Covering the AAU circuit has allowed BDN a chance to get to know prospects and future Blue Devils, so conversation comes easy with the three incoming freshman. Ryan Kelly was quick to crack a smile during yesterday's media event and was forthcoming about his adjustment to Duke and more in this extended audio interview -
Two 2009 Duke commitments Ryan Kelly of Ravenscroft and Mason Plumlee of Christ School will attempt to lead their schools to a State Championship on
Saturday afternoon. The game starts at 4:00 and is played at Charlotte Latin High School in Charlotte, North Carolina.
The defending champions, Christ School, who are coached by David Gaines, have played in five out of the last six title games. They will be a prohibitive favorite in that they have seven top notch college prospects on their roster. Of course, they walloped the Ravens 76-45 in an early season game in the Chic-Fil-A Classic.
Ravenscroft is coached by former Duke player Kevin Billerman who has led his
team to the state title game three times in his nine years of coaching the team. Billerman's team leans heavily on Kelly, who is asked to do it all. It would be wise for them to slow the tempo of the game.
Kelly and Plumlee have faced off several times, but one of the best showdowns was in last season Tournament of Champions AAU event. Kelly showed a variety of offensive moves and had his way in the first half for D-One Sports, but Plumlee reached down and controlled the second half to lead his Indiana Elite team team to the win.
Raleigh Ravenscroft played host to Word of God last evening in one of the more hyped Wake County area basketball games in recent memory. The gym was full
before the girls' game started and by game time for the boys, there was a throng of people standing outside in frigid weather hoping to catch a glimpse of John Wall, C.J. Leslie and Ryan Kelly. Some went as far to bill the game Wall versus Kelly II. Ravenscroft had defeated Word of God on their home floor earlier this season. The Ravens were poised to sweep the series, but Word of God had other ideas and a bit of a chip on their shoulder. After the game Ravenscroft head coach Kevin Billerman said, "I think it was a great environment for high school athletics to have the city of Raleigh turn out as it did. If you looked in the stands you saw maybe fifty percent of the highs schools area basketball players. Everybody wanted to see the game." The Ravens started out ice cold, Kelly went 0 for 5 before finding his range. For a while Kelly would score and then Wall would answer. For instance Kelly scored on the baseline and before you could blink Wall nailed a three. Then Kelly would dunk and Wall would return the favor. " "They were just leaving me open and I was making shots tonight feeling confident. He (Kelly would hit one and then I would shoot it and it felt good," said Wall. It benefited WOG that N.C. State bound C.J. Leslie asserted himself early as well. Leslie who would end the game with points showed a good mid range jumper to go with his play around the glass and even drained a three point shot. UNC Wilmington commitment Matt Wilson also played well early, but faded down the stretch. It was later learned that he had been fighting off a bug and was playing sick. But Wall put on a show. I once timed him after a rebound and he went end to end finishing with a driving lay in just as the stop watch hit three seconds. Every time the home team would cut it to with a couple of baskets, Wall would raise the level of his play often dunking in a show boat fashion bringing the crowd to it's feet. Word of God was able to get the Ravens to play their style of up and down ball and a few rushed shots later, they took a 43-30 lead into the half. It would never get any closer. As the second half opened, the slam fest continued. Before you know it Wall had tallied 24 points and his team had a commanding twenty point margin many of those by way of the break. "When you take jump shots against them, all of a sudden John (Wall) is laying it in
on the other end. Our best two defenders are our two 6-11 guys and for them to sprint back when John Wall does is difficult," said Billerman. He continued with his accolades for Wall, "I've seen John play many, many times before and he shot the ball as well as I have ever seen him. He's really a very good team player." Kelly did his best to put his team on his back, but the twenty point working margin held up for a 82-64 Word of God victory. The win pushed their record to 11-9 for
the season, but bare in mind that record comes against a tough tournament laden schedule. "We got into a bit of a running match which isn't what we are. We don't compare well with a team with their athleticism. The last time we got them and we controlled the tempo better," said Kelly. Kelly wound up the games high scorer with 29 points, but his teammates failed to find him on the blocks where he had enormous success when given that chance. In fact, the guard play of the Ravens was their undoing in due to rushed and poor shot selection. Wall ended the game with 28 points, with two three pointers and a bushel of
