Tag Archives: Semi Ojeleye

Duke Basketball Team and Recruiting Update – New names and Vegas

 

Semi Ojeleye

 As the AAU season winds down, here is yet another BDN Premium Duke Basketball Team and Recruiting Update for our members.  Are you ready for a few thousand words on the latest?  If so, keep reading and be sure to join to get all the freshest info.   In this edition I reveal some new names on the radar, give an in-depth recap of the Duke targets from the recent Nike Peach Jam, and more.  Know that this is the perfect time to join BDN Premium in that we have recruiting analyst Andrew Slater reporting from Las Vegas all weekend long.

Let’s start with a recap of Peach Jam happenings :
Semi Ojeleye - What you see is what you get, and that is consistent effort.  Ojeleye has a college-ready body, and he uses it to his advantage.  In Augusta, he struggled a bit from the outside, and never really found his rhythm, but nevertheless he is a versatile stat stuffer who guards multiple positions, and who plays team basketball, so what’s not to like?  Semi is a classy young man on the court and off, and is a perfect fit for the Blue Devils — and some of the Duke staff feel it is just a matter of time with Ojeleye.  I think he’s a real Duke-type kid, and a player I would love to see in a Duke uniform.
Julius Randle - After his first game in Augusta, I was ready to proclaim him the top player in his class.  He dominated that game, but in the rest of the tournament, though his overall numbers were strong, [private] I saw him miss an unusually large number of chippies.  Part of that may be because, while he’s a real physical specimen, he’s not a great leaper.  Also, he moved outside more than expected.  He plays for a Texas Titans team that runs a three guard lineup, so it seemed unnecessary for him to handle the ball on the perimeter as much as he did.  Randle is great with the ball in his hands, but he will not be used that way in college unless he goes to a team with little talent.  Which is highly unlikely.  When he takes it to the hole,  he finishes with authority and when he draws fouls, he is a decent free throw shooter.  When Randle does go down to the blocks, he dominates, and while I realize he is trying to broaden his game, in my opinion he needs to go down in the low post more often, as at this point on the AAU circuit he is a man among boys down there.  He is also an intimidating defender down low.
I will say, however, that when Randle went against better competition, he struggled a bit.  He has the propensity to be a little foul prone; he is like a bull in a china shop, almost inviting contact on every play, and when he’s out of control, it gets him in trouble.
The gym was packed for each Titans game.  Coach Capel missed only one, and in that instance Nate James was there in his stead.  The highlight was the matchup with CIA Bounce and stud forward Andrew Wiggins, in a game for the ages.  Wiggins got the better of Julius, but not by a wide margin.  Randle struggled getting his shot off when he went one-on-one versus the ultra-athletic (though smaller) Wiggins; Randle also was saddled with two early fouls, which did not allow him to remain aggressive down the stretch, and ultimately he fouled out.
While Randle may have fallen to #2 or #3 in the imaginary rankings, he can reclaim the top spot by simply taking his team far in Orlando over the next several days.  Make no mistake, Julius is a special talent, and is one of the four best players in high school basketball.  He’s going to be an immediate impact player at the college level.  Randle, quite simply, is as likely as anyone to have a one-and-done type of freshman season.
Julius Randle

Matt Jones - Matt has improved his game.  He is better off the dribble, he is a good (but occasionally streaky) shooter and he now loves to mix it up on put-backs and other plays underneath.  He has improved defensively as well; he checked Andrew Wiggins for much of their matchup and did a great job on him on the perimeter despite giving up some size.  In fact, most of Wiggins’s hoops came on angles and also off of steals and breakaways, meaning there were few times when he faced up Jones for a jump shot.  Jones tried to carry his team after Randle fouled out, but a dribble off the opponent’s foot derailed that.  It was clear that he was the go-to guy when Randle was out.  Matt erupted for a couple of 25+ point games during the event, and overall played very well.

