Tag Archives: Ryan Kelly

New Homes for NBA Blue Devils

ddfThere will be a new home for several NBA Blue Devils this coming season including one of the all time Duke favorites JJ Redick. In case you missed it, Redick was part of a three team trade and deal which landed him with the Los Angeles Clippers. Redick joins the “hot.” team in L.A. in the Clippers who look to be one of the better teams in the west this season. The Lakers which recently lost Dwight Howard to free agency will take a step back and the window is open for success for the Clippers who now have Glenn “Doc,” RIvers running the team. As for Rivers, he actually mentioned Redick as a shooter in a conversation I had with him when Duke was recruiting his son Austin. In short, Redick has a good new home and with an aging Chancey Billups at the SG spot, he has a chance to start or play a major role this coming season.

Also on the move is former Duke standout and national champion Mike Dunleavy who will now suit up for Chicago Bulls. Dunleavy joins two other former Blue Devils in Luol Deng and Carlos boozer provide there are no further moves in Chi-town.

Another Blue Devil who will have a new home is Nolan Smith who was to play with the Boston Celtics in the NBA Summer league but he just suffered a lower leg injury and is now in a boot.

Mason Plumlee dropped a dunk during day one of the NBA Summer League that is drawing raves and supposedly yelled “Get some,” as he ran back down court. Mason has a bit of a chip on his shoulder for those who thinks he is an older rookie with less upside. I think folks will change their tune over time about kids remaining until their senior year hurting their chances.

 

Meanwhile, the Blue Devil who never was, Shaun Livingston will be a teammate of Plumlee in Jersey where the Nets have signed the former high school standout. For those who have not followed Duke recruiting over the years, Livingston was a high school prodigy who gave Duke a verbal only to bolt for the NBA late the game before he ever played a game at Duke. His departure coincided with Luol Deng leaving after his freshman season after he had told the Devils he would return leaving Coach K’s Dukies in a bit of a lurch. Sadly, Livingston suffered a major injury which has effected his career and many felt he needed a year in college for his body to catch up. Anyhow, Livingston was the original point of frustration for Duke fans in that they never got to see the top rated PG in the class and until that guy named Kyrie Irving came along. Irving, of course, got injured where he played in just over ten games for Duke leaving fans and the staff to wonder what it would be like had he had a full year in Durham. Those who remember Livingston realize he could have been one of the greats and it took a player of Irvings’ stature to wrestle away the top “what if,” spot in the K era.

Another player who will join Redick in Los Angeles will be incoming rookie Ryan Kelly. The two will be rivals though, in that Kelly will be a Laker. That means when Kelly gets burn he’ll be closer to the Hollywood stars than he probably ever dreamed with the A-list straddling courtside seats. Kelly and his soon to be wife, Lindsey Cowher, daughter of former Steelers coach Bill Cowher will now have state of the art theaters at their disposal. The two are notorious movie goers where Kelly came clean that his favorites were romantic comedies. Anyhow, Hollywood is getting two character young men in the aforementioned Redick and Kelly who both make faith in Christ a big part of their lives.

Lastly, it was good to see Kyrie Irving get some help in Cleveland during the most recent NBA Draft and yes, Duke fans are still wondering aloud what a full season of Kyrie would have been like in Durham. I followed Irving closely on the recruiting trail when the Blue Devils were chasing him and to this day, no player was more exciting to the senses in that he simply did things on the court I have never seen since. Irving was special. He was worth the price of admission on the AAU trail, much less the league and he will now be able to play for Coach Mike Krzyzewski again for Team USA. I, for one, am excited to see that.

Bench key as Blue Devils grind it out over Creighton

Amile JeffersonPHILADELPHIA, PA. - Going into Duke’s round of 32 game against Creighton, the question came up about Duke’s depth. Coach Mike Krzyzewski’s predilection for a short post-season rotation is well known, but did this year’s Duke team have bench players who could step up if needed?

“Yep, we have enough guys,” Duke assistant coach Jeff Capel said. “And we’ve proven that all year. Guys have stepped up and done a good job. You know we had a crisis in the middle of the year when Ryan went out, and not many teams have had a guy that’s that important that’s gone out and that’s missed that many games, and we had guys that stepped up during that time. So if it comes to that, we’ll have guys that are ready to step up and help us.”

Boy, did it come to that. Duke’s Ryan Kelly, who drew the assignment to guard Creighton’s national player-of-the-year candidate Doug McDermott, was whistled for a foul 43 seconds into the contest, a harbinger of things to come.

The game was billed as a matchup of two of the best five offenses in the country. Creighton led the nation in field goal percentage and three-point percentage this season, and was fifth in the country in assists per game (while also coming in tenth in the country in assist to turnover ratio). Pomeroy rated the Blue Jays as the fifth most efficient offense in the land, while Duke ranked third.

“They’re very difficult to guard,” Capel said before the game. “They put a lot of pressure on your defense, with how well they execute, with their talent, and with how well they shoot the ball.”