dunks. He showed a better touch from the outside than he has in the past and seemed to recognize holes in the defense. "We took an extra look at film yesterday and we saw we should push the ball with no hesitation. And you could see we were pushing and their backs were turned and we were scoring and getting fouled. I was seeing the different match ups and after talking to the coaches and it worked out fine and we came out with a good win," said Wall. Wall was surrounded by autograph seekers after the game and he stated, "Im used to it after AAU ball, but usually it's not that much." The WOG handlers stepped up in the press conference and would not allow any recruiting questions, threatening to immediately leave if the media didn't comply. Wall is the top player in high school that has yet to commit. There were some hints given earlier that he would be trimming the list and setting up some visits which will be discussed in our premium section. The entire Wall Q & A is there as well. Another player who helped the Rams cause was Bishop Daniels who tallied 15 points. "Bishop is really doing a great job developing. I told him at the beginning of the year we're going to play thirty games this year, 18 of them, you're going to stake it up. One of the things you saw him do tonight is get out in transition," said WOG Coach Levi Beckwith. While disappointed in the loss Ravenscroft Coach Kevin Billerman put the game into perspective, "This will be a game is good practice for us and good preparation for us advancing into the state tournament in two weeks." Notes - Ravenscroft (21-6) will travel to Durham Academy this Friday. Word of God will host Greenfield next Wednesday. Greenfield is rinding a 16 game winning streak. North Carolina State Coach Sydney Lowe watched the game. One of the WOG coaches said their recod was 17-7. So, I'm uncertain of which record is correct. For futher coverage, join Blue Devil Nation Premium and get full inside access.
The Blue Devil Nation was on the scene for the 37th Annual Tournament where we caught all of the action in a sold out venue. We talked with John Wall about the recruiting process and where he stands. BDNP talked to Duke commitment Ryan Kelly as well. The following is an in depth report laced with plenty of details and full of scouting reports, interviews, pictures and behind the scenes chatter. We will continue our live blog of the event on the Premium Message Board this afternoon. It's a great time to join Blue Devil Nation Premium. Details for membership are in the menu just under our name. [private]
Word of God - When Word of God players arrived in the media room, John Wall, CJ Leslie and Bishop Daniels joked about with each other about missed finger rolls or dunks. While the three got along well together off the court, there were time when some of the Word of God players seemed to take their shots when they got them for fear of not getting enough shots.
John Wall - Word of God is very athletic and the crowd really got into their game. But all of their players seemed to want to make the showboat play. Wall would show off his ball skills in an almost taunting manner when guarded one on one. There was one short, stocky kid which got a five second call on Wall after his showboating. That's a call he'll talk about to his family about one day when Wall is in the NBA.
In reality, his team is giving the crowd what they want and they run the court non stop, but did play a zone this evening which is uncharacteristic of their team. Quite simply, WOG plays on emotion and their talent allows them to try and do things other teams wish they could.
Wall showed the ability to make amazing dunks from any and every angle. His leaping ability is something to behold, especially considering he gets up so quickly. He can make up ground like no other guard in the country and came floating through the air effortlessly for two blocks and a third which was called a foul.
Wall is a streaky outside shooter. He would nail a couple and then miss one badly. His strength is going to the hole and he actually needed the ball in his hands more in order to create on the break. His half court PG skills need work, but he is a motor guy who will be a star on any level.
ESPN is doing a documentary on Wall and a piece for an upcoming ESPNU show. The camera seems to follow Wall everywhere in an almost comical fashion, be it in the
stands before the game or close enough to see sweat glands at work in the team huddle.
Much has been made of past attitudes and problems with Wall. His coach had this to say, "One of the things that people don't see is the strides that these guys has made as young men. If you were to interview people that knew these guys years ago, they would tell you what they have developed most is not their game, but their character.