Jahlil Okafor -  There is always a game in each tournament when he is just not impressive, but he always bounces back.  As I’ve mentioned before, Okafor continues to be plagued by the fact that his Mac Irvin teammates simply do not look for him in the blocks as they should.  The result is they get dusted.  It didn’t help that Jabari Parker did not play for Mac this past week due to his foot injury, and that certainly changed the team’s dynamic.  It took them awhile to adjust as a team, but when they finally started going inside to Okafor, he answered the bell, shooting an efficient 7 of 8 from the field and grabbing 13 boards.  In the team’s remaining games, his teammates continued to feed him, and Okafor really responded with solid numbers the rest of the way.  His body is still a work in progress — it is truly frightening to think what he may look like once all the baby fat is off.
Marcus Lee - Two words.  Foul prone.  In three of his games, he landed on the bench with five fouls, and his numbers were down due to the reduced minutes.  But when he did play, he was good, and he did save his best two games for late.   But overall, I was disappointed by his play and that of his team, as California Supreme layed an egg, winning (if I’m not mistaken) but a single game.  Lee is athletic and long, but tends to disappear for stretches.  Personally, I think he hurt himself here, and he is not what I consider to be a super elite player.   The staff watched some of his games, but to be honest, most of them were a bore.
Theo Pinson - Pinson is steady and he’s been that all summer long, and in the process he has solidified himself as one of the very best players in his class.  His jumper is ugly but it works for him, and his slashing ability is quite nice.  He’s getting better and is just starting to get a bit more serious in thinking about schools, which is good because he and his dad have been talking for a long time about having a lot of time to decide.  Make no mistake, the offer to Justise Winslow did not go unnoticed by the Pinson camp.  While there was some concern, the fact is that Pinson has visited Duke, played at Duke, been to games at Duke, and he stays in contact with Duke, so there are no real worries.  I have to admit, it upsets me that I cannot share more about this, but the reason is the unwarranted knee-jerk reaction from some on the board who state that there has been no TLC for Theo from the staff, when in reality, that is hardly the case.  Again, Pinson has just not been that serious about his recruitment.  So why should Duke be all over him if he hasn’t been that focused on it?  Duke has done its due diligence; Theo has an offer and has had an offer, but it simply got lost in translation.  Sure, he was excited by the UNC offer as well, but he and his dad know Duke features wings, so some members need to chill out a bit and try not to go into “sky is falling” mode when you really have only limited information on the details.  Pinson likes Duke and Duke likes Pinson, and thus the offer.  For now, enough said.
Justise Winslow

Justise Winslow - I love his game and I liked his demeanor during my interview, as he was respectful, he took his time with each response, and he said all the right things.  Justise is another kid who would be a great fit at Duke, as his education truly matters to him.  On the floor, in addition to a terrific skill set, he plays bigger than his size at times and he is ultra-athletic.  He is also a leader.  It’s no surprise that so many analysts are raving about him now and all the top coaches are at every one of his games.   It was truly ridiculous the lengths that some coaches went just to be seen by him.  Anyhow, the Winslow offer is exciting;  I would take him on the spot.  But then again, I would take Pinson too.  There is room for one of them, but not both, at Duke.

Tyus Jones -  He is the best PG in his class.  He is a winner.  He is a team player.  He is a scoring point, but an unselfish one, and can put his team on his back despite their lacking much of an inside presence.  While Jones is not super athletic, his feel for the game is a thing of beauty.  Tyus is also a young man of character and maturity, and he will make any school he attends an immediate Final Four contender.  Lastly, every coach in America wants him. Did I mention his feel for the game?  Give him the ball, surround him with talent, and take home a trophy.  I hope Duke lands him.
Damien Jones - One assistant told me he was a long shot, so I did not pursue him initially.  I sat with Johnny Dawkins and Mark Madsen for a game, and they love him — it’s not surprising that a good ballplayer and good student like Damien would draw interest from the likes of Duke and Stanford.  Now Duke is a little more interested, so I am setting up an interview.  He’s rising in the rankings, but it’s hard to rate his game because he plays on the Texas Titans with Matt Jones and Randle, and as one coach said, it’s hard to figure out just how good anybody is on the Titans because of Randle.  At this point Damien Jones is solid but not spectacular; he’s a bit slender and needs to put on some muscle.  But in a class with few quality bigs, he has suddenly become a hotter commodity.  He told me he liked Duke a lot and that he would be open to them if they came calling.  Duke is evaluating him and will take another look in Orlando.
Tyus Jones

Peach Jam tidbits - I had a pretty incredible seat in between Bill Self and Leonard Hamilton for the classic matchup between the Texas Titans and CIA Bounce.   I cannot begin to tell you how entertaining this back-and-forth game was, and how good Andrew Wiggins looked.  Several times he drew the “wow” from the coaches seated next to me.  I had a good conversation with both.  Self, of course, was checking out Julius Randle and joked several times about all the ACC guys on his trail, not forgetting that he lost Matt Jones to Duke.  We discussed recruiting a bit, and he said that one of the challenges at Kansas is the lack of much local high school talent.   Still, kind of hard to feel sorry for him.  Hamilton warmed up and talked about last season as well as the future, and he seems happy that Syracuse and Pitt are coming into the league. He also feels that football needs to be better in order for hoops to be.  Not sure I agree, but he’s a good guy and a heck of a coach, one who is getting a lot out of the pool of players he works with.  He  seemed to have a quiet confidence that the rebuilding job this season would be ahead of where most media and fans might think.  I sat with Coaches Capel and James as well.  While I try not to talk about that kind of thing too much, it is always cool to be near any of the Duke staff and just hang out and chat.  The gym was brutally cold and most coaches had on long sleeve shirts or jackets, including our guys who were both probably glad to get home and thaw out —  as was I.  Capel had a nasty bug and sure enough I caught it the last day as well, and it has slowed my reporting.  Thus the late update.