And the linchpin of that offense was Doug McDermott. Kelly hounded him for eight and half minutes, forcing the Creighton star to miss four of his first five shots, but the Duke forward drew his second foul with 11:29 to play in the first half and took a seat on the bench. Josh Hairston came in to check McDermott but fouled him on his very first possession thereafter. Less than a minute later, Mason Plumlee picked up his second foul.

Kelly checked back in but couldn’t challenge McDermott inside. The Creighton forward began to get hot, hitting three of four shots and adding a couple of free throws. Creighton inched into the lead.

With 3:19 to play in the half, Kelly helped on a driving Austin Chatman and picked up his third foul. Duke fans let out a collective groan. Freshman Amile Jefferson, who gave up 30 pounds to McDermott and who’d played a mere eleven minutes in Duke’s previous three games, came off the bench for Kelly.

“All I wanted to do was come in with tremendous energy and try to use my length,” Jefferson said.

Creighton led, 21 to 20, when Jefferson entered the contest. It looked like Duke would have a challenge just keeping the game close until intermission.

Except that’s not how it worked out. Rasheed Sulaimon hit a key three pointer with 2:47 to go in the half, giving the freshman a Duke-leading ten points and giving Duke a two point lead. McDermott and Seth Curry each hit two free throws, and then Curry stripped McDermott of the ball with 53 seconds remaining in the opening period. Krzyzewski called a timeout.

Instead of milking the clock, Duke went for a “two for one,” attempting a quick score in the hope of getting the last possession of the half. It worked. Sulaimon was fouled on a drive and hit one of two free throws. Jefferson and junior reserve Josh Hairston checked in. Jefferson stuck to McDermott like Gorilla Glue, not allowing him a look at the basket. Creighton’s Jahenns Manigat forced up a prayer three point attempt as the shot clock expired. Hairston ripped down the rebound and outletted to fellow bench player Tyler Thornton, who hit an off-balance three at the buzzer to give Duke a six point lead at the half, 29 to 23.

IMG_0443With Kelly burdened by his three fouls, Duke opened the second period trying Mason Plumlee on McDermott. Plumlee picked up his own third foul just thirty seconds into the half and Kelly had to switch back onto the Creighton foul magnet. The experiment cost Duke dearly when Plumlee made contact with Creighton center Greg Echenique and was whistled for his fourth foul with 17:48 to go and Duke clinging to a 31 to 27 lead.

Hairston re-entered the game but fouled McDermott and Creighton forward Ethan Wragge on consecutive plays. Now Mr. Hairston had four fouls as well. Kelly joined his frontcourt teammates by picking up his fourth with 13:25 to play.

In the meantime, Seth Curry made a great cut and layup to give Duke a nine point edge, 39 to 30, but it certainly didn’t feel secure with Duke’s entire regular frontcourt rotation saddled with four fouls each.

It was time for the reserves to shine.

“Our bench came through for us,” Krzyzewski said afterwards. “Tyler, Josh, and Amile were outstanding contributors for us tonight.”

Krzyzewski went out of his way to praise junior guard Tyler Thornton. “I really can’t say enough about [Thornton] on the defensive end of the court tonight…. I especially thought Tyler helped us defensively in that second half when we were in all the foul trouble, when Amile and Josh were in, he was able to kind of orchestrate us and made the switch on top so McDermott didn’t get it, and then he had to move a little more to get it. Communication was huge for us, and I thought Tyler was outstanding in getting us together and doing that.”

Indeed, Thornton made some big plays, including flying in for an acrobatic steal just seconds after Kelly’s fourth foul and drawing a critical charge on McDermott with 3:20 to play.

But the most unlikely contributions came from Amile Jefferson. He hit his only shot on a snazzy pick and roll play to give Duke a 43 to 32 lead, and then came up with a huge offensive rebound which led to a Curry layup maintaining Duke’s cushion at 45-34. But more importantly he stuck with McDermott to the end, even snuffing one of the Creighton star’s shots with just over nine minutes left in the contest.

“I love playing defense,” Jefferson said afterwards. “And it’s something I’ve been working on in practice. Guarding a wing now, with Ryan back I’ve been able to do a lot of that. And just learning from all these seniors, I’ve been able to get better. It’s been real fun.”

Hairston fouled out on the scramble after Jefferson’s blocked shot, and Plumlee garnered his fifth with 2:45 to play.

But Doug McDermott didn’t hit a field goal after Jefferson checked in, late in the first half.

“He’s such an amazing player, it’s tough,” Jefferson said of McDermott. “He can shoot the ball, he’s great off the dribble, he can post and he has great size. So I just wanted to try to bother him with my length and make him take tough, contested shots.”

And that he did. The Creighton star shot just 4 for 16 for the game (along with 12 free throws) for 21 inefficient points. It was enough to give Duke a 66-50 win and a ticket to the Sweet 16.

