I take a look back at the Nike EYBL Session 2 and give my thoughts on prospects and how they may have improved from a season ago. Here is my take on some of the key Duke prospects with some added tidbits –
Justise Winslow - The thing that most impressed me about Justise Winslow was his court vision which makes him a really good passing wing. Winslow plays on a very talented team which is interchangeable at some positions. There are times when he [private] brings the ball up the court which is a testament to his getting better with his overall handle since a season ago. Winslow is a team oriented player who seems well versed in what he can and cannot get away with in that he is in touch with his capabilities. He can take his man off the dribble an moves strong to the rack when he gets his man on his hip or a screen is set. Winslow can also battle inside due to his strength. I can certainly understand why Krzyzewski and the staff prefer him over Theo Pinson. IMO, Winslow has done a better job of harnessing his skill set and it certainly doesn’t hurt that he’s a high character kid on and off the court, valuing education and showing a wise mind when dealing with media and teammates alike. Duke is in sold shape here and Winslows’ brother probably prefers the Blue Devils but he glows when talking of Arizona too, so there is work to be done and this one will likely come down to the wire.
Theo Pinson - The athletic wing has moments where he seems to lost his focus and that does not always allow for a consistent effort. But when he is on, he’s a very talented young man who plays at a high level. Pinson still needs work on his stroke and finishing better on drive. Actually, he would be better served kicking out more often when he finds traffic on drives instead of trying to create a sensational shot. Duke is still recruiting Pinson but it is clear that he is their second choice to Winslow at this time but as we know in recruiting, things can change in a days time.
Tyus Jones - Jones is a flat-out competitor and a cool customer. I have said in the past that he’s a silent killer at times and this season he demands the ball even more when the game is on the line. And his Howard Pulley teammates want the ball in his hands for he always seems to come through at crunch time. Pulley seems to always play in close games and they overachieve due to Jones play. I joked with him during an interview that he was “Jack Frost,” in that he is so cool in the clutch, almost always coming through. In fact, it would be story worth and draw attention if he flopped when the game is on the line for it is so rare it happens. Jones has a shifty speed which is not jet like but is effective in that he changes speed well. His handle is solid and he can get shots off even when everybody in the gym knows a shot is coming often getting to the line. He’s also a deadly three-point threat even when not open and he can find the seams in the defense making him a ridiculous stat stuff with concerns to assists. Jones maintains that he will be a package deal with Jahlil Okafor and Coach K and Izzo among others were at all of his games.
Devin Booker – Duke is still recruiting or staying in touch with Booker despite getting a verbal from Grayson Allen. Booker has good defensive footwork and likes playing on ball defense. He has a nice stroke from the outside or can break you off the dribble. He also hustles non stop or at least he did in my views. He seems well versed in the game of basketball and plays with a quiet, cool confidence.
Elijah Thomas - He is not a super flashy big man, just one who gets the job done, defends well and can throw down dunks with ease. Thomas is still getting use to his frame and he can intimidate opponents. He plays with enthusiasm and confidence and is alight hearted kind of kid off the court, whose Mom plays a huge role in his life. He is a big time prospect in next seasons class that likes Duke a lot but he has other schools who are right there as well. Thomas will draw more and more attention, so strap yourself in for a long recruitment on this one.
Harry Giles - Coach K really, really like this kid and was the first coach in the gym to see him in his opening game. Giles? He’s a long, lean, sure-fire talent who is incredibly coordinated for his height and age. Potential. He’s oozes in it and he was one of the few kids playing on the 16U teams which drew a bevy of major college coaches, Giles mentioned that he is already tiring of the media process, so stay tuned. He seems a bit shy off the court but not so much so on it. While he can not always be super vocal, he does talk on the court and directs teammates for he understands spacing well at his age. He took it the length of the court for slams, made sweeping hook moves where he kissed the ball off glass and attributes his handle to wanting to be a guard when he was growing up. Ridiculous upside. [/private]
Tom Konchalski is a 6’6″ sexagenarian who can walk into a basketball gym from South Side of Chicago to Harlem and South Florida to Maine and be enthusiastically greeted by coaches at all levels, anxious players, and grateful parents. Modest, focused, loyal, industrious, pious, honest, and generous, Mr. Konchalski embodies all of the qualities that his heroes, Mother Theresa and C.S. Lewis, championed.
For the better part of five decades, the Queens, NY native has analyzed recruits, coached players, and advised coaches, parents, Athletic Directors, and players. A devout Catholic, Mr. Konchalski has prayed on the behalf of everyone from the ’69 Mets to Coach Jack Curran, his high school gym teacher and future Basketball Hall of Fame inductee who passed away last month at the age of 82.