But the one thing that may tickle members is the musical chair show that Calipari and UK assistant Orlando Antigua played. Word is Kentucky covets a big-time PG.  So the two strategically scoped out and sat on the corner seats with the partition in between them in back to back seats while PG prospects Joel Berry and Tyus Jones were playing on opposite courts.  The two coaches would switch back and forth in an unapologetic fashion, literally pushing other coaches out of the way in an SRO crowd.  Antigua nudged a Western Kentucky assistant to the side without even a look, much less an apology.  They were by no means breaking any rules, but still.  Not cool.  Oh, and yes Virginia, Kentucky did start that rumor via Adam Zagoria, who sat beside me in the media area for most of the event.  If you missed it, they used Zagoria to put it out there that Duke leads for Jabari Parker, probably trying to sabotage it somehow.  As for Zagoria, he’s a nice enough guy, but if you are being lured in by his sensationalist blog, you are not getting an accurate picture of what is really happening, for he is simply going for hits and hits alone, accuracy be darned.  Coaches know which media members to go to when they want to propagandize, and Zagoria is but one of many.  Other coaches leak a kid’s secret on where he will go to school and ruin his big moment out of spite, even after the kid has the decency to make a courtesy call to show some respect to the coach who has lost out.  And some coaches even leak when a kid verbals to them in an effort to keep him from changing his mind.  You gotta love recruiting!

What happens in Vegas, goes on Twitter - Andrew is in Las Vegas and will be bouncing to various tournaments while following the nation’s elite prospects.  Be sure to follow our site updates and our Twitter feeds for the latest information.  I have turned up a few names of kids catching the Blue Devils’ eye, and one of those is Austin Grandstaff, a 2015 guard from Rowlett, Texas, whose father coaches his Team Texas AAU team.  He will be visiting Duke.  I originally kept that on the down low to avoid other local schools trying to get him on their campuses for an unofficial while he’s in the area.  Grandstaff’s teammate Elijah Thomas caught my attention too, and that of Coach Capel as well.  Thomas wasted no time retweeting our interview with him just moments ago.  Duke is evaluating a lot of young talent in an effort to lay early groundwork.  I will be checking in with Grayson Allen, who is a 2014 shooting guard that has contacted Duke and grew up rooting for the Blue Devils.  He carries a 4.0 GPA and played in the Peach State Classic down the road from the Augusta in Aiken, SC this past weekend.  He does not play for a  big-time AAU program, so like Robert Hubbs, he has flown under the radar.  I have two other names I need to keep on the down low until I can talk to them, but they will come out soon as well.  Once we put names out there, everybody jumps on them.
Orlando - I elected not to go due to the overall lack of #Duke prospects as well as the cost.  But Coach Capel is following the Texas Titans targets as well as a couple of other kids.  As Andrew has mentioned, Nate James is in Vegas.  We will surely be hearing a lot from the weekend as it’s a loaded event out there, and Andrew is sure to do his usual excellent job of reporting.
A lot going on - I thank all members for their patience as we have been beyond busy. More members means more content, so encourage others to join.  I am in the process of doing whatever it takes to make BDN better, and will leave no rock unturned as we move towards making the promised changes actually happen.
Pro Am - Tonight is apt to be the last night Duke kids play, so take note.  I will let you know if something changes.  Some have asked if Murphy will play.  I think he’ll be resting up after a long trip home, but we’ll see.
ESPN U - will carry some games from Orlando, so check the listings.
Please note: I recently had to remove some information because the reaction to it was basically negativity and excessive paranoia.  I have said it before and will again: do not read so much into every little thing you see and hear on the Internet, and don’t believe every little thing either.  After all, the reason you subscribe to BDN is to get accurate information that you can bank on.
Thanks to all of you who make up the Blue Devil Nation, and remember, Members, to check out Andrew Slater’s work all weekend long.  Let’s go Devils! [/private]
Julius Randle is tearing up the Nike Peach Jam and BDN is here to bring you all the action.  Check out Andrew Slaters in depth interview with the "Real JR" and then watch our 2 videos of Randle from Augusta as a premium member and get all the updates as they happen.  A ton of information awaits you as a BDN Premium member, so join today and see what you are missing out on.  Photo copyright Rick Crank and BDN

Nike Peach Jam Friday Day Session Updates – Duke prospects shine

Julius Randle is tearing up the Nike Peach Jam, and BDN is here to bring you all the action. Check out Andrew Slater’s in- depth interview with the “Real JR” and then as a Premium member you can watch our two videos of Randle from Augusta and get all the updates as they happen. A ton of information awaits you as a BDN Premium member, so join today and see what you’ve been missing out on. Photo copyright Rick Crank and BDN

The Nike Peach Jam is in full swing and we are here in South Carolina to bring you updates on all the action and the latest on the many Duke prospects here.  Austin Nichols, Matt Jones, Julius Randle, Justise Winslow, Theo Pinson, and Jahlil Okafor are but a few of the informative interviews we have on tap.  In addition, there are some younger kids starting to catch the staff’s eye as well.  You can learn about them and much more as a member.  Considering the bevy of interviews we have up for Blue Devil Nation Premium members, if you’ve been on the fence about it, this is the perfect time to join.

