Tag Archives: Nolan Smith

Duke Assistant Coach Chris Collins talks Duke Basketball

Singler and Scheyer were really good against Purdue …

I think they were quietly looking forward to seeing how they stacked up with Hummel and Moore.  Both of those kids are very confident players with what they can do and they’re unbelievable competitors – they fight for everything.

Duke Assistant Coach Chris Collins instructs freshman Mile Plumlee in practice.
Duke Assistant Coach Chris Collins instructs freshman Mile Plumlee in practice.

We did actually.  When we recruited Kyle he was one of the best players in America.  He’s now made another big jump and has become an elite player.  Jon has always had that warriors mentality.  Now that his body is catching up with his mind he’s able to put it all together.  I’ve always thought he was an underrated player.  People who follow the game or coaches follow the game know what kind of value he has.



The team will have a big break after the Michigan game.  As a staff what will you focus on at that time?

During the exam break you have to keep your conditioning up.  You’ve got to try to keep getting better.  It gives you a little bit of a break to let your body rest.  We’ve had eight games early on which takes a big toll on your body.  We’re going to continue to take the long view with this team.  It’s a long season and we’re a long ways from March.  We have to continue to do what we can to get better not only for the rest of the season, but for the ACC.

Elliot seems to be pushing it a bit …

I think with both of our freshmen, Elliot and Miles, we think both of them are going to be outstanding players.  What you are seeing with them is that they are on a team that’s loaded with great veteran leadership and players.  It kind of reminds me a little bit of the olden days when I was in school in the late eighties and early nineties you can in a learned contributing while getting better as the season went along trying to improve upon your role.  Both of those guys have great attitudes.  We have high hopes for both of them.  It’s kind of just when it clicks.  They have great role models with the upper classmen on this team and their attitudes have been great.  We’ve just got to continue to stress to them it’s a process.

Gerald has been struggling a little bit on the offensive end …

I think with Gerald has been a little off.  When you are a good scorer and things aren’t going as good for you, the best thing you can do is concentrate on other areas of the game.  He rebounded well against Purdue, got some steals and really put his stamp on the game.  If he can continue to do the things he did against Purdue, when his offense comes you are going to have a real dynamic player.

How is Greg coming along?

Greg’s coming along well.  Nolan got in foul trouble against Purdue but Greg came in and did well.  That’s the great thing about having two capable point guards.  He ran our team and made a big basket late in the game with a lay up.

You grew up loving the NBA and are a hoops aficionado probably watching every game that’s on the air when at home … do you find time for other things?

I am probably going to get kicked out of the house by my wife and kids.  I have such a passion for basketball.  My earliest memories as a kid were going into the locker rooms after games and being around it and watching it …  I’ve been a junkie my whole life.  Now, being able to play with my son, go out in the yard with him and shoot around is great.

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Deep roster will compete to support a solid core

[private]
Duke returns a solid core of players from last year’s 28-6 squad. Kyle Singler, a 6-8 220 power forward, was the ACC Rookie of the Year and 3rd Team All-ACC. Versatile 6-4 wing Gerald Henderson had a breakout sophomore season. Jon Scheyer was invaluable as Duke’s Sixth Man playing the third most minutes and was the team’s fourth leading scorer. Greg Paulus recovered from the injuries that plagued him as a sophomore, displayed a deadly 3-point shooting ability, and earned 3rd Team All-ACC honors.

The challenge for the coaching staff this season will be managing the five or six players required to support the solid core of Singler, Henderson, Scheyer, and Paulus. Which players emerge and secure spots in the rotation is a question which will be answered during intense practice sessions throughout the season. With 12 scholarship players healthy and available to compete, Duke is deeper and more experienced than they have been in recent seasons.

The first question is how improved will Nolan Smith be as a sophomore? He tallied 5.9 points in 14.7 minutes per game as a freshman and displayed flashes of greatness at times. In a key victory, on the road at Maryland, on January 27th, he scored 14 points and grabbed six rebounds in twenty minutes of action. His highest scoring game of the year was on February 17th when he dropped 21 points on Wake Forest. Unfortunately that was in a losing effort. Smith was slowed, down the stretch, by a hyper extended knee so his season statistics under represent his actual contribution on the court.

