It's been a busy off-season for Duke point guard Quinn Cook. Be it the sweltering nights at the North Carolina Pro-Am or some real road games in Eastern Europe, Cook has been playing a lot of basketball. To Blue Devils fans' delight, he is clearly improving his game, and that is what many had hoped for this summer. Only time will tell if those improvements translate into a starting position in the fall, but there certainly is reason to think he has a good shot at earning that spot. We'll talk more about Cook a bit down the road, but until then here is a video interview we did with him just before the championship game of the N.C. Pro-Am:
“Let’s do this,” said diving maestro Nick McCrory, who grew up in Chapel Hill but attends Duke, and he now owns a Bronze Medal from the XXX Olympics. Do you think Chapel Hill is happy losing one of their own to Duke of all places? Congrats Nick!
Also in diving: Congrats to Abby Johnston, who won a Silver medal. I wonder if the Duke Stores and the Duck Shop are printing up "Duke Divers Rule" t-shirts.
Fencing National Champion Becca Ward of Duke was named ACC Female Athlete of the Year. Ward got my vote, as did linebacker Luke Kuechly of Boston College for Male Athlete of the Year.
Also electorally speaking, the ballot I cast at the ACC Kickoff event for the projected ACC football standings matched the final results in balloting. Of course, these projected standings are rarely on the money come year's end.
While we're talking pigskin, Duke opens fall practice for the 2012 season this coming Monday. Positions to watch in the pre-season? The middle of the defense and the wideouts, where guys will need to step up and fast.
All eyes will be on the seniors as well. Can QB Sean Renfree bring his game full circle this season? Local Durham product Desmond Scott has been taking snaps at wideout, yet he is also the last Duke running back to rush for more than 100 yards. Good thing the Blue Devils seem deep in the offensive backfield.
Back to hoops: So, if Shane Battier is playing congas for Jimmy Buffet and the Coral Reefer Band in a performance, can we get an encore at a local club in Durham? One can wish.
The Duke Women's Basketball team is preparing for its European tour. They will spend the first few days in Paris. Life is tough. Actually, it may not be all quiche lorraine and boeuf bourguignon for the ladies, as their days of wine and roses will be limited somewhat due to injuries to Chloe Wells (leg), Richa Jackson (knee), Elizabeth Williams (leg), Amber Henson (knee), Katie Heckman (questionable - knee). #BuildingDepth
Yes, Duke will have two pre-season top 10 basketball teams this coming year. Maybe even top 5.
Back in London, even while substituting liberally, Team USA rolled past overmatched Tunisia. In games like this, motivation and focus are challenges for the staff. If anyone can keep our team locked in, it's Coach K.
Speaking of Coach K, you just know his work with the NBA's best really hurts recruiting. If you really fall for that, I have a coupon for half off the purchase of London Bridge.
How do we know Duke assistant coaches are all over the nation's top prospects while K, Collins and Wojo (not a law firm) are in the United Kingdom? Because BDN Premium continues to be out there on the beat with them. Join today and find out who Nate James and Jeff Capel have been watching.
Quinn Cook and Marshall Plumlee took a break from the N.C. Pro-Am to play in the Four Nations Cup tournament in Tunisia, of all places. Cook was named to the All Cup team but Plumee was his saucer. It was good experience for both young players.
Alex Murphy got some serious burn recently too. The redshirt freshman was one of two "go-to" guys for the Finnish National Team in the recent U-20 European Championship tournament. The team had little depth, so Murphy played big minutes and really showed off his scoring abilities despite being double-teamed for much of the way.
Bobby Hurley tweeted this yesterday: "Proud 2 watch the "Fab Five" perform & bring home the gold! Who would have thought that the "Fab Five" could it get it done." See! I am not the only one who tweets how I feel on occasion. For those who missed it, the shot was directed towards the Michigan Wolverines' "Fab Five" of the early 1990's.
Duke rising sophomore PG Quinn Cook went for 24 points at the N.C. Pro-Am last evening, with 20 of those coming in the first half. Cook also dished out 8 assists, half of which went to incoming freshman forward Amile Jefferson. BDN caught up to Cook after his team's easy win and here is what he had to say:
In our latest update, Blue Devil Nation Premium recaps what has happened recently on the recruiting trail and gives you an idea of what to expect next.