Here is the recap of the Friday day session:

Howard Pulley 74 Team Texas 65

First of all, this game had some intensity to it, as Roy Williams, Billy Donovan, Tom Izzo, the Duke staff and others crowded the court to the point where they would not let any more people into the gym once the game started.  The game was much closer than the score indicates. A Julius Randle turnover allowed Pulley to go up 4, but he then came down to score and “and one” inside, which cut it to 1 with little time left. Pulley’s Tyus Jones drew a triple team and found an open teammate for a 3 and that pretty much sealed the deal. After a Team Texas miss, Jones quickly scored again on a drive and then assisted on another trey and that made the final score 74-65.  Despite his team being upset, Randle was a beast again, scoring 31 points and grabbing 17 boards.  While aggressiveness is something Randle thrives on (and as he told BDN, he feels he can take anybody off the dribble at any time) his aggression sometimes causes turnovers and could also make him foul prone at the next level.  But the big picture with Randle is he is a big-time force on the floor.  One coach sitting beside me quipped, “It’s hard to evaluate the players around him and those who defend him in that he’s so good.” I have to agree. Then there was Tyus Jones, a smooth, spunky leader on the court who thinks [private] “team first,” yet still gets his own shots too. Jones’s late heroics helped his team to a win; he finished with 24 points, 8 assists and 4 rebounds. Randle and Jones are now the number one and two scorers at the entire event.

Capel will follow Team Texas

Jeff Capel has been sitting with his brother Jason for much of the camp today. Capel said he would go to Orlando and the AAU Nationals and be anywhere Julius Randle and Matt Jones were playing. So, yes, there will always be a Duke presence as Randle nears his decision.

Semi Ojeleye continues to play well

Ojeleye scored 20 points and grabbed 3 boards as his team coasted past Bluff City Legends. I just love his size and strength.  I have a mini-interview coming with Semi.  I will tell you that the Duke staff feels really good about their chances with him, and that it could be over in the near future. He’s just a Duke kid through and through.

Jahlil Okafor struggles?

Part of the problem is his own play, but part is his teammates just not looking for him.  While I think the latter is the main culprit, still Jahlil was not impressive in Mac Irvin’s loss to CIA Bounce. He fouled out in 15 minutes of play and his numbers were dismal:  2 points and 0 rebounds. He has not helped himself here so far.  By the way, Andrew Wiggins had 21 points for CIA.  He is one of the four best players in camp.

Oh Boo!

The dysfunctional bunch known as Boo Williams is again winless. In their first game, Anthony “Cat” Barber and Al Freeman jawed hard at one another, and it took a while for Barber to let it go. Talent and no production makes college coaches pause.  Freeman and his game are still a bit of a wreck.  Note: the Duke staff has not watched a single game this squad has played. And wasn’t star forward Troy Williams supposed to have decided? Hmm.

Marcus Lee struggles as well

Marcus Lee is foul prone in a big way, and he once again finished the game on the bench as California Supreme lost again, and is now 0-3. Lee had 2 points and 5 boards; his offense is anemic. Yes he’s talented and long, but putting all the hype aside, he is a little overrated and I am not the only one who feels that way.

Justise Winslow

From my conversation with him, this really seems like a good kid. He has recently been offered by Calipari and Kentucky, and he spoke highly of them, but Duke is on his list and he also spoke well of Coach K and his recent U-17 camp experience with Team USA. His production here has been good; he went for 16 points and 8 rebounds in his team’s two point win this morning.

Yes, Theo!  You do have an offer!

Theo Pinson has had an offer for over eight months.  Odd how nobody knew, but the bottom line is he does now.  More may come out from this, not that it even matters at this point.  In the morning game he scored 23 points to lead CP3 to a 75-71 win over California Supreme.

Nichols Interview

Don’t miss Andrew’s interview with Austin Nichols.  The Duke coaches feel he will take all five of his visits before deciding.

[/private]

Matt Jones and Julius Randle of the Texas Titans

Duke Basketball Team and Recruiting Update – Where does Duke go from here?

Matt Jones and Julius Randle of the Texas Titans

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.

Thanks for being a member of Blue Devil Nation Premium.  Go Duke! [/private]

NBAPA Camp Recap – The Duke perspective

Ojeleye addresses the mediaThis past weekend’s NBAPA Top 100 High School Camp in Charlottesville, VA was a different experience than in years past, and in many respects that was not a good thing.  Media access was restricted significantly, quality one-on-one interviews were very tough to come by, and the whole atmosphere was a tad flat.

Whether the reason was the coaches just failing to reach the kids, or the players themselves not bringing much energy, the result was some unusually uninspired basketball on a huge stage.  After a lackluster start to the event, the kids finally put their games into gear on the final day.  But the truth nevertheless is that more players hurt their ratings than helped themselves.

It’s no secret that Duke had only a few real targets at the event, those being Jabari Parker, Al Freeman, and Semi Ojeleye.  Here’s what I saw from those three as well as a number of others:

Jabari Parker - His skill set makes him a man among children. He can pretty much do it all on the court;  I saw no weaknesses in his game in the two games he [private] played.  When he wanted to score, he put the ball on the floor and scored, utilizing a variety of driving moves to do so.  Jabari was cordial and open with the media, but no matter what others claim, he did no one-on-one interviews, other than one national one.  Michigan State has made a move on Parker, but Duke is still right there. My pal Van Coleman, who you will hear more from this week, said he understood Duke led for his services. Maybe they do, but I am not by any means ready to call Duke the clear leader here.  A quick look at Duke’s outstanding offers and the way they’re recruiting certain positions suggests they may feel as I do.  The Blue Devils certainly are a player for Parker, but in all honesty I do not feel as good about it as I did a year ago when I felt he was Duke’s to lose. He will trim his list in July, and regardless, the Blue Devils will make that final cut.