Duke is going to need Smith to be a consistent performer this season especially on defense. With defensive stopper DeMarcus Nelson lost to graduation, Smith is the likely candidate to draw the assignment of guarding the opponent’s best perimeter player. With solid freshman to sophomore season improvement a la Gerald Henderson, Smith could emerge as a star for the Blue Devils. Smith is currently slated to be Duke’s starting point guard. In recent comments, Coach Mike Krzyzewski stated, “Right now, Nolan would be a starter.” With Smith in the starting line-up, it appears Greg Paulus will take over the Sixth Man role occupied by Jon Scheyer last season.

Next, is Miles Plumlee a viable option to fill the starting post player position? He has been especially impressive in early practice and the exhibition game against Virginia Union, a game in which he started, played 16 minutes, scored 14 points, and grabbed seven rebounds. With Plumlee slated to break into the starting line-up, it appears Duke is set to address their post presence short-comings of a year ago. Coach Krzyzewski on Plumlee, after the Virginia Union game: “Good hands, good feet, a shot blocker, runs and it’s just a matter of him getting experience. He’s got a great feel for the game. He’s a very good athlete.”

A center-by-committee of Miles Plumlee, Brian Zoubek, and Lance Thomas is a definite possibility. After the Blue-White game, Coach Krzyzewski praised Lance Thomas for his defensive pressure. “When he’s in the game we need to pick up our pressure in the full court, because defensively he’s outstanding. You have to give him the opportunity to use those talents when he is in there.” Brian Zoubek has put up impressive numbers in limited minutes: five points and six rebounds in just 12 minutes against Virginia Union; 10 points and three rebounds in the Blue-White game. It appears all three players will get minutes and the opportunity to shine. Over the long haul of the season, their combined efforts should develop into a situation where the whole is greater than the sum of the individual pieces.

Before proceeding any further, it must be stated that Duke, like every other team, must avoid the injury bug. The past two seasons have been negatively impacted by injuries. Paulus broke his foot on the first day of practice in 2006, Zoubek broke his foot twice last season, Thomas suffered from a respiratory infection, Henderson hurt his wrist, the flu bug struck hard with inconvenient timing, and who knows what other minor injuries never leaked to the press. A healthy 2008-2009 season would be a nice change.

Finally, who will emerge to take over and secure spots as the ninth and tenth men in the rotation? Dave McClure, Elliot Williams, Marty Pocius, and Olek Czyz will be fighting for playing time as role players off the bench. All four of these players should have an opportunity to contribute early in the season, but when the ACC season starts competition for playing time will stiffen and it is not unrealistic to expect Coach Krzyzewski to shrink the rotation to ten players. Fifth year senior Dave McClure has the advantage of understanding the system, red shirt junior Marty Pocius is healthy and coming off a summer spent playing with the Lithuania National Team, and freshman Elliot Williams is extremely athletic. “I think he could be one of our better on-ball defenders,” Coach Krzyzewski said. Freshman Olek Czyz is a natural athlete and a guy who will be looking to make an impact when given the opportunity.

Duke is in good shape to make a deep run in the NCAA tournament. The team has a solid core and a talented supporting cast. By avoiding the injury bug, having a ball or two bounce the right way, and improving as the season unfolds, a trip to Detroit and the Final Four is a realistic expectation for this edition of the Duke Blue Devils.[/private]

A more confident Nolan Smith is ready to roll in 08-09

[private]I caught up to  Nolan Smith on Media Day while he was goofing around with Lance Thomas.  Lance was filming Nolan as he walked about the media interviews for the team website Blue Planet. They were there to have a good time and lighten the mood.

How was your summer?

It was great.  I really worked hard to improve my game and get better.

So, what’s going on here?  You have Lance filming every move you make in the background.

Lance?  (smiling) This is um, the Nolan Smith Report.  I am kind of playing player, slash reporter going around and interviewing the guys.  I’m just seeing if they are ready to head into practice today and start the season.

So, what have you learned since walking around and filming these guys?

I learned that this team is ready to kick some butt!  Everybody is ready to go and excited.  It should be a lot of fun.  I’m having fun with the camera – players are smiling when I slip in over the media’s shoulders.

What did you do in the off season?

