Tag Archives: Tom Konchalski

The Consigliere: Tom Konchalski on Duke Recruits

Legendary Scout Tom Konchalski
Legendary Scout Tom Konchalski, Photo by Kevin Armstrong

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.

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Duke Incoming Freshman Jabari Parker, Photo by Andrew Slater
Duke Incoming Freshman Jabari Parker, Photo by Andrew Slater

 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, Photo by Andrew Slater
Incoming Duke Freshman Semi Ojeleye, Photo by Andrew Slater

 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.

Duke Recruit Jahlil Okafor, Photo by Andrew Slater
Duke Recruit Jahlil Okafor, Photo by Andrew Slater

 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

Duke Recruit Trey Lyles
Duke Recruit Trey Lyles

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.

Duke Recruit Tyus Jones, Photo by Andrew Slater
Duke Recruit Tyus Jones, Photo by Andrew Slater

 

 

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

Duke Recruit Kevon Looney, Photo by Andrew Slater
Duke Recruit Kevon Looney, Photo by Andrew Slater

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.

 

 

Duke Recruit Theo Pinson, Photo by Andrew Slater
Duke Recruit Theo Pinson, Photo by Andrew Slater

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.

 

 

Duke Recruit, Photo by Andrew Slater
Duke Recruit, Photo by Andrew Slater

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, Photo by Andrew Slater
Malachi Richardson, Photo by Andrew Slater

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.

 

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6’3″ Isaiah “Boogie” Briscoe, Photo by Andrew Slater

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]

The Last Honest Man In The Gym: Tom Konchalski

Tom Konchalski of the HSBI Report, Photo by Kevin Armstrong

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.

 

 

 

6'4" Rasheed Sulaimon, Photo by Andrew Slater

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.”

 

 

 

6'8" Amile Jefferson, Photo by Andrew Slater

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.”

 

6'6" Shabazz Muhammad, Photo by Andrew Slater

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.”

 

6'8" Tony Parker, Photo by Andrew Slater

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.”

 

6'8" Jabari Parker, Photo by Andrew Slater

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.”

 

6'9" Julius Randle, Photo by Andrew Slater

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.”

 

 

 

 

6'8" BeeJay Anya, Photo by Andrew Slater

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.

 

6'5" Theo Pinson, Photo by Andrew Slater

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

6'11" Jahlil Okafor, Photo by Andrew Slater

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.”

 

6'5" Wayne Selden, Photo by Andrew Slater

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.”

 

6'6" Stanley Johnson, Photo by Andrew Slater

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.”

 

6'8" Noah Vonleh, Photo by Andrew Slater

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]

Signing Day – BDN and Tom Konchalski break down Duke’s 2011 class

The Duke Blue Devils Men’s Basketball team landed a stellar class for the 2011 season including ESPN’s top rated prospect Austin Rivers.  The Florida native told BDN last evening, “I’m looking forward to playing for Duke and want to sign as soon as possible, so I’ll send my letter of intent first thing in the morning.” Rivers joins Quinn Cook, Micheal Gbinije and Marshall Plumlee in one of the nations consensus top 4 classes.

We elicited the help of Tom Konchalski, the publisher and editor of High School Basketball Illustrated, has been covering high school basketball for more than thirty-five years. The 6′6″ sexagenarian, with an eidetic memory, is a McDonald’s All-American voter and a ubiquitous presence on the summer AAU circuit and the recruiting scene.

Here is a look at the class -

Duke got a stud in Austin Rivers pictured here at Coundown to Craziness with Quinn Cook. Join BDN Premium to check out our interview with Rivers and gain full site access. BDN Photo, Rick Crank

AUSTIN RIVERS – ESPN #1 rated player in his class [6-4, 190 SG, PG from Winter Park, Florida], Lead Assistant – Chris Collins, committed to Duke in September, Plays wor Winter Park H.S. and Team Stat on the AAU ciurcuit.  BDN Articles on Rivers.  Austin originally committed to Florida but reconsidered and ultimately chose Duke over UNC and Kansas.  He is a prolific offensive scorer who is unafraid of anyone or anything, meaning he loves a challenge.  He is friends with Duke PG Kyrie Irving and is the son of Glenn “Doc” Rivers, coach of the Boston Celtics.