Al Freeman - When I first heard Duke had offered Freeman, I was stunned. I had watched him play at the Carolina Challenge and frankly, could not see it. I haven’t changed my mind, or more accurately, his play hasn’t changed it. Freeman is a good defender who gets after it at that end, but he is not a point guard and certainly not a shooting guard either.  Dave Telep really overrated this kid early on, but he will drop in the rankings. Freeman is stuck in tweener land, and it hasn’t helped him that his chemistry with Cat Barber for the Boo Williams AAU squad has been average at best.  Nobody invited to an event like the NBAPA is a “bad” player of course, but in my opinion Freeman is just not a kid who can help at the level Duke plays.  Freeman had so-so numbers this weekend, and did nothing to get anyone talking about him. But I do give him high marks for talking on the court and trying to pump his teammates up. I was unable to catch Freeman for an interview, but from all accounts little has changed beyond his recent decision to transfer to Findlay Prep in Las Vegas.

Semi Ojeleye - As you already know, this kid is mature, bright and grounded.  But can he play?  Yes.  As Andrew has mentioned, Semi has that ESPN-ready game, meaning he will launch the 3 pointer and also throw down the thunderous dunk. It is a bit freaky to see a 6’6″ 220 pound player launch three point shots at this stage in his career, but Semi does it.  But he needs to tighten his handle and go to work down low more. He is usually stronger than his opponent, so get down on the blocks more, already!  Ojeleye is a good defender and had a lot of steals. His team made it to the finals, but lost to a team featuring 7’5″ Mamadou Ndiaye.  Ojeleye held his own  guarding Ndiaye.  7’5″?  That’s insane.  BTW, his first name is pronounced “Shimi,” and we had a laugh at me wrecking his name a couple of times after asking about it. Talk about tongue tied.  Ojeleye is a good team player and I would love to see him in a Duke uniform.

Anthony Barber - This kid is quick off the dribble, gets to the rack fast, and finishes well. He’s also stronger than he looks.  But he looks for his shot first and said as much to me in our interview. He will project as a PG and in time will be fine there, but right now he is a shooting guard. He lets his dribble get too far away from his body at times, causing a lack of control, but this is easily missed by many observers who are in awe of his speed. I think he should be a better defender too.  But again, he is a bit of a black hole, hunting his shot on every play, so it was not surprising that while Barber was the camp’s top scorer, his assist totals were less than impressive.  That may be the reason campers did not vote him to the All-Star game.  Regardless, in my book he was a top 10 player at this camp, and most other analysts agreed. Barber will remain at or near the top of the list when talking guards in his class. There are some kids you can tell are enjoying the game and Barber is one of them.  I like his game a whole lot, but I am not sure Duke likes it enough to offer.

Parker Cartright - So, I started to hear that Cartright grew up a Duke fan, so I made sure to ask him about that, as you will see in an interview. Most everybody at the camp liked him, but he looks like a junior high baller in that he has a slight build and may be 5’9″ on his tiptoes. The kid is unselfish and really involves his teammates in the action, and his speed can break a defense down.   He’s a pesky defender, but if a bigger player gets him on his hip, he has a hard time recovering.  He is high energy and has the drive to get better, and those are two things all coaches look for in a prospect.  Great kid to talk to and has offers from Arizona and UCLA, but he lit up when I asked him about Duke.  Problem is Duke is in with so many PG types, and many analysts feel he will be tough to get off the west coast in any event.

Cliff Alexander – I wanted to see where his head was and it is in the midwest. Duke will not waste its time unless something changes. He dominated at the camp and was clearly the best center there, keeping in mind that post play as a whole was not impressive in Charlottesville.  Alexander has a mature body for his age and has the will to battle inside.

Noah Vonleh - His game impressed me; his off-court demeanor did not. I hardly got anything out of him during a multiple site interview, meaning he plays it close to the vest and/or is not enthused. UNC is on him hard and Duke may get involved with this 2014 kid, but my impression from the interview is that it may be too late to get in deep here unless Duke increases its effort level soon.

Wayne Selden – Wayne Selden is always consistent, but he did not stand out this weekend. Duke feels he will be a long shot and will likely stay on the sidelines on this one, but I like his game and his size.

Kavon Looney - This was the first time I focused in on his game and I liked him a lot. The 2014 star can do a little bit of everything and he played well here, holding his own against older players, particularly on the boards. We tried, but never could manage to get together for a one-on-one.  He is worth keeping an eye on.

 

Others who caught my eye at the NBAPA Camp - Kuran Iverson, Andrew Harrison, Brannen Greene.  Iverson appeared to be more motivated than when many last saw him, and he seemingly impressed everyone. Harrison is a complete player and was the better of the twin brothers on this weekend.  Greene has improved leaps and bounds since the last time I saw him play.