In the off season, I went to Philadelphia and stayed there all summer.  I worked out with Michael Beasley and DeAndre Jordon who is with the Clippers.  We did four or five workouts a day getting stronger and quicker and just getting the ego.  Coach K really speaks about ego a lot with our team and I gained my ego back and I’m just ready to come here and lead this team and do what I can.

So you’re going to play with a little bit of an edge this season?

I will play with a nice edge.

A little bit of intensity …

Yes, yes a whole lot of that and now that DeMarcus is gone I feel that’s my spot – picking it up on defense and guarding the best player on the floor on the other team.

Do you feel like you have to step up and show a little leadership this season after having a year under your belt?

Oh definitely.  As you get older, you’ve got to get more wisdom and leadership.  I’m definitely looking to do that – talk more, last year I was definitely quiet, and that’s all freshman.  Now, with a year under my belt, I know what to tell these guys. I know how to save coaches voice.

Can you tell me a little bit about the freshman?

Elliot is just athletic and he can play.  He can jump, score and defensively he can really get after it.  He’s long and he’s really going to help us a lot.

Miles Plumlee is going to give us some size.  He has great hands and he really knows the game.  We need a big 6-11 guy inside to help Kyle, Zoubs and Lance with the rebounds.

And then Olek, he can jump out of the gym.

How do you pronounce his last name?  Is it Chiz?”  I know  when you were playing over at NC Central during the NC Pro Am it was pronounced different on occasion.  It sounded different each time he said it as well …

(laughing) Yeah!  Olek …  He might pronounce it different each day, but I’m going to stick with “Chiz.”

Okay, I think we’ll adopt that.  They called him OC over there …

Yeah, Olek Chizzzz.  He’ll be an exciting player to watch.

You guys are really deep this year.  In your opinion will that allow you to play more people?

It’s definitely going to allow us to save our bodies, play more people at every position – stay fresh and wear people down.

Is there a team motto or a key word going into the season?

Well, one would be don’t be soft.  We’ve been working hard all summer to get strong and we don’t want teams to push us around at all.  That’s one of our (team) main focuses.  The other would be to have fun and win.  Everybody o n this team knows how to win.  We don’t want to win by one or two.  We want to whip teams this year and have fun doing it.

You mentioned that edge … will you take that into the Blue and White game?

Of course, of course.  You have to have that edge at all times.  Everybody on this team loves each other but when we practice, we’ve got to have that edge.[/private]

Blue Devils continue play in the NC Pro Am

As I stated in my last Pro Am report, more stars would start to come out during the final weeks.  The mere addition of JJ Hickson, gave winless E-Net another force down low to go with Josh Powell which carried them to a 71-46 win over the RDU Barnstormers.

The Barnstormers feature three Dukies in Kyle Singler, Nolan Smith and incoming freshman Olek Czyz.  Singler got little help from Czyz in defending Powell and Hickson, which shows that work lies ahead for one of the most popular players in the tournament.  Czyz did drain a three and positioned himself better on the court than on Tuesday.  And he of course had a sweeping one handed dunk which brought about many looking at one another as if to say, did you see that?

Still, for all the tremendous athleticism Czyz possesses, his defense is a work in progress.  Czyz plays hard all the time and is in excellent game shape and Coach K will certainly tweak his game to a desired effect.  Czyz finished the evening with 15 points.

Kyle Singler (12 points) was steady, but tired after working overtime on the glass which took a toll on his shot.  I mean, he never comes out of the game and I have yet to see any other player not get a little rest in the event.  Unfortunately, some sloppy guard play which accounted for four straight turnovers at one point, helped send the Barnstormers to their second loss.

Nolan Smith came off the bench for the Barnstormers and had a stretch in the first half which I have yet to see anyone recognize.  I mean all he did was wreck havoc in the passing lanes, slash to the rim on his ways to 13 consecutive points.  That’s right, 13 straight points!  The second half was a different story for Smith who scored but 2 points giving him a total of 15.  Smith struggled from the free throw stripe and this was a classic case of a tale of two half’s.

