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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.

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BDN Premium – Duke Basketball Team and Recruiting Update

Rasheed Sulaimon played "Horse" while visiting Duke. Maybe that helped him win the three point shooting contest at the McDonald's All American game? BDN presents another loaded team and recruiting update article for premium members.

Well, it's that time of year again when AAU ball cranks up and for BDN that means we'll be hitting several big events. Austin Rivers decision to sign with an agent and enter the NBA Draft wasn't that big of a surprise to us and we all wish him luck. Rivers decision is the first thing that will set the future into motion as the staff will be hot on the recruiting trail.  While many Duke fans hate to see Rivers lead, he can help the program at the next level and they will show that shot against UNC several times early on in his pro career.  He joins Kyrie Irving as players kids will really identify with.

I expect Mason Plumlee will (you must be a BDN Premium member to read the 2000 plus word update, so join today!) [private] enter his name into the draft to get feedback as to his draft status which must be done by April 3rd. Plumlee from all accounts is torn about his decision but the departure of Austin Rivers could help. Had Rivers returned the offense would have been run through him and the Blue Devils would have been his team. His high school coach David Gaines said that he was weighing his options and that one thing he would want is more touches or to be used in a more prominent role, It seems part of Plumlee wants to return and finish what he started and play with his brother Marshall for a year. Marshall could surely use his tutoring and Duke could surely use his presence in the paint. But an equal part of Mason wants to go pro and it may come down to where he is projected in a deep draft. It's probably even odds right now but that could change.  If I were to guess, I think Mase will probably want to go through his senior season and be a more focal point for the team but I am not majorly confident with the info I have received to date and it is worth noting that I have not talked this  over with some of my usual sources.

Should Plumlee head to the league with Rivers, Duke will be in major need of a big or two. There are two options, one being Tony Parker and the other Alex Oriakhi, the Connecticut transfer. Should Plumlee go, it would be a match made in heaven with Oriakhi. As for Tony Parker, he announced that he would be making a decision on April 11th and I can tell you now that Duke is a definite player. Coach K locked in on his parents early on and there is a very solid relationship and trust between them. While Parker has seemingly bought into all of the anti Duke recruiting rhetoric and squirmed away at the mention of Duke, he may finally be seeing the light and the opportunity he has stepping right into playing time at Duke. Parker showed signs of getting a bit out of shape at the McDonald's All American drills but who knows the circumstances or that he didn't have something going on? Anyhow, he has trimmed his list to Duke, Kansas and UCLA. IMO, Los Angeles is too far from home unless all his pals go there and that means it is likely down to two, Kansas and Duke. I think the Blue Devils have proximity in their favor as well and may pull this one out. Their odds are much better than they were a month ago at this time and Parker knows he would plug right in. Parker's decision may also effect the aforementioned Oriakhi.

Shabazz Muhammad won the dunk contest and he will choose a school on April 11th as well on an ESPN special. His decision likely has bearing on Trey Zeigler, a recent visitor and I expect nothing will happen with him until Bazz pulls the trigger due to available slots. Duke can now show Muhammad that he can be there next one and done freshman and that may be enough to pull him in. Zeigler offers maturity and the ability to guard certain types of players on defense. It will be interesting to see how all plays out, but I feel one will be on the roster at this time. And there is still the shadow of an NCAA investigation over Bazz and this could effect him going to what many felt the leader has been for months, Kentucky.

The Duke coaches will assault the AAU circuit full throttle before July for that is when Coach K will be heading up Team USA and he'll take assistants Collins and Wojo with him. That means April is an important month and the staff will take in both Nike EYBL sessions and other events I will share at a later date. Jeff Capel, Nate James and Chris Spatola will fill in while the staff builds the team they hope wins gold.