Tom Konchalski’s take -Well, first of all, there’s no one in high school basketball who has a better skill set, regardless of position. He’s great playing off of the dribble. He can get to the basket. Because he has been parented and coached by a former pro and a current NBA coach, he has a lot of the tricks of the trade. He’s spent intensive time developing his point guard skills at the Steve Nash Skills Camp as well as the Deron Williams Skills Camp. He has a lot of SteveNash’sunorthodox skills. He drives to the basket and takes what I call a half-volley shot, where he takes a half-volley layup in the lane off of the wrong foot to throw off or stay a step ahead of the defenses. In spite of the fact that his left thumb affects his shot far too much..to the point where he almost shoots a two-handed jump shot, just by repetition, he’s made himself into a lethal three point shooter. Somewhat streaky, but he’s a lethal three-point shooter when he gets into a groove. When I first saw him, as a ninth grader, I thought he made his teammates better. I thought he saw the court really well and made his teammates better. I think he’s gotten a little caught up recently with playing one-on-one. I think he looks for his offense too much. A player who is highly touted always in the back of his mind wants to be the number one player in his class and he’s absolutely a contender to be that, but I think because of that he’s tried to change his game.  At the next level, he’s got to change it back and return to making plays for others, instead of only for himself. In the event that he and Kyrie play together, I think they’ll share the ball and whoever gets the ball will just take it up and initiate the offense. Duke has played that way in the past and quite well.

Andrew’s take – Rivers is as dominant a scorer as currently exists in high school basketball. He is dangerous at all three levels on the court. He’s both willing and capable of pulling up for a deep three, either in transition or if there is small opening in a half-court set. His three-point shooting has become more consistent, but he’s still got a tendency to be relatively streaky with this aspect of his game. Fifteen feet and in, Rivers has a preternatural ability to dissect a defense with either hand (although his dominant hand is clearly his right one) and frequently draw contact for additional points as he slices to the rim. He’s added strength in the last year, which has enabled him to finish plays at an even higher rate close to the rim and withstand the frequent contact he receives on his drives and patented floater. His defense has improved, but he’s more developed and committed on the other end of the court. Rivers has become much more explosive over the past year as his body, which now stands at a prototypical size for a shooting guard at 6’5,” has begun to match his considerable skill. Four things have helped set him aside from even the other elite players in this class: an incredibly competitive nature, an advanced knowledge and adaptability of the game for his age, a comfortability with the spotlight and scrutiny, and a consistent level of professionalism, maturity, and openness to coaching that set him aside, even as a freshman going at the LeBron James Skills Academy.

Mark’s take – I talked with Austin last evening and he was oh-so excited to officially be a Blue Devil.  Rivers has as much confidence as any player I have seen in my ten years of following the recruiting scene.  He should rock Cameron with his moves but will have to improve a bit on the defensive end.  Rivers said he is working on his post up game now and if you are a BDN Premium subscriber you will read later today.  I have seen Rivers play in about 24 games and each time he plays hard and he always wants to win.  He is now growing into his body and once he adds a little more muscle, good luck stopping him at the college level.

Quinn Cook rounded out Duke's talented class of 2011 - BDN Photo

QUINN COOK -Ranked #24 in the Class of 2011 by ESPN [6-1, 180 PG Washington, D.C.]  Lead Assistant – Nate James, Committed to Duke in November.  Plays for Oak Hill Academy and D.C. Assault AAU team.  BDN Articles on Cook.  Cook chose Duke over North Carolina and UCLA and had many suitors.  He transferred from DeMatha to Oak Hill Academy this season.  Good friends with Nolan Smith.

Tom Konchalski on Quinn Cook- I love him, but I don’t know how he could coexist with Kyrie Irving, if he’s still there.  He has great court presence, when I saw him this summer. Kevin (Armstrong) and I went down and watched him play and he just took over in the second half. He had seventeen second half points and not only did he score, but just made big plays and really took over the game completely. He’s DeMatha’s next really great player. {Quinn has since transferred to Oak Hill. He’s not a particularly great athlete. He’s smaller and he’s got to get stronger as well, but most kids who are sixteen year old juniors don’t have really have a major college body either. I love Quinn Cook.