Another Duke freshman, Elliot Williams played on the winning team and he would on some occasions match up with Nolan.  Williams cored just 11 points tonight but continued to show the ability to make his team better with his passing.  The fact that he can take his man off the dribble, allowed him to draw multiple defenders which allowed him to make the pass to a teammate for the open shot, if not a dunk.  One thing is certain, that being Williams has the ability to contribute in a big way as a freshman.

One thing about sitting as close as I do to the action is that you see a lot more than just the game.  Nolan is still not 100% and favored his knee down the stretch.  While I normally do not talk of how the games are called, I must admit that this one was sloppy.  Hey, no homer-ism though!  The entire body of games on this night were called in an inconsistent manner, in my opinion.

In fact, the first game had a controversial foul on tournament sponsor Jerry Stackhouse (11 points) as less than second was left on the clock.  Miles Plumlee would later be called for an iffy foul with 3.2 seconds on the clock with his team up a single digit.  Ironically, he fouled a soon to be teammate that he was playing against on this night.  Lance Thomas missed hit one of two and the game went to overtime.

Thomas played a bigger role in the extra period, flushing a hard dunk and connecting on two free throws at a critical juncture of the game.  Thomas moved well and played good position defense scoring his tournament high of 17 points. 

This was the first time I got to see Miles Plumlee (10 points) and he showed me that he is pretty good with his decision making and that he plays hard.  He drew UNC freshman Ed Davis (16 points) and had to play a lot of help defense which would leave a man open where teammate’s didn’t shift.  He plays smart and has indeed gained some weight to a body that is still a work in progress.  I look forward to seeing him more.

In the end Stacks Regulators  team remained undefeated, but they got help from two obvious makeup calls which somewhat tainted the game for this fan.  It was a really tight game that was full of intensity down the stretch and it should have been decided by the players and not the whistle.

Despite the lackluster officiating on this night, there was still great entertainment value in that the event is absolutely free and the crowd was the the biggest yet.  They will throw the rock up again this coming Tuesday and if you are a Triangle resident, there is little reason not to go.  Read other reviews and in depth analysis on the BDN Premium Message Board by becoming a member.

Standings Link

Photos – (1) Miles Plumlee and Ed Davis, (2) Kyle Singler*, (3) Elliot Williams*, Olek Czyz*

*Rick Crank (All Photos on BDN are original unless otherwise marked and they are copyrighted.  IOW, no reproductions without prior permission)

Singler leads team to win, Williams drops 21 in loss

The first two contests during tonight’s NC Pro Am games at North Carolina Central were relatively quiet.  That would soon change as Jerry Stackhouse would suit up for the first time with a cast of Tar Heels.  The undefeated Regulators would face the winless E-Net led by Duke freshman Elliot Williams and walk-on Steve Johnson.

Stackhouse, of course, sponsors the tournament and the word is that more ex pros will trickle in over the next two weeks.  Joining Stackhouse were rising UNC senior Danny Green and incoming freshman Ed Davis.

The game started off a bit slow as Stackhouse drained a three.  Few fans who have watched the games figured Team E-Net had a chance, but as the half went on they hung in the game early in the first half taking a one point lead at 16-15.  Shortly thereafter, the fun began.

Elliot Williams jumped out on Danny Green on the far baseline and forced the ball off his leg with smothering defense.  This brought the Duke fans to life as cheers echoed throughout the arena.  Shortly thereafter Green faked by Williams for a score which brought oohs and ah’s from the Tar Heel contingent.

Several big plays ensued, be it a dunk or a block.  Stackhouse showed his light blue blood getting a little riled after a few big plays from the Dukies.  Ed Davis also stepped up and looked really good on the glass.  Steve Johnson scored six points and is fundamentally sound ina many areas of the game.

Toward the end of the half, Williams stole the ball (one of four) and went to the rim to dunk, but Green would have none of that challenging him and getting the block but also the foul as time expired in the half.  He also got an elbow in the mouth, blood streaming to the point where he covered his mouth with a towel and sat out the second half.

It was in no way intentional on either players part.  Williams hit the deck hard and Green came away with the elbow.  The fans enjoyed the mini Duke-UNC rivalry and several seriously hard plays. Green had nine points and shook hands in a show of sportsmanship with Elliot after the game.

