Tag Archives: Seth Curry

St. Johns v Duke

BDN Season Preview: Duke’s Senior Class

Welcome to the first installment of our Blue Devil season preview.  This first segment will cover Duke’s senior class of Mason Plumlee, Ryan Kelly, and Seth Curry, a class that without question will be counted on to lead this team both physically and emotionally as it begins its journey.  Coach K has long preached the importance of seniors, not only because of their on-court experience and knowledge of how to play Duke basketball, but also because of their understanding of the Duke culture and the leadership qualities that so many have developed by their senior years.  It has become increasingly rare in the modern basketball landscape to find a top team that has the luxury of starting three solid seniors, but Duke will be one of the fortunate few this season.

It has been a bit of an unusual ride for this class.  Plumlee and Kelly were freshmen on Duke’s 2010 national championship team, and both were role players.  Mason played behind not only frontcourt players Brian Zoubek and Lance Thomas, but also his brother Miles, and consequently only averaged 14 minutes per game, in which he scored 4 points per game and grabbed 3 rebounds.  Kelly was the ninth man on that team, averaging only 6 minutes and 1.5 points.  While both had their moments where they showed promise, and undoubtedly enjoyed one of the great thrills of their lifetimes by being part of a national championship team at Duke, both were reserves, neither was anywhere close to the player he is now, and most fans, when reminiscing about that team, talk about the contributions of Smith, Singler, Scheyer, and Zoubek more so than the two freshmen who played off the bench.

Despite his limited role on the team, Mason Plumlee was tempted by the lure of the NBA, which – especially for big men – drafts substantially on potential.  His length, jumping ability, and athleticism attracted NBA scouts, even though he had not established any kind of consistency yet as a basketball player.  Mason realized, though, that he was nowhere near ready for the NBA, and wisely returned to Duke for his sophomore year.

That 2009-10 season was also a strange one for Seth Curry, because he couldn’t even don the uniform.  Seth sat out that year as per NCAA requirements, as he had transferred to Duke from Liberty University, so all he could do was practice.

The trio’s sophomore year saw their roles increase significantly, but the season ended on a sour note.  Mason started 32 games, playing 25 minutes per game, scoring 7 ppg on 59% shooting, and most importantly, establishing himself as a big-time rebounder, as he grabbed 8.4 in those 25 minutes of action.  Ryan started 27 times as a sophomore, got 20 minutes of burn, and scored 6.6 ppg on 51% shooting.  Curry, following the freak injury to star point guard Kyrie Irving, got 19 starts, sharing the backcourt with Nolan Smith, and scored 9 ppg but only on 42% shooting.

All three sophs had forgettable nights in the shocking blowout loss to Arizona in the NCAA tournament, as Mason took only five shots, he and the other bigs were beaten consistently on the defensive end by Arizona’s frontcourt players, Ryan went scoreless in 14 minutes, and Seth played only 9 minutes before going down with a hip injury, and did not return.

Similar story in the big picture for this group in their junior years.  All three took big steps up in terms of their games and their roles, but again the season ended in a way that few could have imagined with the stunning loss to Lehigh in the first round of the NCAA tournament.  Mason established himself in 2011-2012 as one of the top big men in the ACC, playing 28 mpg, scoring 11 ppg and grabbing 9 boards per outing.   He was named 3rd team all-ACC.  He was again tempted by the NBA, but considered not only the low first round projection by many scouts, but also his desire to get his degree, to lead Duke to a championship, and to play with his younger brother Marshall in deciding to return for his senior year.  Kelly got stronger and grew into the starting stretch-4 role, scoring almost 12 ppg, getting 5 rebounds per game, and leading the team in 3-point shooting at almost 41%.  Ryan was the MVP of the Maui Invitational, where he scored 17 ppg and led the Devils to the championship, beating Kansas in the finals.  His season, though, ended prematurely when he injured his foot in practice before the ACC tournament, and the team wasn’t the same without him.  Seth started all year alongside Austin Rivers, and was the team’s second leading scorer at 13 ppg.  Coach K initially sought to use Seth at the point, but it was not a natural fit, and Seth struggled in the role early.  Once Seth’s ballhandling responsibilities were reduced, the rest of his offensive game improved, and he ended up making 3rd team all-ACC as well.

So what should we look forward to from this group of seniors in 2012-2013?  What does the team need from each of them?