A consummate workaholic, Mr. Konchalski travels via public transportation and the generosity of his legions of friends to observe recruits on an almost daily basis with the ferocity of a hungry lion eying cheetahs. His omnipresent yellow legal pads and Bic Cristal pens have been the tools of choice to analyze the strengths and weaknesses of everyone from LeBron James as a freshman to seniors looking to catch on at a Division-III college. In a world of three-minute YouTube highlight videos misconstrued as scouting tapes and fly-by-night internet recruiting charlatans looking to broker players, Mr. Konchalski is refreshingly anachronistic.
Three days ago, a pair of his friends, Bernard King, who invited Mr. Konchalski to join him on his official trip to the University of Tennessee, and Rick Pitino, who worked closely with Mr. Konchalski as a counselor at the Five Star Basketball Camps, were announced as inductees to the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame. Author John Feinstein ’78 once wrote that Konchalski, the publisher and editor of the HSBI Report, was “the last honest man in the gym,” but the statement doesn’t quite convey all that he has done for this game and the people involved in it at all levels.
Recently, Mr. Konchalski, a friend and mentor, gave his assessment of the 2013 Duke commitments and some Blue Devil recruits.
Jabari Parker: Well, obviously he has a great combination of size, skills, athleticism, and savvy. To proclaim him the best player since LeBron as Sports Illustrated did last year is that it raises the one question about him that I have which is whether or not he can be an assassin. LeBron was an assassin. Kobe was an assassin. I think he was better as a junior than Kobe was. I saw Kobe a lot. Kobe was always an assassin. Obviously, he has great skill, size, and athleticism. He’s productive and has a very mature understanding of the game. He’s also got very good character and he’s coachable. He’s thinking about staying two or three years. It would be a wonderful thing if he did. It would be a breath of fresh air. It would be a tremendous thing for college basketball if he did. I would say the closest player to him at Duke would be Grant Hill because they’re forwards, they’re both big forwards. Eventually, he’s going to be a three-man. He’s a hybrid forward right now. He’s closer to being a three-men offensively than he is being a three-man defensively. He’s just a forward right now, a hybrid forward, that’s got to tighten his body.
I’ll tell you what he did. Between his freshman and sophomore year, he really tightened his body. He lowered his percentage of body fat. He became much more athletic and much more explosive. He’s got to continue to streamline his body, maybe see a nutritionist, and get on an exercise regimen. I guess the closest comparison would be Grant Hill although Grant Hill was a different physical type, but overall, Grant Hill is the closest comparison in terms of Duke players.
The one reservation I have about Jabari…here’s a guy who has an obviously high basketball IQ. When he’s in shape, he has good athletic ability. He had improved his athletic ability towards the end of his sophomore year and towards the beginning of his junior year and he has skill. The one reservation that I had was whether he had a killer’s instinct. I didn’t know if he’s an assassin. He’s developed more of a disposition to take over games and to be assertive in the last year. Now, that’s something that I think runs contrary to his nature. He’s got to overcome his off-the-court temperament. He’s got to be bipolar or sort of a schizophrenic to be a good basketball player. You have to be a lot meaner on the court than you are off, but I think he’s making strides in terms of his aggressiveness and assertiveness and willingness to take over games, not to defer to other teammates and whatever..to be the go-to guy..and that’s what he’s got to do because I think Kobe always had it and LeBron always had it, but, for the most part, it’s something that you’re born with..that kind of toughness and aggressiveness and wanting to really take over games. Crush the opponent and when they’re down to sort of put your foot on the neck and that sort of thing. And I think he’s made strides in that regard. I hope he gives serious thought when he goes there not to be an automatic one-and-done. Not that it may not happen, but he should have an open mind in that respect.
Semi Ojeleye: Semi Ojeleye..his win or strength is his versatility. He can defend multiple positions. Now, I think he’s going to be even more valuable to them on the defensive end of the court. He’s an inside-outside player who I really liked. He plays a lot much more for result rather than effect. He’s not a guy who goes out there to showcase his different skill sets. He’ll step out and hit the three, he’ll handle the ball, he’ll play a little bit on the perimeter, and he can go inside and bang a little bit too and generate some points inside. He’s really..I’ll tell you what he does..he plays quick. I really think he’s going to be a terrific Duke player because I think it’s more likely that he’s going to be a three or four year player. He’ll really stay around and help them on the defensive end and he can guard the four-man, he can guard the three-man, even at times be able to guard a two. I really think he’s a major recruit for them. I hadn’t really paid attention to him at the Boo Williams, but you had mentioned him and I didn’t really remember him, but when I saw him down at the Peach Jam, I really, really liked him.
