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.
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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The North Carolina Pro Am has become a most popular event each summer in Durham and the main reason for that is fans get an early look at incoming freshman. If you showed up for the event the first night Michael Gbinije played, you may have come away thinking he needed more work.
If you came away from the event after his last game, you would be singing his praises for he dropped 28 points on his opponent. The problem is that in an All Star like atmosphere he sometimes defers in that Gbinije is the consummate team player.
"I wasn't happy with my performance last time out. My performance was not up to par, so I came in motivated tonight looking for more opportunities to show off my game," said Gbinije.
Those who've followed Gbinije on the AAU circuit where he suited up for Team Takeover know that Gbinije does not seek out attention. He is a quiet kid, hard to read at first but once comfortable he let's go with a warm smile that shows another side of him.
Gbinije has the potential to be a coaches dream in that he is a low maintenance type of player. That basically means he does not have to be coddled and he shows no signs of a bad attitude and beams in to what he is being told by the staff.
If there was ever a player on an even keel, it is Gbinije. He is quiet not only on the court but off the court. In fact, he is downright shy and that is something he is working on but his last outing produced a "loud game."
"The coaches want me to be more vocal out there, so I am working on that," said Gbinije. Those same sentiments were made by a coach as well during a recent AAU event.
While Gbinije deferred in his first game at the Pro Am, he was more than aggressive the last time out and he showed off what he can do. Gbinije is a steady player that does everything well and he showed that he can score the ball.
Gbinije is a good position defender as well and fits in nicely when on the court. He is not a power guy but he is an effective rebounder when he does hit the boards and is comfortable in transition.
The Virginia native said that practice had been intense. Duke, of course, gets ten full practice before taking off for China and Dubai in August. A source close to the situation told BDN that Gbinije was looking good in practice and that he was a quick learner.
Don't expect Gbinije to knock down 28 points in an ACC game this season for the competition is much tougher and the matador defense which is prevalent at the Pro Am will no longer be in effect. But Duke fans will probably be pleasantly surprised when they see his game this coming season.
"I just wanted to show what I could do," said Gbinije as he warmed to the questions. Make no mistake, Gbinije has been told to play at Duke, he must be a better communicator on the court. Master that and the young man from Virginia should earn some valuable minutes as a true freshman.
BDN updates live from the N.C. Pro Am via our @BlueDevilNation twitter site and for members of BDN Premium on the message board.
The Jordan-Brand All Star affair wrapped up this past weekend with the East holding on to take a 113-109 victory. BDN was front and center during the event and here are some observations from the game and behind the scenes at the event.
-Just last [private] week WRAL ran a Rivers comment which basically said he had no hard feelings towards UNC and that he almost went there. From my understanding, they took just that clip from a 12 minute interview and ran it. Rivers is not aware of how "some" of the UNC fan base acts, nor that local media has a distinct slant there way, but he will learn. A chorus of boo's welcomed him when introduced as was Gbinije. Gbinije smiled and looked down at the court, while Rivers seemed surprised at first and then cracked a smile. In fairness, there were a whole lot of Kentucky fans there as well and they certainly do not like Duke. After the game, Rivers said there are more UNC fans and that was okay but he was starting to get an idea that while he may like them okay and not yet be into the rivalry, many of their fans will hate on you. Rivers was clowning with McAdoo as he was interviewed and the two had a friendship. FWIW, McAdoo is a class act and a good kid, hard to dislike if you will. Rivers also hung around Myck Kabongo a lot.
-A Rakeem Christmas dunk strted the game off and for a quarter Rivers looked like the man. But you could almost see the descent on some of his teammates faces who wanted their points. He was open on the wings several times and didn;t get the rock and that eventually made him force some shots. Some fan was killing him, yelling "pass the ball," the whole first half. Michael Gbinije ended up forcing some shots as well and was a fish out of water in the sense that he is a team player. He still showed a nice soft mid range and three point touch. It is also clear that Brad Beal doesn't seem to like Rivers and he asked the west coach to let him guard him from the start. As you know, Rivers went off early, but Beal answered only most of his points came on wide open dunks off the break.
-I had a VIP seat, front row, under the basket near the west bench. Several rap stars sat to my northeast and Oak Hill Coach Steve Smith was one seat over. Several ex players came by to talk to him including Stephen Jackson. Jackson and a temmate I didn't recognize sat to my right. Concessions people started bringing him food left and right or asking if he needed anything. He joked that he was looking for a call from Michael Jordan about eating junk food. When a Jordan video came on, you could hear some whispers which were jokes. I did see Jordan after the game in the corridor with a girlfriend half his age in tow. Several people quipped that the Bobcat's were not a smooth operation but I have no comment on that, just passing on what I overheard.