“It’s the best defense we’ve played all year,” Krzyzewski said, noting communication is critical in games like this. “It was the best we talked on defense.”

NOTES:

— Rasheed Sulaimon led Duke with 21 points on 5 for 9 shooting (3 for 5 from three), plus 8 for 10 from the line.

— Quinn Cook added 6 assists against 2 turnovers, giving him 17 assists and only 3 turnovers in the Philadelphia pod. That’s an average of 8.5 apg and a 5.7 assist to turnover ratio.

— Seth Curry, playing on an injured leg with a short turnaround, started slowly, hitting only one of his seven first half shots. But he heated up in the second period, shooting 4 for 8 (2 for 5 on threes) in the last twenty minutes. Perhaps more importantly, his leg held up. “I felt great, for the most part,” Curry said.

— Philadelphia native Amile Jefferson enjoyed shining in front of his hometown fans. “I was tremendously excited about [coming home and playing in Philly]. I had my family here, a lot of friends, my AAU coach, my head coach, so it was really fun to be out there and see them cheering me on, once again, like it was back in the old days. So I was really happy about that.”

— Ryan Kelly scored just 1 point, but Coach K praised him for his overall play. “I love that we won and [Ryan] scored one point…. He knows he played a heck of a game.”

— This weekend’s games marked the third time under Coach K that Duke has played NCAA tournament games in Philadelphia and Duke is 6-0 in those games. The two other seasons Duke played in the City of Brotherly Love? That would be 1992 and 2001.

That’s quite a precedent.

An opportunity for Blue Devils to step up

Marshall Plumlee is one of several Blue Devils who have an opportuinity to step their games up while Ryan Kelly is on the mend.
Marshall Plumlee is one of several Blue Devils who have an opportuinity to step their games up while Ryan Kelly is on the mend.

Ryan Kelly is sitting out with ligament damage to his foot.  First of all, there is no replacing Kelly, who has done a little bit of everything of late for the #1 ranked Blue Devils. His ability to stretch the floor with his three-point shooting and his help defense have been major factors in the Blue Devils undefeated start.  But now, with the injury, it will be of the utmost importance for his teammates to step up their games moving forward.

The tests start early when Duke travels to Raleigh to take on ACC pre-season favorite N.C. State on Saturday afternoon.  The Wolfpack will likely go after Mason Plumlee in an attempt to neutralize his game with foul trouble, and to couple that with Kelly’s absence to then take advantage of a lack of proven depth. So who will step up for the Blue Devils?

There is no simple answer.

It will be interesting to see what Coach Mike Kyzyzewski comes up with, especially knowing how affected Duke was when Kelly went out a year ago, the team fell out of sync, and was eventually upset by Lehigh in the NCAA Tournament.  If past history means anything, what Coach Kwill likely do is dependent upon matchups. While Josh Hairston has been the sixth man to date off the bench and the first sub down low, you most certainly could see more of freshmen Alex Murphy, Amile Jefferson, and Marshall Plumlee. The three frosh have been brought along slowly this season, but now they will have to find a way to collectively fill the gap in production that usually comes from Ryan Kelly.

Jefferson still has what I will term a freshman body, not quite ready for the grind of the ACC, but he’s athletic and long enough to contribute. Murphy has had some trouble getting into the flow of the game in certain situations, but he too is capable of seizing the opportunity. The youngest Plumlee is still working into shape after a foot injury set him back, but his size could be a major need if his brother Mason goes to the bench with foul trouble.

While most of the focus will be on those players, the staff also needs the other starters to step up their games. It will be crucial for point guard Quinn Cook to find players in their areas of strength on the offensive end. Mason Plumlee will need to shake a minor slump by his lofty standards, and it would be nice for Duke if Rasheed Sulaimon picks it up on the offensive end as well. Duke will also need consistency from Seth Curry and Tyler Thornton, especially against an N.C. State team that features solid back court play.

It’s a sad situation, the Kelly injury, in that Duke to date has been a team with near perfect chemistry. This is not a team chock full of surefire superstars, but one that plays together as well as any team in the nation.

The Blue Devils have filled the positions of injures players in the past, but those teams had a more seasoned cast to turn to, so it will to some degree be new ground this go round. Duke has been playing good basketball but they have yet to look as dominant as they were early on after the nine-day break and now they lost one of their three talented seniors for a substantial amount of time.

Looking ahead at the schedule, Duke comes back home to face Georgia Tech before travelling to Miami in a game they will surely be tested in. They then face a big Maryland team at home before road games with Wake Forest and Florida State and then N.C. State again at home.

Kelly could miss both games against N.C. State, a team most feel is their biggest competition for their goal of an ACC regular season title.

Suddenly Duke looks a bit vulnerable and that is what happens when you lose a senior leader. Kelly goes out at the half way mark of the season and pretty soon we’ll all know what that means for the nation’s top rated team,