Matt Jones: Matt Jones has a very unorthodox shot. He’s a bit streaky as a three-point shooter. He’s long and lean, he’s got to get a little bit stronger. He’s a big guard who I think has growth potential as he gets stronger and shoots the ball. You know, he doesn’t have good rotation on his shot. He has an awkward shot, but it puts the ball in the basket. For the most part, it’s been effective for him. He’s another guy who’s going to be a three or four year player with them. Hopefully, Jabari will stay for more than one year and if you get a Jabari, you’ve got to take him, but you’ve got to build the program more around guys that are going to be there three or four years. You’ve got to have balance.
Jahlil Okafor: Jahlil is a guy who has terrific skill for a big guy and another guy who is a very intelligent person like Jabari. And, you know, he’s not an explosive athlete, you know he’s not a bad athlete and he runs okay. Obviously, I think he can really streamline his body and, when he gets to college, people are going to get him into the weight room. He’s going to do an awful lot of work. His percentage of body fat with drop dramatically, but he has terrific hands and really good skills for a post player. You know that he can step out, shoot the elbow jumper, he’s a good passer, he can pass out of the post, and he’s not quick-reacting to the ball, he’s not quick moving laterally to the ball in the lane around the basket. That’s what I think he’s got to work on- his body and also his lateral movement. But just in terms of overall, he has a big strong frame, he has a superior basketball IQ for a big man. Usually big, young guys don’t understand the game as well as he does. He’s very intelligent and, you know, another nice guy who can be, you know, because of his size, he can be down the road, you know, I’m not saying he’s more skilled than Jabari Parker, but because he’s 6’10”, 260 or 270 or whatever he is, I think he can be an even greater influence on the game than Jabari Parker. I would say he’s about 6’10”, they list him at 6’11”. I think he’s a legitimate 6’10” when I stand next to him. He’s a major weapon both on the high-post and the low-box. He can be a major, major factor in college. On the defensive end, I don’t think he’s as much of a shot-blocker. He impacts the game through intelligent positioning.
Quickness is comprised of two components. It has a physical and an extra-physical component. The physical component is just how naturally quick you are. The extra-physical component is, first of all, mental preparation and correct technique. You could be quicker just by being mentally prepared and alert. And the other part using correct technique, but I think he’s a guy, I think any big guy, ought to live with a jump rope. Both those guys, in particular, should live with jump ropes. They both have the kind of bodies where they can put on weight and where, if they’re not careful, but I think both of them should live with it as their daily routine for both of those guys. They’re both guys who are extremely intelligent and have very good skill and they both, I think, can be really dominating players at the college level if they stay around long enough and possibly dominating players at the level beyond that. I think at the college level, Okafor is a center. He’s a center because he’s a force. If a college coach can fill the middle of his lineup with a point guard, a leader, someone who’s going to run the team and with a quality post-man like that, well, then that’s the team. Everyone wants that one position down…Fives want to be fours, fours want to be threes, threes want to be twos, twos want to be ones, and ones probably want to coach the team. But if you look at even a great team, they’re teams that have dominating big men and great guards. The wings fill in around those players, but that’s what you need. You need someone that’s going to run the team and organize the floor, hopefully contain the point guard at the other end of the court. Hopefully contain the ball at the other end of the court. Stop dribble penetration from their point guard and you need a big guy in the post. You need to be able to score easy baskets. And even the thing is, even as 3 point arc-oriented as most teams are and as many college teams are, and how Duke has become increasingly, still, the more post-offense presence you have, forget about even on the defensive end, the more open 3’s that show up. Most 3-point shots are shot off of inside-out action or relocation. Things like that. Just in terms of the half-court, the more you can draw the defense in, the more you can open up the spot-up outside shooters. In the past, Duke sometimes has become too reliant on that and not as much of an interior offensive presence. Both of those guys are going to be terrific players.
Trey Lyles: Trey Lyles is a 6’9″ kid with good skill, good body, and the guy who has a real good feel for the game. He has a high court
IQ. Usually that’s a term that’s more applied to perimeter players. When you talk about guards..especially point guards…in terms of high court IQ, but he plays for result rather than effect and he’s very efficient. You know he can score. He doesn’t need to have the ball on the floor in order to score, although he can put the ball on the floor some from the high post. But the main thing is that he’s very efficient. He does an awful lot offensively without the dribble. And he’s a guy who, you know, can score. Can score from the high post and down in the low box. When he went to Basketball Canada when they had their camp at the end of the summer and they had Steve Nash, who’s the Jerry Colangelo of operations of Basketball Canada right now, they had all of their guys…Jamaal Magloire came in to work with the big guys and everyone was there and they had all very good young players. Tristan Thompson, Cory Joseph, Myck Kabongo, then they had Andrew Wiggins, and Tyler Ennis, and Trey Lyles. Trey Lyles, from what my brother told me, is as impressive as any player that they had in their program. They are really, really high on him. When they played down in South America in FIBA Tournament, you know, he had a very good tournament. When he came back, people in Basketball Canada are as high on him as they are on Andrew Wiggins. He doesn’t have quite the athleticism that Andrew Wiggins has, but what really, I think, makes him different is his understanding of the game and his efficiency for a big guy. Usually, big young guys aren’t as..well, they don’t have the feel for the game that he does and they don’t play with the degree of efficiency with which he plays.
