Tag Archives: Mile Plumlee

Monday Musings – Duke Hoops had a heck of a week

 

Mason slams one down.  His brother was a first round NBA Draft pick this past week.

What a week it has been for Duke Basketball!  There is no denying the “feel good” atmosphere around the program these days. It began last Thursday night when Austin Rivers was selected by the New Orleans Hornets with the 10th pick in the NBA draft. He was followed by Miles Plumlee, who went 26th to the Indiana Pacers, giving Duke two more first round draft selections under Coach Mike Krzyzewski. On Saturday, coveted transfer Rodney Hood pulled the trigger for Duke, so as I say, it has indeed been a good week for the program.

If you’ve seen Miles Plumlee of late, he sports a spiffy new look that recalls Clark Kent chic, and it fits him to a tee. Plumlee was often seen by the media as a mild-mannered type, always polite, grounded and professional. But this past Thursday, Plumlee ripped open his shirt to reveal he has a little Superman thing going on as well. While the Pacers’ pick shocked many, those of us who followed Plumlee’s progress and spoke with league insiders saw this coming. Plumlee is a workout freak, and he posted great numbers during the NBA combines.  Many teams saw a player with both the athletic ability and the skill set to make it in the league. You can’t teach height, of course, and Miles’s size, combined with his ability to shoot from the permiter and run the court, served him well. NBA coaches and execs also did not forget that Miles learned how to play the game under Coach Krzyzewski at Duke, and that at 23, he’s already mature in many ways that should aid in his transition to the next level.

Austin Rivers is one of the most unfairly judged players I have been around since covering Duke basketball. Many mistake his confidence as a brash arrogance, when the reality is that confidence is an integral part of his game and a key component of his drive and his motor. Desire can carry a player a long way, and Rivers unquestionably has it. It never ceases to amaze me how uninformed internet chatter can be taken as gospel truth, even by the “mainstream” media, and this was certainly the case with regard to the perceptions of this young man.  I can tell you first hand that Rivers is a good kid, polite and professional when need be, but also not afraid to speak his mind. He is the type of kid that would settle differences with a game of one-on-one; the only thing wrong with that is how unfair it would be to just about any opponent he would face.

Austin leaves Duke having provided the program and its fans with one of the most thrilling and unforgettable moments in Duke’s long and glorious history when his buzzer-beater to beat UNC hit nothing but the bottom of the net.  While Rivers will certainly have to adjust to the physicality of the NBA game, he has been a big success at every level, and this one will be no different.

The news came Saturday evening that Rodney Hood, a coveted transfer from Mississippi State, would be attending Duke. In our latest BDN Premium update we discuss his addition for our members, and one of the things we share is that he will be on campus this Wednesday.  Hood’s addition changes the landscape of Duke’s recruiting, and we discuss that as well in the Duke Basketball Team and Recruiting Update. Hood was a player BDN was on early when he was on the AAU circuit, when he let us know that he had always liked the Blue Devils growing up. Hood will be allowed to practice with the team this year, and should be a part of the N.C. Pro-Am, where fans will get a firsthand view of his game.

We are a mere two months away from kickoff on the gridiron, and the Blue Devils face a bear of a task in the opener, as Florida International comes to Wallace Wade returning 18 starters from back-to-back bowl teams. There is no doubt that this game, even though it’s the opener, is vital to the Devils’ hopes of a run at a bowl themselves.  If a season opener could ever be “must win” for Duke, this would be the year.  We’ll be talking more football starting this month as Cut surveys his team.  Make plans now to support Duke Football by buying season tickets and check out the new “Cut’s Corner.”

USA Basketball is about to take center stage as well, and Coach K and company will keep Duke in the headlines in their effort to bring another gold medal home from London.   BDN has always supported and covered Team USA’s efforts, and this season will be no different.

The 2010-11 Duke Blue Devils prepare for the stretch

Kyle Singler is one of those special four year players for Duke. He has six more home games in Cameron Indoor Stadium as Duke enters the stretch run. Photo - Lance King for BDN

DURHAM – When Duke takes on Boston College this Thursday evening, it’ll be their 20th game of the 2010-11 season.  I don’t know about you, but for me the season is flying by.  In fact, it seems like a few months ago I was on the court in Indianapolis watching a group of joyous Blue Devils celebrate a national championship.