-Marshall Plumlee was completely gunned out. A "gun" is an old school word for a player who jacks up shots and raely passes. I waited like 17 minutes for Plumlee to come out of the locker room, returned and still saw media waiting and just did not have time to get an interview with him. Plumlee seemed miffed when his coach put Jackson Simmons in ahead of him in the second half. He was not the only one. Jackson did battle his way to 8 rebounds though but he will never be a major factor at UNC.
-Kids were all over the players, especially Rivers after the game as you may have seen in the raw videos we put up. Rivers gladly signed for fans and interacted with them.
-John Wall came over to speak with Jackson and gave me a nod. And Mr. Clifton shadowed his every move. It has become clear that a certain group is taking care of Kentucky, Louisville and Baylor. Gee, I wonder is those handshakes we hear about happen.
-Kentucky fans there seemed like a cross between passionate and crazy. Seriously, there were a lot of them and for good reason. Michael Gilchrist and Anthony Davis are going to be scary good from day one. Gilchrist seemed to be adjusting while Davis seemed to be realizing how hard he is to defend.
-While McAdoo won the MVP for the East, his teammate PJ Hairston seemed lost and did not have a great game. Hairtson is accustomed to getting a lot of shots and will take them. It will be interesting to see how Williams gets kids minutes with everybody returning. The pressure started when Barnes said he was coming back.
-DJ Augustine was also sitting on near me and he liked Myck Kabongo's game. Interestingly, once he made a comment on how he is quick and keeps his team together, the East had lost a big lead and were arguing with each other.
-A guy tapped me on the back and wanted my autograph, saying you are a scout right. I smiled looked at Jackson and kindly said you don't want me to mess up that hat with all the autographs. Actually, I was just taking a cue from Harrison Barnes and playing rock star, LOL.
-A Kyle Singler game alum video hit the screen up top and you guessed it, boo birds were at it again. Man, Charlotte is a UNC town, always has been and always will be. I wonder how many kids got an ear full from MJ who was pretty much the reason Barnes went to UNC. One Duke alumni, Jay Bilas, sporting reading glasses, got away with no heckles. Looks like his objectivity is working. Ever wonder why Duke alum don't spew the cracks UNC ones do?
-Overall this is a good event and for entertainment only. After worries about a small crowd, the place had more than a few fans. [/private]
BDN was on the scene at the Jordan-Brand Classic sponsored by Nike and we caught up with future Blue Devil Mike Gbinije for a chat. Gbinije talks about the game, coming to Duke this summer, going to China and more in this video [private] interview.
It was just the other day when WRAL ran Austin Rivers comment about not disliking UNC and that he almost picked them during a lengthy interview. Little did he know they ran that statement alone. The media will set you up around here and a lesson was in store.
When introduced tonight he was met with a strong chorus of boo's from the UNC and Kentucky fans that filled the stands for the Jordan-Brand All Star game. It won't take long for young Austin to realize that UNC fans have a serious hate problem when it comes to Duke. When he sees those F-Duke shirts, gets heckled from drive by fans, my bet is he will not be so comment friendly towards a rival and he'
The bottom line is that Austin Rivers is still learning his way around in North Carolina and he will be on campus soon enough prepping for the Blue Devils trip to China where they hope to grow the incoming freshman class. Rivers started the night off with a bang, but then went cold and was often overlooked by his teammates.
That is not unusual in an All Star setting of course and he did end the game with 16 points, playing more minutes than anyone on the East squad which clipped the West by a 113-109 score. Rivers also found his teammates where his 4 assists were a team high and he pulled down six rebounds.
After the game, Rivers said he had a target on his back and you'll learn more with the coming video. Rivers will return home, rest up, eat some of Mom's home cooking and take in some Celtics games where his Dad, Glenn "Doc" Rivers is in charge. The budding star said that he'd be talking to the coaching staff as well.
The game also featured Michael Gbinije, who is 6-6, not 6-8 as some have reported of late. Like Rivers, BDN has avideo interview coming with him as well, so stay tuned. Gbinije does a lot of stuff off ball and All Star games really do not fit his game. He ended the game with 10 points, but missed a few put backs and took a couple of hard foul no calls.
Gbinije will be on the Duke campus in June and spoke with the staff just before he went to the Jordan-Brand Classic and is looking forward to feedback. He told BDN his goal was to get stronger over the summer and that was the coaches wishes as well.
In the North Carolina Regional All Star contest which proceeded the game, Marshall Plumlee got 15 minutes of play, scoring 4 points to go with 3 boards. As is customary, the guards took all the shots and he got garbage or nothing taking just 3 shots. Like Gbinije, his game is not as suited for the wide open madness.
Quinn Cook did not in the game but he is the fourth player int he incoming class with a possibility of a fifth soon. I did sit with Steve Smith, his Oak Hill coach and he had some nice things to say about the point guard. Stay tuned for more information on that and some behind the scenes happenings for BDN Premium members. So bookmark Blue Devil Nation for our hands on, in person coverage of all things Duke. Until then, check out these post game clips, where Rivers checks out his many fans and Gbinije is gett