Tyus Jones: He’s a point guard, combination guard, a high scorer. He can handle the ball, control the tempo, he plays at different
speeds. He’s very good. He has a very good tempo to his game. He has a very good sense of ball security with his game. He shoots the ball extremely well.
Kevon Looney: He has size. He was 6’7″, 6’8″ when I saw him in Chicago. He can play on the
perimeter and in the low-post, he can defend. He’s probably a better low-post defender than he is a perimeter defender right now. Well, certain players he can defend on the perimeter. He’s got a nice stroke, he sees the floor well, he’s a good passer. I really think he can be an elite level player. Now, I’ve only seen him once. I can’t think of any more skilled power wing players in the class of 2014. In terms of position, assuming he grows, I think he’s more of a perimeter player..because I think at that size with his skill set, it makes him more valuable.
Theo Pinson: Pinson is a big kid with a lot of quickness. He’s got good skill level, he can shoot the ball, he handles the ball well, he uses his great athleticism to defend multiple positions. I don’t think he’s a knock-down shooter, but he’s pretty good.
Justice Winslow: He’s a lefty from Houston Hoops. He’s an intense competitor. He’s versatile. His versatility is one of his greatest strengths. He’s strong enough and athletic enough to post and score inside. He can rebound. I don’t think he’s much of a three-point threat right now, but he has a good mid-range game. He’s a pretty good passer. He’s a kid that’s very strong, great body, and he really uses his strength to post-up in match-ups against others. He’s really a very difficult matchup because of his versatility and his range. He’s also very skilled with the ball. He can get to the basket. He’s a very difficult matchup because of his strength, his quickness, and his ability to get the ball to the basket. He really plays hard. He’s a very intense competitor.
Malachi Richardson: People talk about him being a second guard, but I don’t really think that he quite is now. He can shoot the three and he’s a very good three-point shooter, but he’s, you know, a big wing who’s probably more of a 3/2 than a 2/3 right now. He’s a guy who has a great touch, who has a lot of athletic ability, and has a good body. You know he’s grown an inch since his freshman year at Trenton Catholic Academy and he’s got a lot of potential. If he wants to be a two guard, he’s got to be a little better playing off of the dribble, a little better playing with the ball, and he’s got to work awfully hard at guarding a two guard because, right now, his better defensive nature is as a three man. What he is right now is a skilled wing with good size and a lot of athleticism..and at an early age, in terms of only being a sophomore, so he has an awful lot of potential.
Isaiah Briscoe: Well, I mean, he played terrific against St. Anthony’s and didn’t play like a sophomore. He was very assertive, he was very aggressive, looking to take the ball to the basket, and really forced the issue. Here’s a guy who has size, can shoot the ball, he has aggressiveness, he is not intimidated at all. The one thing here, I think, about him is that he’s got to be very careful about his body. It’s going to be very imperative for him to get on a good diet and to stay in as good a condition as he possibly can because he has the kind of body type where he can put weight on. He’s a decent athlete, but he’s not a great athlete. He’s not a tapered athlete. He’s not someone that when you look at him you think “athlete”. When you look at him, you see someone who is a scorer and a guy who scores primarily on his aggressiveness, which is based on his temperament. He has a scorer’s temperament. He doesn’t defer to anyone. He’s ready to play against the best teams in the country right now. He won’t be intimidated. He won’t back down.
He’s about 6’3″. I don’t think he’s really a lead guard. I think he’s a combination guard right now, but he can handle the ball. You know what they try to do. They try to take anyone who can dribble the ball three times without kicking it into the seventh row, they try to call him a point guard or a lead guard. That’s not it at all because, first of all, not only do you have skill with the ball, but it’s more of an attitude. It’s more of a temperament, it’s more of a disposition to try to make other people better, and really, you know, a real good leader. A real point guard or a real lead guard is someone who thinks, he probably thinks pass before he thinks shot and I think that’s not the case with Isaiah. You know, he’s a guy who can handle the ball and will make plays for some other people, but his first instinct is to look to score himself. Almost by definition, there are more piano carriers than there are piano players, so I mean, anyone that can score like him, you don’t want to take that away from them. You don’t want to domesticate him too much and it’s easier to find someone to set the table than to find someone that will put the ball in the basket. Coach Taylor is probably going to give him the opportunity to display with the ball in his hands next year, but I don’t think there are many synthetic point guards or lead guards. I think it’s more something that you’re born with. Leadership and temperament are what makes a true point guard. [/private]
There is never a shortage of feel good moments for Duke fans when Countdown to Craziness kicks off the basketball season and on Friday night a celebration of the program ensued. Coach Mike Krzyzewski and his program had more than just this years team on display during the festivities. They also had a bevy of highly rated and key future prospects in attendance and they hope it will not be these young mens last visit to Durham.