Coming into the season, Duke fans were giddy over the prospect of another title, especially with the arrival of Kyrie Irving, one of the best point guards ever to come out of New Jersey.  Ironically, Irving went down in New Jersey after stepping on Matt Howard’s foot a mere eight games into the season.  Howard of course, plays for Butler the team Duke beat to win their fourth national title.

Irving’s absence dominated the lips of many Duke fans for a long, long time, so much so that a portion of the season seemed to be taken for granted or lost in the shadow of his much talked about toe.  It has now become clear that if Irving does come back, that he’ll need to get into playing shape, but most fans would rather have an 80% Irving than none at all.

His injury caused an always unwanted in season adjustment, where Duke, who was running at will suddenly went to more of a half court game.  The style is not as pretty but last seasons team used a similar half court sets and look what happened to them.  Of course, it is hard to repeat no matter who the cast of players might be and for Duke to make it to Houston, Texas for the Final Four, it’ll take some luck along the way for they are each opponents main target and or their big game.

But let’s keep in mind that some teams make their own luck and that is generally evident from improvement on the court.  Suppose Irving comes back, that would be great and he’d add that much needed ability to stretch the court.  But the lessons his teammates have learned in his absence will be of major value, especially when they face critical half court situations during March Madness.

There has yet to be a third scoring option step up since the untimely injury and now Duke enters the stretch run with just a dozen games left in the regular season to find one.  Ryan Kelly has showed the ability to do so of late, but the key will be if he can find consistency.  After all, there is usually no doubt that Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler will show up, but there are occasions when any solid player goes cold and that means others have to step in.

Each season is a new challenge and each team is handled differently. The Duke Coaches have had to adjust their game plan with the injury of Kyrie Irving.

Last season Duke had three seniors in Jon Scheyer, Lance Thomas and Brian Zoubek.  This season they have but two in the aforementioned Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler.  Seniors have been through the wars and last years really stepped up their game and left with something special, a national title.

But last seasons three seniors had Singler and Smith behind them while this season as seniors have far less experience, so there is a major drop off from a year ago in seasoning where Miles Plumlee is the only junior on a team full of sophomores and freshman.  Duke is still a young team past two seniors, and yes, I played the young card.

Then again, Irving is young as well but he had a savvy about him that is rare, yet he was still learning the game.  Even so, Irving made Duke better, a legitimate number one if you will.  Furthermore, he was the third scoring option. 

During his absence Seth Curry has had a golden opportunity to step up but he is seemingly adjusting to the speed and physical nature of the division one game. Andre Dawkins has showed flashes of brilliance but he is still rounding out his game and the Plumlees are still finding their way.  But there is hope for even more improvement and Krzyzewski recently said he liked where the Plumlees were at this point in the season.

Miles Plumlee started slow, but he is now getting where he fits in and that’s a good sign.  His brother Mason has become a rebounding and shot blocking machine and he simply needs to keep that up.  However, Mason can break out at any time on offense where he is adjusting to the slower pace rendered by Irving’s absence.  In fact, both the Plumlees’s are capable of turning another corner as the season goes on.

Is the Kyrie Irving era over at Duke? LK Images

During the many pre season interviews with Mike Krzyzewski, he stated this team would be a work in progress and that he did not want them to gel too early.  There is a lot of wisdom in that statement for it is clear a team must get hot for six to eight games to take home the big prize.  And his comment rings especially true with Irving’s absence.

That said, it’s time to relish and enjoy each and every game during the stretch run for there are a lot of questions which need to be answered.  Will Irving come back and if so what kind of game will he display?  Are two sensational seniors in Singler and Smith enough to put a team on their backs should Irving not return?  Can Curry start knocking down his shots which he drills in practice?  Can the Plumlees step up and will Ryan Kelly continue his play of late?

Maybe we’ll see Andre Dawkins game swell, but who really knows?  And that is not all to watch out for.  Will Duke get the coveted number one seed where they’ll play in New Jersey, Charlotte and Houston should they make a run?