Andrew’s take – Quinn is a stabilizing guard with a very advanced understanding of the game. He’s a duel-threat point guard, capable as either as a pass-first point guard, as he demonstrated recently in leading the United States team in assists and, more importantly, to a Gold Medal at the FIBA World Championships over the summer in Germany, or as a scoring point, as he demonstrated in matching what was then a career-high thirty points in a win for DeMatha in the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference final in March. Cook has tremendous court vision and a very good sense of spacing and pacing. He’s comfortable running a highly uptempo offense, but also capable of adding the patience, three-point shooting, and occasional penetration often necessary in pressurized, late game, half-court sets. Quinn is a very good leader and a well-liked, supportive teammate, who has improved his on-court communication skills over the past two years. Cook is not an explosive athlete, but he will give his teammates and coaches every ounce of his body, as he is well aware of just how fragile life can be. Defensively, he’s a capable and willing defender, but not necessarily a shutdown defender. Although he sustained a partially torn ACL in August, his initial results at his new school, Oak Hill, have been impressive, including setting a new career high in points in just his second game for the Warriors.

Mark’s take -I’ve seen Quinn Cook play in 15 games over three seasons in AAU Basketball.  My very first viewing left me more than a little impressed for Cook was playing with the older DCA team at Boo Williams.  That day he put the team on his back in a semi final match up and willed them to a win.  Cook not only led his team as a floor general, he got into the lane and scored 24 points, 14 down the stretch.  Cook is a pure PG who has played with top notch competition and he’s a good addition for Duke and the program.  Nate James worked with him and he was assisted by Nolan which helped land the talented prospect in Durham.

As Plumleegains strength, he'll be a load. During the N.C. Pro Am he went head to head against veteran players and held his own. Photo property of BDN

MARSHALL PLUMLEE -Ranked #44 in his class by ESPN.  [6-11.5, 215 Warsaw, IN] Lead Assistant – Steve Wojciechowski, committed to Duke in July.  Plays for Christ Scool in Arden, N.C. and Indiana Elite on the AAU trail. BDN Articles on Plumlee.  Chose Duke over Butler, LSU, Virginia and other suitors.  Very mobile big man rated the 4th best center in the class of 2011 by ESPN.  His brothers Mason and Miles will join him at Duke next season.

Tom Konchalski on Marshall - He’s big. I’ve only seen him play with Indiana Elite. His father played for a friend of mine down at Tennessee Tech. They‘re very nice people.  I haven’t seen him play in  lot of games, so will reserve comment.

Andrew’s take -Marshall is a mobile seven footer who hustles at all times. He’s more of a traditional low-post player than either brothers Mason or Miles were at a similar point. Like a lot of big men his age, he’s been more dependent upon scoring off of dribble handoffs, offensive put backs, and vanilla post moves, when the guards make a concerted effort to get him the ball. I felt that he didn’t receive enough offensive touches this summer on his Indiana Elite team, but that can be the nature of AAU basketball. He’s expected to have an increased role at Christ School this season, which should be helpful for his development. Some players take time adjusting to the college game because they are suddenly playing with comparable talent, but I think this aspect will be an easy transition for Marshall as he has played on quality teams on both the high school and AAU level. As with many players his age and position, he needs to add more muscle in order to be able to withstand the constant physicality that he’ll deal with at the next level. Marshall’s a solid rebounder and shot blocker, but he’s capable of improving in both facets. Marshall is a relatively good free throw shooter for a big man as well. For a center, he’s relatively good at passing out of a double team, but still has room for improvement. Like his older brothers, he’s been a supportive and friendly teammate on both programs. He can be hard on himself, but I think his best days lie ahead and it will be interesting to see his post skills, both low and high, develop in the coming years. Of the four players, I feel like I don’t have as clear a read on Marshall’s potential as the the other three players.

Mark’s take – Hey, I’ll take all the Plumlee’s that hatch!  Marshall suffered a bit from lofty expectations bestowed upon him where it was said he’ll be the best Plumlee.  He’ll be the tallest of the Plum 3 crew and he has a bundle of potential.  He will run his own race at Duke and while he may not contribute in his first season, he’ll develop and be a load when he gains some experience.  Of the three Plumlee’s, he’ll be the youngest coming out of high school when he lands at Duke.  He always plays hard and runs the floor well, but does not have the reach of say, his brother Miles but is very coachable which is always a good attribute.