It wasn’t long after BDN began it’s coverage of the event that all of the Duke Assistant Coaches, Jeff Capel, Chris Collins and Steve Wojociechowski came walking down the steps beside the Swartz-Butters Building which houses Coach K on the top floor with all of the visiting prospects. Among [private] those were a point guard who does nothing but make his team better and win, Tyus Jones.
Jones is believed to have Duke and Michigan State at the top of his list, so it was important that Duke made a good impression and from afar it appears that may have happened. Also attending was a 6-10 behemoth from Chicago Jahlil Okafor and a sleek wing in North Carolina native Theo Pinson. All three of these players played on one of the better Team USA Development Teams in recent memory and all know one another from the AAU circuit as well. Depending on how your perceive information, it is said that these guys along with Justise Winslow would not mind playing together in college.
Duke also had a visit from another stud prospect in Karl Towns and a junior high sensation and specimen in Harry Giles.
Anyhow, back to the walk through campus by the prospects. As they descended down the steps quite a few Duke fans took notice and trust me from the folks I met who follow or are members of BDN, a lot of them and others were well aware of these kids visits. Suddenly, there was a small mob of picture and autograph seekers and the guys took time out to accommodate the fans.
Several minutes past before the prospects made their way fully onto the concourse with K-Ville dead ahead. By that time, owrd had spread and more Duke fans were taking notice. I could not help but think how disappointed some kids would be after getting their Duke caps and such signed for these guys not to matriculate but the greeting is one the average fan would have hoped for and a positive thing.
As they got closer to K-Ville, several groups of students, mainly coeds, held signs up letting each player know they were wanted in Durham. All of them seemed touched if not a tad embarrassed by the moment but all were certainly impressed by the situation. The group then made their way towards the Chapel and campus and later appeared behind the bench in Cameron as the event took place.
All of them sat directly behind Coach Krzyzewski and he would often turn to them individually and collectively and chat of what was happening on the court or offering some nuggets of wisdom. Several times during the game you could hear their names shouted but there were never any orchestrated cheers which lasted long but each of these kids knew they were honored guests.
If body language is any indication, the group enjoyed themselves and the Duke atmosphere and there were several times where the group had collective laughs at various antics, such as Marshall Plumlee dancing with his crutches. No real information past that at this time but I sure more will come out at some point today and I will pass on what I can. Talk about it on the BDN Premium Message Board. [/private]
Day Two of the Nile EYBL Session II is in the books and it was a long one where the coaches were in the gym all day and night. It’s hard to figure out where to start tonight in that my head is swimming from information overload. Let’s start with Tyler Ennis who is still [private] on the radar and while he is listed as a PG, he shows off more shooting guard skills to me despite being just 6-3. I spoke with him after his game. And then there is Andrew Wiggins who if NBA rules allowed would go straight to the league. Of course Duke has interest but this will not be an easy get, so I would call that interest somewhat luke warm in that they know it would be quite the battle.
I was impressed with Wayne Selden (2014) today and he’s going to be a good one, I secured a video chat with him. Duke has a lot of interest in him but it is too early for them to concentrate on that class which includes Theo Pinson. The interest is there for Pinson but they know he is a long ways from making his decision.
Boo Williams continued their slide and will likely not make it to the Peach Jam or the EYBL finals, dropping to 2-7 with a loss to Mokan. Al Freeman has not been impressive in the event which I said from day one and I have yet to see him use his potential in a good way. When his offense struggles he allows it to effect his whole game and while he had a good game tonight shooting the ball, his other stat totals were again, non existent. I don’t think Boo uses him right. Anthony Barber is good, but not good enough to earn an offer at this point. He is a PG that cannot really pass that well and the chemistry with Freeman ia average at best. And Try Williams continues to regress with many questioning his work ethic.
Julius Randle improved his stock and that is hard to do when you are ranked 2nd in your class. His handle is nice for a big man and he dominated when he did take it to the paint. He told BDN he had so many triple teams he decided to take his game to the perimeter and it seems to be working. Yes Matt Jones is better and he told BDN he is now 6-5 but the same weight. I have vid interviews with both.
I spoke with ex ACC official Larry Rose for a good long time and what a chat we had. He is head of MEAC officials now. I laughed at him being ragged in Cameron back in the day.