Rodney Hood - No, he was not there.  But I got asked by everybody what I thought about his pending decision.

Small world - So one writer who worked in Indy and is now with Rivals asked me about Hood. Turns out he wrote that controversial article on Coach K that appeared in the Indy paper during the FInal Four weekend when Duke defeated Butler. It was the article in which they acted as if a child used a crayon on the front page, drawing devil horns on Krzyzewski.  It was tacky and unprofessional — a true brain poot by anyone’s standards. I then got the low-down and will only say he met with Duke officials per his paper’s request. For our SID’s privacy and others I will refrain from the details. He claimed he was awoken by a call from a friend, who asked, “What were you thinking?” He also claimed he knew nothing about it. When asked who did it, he claimed he didn’t know. Yeah, right. How does it not come out who took it upon themselves to let the paper go out as it did before being yanked off the newsstands?

Site shake ups - I saw Jerry Meyer in a 247 Camp and asked him when he went with them. As you know, 247 has courted us in a big way, but we chose to remain independent. Turns out Rivals let him and his big salary go, leaving Eric Bossi in charge along with the newly-hired Alex Kline, who uses smoke and mirror tactics better than anybody I know. Anyhow, I then learned ESPN shut down its High School division and that there was a major loss of jobs in the process.

Trouble ahead for the NBA? – A power struggle is brewing with the NBA and you could feel the tension in many cases. I had an interesting conversation with Dave Wasserman and while I cannot share what was said, let’s just say they will have a mess of legal issues once the Finals end.

The USA Basketball effect - Many were dismayed at the talent level at the NBAPA camp.  It was the worst I’ve seen to date. Some quickly pointed the finger at USA Basketball, but I found it interesting what the overall take was on the future of patriotic hoops. The consensus was that props go to Mike Krzyzewski for his role in getting the world’s best on the same page and wanting to play. But many feel that once he steps down, USA Basketball will lose a lot of its popularity, and as a result the camps will be full again. Only time will tell on this one, but the theory is plausible and if accurate, it’s a real testament to Coach K’s influence. Speaking of USA Basketball, I will head to Coach K’s press conference tomorrow, and look forward to seeing what he has to say about his upcoming adventures. [/private]

An Update With Semi Ojeleye who is set to visit Duke

6'6" Duke Recruit Semi Ojeleye, Photo by Andrew Slater

This weekend, Semi Ojeleye helped lead his Mo-Kan Elite team to a 5-1 record, guaranteeing them a coveted trip to the Nike Peach Jam in July. The cerebral 6’6″ wing, who was profiled last month averaged nearly eighteen points and six rebounds in the Oakland session of the EYBL.

 

The sole loss occurred against a Spiece team from Indiana. Semi sat out the first half with an ankle injury that was iced up by his mother, Joy, a nurse, the night before. At halftime, Semi entered the game and helped will his AAU brethren back from a late game deficit to overtime, scoring fifteen points in the second half. It’s that kind of determination that has made Semi one of the most coveted recruits in the class of 2013.

 

On the thirty-first of May, Semi, an excellent student with an interest in finance, will visit Duke University. Before the visit, he spoke with me about the latest in his recruitment, his conversations with Coach K, his family’s thoughts and points of emphasis on the recruiting process, and the upcoming visit to the Triangle.

 

 

Let’s start with the matchup with James Young (Young was held to a 5 for 20 shooting performance). What were your thoughts going into it and how do you think you played overall?

Well, he’s a good player. I mean, he’s obviously ranked high. He’s a highly skilled player.

Had you ever played him before?

At camps last year. I thought he was one of the best players that I played then. I thought he was a different type of player now. It was interesting.

[private]

How do you feel the team’s playing? Last week, you guys won the KC Classic. I wasn’t there, but I heard that you won it.

Yeah, well, the KC Classic gave us a little bit of trouble.

Oh, really?

 I mean, it wasn’t bad, but we hadn’t played against teams that..well, aren’t at the highest level. You know that this is the highest level, so it’s kind of a step-down thing. That’s not a knock on those teams, but it’s kind of difficult for some of the guys to get up, but we figured it out and we played great there in the end and we’re on a four-game winning streak here.

Yeah, it looks like you guys are going to make the Peach Jam.

Yeah, yeah. That’s exciting, I mean.

Yeah, free trip.

Yeah, exactly. (laughs)

From the last interview, I knew that you wanted to work on driving the ball, your middle game, and your defense. How would you assess those three things right now?

 I think, frankly, I’ve gotten a lot better..

I think you did a great job containing Young in this game. You were textbook, in terms of following his hips  when he tried to shake you with his crossover.

 Yeah, and I thought I did a good job not settling for jumpers in this game. I think if we were playing in the last session, I would have been settling for a lot of jumpers. I probably wouldn’t even have scored at all.

There was even that sequence at the end of the game where you gave him a pump-fake and drove past him to the basket. In the past, you would’ve just tried to shoot it right over him or shoot off of one dribble. This game really showed the growth in your game in a few areas.

 Yeah, I know. I probably would’ve settled in the past. I try to do really whatever the coaches tell me to do. They push me to drive the ball more. This was a nice step.

