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ACC Operation Basketball – BDN talks with Ryan Kelly and Miles Plumlee

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CHARLOTTE – ACC Media Day is in full swing and Blue Devil Nation is here to bring you news as it happens.  Just moment ago, we spoke with the two Duke captains Miles Plumlee and Ryan Kelly.  We’ll get in depth with both the captains a bit later but until then, these hot off the press videos should hold you over.

Countdown to CTC – Miles Plumlee

With Countdown to Craziness right around the corner, I thought it a good idea to have our own countdown to the CTC.  I’m really excited about Miles Plumlee going  into his final season at Duke.  Plumlee will almost assuredly start for Duke and I think he’s ready to have a big year.  Apparently Coach K thinks so too in that he named the eldest Plumlee a captain for the coming season.

Miles is an exceptional athlete as seen by his flashes of brilliance.  I think he’ll harness those flashes in a more consistent manner this season and more importantly, I look for him to pick up the team when they need a lift.  Plumlee brings toughness up front and his mature frame will benefit him against the likes of  UNC’s vaunted front court.  In fact, Duke closes the regular season against the Heels at home and Plumlee will be the lone senior on the team, so it’ll be his day.

Last season, Miles came rolling out on a unicycle to the delight of the Cameron Crazies during CTC.  And for the record, Plumlee can juggle while riding his unicycle as  well.  It’ll be interesting to see what he comes up with in a mere ten days from now and for that matter what song he chooses for his introduction.  And you can bet that the athletic senior will have a few slams up his sleeve for the dunk contest.

I remember his recruitment as if it were yesterday.  In fact, it sure as heck doesn’t seem like it’s time for him to graduate.  Duke first recruited Miles brother Mason and at that time Miles was Stanford bound.  With the coaching change, Miles decided to come to Duke to play with his brother.  In hindsight. Duke got a two for one deal of the young men who led Christ School, Arden to the state title.

It’s been fun watching Miles mature into the man he is today.  The once quiet Plumlee has now stepped up to the challenge to lead this years team and you will see a much more outgoing player, one who when Duke needs a play, will reach deep to make it happen.  Miles Plumlee.  Just another reason to look forward to Countdown to Craziness.

Be sure to check out Andrew Slaters outstanding in depth  Miles Plumlee Interview in this link.

 

Leadership In Training: An Interview With Miles Plumlee

Duke

Blessed with a reported thirty-six inch vertical, a 6’11,” 247 lb. frame, and the mind of a high school salutatorian, Miles Plumlee is a rare specimen. On a relatively young squad, Miles, a twenty-three year-old third generation college basketball player, has started more games, forty-one, than any current Duke player. The team will need him to provide leadership, experience, and low-post production to a more featured frontcourt.

Already a national champion, having grabbed three rebounds in nine minutes against Butler in the 2010 Championship game, the eldest of four Plumlee progeny brings the hunger of a man anxious for one last good meal. The psychology major has tried to take advantage of the opportunities presented to him this summer. Initially, the one-time engineering student with an entrepreneurial zeal worked in New York for Jesse Itzler, a serial entrepreneur who created Marquis Jet. The Winona Lake, Indiana native followed that experience up by participating in the college portion of the LeBron James Skills Academy, as one of the twenty invited players, including his talented and gracious brother, Mason. Most recently, the former high school track star enjoyed a thirteen day around the world trip with his Duke University teammates as part of Duke’s Friendship Games, playing in Dubai and three Chinese cities, Kunshan, Shanghai, and Beijing.

In the three games competing against the Chinese junior national team, Miles Plumlee, who is the team’s second-leading returning scorer, rebounder, and shot-blocker, averaged nearly eleven rebounds and eleven points, while providing a vital role as a low-post scorer and offensive rebounder (corralling eight offensive rebounds in the final game against China’s large front court).