I watched a bit of Jahlil Okafor and his game is about the same as it was a year ago in that he needs to be more aggressive. A ton of folks really pick my brain about Duke now and I found myself giving disinformation to a couple of the more obnoxious types:)
Semilore Ojeleye. Semi is pronounced Shimi. I sat with Coach for part of his game and he like him a lot as do the assistants. I was tipped off they thought he could be offer material on Friday and had a brief chat with him on video. Great kid. His game? Nice. Great stroke from 3, solid, strong finisher on dunks. Listed at 6-7, but said he is 6-6. And guess who he pulled for when he grew up but don’t they all;(. Anyhow, love his game and want him in royal blue. Unique player with incredible background, smart, solid student — the whole package.
Ish Wainright is a defender supreme who can guard almost anyone and wants all challenges. Coach wants to see more offense from him. He was a beast tonight and hit a three point shot at the buzzer and Team Takeover finally won and that meant we got to talk to him, yay. Yes, that was sarcasm in that his coaches are a trip an then some.
Coach was upset about the injury to Derrick Rose and spoke of the challenges in filling the Team USA roster. Of course. Dwight Howard is out too but all the studs are expected to play. He’s been on the road non stop and came in late from Arkansas where he saw Austin Nichols score 35 points, grab 15 rebounds and swat 7 shots away in a single game. Yeah, he’s good.
Okay, that’s all I have got off the top of my head but I have yet to get to my notes. I will close it out tomorrow before taking that four hour ride back, so do not expect a whole lot on Sunday evening. However, the video interviews will balance well with Andrew and the many interviews he still has. [/private]
Tom Konchalski has been evaluating high school basketball players for nearly forty years. In a business filled with fly-by-night operations, charlatans, non-athletes, and simpletons, he’s the exception. Mr. Konchalski is a disciplined, compassionate, learned man of faith who keeps his eyes open and his ears to the ground.
In an age of social media, where a seventeen year-old with a Twitter account can call himself a recruiting analyst, the 6’5″ Queens native still utilizes a typewriter for his HSBI Report and sends it via mail to more than two hundred college programs. Author John Feinstein ’78 once wrote of the veteran scout that he was the “only honest man in the gym.” Unfortunately, it’s a fairly apt description of the AAU circuit on many summer nights.
Recently, I spoke with my mentor, consigliere, and friend about twelve players who have, at least, received interest from Duke in the classes of 2012, 2013, and 2014. Never prone to hyperbole, the McDonald’s All-American voter graciously gave his candid assessments.
Rasheed Sulaimon: “He’s a very good player. He’s athletic and has good size. He has skill. He plays a team game and lets the game normally come to him. He’s a guy who I think is going to be a good team player at Duke.[private] I think he’ll be a good system player at Duke and Duke’s system fits him quite well. He should become a very good player for them and I don’t think he’s going to be a player who will be a one or a two years and done for them. He’s going to be around for three or four years. You need those kind of players because those are the types of players that Duke has had most success with. Defensively, he has the body, the strength, and the quickness to be a very good defensive player.”
Amile Jefferson: “He’s a young colt who’s waiting for his body to blossom, but he has a really good feel for the game. Right now, he’s probably more of a 4/3 and, obviously, he’s going to have get stronger, but, in the ACC, it’s not as if he’s going to the Big Ten or the Big East, which is even more of a physical conference. In terms of style of play, if he were to go to Duke, that would be a good pick, but he’s still got to get stronger in order to be able to play both sides of the court. He’s a guy who has some perimeter skills..not an explosive athlete, but, when he starts to working to improve himself physically, his legs will get stronger. He will get quicker and he’ll get more lift off the ground. He’s a guy who has a good feel for the lane and the baseline. He’s almost like an old-time player around the lane. He knows how to finish without going above the rim or jumping over people. He knows how to use his body to get between the defender and the ball. He knows how to shield the ball and reverse it. He has a really good feel for the game and he’s a really good kid. He’s also a good student.”
Shabazz Muhammad: “Shabazz Muhammad is a guy who may be the best senior in the country right now. I don’t think he has the potential to be a superstar. I think there are other people who may have a higher ceiling, such as guys like Jabari Parker, Nerlens Noel, and Julius Randle. Right now, he just plays so hard. He’s high energy, but he has some holes in his game. For example, he never beats you going right. When Mater Dei, for example, beat them in the fifth place game at the City of Palms, Stanley Johnson did a really good job of defending him because he overplayed him to his left. He ended up with thirty anyhow, but most of those came in the second half after they were already down twenty. He’s an extraterrestrial athlete and he has great work habits on the floor. He gives you great second effort. He’s left-handed, which is an advantage. He can hit some threes off of the catch. He’s got to work at getting the ball on the floor and being able to change direction. He’s got to build up his right hand, but he’s a terrific athlete. He’s a guy that when he goes to college, I don’t know if he’s going to be ready to go to the NBA after one year because he does have these areas of his game that he needs to develop. He’s a guy that you’d love to coach. He’s a classic coaches’ player because he plays so hard, especially for a guy like Coach Krzyzewski that sees in him the kind of effort that he was used to as a player and a coach for Army and in his earlier, lesser talented teams at Duke, where they just showed so much toughness and great effort. I think that was the attraction there.”