Mason Plumlee should be the best big man in the ACC, and indeed one of the best in the country.  The middle Plumlee brother worked hard in the offseason to try to make it happen.  While he worked at Barclays in Chicago, he also found time to attend the Amare Stoudemire Skills Academy, and was then invited to the prestigious LeBron James Skills Academy in Las Vegas, before finishing up at the Adidas camp.

Coach Krzyzewski has stated very clearly that he expects Mason to be the key to the success of this year’s team.  Other guys will be key, but Mason will be THE key.

What does that mean he’s going to have to do? On the offensive end, he’s probably going to need to score more than 11 ppg, and if the perimeter guys can do a better job than they did last year of feeding the post, he should be able to accomplish that.  Mason worked hard in the off-season on his shooting, and expects that to pay off.  Last year Mason demonstrated a smooth and effective jump hook with both hands – although better with the right hand than the left.  When he shoots it in rhythm, it’s a thing of beauty.  It’s just that he didn’t take it very often.  If he can feel more comfortable in taking that shot, and add even just one additional move – a drop step? – he will be devastating down low.

One obvious area in which Mason needs to improve is his free throw shooting.  The first half of last year was simply awful, but Mason shot much better in the second half, but still ended up at only 52.8%.  This was an improvement from the abysmal 44.1% he shot as a sophomore, but still, he left way too many points at the line.  As he’s expected to be even more of a focal point of the offense this year, Duke is just not going to be able to afford that.

Mason rebounded the ball very well in 2011-12, with the 9 per game (third in the ACC), almost three of which were on the offensive boards.  He is a very athletic player with excellent springs, so nobody is going to simply outjump him.   With the minutes he’s going to see this year, if he continues to fight hard for position, there’s no reason he can’t up that average to, say, 11 rebounds per game this year.

Mason has improved significantly at the defensive end in his three years, and I would expect that improvement to continue.  He was a fouling machine as a freshman, collecting a foul every 6.6 minutes.  That improved as a soph to one foul per 9.8 minutes, but he fouled out five times that year.  Last season he fouled only once every 11.2 minutes, and only fouled out once.  Coach K often preaches the importance of being able to play good defense without fouling.  Mason clearly struggled with that as a younger player, but has learned how to do it – with a better understanding of the scheme, more effort, better positioning, and better decisionmaking.  He’s going to need to stay out of significant foul trouble again this year, as his untested younger brother Marshall – currently out with a fractured foot – is the only other player on the roster who is both comfortable and physically equipped to play in the pivot at both ends.

The Blue Devils are going to need one more upgrade from Mason this year.  He’s going to have to become more of a leader.  At times in his three years in Durham, he has seemed content to let others be the leaders, to rally the troops; Mason has seemed reluctant to get into a guy’s face – teammate or opponent – and some have wondered about his passion.  While that latter concern is, in my mind, misplaced, it’s true that he has not been particularly demonstrative on the floor; he hasn’t grabbed this team by its collective lapels and said, “follow me.”

He’s going to need to embrace that role more this year than he ever has.  Sure, there are two other seniors, and Tyler Thornton is a leader on the team too, but there is a psychological component to teams in which the other players on the team want the best player on the team to be their leader.  They look to him and often take their emotional cues from him.  When the best player is more passive, his teammates sometimes have a harder time bringing their energy.  Sometimes it takes even a great player some time to grow into the role of leader, and to be comfortable in it.  Now is Mason’s time.

Lance King Image

What about Ryan Kelly?  What is the team going to need from him, and what can we reasonably expect from Ryan – whose foot injury late last year is completely healed —  this year?

First, it should be said that while Ryan took some major strides last year, he did not rest on his laurels this summer.  He attended the Impact Academy in Las Vegas in June for several weeks, then the Amare Stoudemire Skills Academy in Chicago in July and finally the LeBron James Skills Academy in Las Vegas in August, all of which included many, many elite players looking to improve their games further.

Taking the last point concerning Mason first, Ryan does seem to be a bit more of a natural leader than is either of his fellow seniors.  He has been more vocal, and the other guys appear to understand that coach views him as a type of “coach on the floor,” which is a bit unusual for a big guy as opposed to a point guard.  Ryan is a smart player and a mature guy (not that Mason isn’t – not at all), and one who the other guys look up to.  Which is probably why he was one of the team’s captains last year, and will be again this season – along with Mason.