Several Duke Assistants have been considered for other jobs but the info coming in is somewhat shaky so I will not share the rumors. The Illinois job supposed linked three Duke types, Johnny Dawkins who led Stanford to the NIT title game, Steve Wojciechowski and of course Chris Collins. It looks like the job has been filled and Collins was like the next one or two choices had the job remained open. Nothing official while I am typing this though ... It is looking more and more like a mid major stepping stone job may be the ticket for some. Back to Dawkins, he would probably like to go somewhere it is easier to recruit but his Stanford team will compete for the PAC 10 the next two season should he stay put and I expect him to do so.

The coaches will be meeting with players to tell them what to work on for the coming season and what role they envision them taking on.  And you have heard a lot of transfer rumors by now and I fully expect some movement.  It's hard for me to share too much on that front in that it is a sensitive and private issue for the program, but the most rumored kid to leave Michael Gbinije seems prepared to returned and told his AAU coach he knew Coach K knew what he was doing.  It has also come out that Seth Curry can or will graduate and that he entertained going overseas but no firm decision has been made.  It was odd that Austin Rivers seemed to slip and say he was gone in the locker room after the tournament loss, but there was a lot of emotion going on.

I can tell you that there will be a shake up and Duke will try to get back to playing better defense and I expect all players will be challenged and have to earn their time next season.  The coaches, like us. have to let all shake out and each player or prospect move will effect one another with concern to the players/prospects in play.

The Carolina Classic has concluded and we'll add some late scouting reports and get the thoughts of others before weeks end.  I would say Theo Pinson is the only prospect firmly on the radar and while there are other good players, none of them are past the evaluation mode.  For those new to BDN Premium, the evaluation mode consists of players they are putting feelers out on.  Many kids, like prospect Tyrone Outlaw will get a look and he will visit in an unofficial manner, but it is common for local star prospects to drop by campus.  Jeff Capel is the lead guy for Outlaw but I'm not sure he would make the final cut.  However he does add toughness to the team he will play for and he can guard bigger players.  Outlaw will have to improve his perimeter game to become a real candidate.  Duke has showed some interest in Jaquel Richmond as well but something tells me they may not pursue him as hard as some other names.

Another name which has popped up is Christian Harrison of Greensboro Day.  Harrison grew up a Duke fan and of course says he would accept an offer on the spot.  He's a nice late bloomer in the rankings but has very thin shoulder width which needs a lot of added muscle.  He can finish very well and is a smooth player but hangs outside a bit too much for my tastes.  His second game was his worst and his defense was awful at times in that game.  He wasn't playing help D or using his length a lot.  His third game would have one drooling and he played much better after motivational speeches.  I would have to get more views on him to get a real feel.  We will have an interview up soon with him.

The Nike Jordan-Brand Classic is on my agenda where I will see Rasheed Sulaimon play and hopefully one or two more future Blue Devils.  The even on April 14th will allow us to know where Tony Parker and Shabazz Muhammad are going.  There are a slew of UNC and N.C. State guys playing in the event, a game of local North Carolina ballers and an International game.  continues to work Duke prospects as does his future teammate Matt Jones.

The Nike EYBL season starts in April as well and it gets underway with session I  in Minnesota on April 20-22 and then session II in Hampton, Virginia the following weekend.  The event is loaded with Duke prospects and among them are Chicago studs, Jabari Parker, the top rated player in the class of 2013 and Jahill Okafor, the paint eater and key Blue Devil target as well.  Both will suit up for the Mac Irwin Fire again and Parker has been the Blue Devils top target for a long time and as I have said for a year or so now, I feel Duke is in great shape with  him.  Then there is the Texas Titan duo of Matt Jones a shooting guard who has already pledged to Duke and his teammate, the bullish post man, Julius Randle.  If Duke misses on bigs this year, their need for Randle will be dire.  Duke is in good shape and will surely make his final cut and he is right there with Jabari Parker as the most important prospects they will work before Olympic duties.  But rest easy for Duke Assistant Jeff Capel is the lead recruiter for him and that bodes well.    Then there are the two PG prospects, Anthony Barber 2013 and Tyus Jones 2014.    Long time members know I rave when speaking of Jones and I will finally get more views of Barber.  Both are legitimate standouts but Jones to me is special and a winner.  But Jones has the nation after him and he will be a tough get.  Duke will also have their eyes open for other players and by the end of April we should have some new names popping up.  Other names to watch are big man Bee Jay Anya and Theo Pinson to name a few.