My Q & A with John Wall - (Keep in mind there is limited time during this event and I fired off as many questions as I could which was pretty much half the questions asked total)
Somebody is going to bring up recruiting and where you are in the process, can you speak of that? There was a TV camera on you quite a bit. Is this the continuation of the documentary they were filming since the last time I talked to you in person at the Peach Jam.
"I'm not sure, really. I think that's ESPN," said Wall who then turned to his coach asking, "Is that ESPN 360 ... I think?"
When will you trim your list?
"I think I will do it when I take two or three more visits. When I take my last couple of visits that's when I will try to trim my list down and make a decision in April."
Are any of those visits set or in the near future?
"I've got to take one to Miami and Baylor and then I've got to take one more after that."
... and your list consists of?
"Kansas, Memphis, Baylor, Miami, N.C. State, Duke and Oregon."
Rising Star Bishop Daniels- Daniels was a sharp witted youngster witha big smile and seemed mature beyond his years. When asked about playing with Leslie and Wall. "Man they treat me like a little kid. They treat me like the baby. (room laughing) It's fun playing with them. I go at them hard because they go at me hard. They try to hurt me in practice (Jokingly), but it's different with two superstars on the court. I'm trying to show what I can do on the courts too." I then asked him to tell me something nobody knows about John Wall and CJ Leslie as both players put their faces in their hands. "CJ is a clown and Johns a clown too. They like to have fun, more fun than anybody I know." Once in the hallway, I asked Bishop where he thought Wall might be leaning. "It depends on which day it is. He changes back and forth all the time."
Ryan Kelly -Kelly continued his perimeter play often handling the ball out front in his teams opening night win. Kelly scored 21 points grabbed 4 boards and had 3 blocks. Ravenscroft defeated Apex 71-56 and the opponent had nothing to combat the size of the Ravens.
Kelly flushed three dunks and handled the ball well. When he did take the ball in low, it allowed him to kick back out to teammates for open shots. Kelly still needs a little work on his three point stroke, but his movement is smooth. Again, I am impressed by his length when challenged defensively. He easily mad up ground against shorter players. He will be in action again this evening.
Ravenscroft teammate Matt Wilson who is heading to UNC-Wilmington had a solid game where he tallied 18 points. FWIW, the official stats seem to need an extra stat person for they indeed differ from what many of us are keeping.
Former Duke player and Ravenscroft coach Kevin Billermans comments -
Opening statement - "Our guards made some threes early which opened the game up for us and our defensive pressure allowed us to open it up to twenty points."
He wanted folks to know his team has not been healthy- "One of the things that people don't understand is that Madison is coming off a sprained ankle and has not been able to practice for an extended period of time. Luke Davis our PG had streped throat down in South Carolina and did not have the energy he normally had. When those two guys are healthy they created plays where Matt and Ryan can finish."
I asked about how he was using Ryan and that it seemed different from last year -We wanted to feature Matt (Wilson) more in the post this year. Most teams don't have two big men. With Ryan, he's so skilled and can create shots for himself Matt and our perimeter players.
Q and A with Kelly-
Did this game help your team get back on track after dropping one of three games in the Chic-Fil-A tournament?
"Yeah, definitely! We began to get into a little bit of rhythm once now that this tournament has begun. Obviously we didn't do as well as we would have like down at the Chic-Fil-A tournament. But we finished with a win there and started off with one here and hopefully that can translate as we continue into the tournament."
I asked Kelly if having Chris Collins and his Father Doug in the stands got him more pumped up -
"I go out in every game prepared to play as hard as I can. It's great to see that the coaches are supporting me, but I play the same with every game - the same emotion.
Chris Collins and Doug Collins - It's always great to see these two basketball
purists together. They were going over X's and O's during the game and ESPN was sure to get a shot of them. Kelly stopped over to talk with them after I talked with him. Once a player is committed coaches are allowed to talk with their kids.
I will be covering the event today and will have a live blog going on the message board for members. Mason Plumlee plays this evening followed by Ryan Kelly. [/private]
In our latest interview, Ryan Kelly covered many interesting subjects. Among those subjects were, John Wall's recruitment, Cameron Indoor Stadium, his upcoming game versus Christ School and Mason Plumlee, Coach K and his progression as a player.
