don’t think Tony knows where he is going as I type, so there is still a crack in the door.

The coaches have been active at open gyms where Coach K went to see Julius Randle yesterday. The Blue Devils have the full court press on the behemoth in the paint and he is exactly what the doctor would order especially if they lose Parker which most feel will happen. Randle of course, is teammates with Duke bound Matt Jones for the Texas Titans AAU team and assistant coach Jeff Capel stays in regular contact.

This weekend kicks off our infamous AAU coverage where our resident recruiting analyst Andrew Slater will be in Minnesota for the Nike EYBL Session I. He will see the aforementioned Julius Randle and Matt Jones while there and we hope to hear from Randle. We hesitate to put too much of where our guys will be out for our comp tries to hire a stringer and the way I see it, we’re not going to help them do their jobs or allow them to ride our coattails at events. The AAU events provide some of the most unprofessional media types you will run up on and the rumors, gossip and games played are tiresome. BDN only wants to concentrate on what we do while avoiding drama being dropped at our door step without provocation. We will continue to adhere to high standards and bring you accurate coverage.

The Nike circuit is loaded with prospect this season and Andrew will also take a look at Jabari Parker (2013) and Jahlil Okafor of Mac Irwin Fire. Parker is the top rated player in his class with Randle close behind. Jabari had long been a Duke target and Coach K has a great relationship with the Chicago native. Okafor is in the class of 2014, a bruising post player who has showed early interest in Duke and the Blue Devils got on him early. Watching the Fire will be a lot of fun this spring and summer.

Boo Williams is back on the radar, the system that produced Andre Dawkins. Allerik Freeman who made a name for himself as a Duke prospect of late and Anthony Barber are firmly on the radar. Barber is probably the prospect which best fits the Blue Devils needs while Freeman is a bit of a swing man without a set position at the college level at this time. Coach K will be taking a close look at these and other players on Saturday and possibly Sunday.

During last seasons Peach Jam, Blue Devil Nation took notice of Howard Pulley and PG Tyus Jones where we were the first Duke site to interview the fabulous 2014 prospect. He caught my eye the season before and I could see where he would gain interest thus the interview. Since that time, he is the nations PG of choice. While not a flashy player, he is a stat stuffer, a winner and far ahead of his years with concern to maturity,

Then there are a bunch of kids we like to say are being evaluated. This means Duke wants to take a good hard look at them and determine which will make the cut or deserve further evaluation. Team Takeover features Ismail Wainwright and Beejay Anya. It will be interesting to see how their organization reacts after Michael Gbinije transferred. Anya has been on the radar and teams will look to see how his body is shaping up as he gets older. Wainwright is under evaluation.

CIA Bounce out of Canada has been producing some big time talent and Duke will take a look at Tyler Ennis and Andrew Wiggins. You have seen several interviews here past with Wiggins and he will be a tough get with everybody on him.

MoKan Elite will feature Semu Ojeleye, another player Duke will consider and then there is CP3 and Theo Pinson, another player you have heard from in 2014. Pinson is not expected to get serious for another year yet.

Andre had the foresight to talk with Wayne Selden of BABC and he is now on the Blue Devils radar as well and will get a good long look from the staff. A new name on the radar is E1T1 prospect Joel Berry.

Austin Nichols was a player we hoped to see with Nike but will not be in EYBL this spring and summer. He is playing with M33M team out of Memphis that will be playing in a local event this weekend and then will be at Real Deal on the Hill in Arkansas next weekend. Coach K will stop into see him on Friday in Memphis.

The Blue Devils are all in on Rodney Hood, a player we made you aware of three seasons ago who grew up a Duke fan. The staff is working with the Hood family for an official visit and they have made sure hood knows of their interest through contact. Hood would add versatility and a bit of seasoning after a good freshman year at Mississippi State but he will have to sit out a year,

The bottom line is that Duke will drop and add player/prospects over the next two weeks so things are very liquid. I will be at Boo Williams in Hampton next week with the Nike kids and Real Deal is going on as well, another event the coaches will cover. This will be the first year coaches are allowed in Hampton and I am expecting a bit of a mess in an already crowded venue. It is clear that the priority is to go hard after Jabari Parker and Julius Randle while keeping Matt Jones in their view. With the Olympics coming up, the Blue Devils will have the max limit of assistants out at all times. Note to premium members – if you are not registered for the premium message board, please do so, then e-mail me at watzonebdp@gmail.com so we can have you approved after checking your paypal payment. [/private]