Tony Parker: “Tony Parker is a good player. He’s a really good kid. He has good hands. He has good skills. The key thing for him is conditioning. He’s lost some weight and he’s got to lose some more weight. He’s actually in better shape now than he was over the summer, but he’s got to lose even more weight and improve his conditioning. I don’t think he’ll ever be a star, but I think he’ll be a very good, solid player and kid who’s a good student and I think he probably sees himself as staying around a while and not leaving. He’s a four or a five, depending on where he ends up. He can step out and hit a mid-range shot, but he’s never going to be a perimeter scorer. God didn’t give him that body to shoot jump-shots and play on the perimeter. That body has got to be used inside. What he’s got to do is sculpt that body, change his body somewhat, and ultimately use it as a weapon.”
Jabari Parker: “Now, he’s a guy, who, since the end of his sophomore season, really did change his body type. He shed a lot of that baby fat. He’s gotten quicker. He got a lot more lift off of the ground and he’s also improved his perimeter skills. He’s become a pretty good three-point shooter. The one thing that I haven’t seen with him… and I’m looking forward to seeing more of him this summer.. is that I’m not sure if he has the disposition to dominate a game, although, maybe… when he was younger, he was looking to simply defer to his upperclassmen. He’s got to become a little bit more assertive. In big games, he’s got to learn to take over games, which I think is a learning process for him. That said, if you want to talk about guy that has athleticism, a good feel for the game, plays the game the right way, and has a really good skill set for his size, he certainly is one of the best players in the country, regardless of class. When I saw him at the Peach Jam, for example, he showed certain things, but I think a lot of it has to do with his personality. He wants to defer to the older players somewhat. He doesn’t want to try to take over completely. He hasn’t become a prolific scorer in the Chicago Public League just yet, but there are a lot of weapons on his Simeon team so I don’t think you’re going to see him average twenty-five or thirty points. He does, however, need to come up big for them in their biggest games. With his size, athleticism, and skill set, he’s got to be even more of a factor for them. Right now, I don’t know that he quite realizes how good he is and can be. Everybody says that he’s a very humble, grounded kid, but he may not realize just how good he is.”
Julius Randle: “I’ll tell you what… he was spectacular down at the City of Palms. Against Riverside (Riverside Academy of Louisiana), I thought he was bothered by the size and I thought he tried to initiate too much of his offense, after he was bothered by the size of Riverside in the first half. In the second half, I think he played too much on the perimeter to try to counter them. Now, here is a guy that has a Wayman Tisdale body, he’s left-handed, and he can shoot the ball. He’s actually strong with his dribble. He can take the dribble through traffic. He has a tremendously high ceiling. He could be a great, great player. I really like him.”
BeeJay Anya: “BeeJay Anya, as Coach Jones mentioned, is in so much better shape. He said that when he got cut from the USA basketball team that it really was a wakeup call to him. He took it to heart and became dedicated to improving himself physically. He trimmed down, lost weight, improved his conditioning, and just got in better overall shape. Right now, he’s so much more active. He runs the floor more consistently. He can stay in the game for longer stretches. He has more range rebounding-wise. Before, his rebounding range was his arm length, which is considerable (astonishing 7’9″ wingspan), but now he can really go out of his area and grab some rebounds for his team. His offense has gotten better too, but I think he’s just so strong. As you know, he’s retained his strength and he knows how to use his body and you saw the difference. He’s a man-child. He improves and he keeps on working. The thing that you notice about the DeMatha kids, you know, Morgan Wooten isn’t the coach there, but one of his disciples is and they’ve retained the same work ethic. Also, it’s the same character that you’re finding with their kids. They have good kids. They have talented players, but, if they’re not good kids, they’re going to get them out of there.
Theo Pinson: “Long, 6’5″ to 6’6,” he played with CP3. He’s very thin, but a skilled player. He’s a young guy, who was 6’5″ to 6’6,” who can handle the ball and shoot the ball with range. He looks like a fine prospect, but I want to see more of him.
Jahlil Okafor: “He’s a big, strong post player inside. Because Thomas Hamilton tore his meniscus, there was more responsibility put on him. He’s a terrific kid, very friendly, very smart. That’s a good school. That’s probably the best public high school in the Chicago system academically. He’s a big, strong kid inside who doesn’t try to be something he’s not. He doesn’t try to be a perimeter wannabe. He recognizes and utilizes his strengths. That’s a valuable thing. He’s not a 6’10” kid who wants to go outside, loft up threes, and show that he can dribble the ball or change direction with the ball. He knows what he is. He’s a power player inside. Ben Franklin said that there are three things hard in life: steel, a diamond, and to know one’s self. I guess he’s read Ben Franklin.”