After Coach Trent Johnson left Stanford for Louisiana State, Miles Plumlee opted to open up his recruitment at Christ School in Arden, NC and ultimately decided to enter Duke University. At the time, he had a reputation for being more of a face-up four and had contributed to consecutive State Championships for the Greenies. Last summer, Miles transformed his physique and game by adding nearly twenty pounds of muscle. Near the end of the 2011 season, Coach Krzyzewski reinserted the eldest Plumlee into the starting lineup, where the Ft. Wayne-born big man immediately stepped up his game in the ACC Tournament, highlighted by his play against Maryland (10 points, 9 rebounds) and using his length against North Carolina’s finesse frontline (helping to hold Henson and Zeller to a combined 9 for 26 in the ACC Title game). Based upon his recent play, it appears as though he has continued to become more acclimated to the transition from a floating big to the team’s biggest physical presence, while seeking to maintain the athleticism that once allowed him to perform a 6’9″ high jump.

This year, with both brothers Marshall and Mason on the Duke’s campus, Miles Plumlee would like to take more of a leadership role in his final season of college basketball and go out with a second National Title. Miles spoke with BDN about a variety of topics, including stepping out of his comfort zone and into an increased leadership role, his relationships with both the coaching staff and his brothers, his team-centric focus, and an entrepreneurial future.

Maybe we can start with both leadership and your role on this team.

You know that’s the biggest thing I’ve been thinking about in this off-season. I’ve been focusing on it and, you know, I had an experience where I was doing an internship with one of the coaches’ friends.

I’m definitely going to get to that in just a moment…

Yeah, well, it kind of goes hand-in-hand.

Okay, great.

The biggest reason I wanted to go there is because I know [Jesse Itzler]’s a great leader in what he does and I learned a lot from him. I picked his brain and I got a lot of great advice. He started his own company a few times now, so he’s been successful and that was one area where I think it’s going to help me, but also coming back and being an older brother my life, you know, trying to apply that to the team. Just trying to bring that brotherhood to the whole team.

[private]

I wanted to get to the issue of you and brothers, too.
(laughs)

What are the expectations from your perspective and the coaching staff? What have they asked you to work on?

Well, I don’t have any personal accolades in mind, but all of my coaches know how high my ceiling is and I know how high it is. So, I’m just trying to reach a level that I’m really happy with, but more importantly, I’m concerned about the team competing for national championships.

Yes, absolutely. I mean you’ve already accomplished that once.

Yeah, but now to do that and be a leader on the team would be another thing. That’s the biggest goal on my mind.

Is being a captain something you aspire to? Have the coaches talked about you being captain or part of a committee, so to speak?

Yeah, I know, they said they’re going to wait and see how everything goes in China. They want to see how people’s roles surface, but, you know, I’ve been through more than anyone else on the team.

Right.

I’ve played with a lot of great leaders, like Jon Scheyer, a lot of great seniors growing up.

Who was the best leader you’ve played with? Is Scheyer the best?

He and Lance did a great job that year. There’s a reason why we won it. What was the initial question?

It had to do with leadership and whether you aspire to be a captain.

Oh, yes, they’re not going to make a decision until after China, but I’m already trying to assert myself and get out of my comfort zone because I’m not the most vocal guy.

Neither am I, but I try to push myself too.

Yeah, well, I’m trying to talk more on defense and also off the court. Yeah, you know, defensively, I can talk to people on the court, but I’m really trying to become a leader off the court. It’s not something I’m really comfortable with, but it’s something that I’m trying to grow into. I want to get that role.

Just out of curiosity, as you were saying it, I was thinking about being the oldest brother. I’m the oldest brother as well and by nature, you almost have to a leader among your younger siblings. Do you think that will help and have you found that to be the case?

Definitely, I think it’s a huge advantage in my position. I don’t think I’ve been the best big brother in the world, but I think there’s some things I’ve done right, and if I can learn from them..

God knows, I haven’t been.
(

laughs) Yeah, you know, I’ve made a lot of mistakes, but all of them are experience that maybe an older brother has to have.

They can, sort of, learn from your own mistakes.

Yeah, yeah. Then, they can make their own. (laughs)

How do you think you’ve developed, both physically and from a skills perspective over the past few years? Physically, you’ve gotten a lot bigger.

Yeah, you know, I’m still continuing to push my body.

Always a work in progress.

I’m trying to get stronger and that, but I got really pretty athletic when I got to college and you know, I was more of a face-up player, but I’ve tried to adapt my game and become more of a back-to-the-basket player since coming to college.