By all accounts, Ryan Kelly is healing nicely and he should have plenty of time to have his game together before the season starts.  Duke players had a lot of nagging injuries by seasons end but the Blue Devils do not broadcast them until later and maybe no even then.  Coach Krzyzewski has never been one to share too much in the past.  But it was certainly evident that the loss of Kelly effected the team concept and in hindsight, Kelly added a lot of value to the team.

The take on Amile Jefferson in interesting.  Talk to the NCSU types and they are majorly confident he comes.  Their spin is he is waiting to see what C.J Leslie does, well, I will tell you that he is going pro.  Jefferson has a great relationship with the Wolfpack staff but I feel his heart is with Duke.  I though his decision may be tied in with the McDonald's game but it seems he will watch what happens with team rosters as well as others now.  Jefferson is a nice young man who is likely having trouble telling certain teams no.  Villanova continues to make the hometown push and they are still hovering about but it is down to the ACC schools and I still feel Duke is in the best shape to get his services.  But it's recruiting, so who knows 100% sure what might happen.

So, we are all waiting to watch the McDonald's All American game this evening and to see how things shake out for Duke Basketball.  You have heard me say the following on numerous occasions but it applies more than ever to current situations.  Let it play out.  Freaking out and over speculation is a waste of ones energy.  Watch what prospects do and not what they say.  Actions speak louder than words.

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My ballot for All ACC, and individual awards

The All ACC teams are set to be announced at 2:30 today and the individual awards tomorrow and here is my ballot and my reasoning for voting as I did.


1st Team Tyler Zeller UNC
1st Team John Henson UNC
1st Team Kendall Marshall UNC
1st Team Mike Scott Virginia
1st Team Austin Rivers Duke

I couldn't vote more than three players from any team on my 1st team and some say you only vote three if that team dominated the league.  Tyler Zeller, John Henson and Kendall  Marshall stood out for me, leaving Harrison Barnes as the odd man out despite being 2nd in the league in scoring.  Mike Scott tailed off a bit late in the season but take him away and Virginia would not make the NCAA Tournament and his last performance assured him of a spot on my team.  Austin Rivers came on strong midway through the season and earned his way on my ballot despite scoring just 25 points in his last two games.    He was the Blue Devils best player and that helped him edge out the leagues leading scorer in Terrell Stoglin. 

2nd Team Harrison Barnes UNC
2nd Team Terrell Stoglin Maryland
2nd Team Michael Snaer FSU
2nd Team Lorenzo Brown NCS
2nd Team Mason Plumlee Duke

The leagues top two scorers head up my 2nd team All ACC selections.  A testament to the Tar Heels talent is the fact that Harrison Barnes was pushed to my  2nd team.  Some will have him ahead of Kendall Marshall, but take away the captain of their ship and none of the big three stars would have the numbers they do.  Terrell Stoglin could have easily been a 1st team choice as well.  Michael Snaer was my first Florida State player selected and I am very comfortable with him on this team.  I am of the opinion that Lorenzo Brown of N.C. State was their most valuable player and his all around play made for a spot in my top ten.  As for Mason Plumlee, take him off the Duke front line and you would have seen many more losses.  He is one of the leagues top big men and the 2nd best player on the Blue Devils team from my vantage.