Wayne Selden: “First of all, when you look at him, he has a man’s body. He’s a sophomore, but he should be a junior. So, he’s a reclassified kid. When he goes to college, there’s not going to be any physical adjustment that he’s going to have to make when he gets there, which is an advantage. Even when you look at the guys who go from college basketball to the pros, the guys who give you the most instant impact are those that have already prepared their bodies for the next level. The two kids who went straight from high school to the pros who had the most instant impact and who wound up earning Rookie of the Year in their respective years, 2003 and 2004, were Stoudamire and LeBron James. They entered the league with NBA bodies. Well, he’s got a college body, right now. He’s a strong, tough physical kid, who’s also very nice kid. His skill level has really improved. When I first saw him, which was the summer before his freshman year, he was more like a 6’4″ power forward, but he has been able to develop his game and learned how to handle the ball, while keeping that physical mentality. They let him bring the ball up the court and sometimes play a little point guard, but he doesn’t see the court like a point guard and he’s certainly not a point guard. He can, however, handle the ball, get to the basket, and shoot threes. In terms of his shot selection, he can sometimes put up poor shots, but, overall, that’s improved as well. He’s a guy who has great physical ability and he’s a guy who has elevated his skill level. The next thing is for him to further understand the game, but he’ll probably end up as a big two guard or a big combination guard. Once again, he’s a very nice kid. He’s also a terrific prospect.”
Stanley Johnson: ” He’s a good basketball player, but a terrific teammate. He plays in a program where there’s a lot of players and there’s a system. I don’t know if he’ll ever be a star, but he knows how to play the game and he plays both ends of the floor. He’s their designated defender and he can defend multiple positions. He’s the guy who defend Shabazz Muhammad very well in the City of Palms and he defended Isaiah Austin, I believe, for several stretches in their prior game against Grace Prep. He’s a strong, physical kid, who’s about 6’6,” who’s not a great athlete, but he knows how to use his strength and his shot discipline is very impressive. He takes shots that he knows he can hit. He’ll take an occasional three. He’s not going to create off of the dribble or anything like that, but he’s also not going to try to. He generally lets the game come to him. He’s a very good team player and system player. They play a lot of people. They’re like the Noah’s Ark of basketball programs. They’ve got two of everything, (laughs) but he stays on the floor most of the time because he offers them a lot on both ends. He can handle the ball, defend the opposition’s best player, and just really seems like a good teammate and a terrific kid.”
Noah Vonleh: “He’s a big, 6’8″ kid with good skill. He can guard pretty well and he’s also a versatile defender. He gets down in his stance pretty well. I think he wants to be a perimeter player. I think he needs to use his strength and size a little more than he tens to do right now. He seems very coachable. He’s very athletic and has a good body. He has good skill for his size. Right now, he’s not a small forward and I think he’s got to realize that. His game has probably got to start a little more inside. He’s got to get a little more developed. He’s a guy that eventually with his size and, if he can develop his skill set, might become a three, but he’s got to develop his game. He’s another kid who should be a junior, but he’d, at least, be a young junior. He’ll graduate at eighteen, whereas, before he would’ve graduated at seventeen. He’s certainly one of the best players in that class.”
Overall thoughts on the 2013 class: “Well, before, there were those three big three and there were the Harrison twins who are very close behind. Those twins will be very good. You like Andrew (Harrison) more, which is appropriate and fits in with today’s Gospel (laughs). I think those three have more upside than anyone that was in this class. The seniors in this class…I’m just, well, I think that Shabazz and Kyle Anderson were probably the two best seniors in this class. They’re very good players. Kyle, from the neck on up, is the best high school player in his class, but, from the neck on down, he just is not. Those three, however, can be really stars at the college level and they can be stars at the pro level. They have so much physical ability and they have skill.”
On whether Jabari Parker and Julius Randle could play together: “Jabari can play with him. Randle is a four/five, with, for example, more perimeter skill than Nerlens. They could be interchangeable. The thing that I don’t know is that, with the transcendent talents that they are, I don’t know if any of them would want to share the spotlight, with the way kids think right now. That said, if two of them went to the same college and stayed for more than one year, that’s a national championship team. If they stay together for one year, that still may be a national championship caliber team. Who knows?”
Best long-term potential of Parker, Randle, and Noel: “I couldn’t say. I’ve seen Julius and Nerlens play four times this high school season and I just haven’t seen Jabari play as often, but let’s just say that they all have Brobdingnagian potential. The sky is the limit for each of them. They can be as good as they want to be. They can each be truly impact players not only at the next level, but on the level beyond that.”[/private]
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 MattJones 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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