It was a big win, beating Greensboro Day who came into the game 10-0 ...
It was a big step for us as a team. Our first seven games were ... I don;t want to say they were pre season but that was a big step in our schedule to come out with a win as we go into Christmas tournaments.
You were a bit off from the outside tonight, but you took it inside in the second half ...
Is that something you did on your own?
You've got to find where you can score with the ball. For me the shots weren't hitting early on outside and in the second half I took it inside and after some success there I moved outside a game. The versatility of my game ... that's something I've worked on as I continue to be able to knock those shots down consistently I'll get better.
Coach Billerman said he talks to the Duke coaches once a week. Have you been or do you stay in contact with the Duke staff? [private]
Yeah, I will talk to them after the games. I'll let them know about my season and talk of how theirs is going. They're doing pretty well ... it was a tough loss (Michigan).
What are your goals for the rest of the season?
Well, one is to win a state championship and we are going to try as hard as we can to win every game. But we are going to try and win a state championship and hopefully in these Christmas tournaments, we'll come out with some championships there. We need to keep out confidence up.
Talking about state champions, there is a team you might run into that you play on the 20th (December) in Christ School. Of course, you will be going up against Mason Plumlee which will be a big thrill for Duke fans. Are you looking forward to the match up?
Yeah. I can't wait, they're considered the best team in 3-A. Hopefully some will consider us to be right there too. They are obviously a heck of a team and we need to show some people something. We have the ability to do that, so I'm looking forward to it. Obviously Mason is a great player and I look forward to matching up against him and his team. So, I can't wait.
Is there a lot of pressure off of you now that you have committed to Duke? Is it cool that you're a Blue Devil and are you glad the process is over?
Yeah, it's really cool. The pressure is off and I don't have people wondering where I will be. At the same time there is pressure to succeed. I need to keep getting better to play at Duke as any high school senior needs to play over at Duke.
Has the staff told you to work on any part of your game?
Yeah ... continue to work on my defense. Tonight I had a big man, but they want me to be able to guard smaller guys out front a guy smaller, a guard. That's what Kyle Singler does well. To continue to get stronger. I need to obviously get stronger in the weight room, but to get stronger with rebounding. I think it's important to keep getting better with what you are good at. You can't just level off.
So, it's safe to say you feel comfortable in most every aspect of the game?
You came out on defense and looked really good in doing so. You play defense really well out front for your size. I was surprised to see how you blanketed some of those guys out front.
I continue to work on it and lateral quickness is something that doesn't come very natural for me. A lot of that comes in thee weight room and working on zig zag drills in practice and we work pretty hard on that. We held them to 40 points and they're an 80 point per game team. So, we did a pretty good job.
You've played with John Wall before in the AAU circuit and heads up during the season. He's a kid Duke is recruiting real hard. Do you ever talk to him or put a bug in his ear?
I haven't talked to him in a little while. I was planning on going to see him, but I have talked to him in a little while. Obviously. he's a heck of a player. He made summer ball so much better for me. He's a great guy and a good athlete and I wish the best for him where he goes.
It's safe to say that you would want to play with him?
Yeah, for sure.
I guess in the end he'll be a tough get ...
He's got a decision to make like I had to make and it's not easy. He's taking his time which is really great for him.
Do you ever talk to some of the prospects who have committed?
I'm focusing a lot on what I'm doing here. Obviously, I ha a lot of time to talk to Mason. That was with USA Basketball. I'm looking forward to playing against him. They are undefeated to, so I will see how it is going for him. I know they are all great guys and I'm looking forward to seeing him there. I get over to Duke as much as I can. It's ... the bright lights come on when you go to Cameron Indoor Stadium whether it's Duke or you are playing for somebody else. You have top get as comfortable as you can there and going in as much as you can is the best way to do that.
What do you think about Coach K?
Aw, I can't wait. He's a great coach, one of the best ever.
Do you want to play in the NBA?
Sure, it's my goal. I think any basketball player should have that goal.
I appreciate your time and we'll see you agains as the season goes on.