With a bevy of Big East teams adorning the Top 25 a number one seed in the east is no longer as clear as it once seemed, so that means, Duke has to win it’s share of games against conference foes while taking their best shots.  It’s no secret that defeating Duke is a resume builder for the NCAA’s and there are a lot of balanced conference teams looking for a signiture win.

Again, there is nothing more exciting than the stretch run into the tournament, so now is the time to beam in and savor each game for it will pass you by if you don’t.  It all starts with an upstart Boston College team this Thursday night and this weekend Duke faces a dangerous trap of a game versus St John’s in New York.  And for those of you who are unaware, the game with the  North Carolina Tar Heels is now just tens days off.

By the end of the journey, fans will find out if Krzyzewski found the right buttons to push along the way.  But it’ll be up to some young players to step up their game as well.  Let the games begin.

Duke looking for bigs to step up on the offensive end

Mason Plumlee listening to Coach K during a Duke practice - BDN Photo
Mason Plumlee listening to Coach K during a Duke practice - BDN Photo

After a tough road loss to Georgia Tech, Duke is looking to regroup at home against Boston College Eagles on Wednesday night.  The Blue Devils are well aware at how important it is to win at home in the ACC this season and they’ll surely come out with a lot of fire in an effort to avoid a second straight loss.

One of the keys will be for the Duke front court to establish themselves offensively in not only this game, but the remainder of the season.

To date, Duke has done an admirable job by committee with their front court and it is a well known fact that Krzyzewski said he will play who is playing the best of these guys from game to game.

While the Blue Devils have had solid overall production from their quartet of seniors Brian Zoubek and brothers Mason and Miles Plumlee, there is still a need for these guys to further establish their roles on the offensive end.

In short, I am talking about being more consistent scorers when opportunities are presented.

For this to happen, Duke needs further development from Mason Plumlee, a true freshman who was hampered with pre season injuries and just now getting up to game speed.

Mason grew leaps and bounds in the Georgia Tech loss and many will be watching to see if he can match that production with two ACC opponents at home this week.

It’s no secret that the Duke staff feels Mason is a key cog to the Blue Devils success and as he adjusts more to the physical play and speed of the college game and he could well become the fourth go to scorer.

In a recent interview for the Blue Devil Nation Locker Room Report, Mason admitted that he needs to make simpler plays instead of the flashy ones, but he also knows his teammates have been trying to feed him for some emphatic dunks.

The youngest Plumlee gets those feeds because his teammates know what he can do.

Mason already has great chemistry with Jon Scheyer and as he adjusts to his teammates, we could see him reach his lofty potential before seasons end.

His brother Miles will play a key role as well and like Mason, Miles knows how to finish when open.

Ask any Duke player and they will tell you that Miles can jump out of the gym and that he is freaky athletic jumping over players for dunks in practice.

There is a reason Miles started as a freshman in the opener and many of this seasons games for Duke sees what he can do in practice where he seems consistently good.

In short, Miles is a very athletic big who needs to work on said consistency with his game and he has all the tools to make this happen.

If  he can establish himself as more of a down low presence on the offensive where he is needed most on the scoring end for a team that is riding the play of Jon Scheyer, Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith; he’ll become a major factor.

Another key will be when the brothers Plumlee get used to one another in the Duke system for there is no doubt they know one another well but that has yet to fully materialize on the court at the ACC level.

Seniors Brian Zoubek and Lance Thomas both have the potential to score well in games.

While Zoubek isn’t the most athletic big man, he is a huge presence and he has earned Krzyzewski’s praise on many occasions when press members were asking about other players.

The reason being that Zoubs as he is known to his teammates, has had several games where he had or was near a double-double in scoring and rebounding in limited minutes.

As the Plumlee’s develop, Zoubek and Thomas will be looked to for toughness and leadership.

There is no reason to think Zoubek cannot relish his role as a senior down the stretch and if that happens Duke will be a tough team to handle.

Zoubs senior teammate Lance Thomas is Duke’s equivalent of the Energizer Bunny for the energy and hustle he brings to the court.