 

Semi Ojeleye, Photo by Andrew Slater

I also think you did a good job with your self-assessment. Talk about the upcoming visits you have.

Well, I’m going to Duke on the 31st and we’re staying til the 2nd. Then,  I’m probably going to go to Stanford and UCLA in June, but we don’t really have the dates set up. 

 I didn’t know if you were going to visit Stanford, since you’re so close right now. You had mentioned that you were going to go to Wisconsin. Are you still planning on visiting there?

 Yeah, well, if I do, it’ll probably be for an additional visit. Hopefully, I can just take officials later. And maybe something else in the fall.

Obviously, there’s one visit that the audience is highly interested in. Let’s talk about the Duke visit coming up.

 Yeah, this one is really exciting for me. 

Well, you’re the man of the hour for our site, so…

(laughs) I’ve gotten to talk to Coach K twice now and I mean, it’s a blessing. When you’re younger, you’re always thinking well, it’s a great school, but when it comes to reality…

 It’s just unrealistic for many.

Yeah, exactly. (pauses) It really humbles you and can makes you  want to work harder. 

Speaking of that, what have they told you that they like about your game?

He  told me they didn’t think I was playing anywhere near my potential. When I get there, he wants to work with me and make me a lot better.

 In what aspect?

Well, all things, but I think to be more assertive offensively. 

Well,  frankly, I think he’s right. I don’t think you have approached your ultimate potential.

Right, right.

I think if you receive elite level coaching, regardless of where it is, you really do have a lot of potential.

 Yeah, thanks.

Who have you spoken with on their staff, other than Coach K?

Coach K has primarily been talking with me and Coach Wojciechowski has primarily been talking to my brother. 

Has your brother, Victor, been handling most of your recruiting?

 Yeah, my brother talks with me a lot because he’s been there.  And he also talks with the college coaches and he‘s a big factor. So, if they want to get to me, they have to go through him.

I was so impressed by your brother, when I was doing my research from your prior interview. Someone could have done an entire story just devoted to him.

 I know. I know. 

 What are you hoping to see on your visits?

Just how things work and how the staff interacts with the players and hopefully get to talk to some of the players and see what their experiences were like. 

I hope some of them will be there for that. I think some of them will be there for summer sessions. 

I think they said that some will be back.

 I remember that you said that you were interested in engineering. They have an engineering school.

 Yeah, I’ll be looking at that, but I’ll probably be looking into finance though. 

 That was my sort of background, well, economics. Better choice.

(laughs) I know, right?

 Well, I guess your brother also majored in that, well, accounting and finance. I remember he got a job at Koch Industries. Do you know which camps you’ll be going to?

NBA Top 100 and LeBron too. 

Hopefully, I’ll be there for that LeBron one

I guess those are the only ones I’m invited to.

 Well, between AAU Events and those camps, I’m sure your schedule is very full. Don’t worry about that. Who would you say has been your toughest matchup in the EYBL?

That’s a tough call. A lot of guys do different things. So, I really can’t think of one guy that stood out over all the others. 

 You cut your list to 11. What was the idea behind that? Was it to make your recruiting more manageable?

 Yeah, it just became too overwhelming. There were just too many schools that would come up, then drop out, then come back into the picture. I think I needed to decide who was really in it and who I was really interested in.

Do you have a timeframe for when you’d like to decide by?

Yeah, I’d like to do it before the high school season begins. I’d like to get that weight off my chest.

 When does your high school season start?

We start the first week of December. Around the first..

Oh, you start a little later.

Yeah, yeah. I mean, I’d like to do before then, because then if I don’t do it, I’ll have to worry about it all high school season because I won’t be able to take my official visits until after the season. 

 You might have more pressure on your chest after the season.

Right, right.

 Obviously, you’ve spoken with your whole family about the process. What are their thoughts on the matter? 

Well, we’re a family.

 Do you have sit-downs or an occasional discussion with family members when you’re driving somewhere or doing something? How does it work in your family?

Well, if a coach calls or writes, we’ll talk about it. I give them my thoughts and they give me their thoughts.

What are your dad’s thoughts on the matter? I remember that your dad was a family practitioner who was trying to practice medicine with a Christian background or emphasis. 

He’s not really worried about the basketball aspect.

(laughs) 

He’s mostly worried about the academic aspect.

I’m sure. 

He’s really interested in the weather, the academic environment, how the schools work, what their environments are like. They all have their own interests, but they all have my best interest at heart.

What are the interests of your mother, your father, and your brother?

My mom, she’s most interested in how the coaches treat the players after my brother’s experience.

 Well, he had a very intense coach.

Right, right. My brother is very interested in concentrating on how all of the basketball programs work..the various aspects. 

Well, he’s able to give you his impressions as a recent Division I guard at a high level program.

Yeah, I’m lucky.

 What are your brother’s thoughts on how your recruitment has taken off? What kind of guidance has he given you? I remember that he did a post-graduate year at The Patterson School, in order to get more exposure, and was discovered by a Kansas State assistant that went there to look at another player.