3rd Team Kenni Kadji Miami
3rd Team Travis McKie WF
3rd Team Erick Green VT
3rd Team CJ Leslie NCS
3rd Team Seth Curry Duke

Kenny Kadji had great stats in league play and he got better as the season progressed, so he represents Miami.  Many might go with Durand Scott on this team but he fell just short on my ballot and I felt Kadji earned this selection.  Wake Forest pushed C.J. Harris for 1st team or their lead player but to me, Travis McKie was more valuable with his all around stats.  Harris, like Scott was right there for me but Seth Curry gained the last spot in that he played for a team which won a lot more games in league play.  Erick Green could have easily made my 2nd team as well and he had a fine season for the Hokies.  I wrestled back and forth with the selection of C.J. Leslie, but he is 10th in scoring and rebounding or close to that going into the last game of the season, so that garnered him a spot. And Bernard James was the odd man out but he had a heck of a season and was quite valuabel to his team.


Jontel Evans Virginia
John Henson UNC
Michael Snaer FSU
Bernard James FSU
Andrew Young, Clemson

The trio of John Henson, Michael Snaer and Bernard James were no brianers.  Jontel Evans gained a spot with his play and I felt good about his addition, while Andre Young of Clemson edged out the likes of Erick Green and Lorenzo Brown. 


Austin Rivers Duke
Ryan Anderson BC
Dorian Finey-Smith VT
Shane Larkin Miami
Nick Faust Maryland

In a very weak freshman class, Austin Rivers leads the way and a unanimous choice.  Ryan Anderson was an easy choice as well for me but I struggled with Nick Faust and some of his teammates and others for the last spot.  There are s a lot of freshman on the leagues better teams which have more talent and many of the players I voted for but their development was slowed by the talent ahead of them.


Player of the Year - Tyler Zeller UNC - Tyler Zeller had a very nice senior season and he got my vote as the conferences top player. 

Defensive Player of Year - John Henson UNC - Henson altered a lot of shots and ripped plenty of defensive boards for the Tar Heels dominant front court.  Michael Snaer and Bernard Hopkins were right there as well and earned my consideration.

Rookie of the Year - Austin Rivers Duke - This was the easiest pick of the individual awards for me.  In a weak freshman class via production, Rivers stood out all season long, owning the weekly award as if it were velcroed to his chest.

Coach of the Year -Mike Krzyzewski Duke - It came down to three coaches for me, those being Leonard Hamilton of Florida State, Tony Bennett of Virginia and Mike Krzyzewski of Duke.  Hamilton led his Florida State team to their pre season predicted finish of 3rd and they demolished North Carolina with some home cooking.  But those early losses to weak teams at home, lands him in 3rd place for me.  Tony Bennett led his team to a 4th place finish despite losing transfers and Asanne Sene, their main post presence.  That earned him 2nd place in my voting.  As many of you know, Coach Mike Krzyzewski hardly ever wins the award but this is the year he is deserving and he got my vote.  Krzyzewski led his team to 26 regular season wins which include Kansas, North Carolina, Michigan State, Michigan.  Add wins over NCAA tournament bound teams Belmont, Davidson, Washington and possibly Colorado State and Tennessee and it is clear that the Blue Devils came to pay despite losing Nolan Smith, Kyle Singler and Kyrie Irving in the off season.  He coached an unusual roster by past standards and squeezed the most out of them.   I am very comfortable with him obtaining my vote.

In the end, selections are all subjective, but I pride myself on remaining objective and voting my conscience.  There is no true tried and true criteria for voting, so you will see ballots vary greatly.  As for Duke, Seth Curry was on my 1st team ballot in the pre season and he made that team, but he fell to my 3rd team at seasons end.  Kendall Marshall and Harrison Barnes flip flopped teams and the rest remained the same with the exception of Rivers.  Zeller ended up my Player of the Year but his teammate Barnes got my vote in the pre season.  My pre season predicted standings were very close to the actual finish, the top five intact as was the bottom.  I had Virginia Tech a couple of spots too high in the pre season, but overall I was very close.  My optimistic pre season projected record for Duke was the 26-5 record they own, another reason Krzyzewski got my vote.