Yeah, I wanted to touch on that as well.
Yeah, so you know, that’s probably been my biggest focus and the other stuff’s there and we’ve got such great guards coming to Duke each year. Yeah, maybe down the road I’ll use that more at the next level, but right now I want to make the biggest impact I can for our team and so that’s inside, giving us a low-post game.

In terms of mentoring, it sort of goes hand in hand with leadership, but how do you feel you’ve done as a mentor to your brothers and some of your future teammates this year?

I think it’s something I’m going to have to make a conscious effort to do. We have so many young guys and I need to mentor them and show them the ropes. We need them to win. They don’t even realize it yet. I mean, I was in that position as a freshman too, I didn’t know where I was at. We’ve got to bring them on board real fast and mentoring will be a big part of that.

You know him better than anybody, what dimension do you think Marshall can bring to program? Maybe give a scouting report on him to the fans that may not have seen him play.

Yeah, he’s surprised me. He’s really grown into his body. I think the number one thing if you’re scouting him is his motor. He never gives up, he goes full blast all the time he’s out on the court.

He’s a really nice kid, too.

Oh, yeah, he’s really nice, but he’ll take it to you on the court.

Yeah, he’s very serious and competitive on the court though.

Oh, yeah, definitely.

He said he’s very good at video games too.

Yeah, he is. Me and him always go at it.

In terms of a scouting report…

Yeah, a scouting report..he’s going to be going at you every minute of the game. He’s going to be busting his ass 100%. Yeah, I think that’s his biggest attribute right now is just running the court.

How do you think he differs from you and Mason at the same point in your lives?

You know, his whole life he always wanted to be a big guy for some reason, and it just so happened that he kept growing. You know, a lot of guys want to be big buys, but you can’t control that. So, I think he’s grown up wanting to be in the post doing the dirty work. He has fun just running the court and getting the ball. A lot of big guys don’t want to do that, they get spoiled, lazy, and they don’t want to do all of that work if they’re not going to get the ball every single time. That’s huge for a team. That changes the game.

Yeah, it does. I was just curious about that. What are you trying to work on this summer primarily on the court?

The same thing, but you know, just taking that post game to another level and getting more comfortable. I really thought that I made huge strides towards the end of last year, just having confidence when you get the ball in the post, and wanting the ball, and in the end, that makes a huge difference in the game when it comes down to the wire. You’ve got to want it.

Is it a “no hesitation” kind of thing for you?

Yeah, exactly. I really think that’s been my biggest setback is really getting out of your own head. You catch it and you immediately react.

I remember going to one of your practices a few years ago and Coach Krzyzewski was talking about how you were very hard on yourself, but that was a few years ago.

Definitely, that’s been my biggest problem. In practice, I play great for three years. Well, my freshman year was kind of tough, but for the last few years I played great in practice, and now the thing is to try to translate it to the games.

And it can happen, it’s just a matter of time and concentration.

Yeah, absolutely it can happen.

Can you touch on being an engineering student and how that differentiates your game? I remember you used to be an engineering student.

(laughs) Oh, no, that was way too much.

I was an Economics major there.

Yeah, my first semester there was the hardest of my life.

What’s your major now?

Psychology. You know, I think it’s something that’s applicable to anything I do in life, but, you know, it’s way more flexible for basketball.

Way more merciful too. They’re tough in terms of grades too.

Oh, yeah, it’s just tough.

The reason I was asking was because I was wondering if you saw the court differently by having somewhat of an engineering background.

Oh, yeah, you know I always thought I see angles differently. I don’t think a lot of basketball players realize what they’re seeing. I think it gives me a better sense of what I’m seeing…helps to visualize.

Would you describe your summer job as more of a finance job? How would you categorize it?

Yeah, well, it’s sort of hard to explain, it was really more of a company that Jesse Itzler founded, more of like a marketing thing. He founded Marquis Jets and now it’s like more of a marketing agency and a brand incubator. We came up with a few of our own products.

Would you like to get into that post-basketball? Perhaps be an entrepreneur?

Yeah, you know, that’s what it really opened my eyes to. An amazing opportunity would be to play in the NBA and not just squander it.

I’m glad you have your eyes wide open. There are so many sad stories, unfortunately.