Thomas only knows one way to play and that is all out, but that can get him into some tough situations as was seen when he fouled out against Georgia Tech.

Granted, Thomas draws the some of the toughest defensive assignments each game, but he will need stay in contests down the stretch.

While he is not depended on the score a lot for this team, Thomas needs to continue to take his shots with confidence after working on it so hard in the off season.

Thomas is at his best when teams overlook him on the offensive end and he will likely look to exploit that in the coming games where he has proved to come up big at times in the past in ACC games.

While Ryan Kelly gets some minutes down low, I consider him to fall into the category of a “hybrid,” alongside Andre Dawkins, thus they are not discussed here.

Of course for any of these guys to progress Duke’s big three [Scheyer, Singler, Smith] will have to get them the ball where they need it.

The bottom line is that Duke’s front court is still a work in progress and as they become accustomed to one another even more, they will surely get better.

And it’ll be important that Duke gets offensive production from them when the teams shooters go cold.

NC Pro Am Report – Mason Plumlee tallies 17, Scheyer 16 to earn a victory

Miles ready to dunk - copyright Rick Crank
Miles ready to dunk - copyright Rick Crank

Five Duke Blue Devils were in action this past Thursday evening during the North Carolina Pro Am event on the campus of North Carolina Central.  Mason Plumlee and Jon Scheyer took the court first and the two Dukies teamed very well together.  In fact, that teamwork is a big part of Team Duhon’s 3-0 record.

Mason would finish the game with 17 points, 7 rebounds, 2 blocks and 2 assists.  Mason is impressive in that he has a good handle for a big man and can make the good pass.  While the majority of his points came in the paint or dunks, Mason drained his only three point attempt.

The crowd came to their feet when Mason tried a windmill dunk where he extended his long arm, but a foul stopped the show.  Still, Mason a good free throw shooter, drained both shots.

Meanwhile, Scheyer knocked down two threes early and wound up with 16 points on the evening helping his team win 68-58.  Scheyer had three assists and several blown ones on my watch, but I could have missed a few.

Lance Thomas made his first appearance where he joined teammate Ryan Kelly and rival Ed Davis (UNC) to form a pretty good front line.  Davis scored 21 points after hitting just 6 earlier in the week.  He was aided by some Kelly passes.  Speaking of Ryan, he would go on to score 12 points himself.  Thomas added 12 points as their team won easily.

Jon Scheyer - c/r Rick Crank Photography - special to BDN
Jon Scheyer - c/r Rick Crank Photography - special to BDN

In the nightcap, Miles Plumlee had the unenviable task of holding down UNC’s John Henson, Leslie McDonald and Justin Watts.  His team was without Kyle Singler who attended the LeBron James Skills Academy.

Henson threw down three effortless dunks and has really quick hops.  He rejected Miles one time, but there was payback.  Henson is the real deal and ended up with 14 points making some showboat plays, but Plumlee got his licks in, once getting beat but recovering to make a nice block.  To round out the play, he recovered the blocked ball, dribbled the length of the court and dished out an assist.  One block was called goal tending as well and there was one of the worst charge calls I had ever seen on Miles.

Justin Watts lit up the nets for 21 points and McDonald added 12, but their team blew a 12 point lead and wound up losing 54-53.  Plumlee hit two big free throws to put his team up a single digit with 1:33 left and they held on for an impressive win.

The action continues next Tuesday and admission to the event is free.

Duke vs Maryland Freshman Photo Gallery

As you probably know by now, Duke walloped Maryland and is poised to go to number one for the 60th time since the ESPN/Coaches Poll has existed.  Oh, and nobody is a close second;)  We’ll get to the game shortly, but until then, here is a look at the freshman who got some good minutes –

Maryland players are posterized by Elliot Williams
Maryland players are posterized by Elliot Williams

 

Miles Plumlee takes it to the rim
Miles Plumlee takes it to the rim

 

Duke freshman Elliot Williams
Duke freshman Elliot Williams

 

Duke freshman Olek Czyz
Duke freshman Olek Czyz
Elliot to the rim
Elliot to the rim