During one sequence, Johnson and Williams both had steals and dunks back to back.  Elliot again showed the ability to take his man off the dribble and finish with the dunk.  He had one play where he blew past Stackhouse for a rim rattling dunk.  He struggled a bit from the outside, but again, showed the ability to pass the ball garnering a few assists.  Williams ended the game with 21 points.

Former N.C. State star, Josh Powell was the game’s leading scorer with 26, but he was literally all E-Net had down low and this coupled Stackhouse’s experience made for an easy 73-58 win down the stretch.  Still the game was closer than that score indicates.  Stackhouse had 12 points and Ed Davis added 14.

In the nightcap, the Barnstormers rattled Team KG 70-58.  Kyle Singler had his usual all around game, playing the entire game for his depth shy team.  Kyle ended the game with 17 points  and as usual was vital in his team’s win.

Olek Czyz, called O.C., scored just 8 points tonight with 4 coming off his patented dunks.  There were times when he got lost on the court tonight and he will have to position himself better and more importantly know where to be on the court in sets.  Olek signed autographs for adoring fans who’ve come to love his uncanny athletic ability.

Nolan Smith had a quiet 14 points, and seemed to favor his knee.  He played sparingly at times due to the nagging problem.  This was his first time back after sitting out last Thursday.  The three Dukies have led their team to second place in the standing with just one loss.

Duke PG Greg Paulus and Duke quarterback Thaddeus Lewis were in the house to watch their school mates.  Miles Plumlee is listed on a roster but didn’t make the early game.  Paulus attended the game with his brother who plays for the UNC football team. 

The games continue this Thursday at 6:00.  The last game tips at 9:00.  Here is the Pro Am’s official website where you can check the schedules, gametimes and stats.  Admission is free.

Is Nolan Smith Duke’s next defensive stopper?

Nolan Smith struggled to achieve consistent play as a freshman.  He was brilliant at times particularly in games at Maryland and Wake Forest, scoring 14 and 21 points respectively, but ineffective at times, such as the seven games where he did not score a point.  Additionally, Smith did not have back-to-back double digit scoring games.  But that is the life of a freshman in the tough ACC, especially a combo guard who is expected to score, handle the ball, play pressure defense, and make very few mistakes along the way.  Smith’s freshman season statistics were a respectable 5.9 points in 14.7 minutes per game, and those numbers were hampered by Smith nursing a sore knee over the last month of the season.

 

In his sophomore season, Smith will be competing for an open spot in the starting line-up due to the graduation of DeMarcus Nelson.  Jon Scheyer and in-coming McDonald’s All-American Elliot Williams will be his main competition with redshirt junior Marty Pocius also in the mix.  Smith’s main advantage should be his on-the-ball defense.  With a year of experience under his belt, Smith will be more comfortable with Duke’s defensive schemes and should be competitive to step into the role of shutdown perimeter defender previously occupied by ACC Defensive Player of the Year DeMarcus Nelson.  Whether he earns the starting spot or comes off the bench Smith will need to play aggressive defense to earn significant playing time.

 

On offense, Smith demonstrated the ability to knock down the 3-point shot, making 38.6 percent during his freshman season, or explode to the rim with athleticism.  Improving his assists to turnover ratio of .92 will need to be a focus area this coming season.  This is paramount if Smith aspires to make the transition from combo guard to legitimate point guard the position many analysts see as his ultimate destiny at Duke and beyond.  He has the explosiveness and court vision to play the point and making better decisions should come with experience.  If Smith demonstrates the ability to distribute the basketball, he should challenge for a slot in the starting line-up.

 

Comparing Nolan Smith to previous Duke guards results in the name Daniel Ewing.  Ewing was a combo guard who successfully quarterbacked the offense in his senior season.  As a freshman, Ewing’s numbers of 6.5 points in 18.2 minutes per game are comparable to Smith’s 5.9 points in 14.7 minutes.  Ewing’s numbers increased to 12 points in 27.9 minutes as a sophomore and while it is unlikely Smith will see 27 minutes a game due to Duke’s deep roster it is not unrealistic to expect his points per game to approach double digits.  Moreover, Ewing was a consistently strong defender who drew the assignment of guarding the opponent’s top perimeter player.  That is the role many expect Nolan Smith to fulfill in his second season as a Blue Devil.