Yeah, I know there are. Yeah, I want to make things happen. There are a lot of guys from Duke that have done great things like here or in China and you know, really have an entrepreneurial mindset just like him, and you know, it was a great experience.

What is your emotional reaction to finally get the opportunity to play with all of your brothers and be at the same school together? Excited? Happy?

So excited! I really think this is going to be the funnest year by far. You know, I’ve always had a blast, but you know, me and Marshall, we grew up hanging out together like non-stop and I was so much older than him, but, now, you know, we’re competing on the same level and it’s an adjustment.

Do the three of you ever just walk into the Y or something like that? Did the three of you walk in and people just go “Holy cow?”

(laughs) Yeah, I mean, we did, but we didn’t used to be this tall. Yeah, the last time I was at a place like that was back home and I was only like 5’9” or 5’10” as freshman. But I think it’s going to be a blast. It’s going to be a great senior year.

And what’s Mason’s take on all of this?

Oh, yeah, he’s been great. We both just love Marshall to death. It’s just fun to have all three of us together again.

Can you talk about the addition of the freshman class and Coach Capel? Those are the two big post-season additions to the program.

Yeah, I mean, everybody in the freshman class seems to have a great attitude. They’re really skilled, they’re really athletic. I think they all really have a great attitude, they all really want to get better. Coach Capel is just a great addition because he knows so much, he’s coached great players, and I love his positive attitude. He’s really good at pumping everybody up.

He can also relate to players. He’s still young and yet he’s got that head coaching experience, which is a great combo to add the staff.

Yeah, everybody’s pretty young and it’s a lot of fun. It’s a great group to be around.

What’s your relationship like with both Coach K and Coach Wojo?

First of all, I’ve got to say it’s like family. I mean, they’ve been there for me in more than just basketball. That’s just one small part of the whole thing. You..you come to Duke and I had no idea what it was all about. You become part of this family. They’ve become like fathers to me. There’s a bond. I come to them for advice on everything. I know..I know I’m going to stay in touch with them for the rest of my life. It’s something that’s really special to me.

I don’t think a lot of recruits necessarily realize that, to paraphrase Coach Holtz, it’s not a four year thing, it’s a forty year thing.

No, you know, I don’t think a lot of them realize it. You don’t realize what you’re signing up for. If they did realize it, I think even a lot more would jump on it, but I know that I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.

How comfortable do you feel you are with your back-to-the-basket game and how far out do you feel your range is at this point? Because you still have that face-up game that you were talking about before.

I’ve always felt that I’m really versatile and now it’s not just a matter of how to use it, but when and where to use it, what opportunities you have and reading the defense. So, becoming a lot smarter and putting it all together. It’s something I’ve really worked on in the last year.

And in terms of your back-to-the-basket game?

Yeah, I’m realizing how much you can control the game with your back to the basket. Seeing, you know, guys like Tim Duncan and those kind of guys..taking your time, seeing the floor.

Is that what you worked on at the LeBron James Academy?

Yeah, you know, it was great playing against some of the best players and some of the best bigs. I was just trying to see where I stack up.

How did you do and what was the toughest guy for you to defend?

Dude, you know, everybody’s tough. Everybody’s good. I feel like I did as well as anyone. It was a great experience and I’m looking forward to where it takes my game.

What are your expectations or goals for the team this year? A National Title?

A National Title all the way, that’s all I’ve got to say. We’ve always got talent. I just feel like we’ve just got to bring it together and develop that chemistry along the way.

Thank you very much, Miles.

No problem.

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What Did We Learn Over Summer Vacation?

Participation in the Friendship Games provided an early look at the 2011-12 edition of the Duke Blue Devils. In three games against the China Junior National Team and one game against the United Arab Emirates National Team, Coach Krzyzewski was able to get an early jump on melding the individual Blue Devils into a cohesive team.

The dog days of summer are usually spent watching the pennant races heat up and preparing for the upcoming football season, while plenty of time was still devoted to those meaningful activities, Duke Basketball fans were treated to competitive international basketball in August. For diehard college basketball fans, those games were a sweet appetizer for the upcoming season.