 He just tries to help shield me. He tries to encourage me on the court and tells me not to worry. 

 Has he been a more compassionate aspect, in terms of family structure, or does he go after you?

That’s another interesting question. He’s definitely pushing me into working out, but, at other times, he just wants to help me just focus.

Are you fairly self-critical? I mean ,there are some guys that put enough pressure on themselves that they don’t need an outside source to put any additional pressure on them.

I mean, I think we always need outside influence or guidance, otherwise I think things can go to your head, but I’m very self-motivated.

Yeah, that’s exactly what I was wondering.

I’m always hoping to improve. I’m never really satisfied completely.

Well, that’s it, Semi. Thanks for your time and good luck.

Thanks.[/private]

Semi Automatic: The Semi Ojeleye Interview

6'6" Semi Ojeleye, Photo by Andrew Slater

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore is not an act, but a habit.

-Aristotle

Semi Ojeleye was born in Overland Park, Kansas and his family’s tale is one of the American Dream. His father, Victor, arrived in Kansas from Nigeria, looking to do an internship and residency at the University of Kansas Medical Center. Dr. Ojeleye now operates as a family physician in Ottawa, Kansas, roughly fifty miles south of Kansas City, Kansas, with his wife, Joy, a registered nurse.

 

The Ojeleyes had two boys, Victor and Semi. Victor, the oldest, was heavily involved in community service, became Ottawa High School’s all-time leading scorer, and was valedictorian of his graduating class. After not receiving much basketball interest coming out of Ottawa high school, he opted to do a postgraduate year in North Carolina, where he played under veteran coach, Chris Chaney. It was there that then Kansas St.  assistant coach, Dalonte Hill spotted the 6’5″ Ojeleye and ultimately convinced him to walk-on for his home state Kansas State Wildcats. Victor wound up being a reserve player for the Wildcats, led his teammates in Bible studies, and was an All-Academic Big XII winner in each of his three seasons, culminating in this season’s inaugural Dr. Loge Award for the Big XII Conference’s highest academic honor. This May, he will receive his degree in Finance and Accounting before joining Koch Industries.

 

Semi Ojeleye was blessed with the same genetics and work ethic as Victor. He’s been a 4.0 student, but will shatter Victor’s basketball records for the Ottawa Cyclones. The 6’6″ wing averaged nearly nine rebounds and thirty-three points per game this season, never scoring below twenty-five in a single game, while leading Ottawa (KS) to a third consecutive Class 4A State Title game. The high water scoring mark for this season came when he knocked down eight three-pointers and hit all ten of his free throws for a  fifty point game and a win in front of Missouri Coach Frank Haith.

 

This season, Semi, a devout Christian, played all five positions for Coach Jon McKowen’s Cyclones and knocked down seventy-eight three pointers at nearly a forty percent clip on the season. In the state semi-final game, Ojeyele grabbed fourteen rebounds and scored thirty-two points. In, ultimately, a close 56-52 loss to Basehor-Linwood in the Championship game, Ojeleye, who has tried to slowly convert himself from more of a post player to a perimeter force, scored thirty-two points and snagged twelve rebounds. For his efforts, the 6’6″ junior, who now has 1,811 career points and helped his team to a 24-2 final record, earned an All-State distinction.

 

This AAU season, Semi, who would like to major in engineering, will once again compete with Mo-Kan Elite on Nike’s EYBL circuit. The past two weekends, at least one Duke coach has observed his playing. This weekend, Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski watched the versatile wing play in person. He is scheduled to visit UCLA and Wisconsin, the first high-major school to offer him a scholarship, in the coming months, but is hoping that his play this AAU season will garner more interest beyond the primary Big XII and Pac-Twelve options.

 Semi spoke with me after a close EYBL game about a variety of issues.
 
 
 
 
Let’s start with your background. 
 
My parents are from Nigeria, but I was born here.
 
 
In Kansas
 
Yeah, in Overland Park. My father came over to be a doctor.
 
 
Oh, well, congratulations.
 
Thank you.
 
 
Were you in a bit of a zone that day when you had the fifty point game?
 
Oh, yeah, my teammates got me involved and I just had my stroke that day. I just thank God because it was just one of those times when everything just clicked. 
 
 
Last year, I thought you had more of an inside game than an outside. Do you feel like you’ve expanded your game and developed more of a mid-range game?
 
Well, I’m 6’6.” So, I’m not going to play center at the next level and I felt like I had to adjust. I feel like I’m going to become a guard. So, I felt like I had to develop more guard skills. So, I had to work on my handling and my shooting a lot.
 [private]
 
And have you improved?
 
Yes, I feel like I have.
 
 
Academically, I heard you were a 4.0 student. Obviously, your father is a doctor, so genetically, you should be a good student.
 
(laughs) Yeah, I take pride in my work and my academics. I want to have something that I can fall back on, because I know how difficult it is to make it to the professionals.
 
 
Your older brother is at Kansas State. What advice has he given you about going through this process?
 
Yeah, he’s been a good big brother to me. He’s gone through the whole thing and he’s taught me how much more physical it is and how rigorous it is and how I have to keep getting my body in better shape. My