It wasn't that long ago that many were writing the Blue Devils off after being shocked by Lehigh in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. For several weeks after the upset, there was only criticism. But three months have now passed, and the dark skies have cleared considerably, as Duke has added several key pieces for the future in incoming freshman Amile Jefferson and transfer Rodney Hood.
Amile Jefferson has arrived on campus. He will spend plenty of time in the weight room, for there is a big leap from high school ball to the high major college game, and Amile needs to get stronger in order to contribute in a big way. Jefferson will have the luxury to play behind Mason Plumlee and Ryan Kelly in his first season while learning the ropes, but the coaches will give him every opportunity to play when he is ready.
The Duke Men's Basketball staff continued its recent momentum on the recruiting trail, landing coveted Mississippi State transfer Rodney Hood this weekend. Hood is right around [private] 6'8" and is long, lean and athletic. He is an outside/in player, meaning his game is geared towards the perimeter; he likes to get touches just beyond the free throw stripe, from which he is comfortable taking it to the hoop or popping the mid-range J. His ability to knock down those mid-range jump shots draws bigger players away from the hoop, keeps the opposing defense honest, and opens up things for his teammates. Hood is also a good defender and likes to get after it by using his length to his advantage. While he did not dominate the SEC as a freshman, Rodney was a very steady force on a veteran team.
Hood's game has changed little since I saw him on the AAU trail, with the exception of some natural physical growth. But his frame can still use some muscle, and that is what Duke Strength and Conditioning Coach Will Stephens will focus on as Rodney sits out his transfer season at Duke. One of the things that impressed Hood on his visit was the Duke facilities, which are NBA-quality, and frankly a far cry from what he was used to in Starkeville. Sources also say he liked the structure of the team and its organization, something that he found lacking at MSU.
For the record, we here at BDN never wavered from the position that Hood was a Duke lean, and by now you guys should know how to interpret my cryptic messages enough to have figured this one out.
Rodney will be on campus this coming Wednesday, July 4th, and he will participate in the N.C. Pro-Am. We'll head over to that event provided we can stand the ridiculous heat.
Freshman Rasheed Sulaimon is already on campus and getting accustomed to his surroundings. He is hanging with the guys, including Nolan Smith who is in town. Quinn Cook arrived today as well, and he is ready to hit the ground running after spending a lot of time with Nolan in Portland. Tyler Thornton and Josh Hairston will be back around the 4th of July as well, and all should play in the Pro-Am. Seth Curry played in the opening night of the event and played well. He and some teammates even picked up Sulaimon at RDU yesterday.
Ryan Kelly has fully recovered from his injury and Mason Plumlee is looking stronger than ever. Both benefited from their time at the Amare Stoudemire Camp, and they have both been working on adding new shots to their offensive arsenals.
Alex Murphy is stuffing the stat sheet for Finland's National Team this summer. The staff has been very impressed with his play and progress since he's arrived over a year ago.
Mike Krzyzewski and the staff circled the wagons after the Lehigh loss and decided they wanted more athleticism and toughness, and I believe they are on the road to reshaping future rosters in that way. But don't get caught looking ahead, for they are more than a little excited about this season's team, especially because Coach loves flying just under the radar on the national scene. The staff feels this year's team will be able to defend the perimeter better and is excited about using the length of Murphy on the outside along with Sulaimon, Thornton, Curry and Cook. One thing does seem odd though: Murphy and Marshall Plumlee have a year in the program under their belts, and seem like old-timers compared to Sulaimon and Jefferson. Yet all four of them will be getting their first real minutes when the Blue Devils tip off the season.
The coaching staff is very happy with their recent recruiting successes, but there will be no rest at all. After spending some time with their respective families, Mike Krzyzewski, Chris Collins and Steve Wojciechowski will head to Las Vegas on the 4th to work with the national team. So while they will only see the new kids on campus in passing, there are no worries, for Nate James and Jeff Capel will break them in before going back to hitting the recruiting trail hard themselves.
So where does Duke stand now with other recruits? Which direction will they go in? First of all, the staff can now afford to be a bit fluid in its approach, meaning the strategy can most certainly change depending on how some dominoes fall, but for now, let me share how I feel things are shaping up. These are educated guesses.