With the loss of Miles Plumlee and the injury to Marshall Plumlee – and who knows how ready Marshall is going to be in any event – Ryan is going to be called upon to bring some different things to the table.  Last year, while Ryan was the most accurate three point shooter on team, at almost 41%, almost 41% of his field goal attempts were three pointers as well.  He could continue to hunt his outside shot when Mason was out, because Miles would man the post.  Now, when Mason sits, among the other big guys, Ryan is going to possess Duke’s best combination of size, strength, and shotmaking ability.  I think he’s going to have to use the stronger body he has developed in order to give Duke some semblance of an inside presence on offense when Mason Plumlee is not on the floor.

That is not to say that Ryan is, or should try to be, a true banger.  That’s not who he is, not his game, and not his body.  His ability to stretch defenses with the threat of his three point shot and his sense for proper offensive spacing are important.  The team’s swoon at the end of last year in his absence is testament to that fact.  But he’s going to have to mix it up a little more than he did last year.  And not just with the ball in his hands.  Defensively and on the boards, too.  Ryan did not always play good position defense or help defense last year, and sometimes he was seen to be loafing around screens or not going as hard as he could’ve after 50-50 balls in and around the paint, whether they be loose balls or rebounds.  Ryan is 6’11” and 230 pounds, not the skinny 200 pounder he was when he arrived on campus in 2009.  Duke is going to need more than 5 boards per game from him.  Seven or eight would be most welcome.  All in all, Ryan is going to need to pick up his intensity in all these areas; he can’t just be a shooter.  If he does so, I think he can be an all-ACC player.

It’s going to be interesting to watch Seth Curry this season.  He’s the leading returning scorer on the team, and the second best returning three point shooter, after Ryan Kelly.  He’s the most experienced backcourt player on the squad.

In an apparent contradiction, Seth may feel both liberated and pressured bit this year.  He won’t have the burden of the point guard experiment on his shoulders; that has been cleared, and he won’t have those responsibilities, if all goes according to plan.  He also may have more of an opportunity to shine in the shooting guard role with the departure of Austin Rivers, who had the ball in his hands a lot.  Seth will have the green light to be aggressive at the offensive end.

But despite his having a number of terrific moments and many solid games, doubts about Seth crept into Blue Devil nation (with a small ‘n’) last year.  His ballhandling was questioned during the point guard experiment.  His ability to create his own shot was questioned. And most significantly, his defensive abilities were questioned.  Seth has quick hands and pretty good instincts, which is why he led the team in steals.  Undoubtedly, Seth’s 6’2” 180 lb. frame was problematic at times defensively, especially when he was paired with either Tyler Thornton or Quinn Cook, along with Rivers.  The perimeter was short, and a number of bigger, more physical guards had their way with Duke’s backcourt, as they were able to simply shoot right over the Blue Devil guards or overpower them.  In addition to that, the Duke guards collectively did not do a great job of applying ball pressure, and they did not move their feet well in order to keep opponents from penetrating into the lane.

Remedying that aspect of Duke’s defense from a year ago is going to be one of the keys to the Blue Devils’ success this season.  Seth isn’t going to get any taller.  But he can put additional focus and effort into the game at the defensive end.  If he can stay in his opponent’s shirt and force tougher passes and force tougher shots and not allow his man to penetrate and distort the defense, that will go a long way to help improve the whole team’s defensive performance.  The idea at this point is for Quinn Cook and Tyler Thornton to largely man the point.  They’re going to have to pick it up defensively as well.  But at the 2-guard, Duke has to improve defensively.  Many fans anticipate freshman guard Rasheed Sulaimon to be a strong defensive player from the jump.  If that turns out to be true, and either because of physical stature or effort and ability Seth is not able to turn it up defensively, the calls for increased time for Sulaimon will grow a bit louder.

Seth has said that his focus in the off-season was working on his ballhandling and getting into the lane a bit more.  I would be surprised if we didn’t see an improvement in those areas.  Personally, I think Seth is going to re-dedicate himself to the defensive end, and make an impact there as well as with his scoring.  He’s a kid with a lot of pride and a real work ethic, and he knows that if he can round out his game by improving his ballhandling and his defense, he can really go places.  And he’ll take the Blue Devils along with him.  Possibly complicating this outlook is Seth’s having suffered a leg injury recently.  The exact nature of the injury is a bit murky, but Coach K indicated that it may bother him all season.  If Seth can play through that, I expect him to have a terrific season, and along with the other Duke seniors, cap his career by leading this Blue Devil team to significant post-season success.

 

 

 

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]

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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