So, what did we learn during the four games? In no particular order, we learned the following:

Ryan Kelly is looking really good

Ryan Kelly led the Blue Devils in scoring with 60 points over the four games. He also collected 33 rebounds for an impressive 15 points and 8.2 rebounds per game stat line. But the story isn’t Kelly’s stat line, but rather his calm, collected attitude on the court. The story is how smooth and confident Kelly looked knocking down a jump shot, collecting a rebound or delivering a pass to an open teammate.

If Kelly can build off his play in the Friendship Games, and continue to improve his all around game, he could be a player who gives opponents match-up fits and develops into an All ACC performer in 2012.

Starting Rotation

Over the four games, the same five players started: Miles Plumlee, Ryan Kelly, Andre Dawkins, Austin Rivers and Seth Curry. While I am sure Coach Krzyzewski will still mix and match line-ups in the early season games, with some fluctuation in the starting line-up based upon practice intensity and previous game performance, the fact the same five guys started all four summer games is indicative that a solid pecking order has been established.

The perimeter is deep and talented

Seth Curry, Andre Dawkins and Austin Rivers combine to be a formidable three guard back court. Curry and Rivers can both handle the ball even though they are not true point guards, while Dawkins, who has always been a very dangerous shooter, appears ready to be a threat to attack the rim via back door cuts and by working the baseline.

Dawkins and Rivers each scored 57 points in the four games with Curry right behind them at 54 points. Dawkins sank a blistering 48.3 percent of his 3-point attempts, while Curry led the team with nine steals.

Rivers has the ability to create his own shot and drive to the rim; however, these international games demonstrated he still has a lot to learn. There will be further discussion on Rivers in a bit.

Turning to the bench players, Tyler Thornton is a pest and I mean that in the best possible way. His tenacious approach to playing defense will continue to earn him significant playing time.

Alex Murphy has length and the ability to run the court. While he struggled early on, he improved every game and was impressive in the United Arab Emirates game. Murphy should see time on the wing in relief of Dawkins and at power forward when Coach Krzyzewski decides to go with a small line-up.

Post game is in good hands

Led by senior Miles Plumlee, and including juniors Ryan Kelly and Mason Plumlee, this year’s Duke Blue Devils are as talented and experienced in the front court as they have been in a number of years.

The three upperclassmen combined for 134 points and 96 rebounds, which averages to 33.5 points and 24 rebounds per game, from the center and power forward positions, against legitimate competition. We are not talking summer pick-up games here. Last season, those three players combined for 18.6 points and 17 rebounds per game.

I realize the comparison is apples to oranges, four international games to an entire NCAA season, but I’m just throwing it out there as food for thought. It is data points fanatic fans can chew on.

To take the apples to oranges comparison one giant leap further, on the 2004 team, Luol Deng, Shelden Williams and Shavlik Randolph combined for 34.7 points and 19.9 rebounds per game.

While I am not trying to suggest this year’s front court will be as formidable as the 2004 front court, I am suggesting this front court has the potential to be very, very good and perhaps the best front court we’ve had since 2004. And that is saying something seeing as the 2006 front court of Shelden Williams and Josh McRoberts was not shabby.

To maneuver this section back into the here and now, before this year’s trio of front court players can reach their maximum potential, they must prove themselves in two areas: consistency of play and foul management. If those prerequisites are achieved, the sky is the limit.

Austin Rivers is ready to start as a freshman

Rivers was simultaneously impressive and inconsistent. He scored 57 points, but he led the team in turnovers with 15 and only connected on 5 of 21 3-point attempts.

The poor 3-point shooting can easily be explained away by the deeper arc on an international court. The turnovers are more a result of poor decision making and playing out of control. On multiple occasions Rivers drove too deep into the teeth of the opponent’s defense and was left without an option other than to throw the ball toward a teammate on the perimeter.

So, should Duke Fans Worldwide go into a panic and chew their finger nails until they bleed? No! Rivers is a freshman so those type plays should be expected. Like every other freshman, Rivers must adjust to the speed of the game and the increased talent level on the court.

Rivers’ decision making will improve and he will rapidly learn to play within himself and once that happens, which I expect will take place sooner rather than later, he will be a force to contend with on the hardwood.

During the Friendship Games, we learned Austin Rivers is ready to immediately start and be an impact player.