The top targets are always the most talented and that means Jabari Parker and Julius Randle. However, the addition of Hood makes Randle, who is more of a banger, the top priority. Duke is all-in on Randle and they've made good inroads through Krzyzewski making regular calls, with Capel taking the lead assistant role. Duke will of course face the Tar Heels until the end on this one, and they too have gone all-in. Some would even say that Randle may tip the balance of power in the rivalry. But keep in mind that UNC has other offers out and a bevy of bigs on their roster, while Duke can make him realize he is their man, and there are no others. When I say "no others" for Duke, I mean the Devils are not pushing hard with a lot of other big men at this time, but of course that could change. Randle has reshaped his body in the off-season, but what a lot of people do not know is that it was Mike Krzyzewski who made a suggestion for this to happen. If we're not the leader for Randle, we're certainly one of the leaders.
Meanwhile, Parker has been flirting a lot with Michigan State, but with a player of his stature, Duke will most certainly hang around.
Duke will also remain hot on Semi Ojeleye and quite frankly, I think he is the Blue Devils' to lose, and they feel he is as enamored with them as they are with him. The bottom line is the kid is a perfect fit. This situation looks good, and it may only be a matter of time before he pulls the trigger -- and it may even come soon.
Austin Nichols is a Duke-type big that would replace the loss of Ryan Kelly, so they are on him and could turn up the heat a bit more in the coming months. Nichols is being hit up hard by other schools too, but Duke remains in decent shape. The Devils are also still interested in Nichols's AAU teammate, shooting guard Robert Hubbs.
The picture is a little less clear past these two. Al Freeman has faded a bit but remains a possibility. Duke could chase another big man, but are not doing so now. We are completely out of the picture with scoring point guard Anthony "Cat" Barber, who was never formally offered.
The Blue Devils still have interest in Ish Wainright and Marcus Lee as well. I still think it may be hard to pry Lee away from the west coast, and the need for Wainright could diminish should Ojeleye pull the trigger for Duke.
Everything is still good with 2013 commit Matt Jones, although I can hear many of you getting worried about us being too loaded at that shooting guard spot. Well, we are. But it will play out -- as it always does. I'll be discussing this later.
As for players beyond the class of 2013, we'll cover that the next go-round.
To summarize, there is an overall positive feel around the program right now. Recruiting is in a good place. Duke and Coach K will remain in the limelight all summer, as Team USA goes for gold in London. We'll cover several more recruiting events this summer and the Pro-Am, and we continue to work behind the scenes on site changes, including a facelift.
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No more Super Bowl day games for Duke, I say! The Blue Devils fell in overtime to Miami for their second ACC loss of the season in Cameron Indoor Stadium and their third straight loss on Super Bowl Sunday. They must now pick up the pieces for the coming media blitz and hype which is known at the Duke-Carolina game. Monday Musings takes a look at a litle bit of everything today and with that let's get the ball rolling.
In search of the right buttons
The Duke Men's staff has tried to shake up the lineup and they've tried to figure out ways to get to this years team to play together and smart. Early in the season it worked for Duke holds nice wins over Kansas and Michigan and Michigan State, but since that time the team has struggled a bit and of all places at home. The reason I say, a bit, is because they could have easily won their games against Miami and Florida State with a couple of made shots or execution. The frustration on Coach Krzyzewski's face was evident yesterday and he is trying to figure out a way to get his team to play a full 40-45 minutes of what is known as "Duke Basketball," and their year in and out lofty expectations. Just when you thought the team had reached deep and turned a corner, they fell back into some bad habits. I hate to say this, but this years team seems a bit soft at times and there were some loose balls and rebounds missed that could have turned the tide in their two ACC losses. You see, Krzyzewski wants all his teams to win the regular season, but yesterday, those hopes took a major hit and it is not acceptable by his standards.
Growing pains for freshman
Quinn Cook came off the bench to spark Duke in a big way yesterday, but at games end he throws up an inexplicable wild runner with the outcome on the line and nobody in position to board late in the game. It was a critical mistake and one of several which changed the games outcome. But before you give up on Cook, realize that he now has an assist to turnover ratio of 3.33 to 1 which is the best of any freshman ever at Duke. And just ask the assistants on the bench or go back and look at tape on any of the former PG's in their freshman years and they all had growing pains or a lapse when the game was on the line. And the good news is the rest of the aforementioned or former freshman I alluded to all learned and helped Duke to many victories.
Duke gets all the calls ... yeah, right
You will never see the staff blame the refs for a loss, nor me for that matter. But those who think Duke gets all the calls haven't been paying attention of late. It's funny how Karl Hess is well known by the Crazies and the Blue Devils record is, well, just look it up under him. But the real crime is with the game on the line, none of the three refs were seemingly paying attention to the Duke head coach who was doing everything he could to call a timeout. In my experience, a ref is almost always near the bench in those instances or at least aware the game is on the line and paying attention. That in no way caused the loss, but it sure makes one wonder of yet another what if.
The elephant in the room for me was ...
The Cameron Crazies have been in the news more than I care to see this season and for good or maybe I should say, bad reasons. There have been so many articles on this of late that I can honestly tell you I read maybe one. But there is a problem and it is a huge one and the university itself needs to figure out a way to resolve this before the bottom tier of the stadium is dominated by average fans. The turnout yesterday was deplorable at best and I heard many reasons from the CC's which sit behind me. For the record the Crazies who come on a regular basis are great and I mean that, but what on earth is happening to where students will not come to a Duke game when it is free? I could put together a book on how they just aren't the same anymore but that just seems a waste of time when the season is in full swing. Maybe it's time the scrap everything and start fresh, I don't know, nor can I personally do more than complain that I miss the atmosphere that has made the stadium so famous through the years. Seriously, former Crazies never used the same chant for a player in a game more than once and there was a brain trust who came up with some outrageously witty and fun cheers. Coach stopped short of saying the Crazies had anything to do with the loss when asked by media members seeking yet more ammunition for articles. He instead blamed his team for the loss and he was right, but he did mention atmosphere and if you have been around as long as I have, you easily read between the lines of what was said.
Everything was off
The air was ripe for an upset in so many ways. On message boards fans wanted to fast forward to the UNC game this Wednesday evening and overlooked Miami, a team projected #5 in the ACC this season. Then the team looked flat and almost sleep walked through the first half and in the process dug a hole too deep to climb out of. And then the aforementioned worst turnout of the season by the Crazies which has caused a ton of negative media towards the program didn't help. But I can tell you this for a fact, Duke did not overlook Miami and they were not looking ahead to the UNC game. Nope, it was just one of those foul, unusual days where all alligned in a not so good way.
UNC at Duke Women
Before the men's team play this week, the women get it going this evening in Cameron Indoor Stadium. This is always a spirited and entertaining affair and tickets are cheap, so tuen out and cheer on the Blue Devils as they try to maintain their hold on first place in the ACC.
And the hype begins
There is no doubt that yesterdays upset loss to Miami tarnished the upcoming Duke at UNC game a bit for you always want to come off a win. But the hype begins today with a Coach K press conference and players talking about the game and BDN will be there and remain for the Duke vs UNC women's game, so stay tuned for a lot of coverage all the way through the game.
It's the end of the world as we know it, but not really
As usual, any Duke loss this season is met with the Chicken Little effect from many fans and it is the end of the world as we know it, but nothing is fine. Okay, that was a bad play on an old song. Duke is a few plays away from being 21-2 and there is plenty of balling left. There are some red flags for sure, but this Duke team has 19 wins against a difficult schedule. Some Duke fans need to suck it up, just like our team will do. Support your Blue Devils when they need it most. Duke was down 16 points yesterday and staged a comeback which fell short. Krzyzewski will find a way to get his kids to play together and with a collective heart and make a run when it counts in March and the lessons learned will help along the way. Remember, this team lost Nolan Smith, Kyle Singler and Kyrie Irving and they are young at many key positions.
The Duke Blue Devils had a team meeting as soon as they got back from the Temple game where several things were discussed behind closed doors. It was decided that Quinn Cook would start at the point guard spot and he had a pretty good outing. BDN was on the scene during today's media day and we spoke to Cook about several things which you can see here via BDN Video -