Michael Gbinije does it all well. Here, he rocks his Blue Devil hat while attending Countdown to Craziness - Photo BDN, Rick Crank

MICHAEL GBINIJE -Ranked as the #25 player in the class of 2011 by ESPN.[6-6 194, Chester, VA.] Lead Assistant – Nate James, committed to Duke in March.  Plays for St. Benedictine H.S. and Team Takeover on the AAU circuit. Gbinije was a great get for the Duke staff in that he is the epitome of a team player.  He is very effective  on the court and should score high in Duke’s True Blue ratings of efficiency.  Averaged 17,5 ppg and  6.0 rpg as a junior.  One of 10 Micahel Gbinije articles at BDN.

Tom Konchalski’s take -Gbinije is a good player, very skilled perimeter player. There are some guys who are more explosiveve, but he has very good skills and size. He plays within the flow of the game and generally lets the game come to him. He plays with a very good AAU team and a good high school team, Benedictine, and so he doesn’t have to do everything himself. It’s not as if he has to be a volume shooter for the teams to be successful. I think he will be a very good player for them.

Andrew’s take -Mike Gbinije is a silent killer of a wing. He can fill out a stat sheet and has no glaring weakness. As with the aforementioned Rivers, he’s capable of connecting on shots at all three levels, with a mid-range game that helps to differentiate him from other wings. Gbinije is currently a slightly above-average defender, who is more focused on containment, with an eye open to the occasional opportunistic steal and open-court layup. He’s got a very good frame at 6’6″ and is capable of rebounding in traffic. The only real debate is how far does he want to take his game and how committed is he to reaching his potential. He brushes the fine line between rarely forcing ill-advised shots and not being aggressive enough as a scorer, which doesn’t allow him to reach his productive capabilities. As with Quinn Cook, Gbinije is a steady hand, who rarely gets rattled and is capable of giving Duke minutes off of the bench as a freshman. Although he lead Team Takeover to the inaugural NIKE EYBL title at the Peach Jam, he will probably benefit initially from not being the primary focus of defenses, as I believe he can initially be a solid, complimentary player at an elite program such as Duke with the ability to grow his role and responsibilities later.

Mark’s take -This is one cool customer on the court who makes his team better.  He plays within himself and has a tremendous all around skill set which could earn him immediate time.  Gbinije got better and better as he progressed and earned his way into the consensus top 30 playersrankings  and has since been a mainstay.  The kid never get flustered and keeps playing no matter what happens.  He was a quiet assassin down the stretch for his AAU club Team Takeover and his play led his over achieving team to great things.  In short, he is very efficient.

Nobody covers AAU Basketball with the depth and consistency as does BDN Premium.  Our staff has seen the prospects play in person numerous times, so we can give you a very accurate take on all future and prospective Blue Devils.  Join today and we’ll keep you in the loop on all things Duke and you’ll see that we are on the scene not only at the Duke games but all thge major recruiting and skills development events.

BDN Exclusive – Tom Konchalski shares his thoughts on Duke prospects

Sir Tom Konchalski is the Godfather of talent scouts - Mark Watson

Tom Konchalski, the publisher and editor of High School Basketball Illustrated, has been covering high school basketball for more than thirty-five years. The 6’6″ sexagenarian, with an eidetic memory, is a McDonald’s All-American voter and a ubiquitous presence on the summer AAU circuit. He generously spoke with Blue Devil Nation recently about one dozen Duke recruits and verbal commitments in the 2011 and 2012 classes.

Amile Jefferson: He has an extremely mature feel for the game for a guy who’s only a sophomore. He’s very young physically, but, in terms of his understanding of the game, he’s a veteran, wise beyond his years. He’s got to get stronger, not only upper-body wise, but also his legs as well. He’s very efficient and he’s always around the ball. The ball always manages to find him. He’s got good hands. He’s a very good finisher inside. He’s got a very good drop-step, can reverse around the basket, things like that. He can put the ball on the floor and he can pass. He’s not a consistent outside shooter. He doesn’t have the leg strength right now to get his legs into it. Down the road, I think he’ll be a perimeter forward. He’s a guy who has a terrific understanding of the game. He plays to the situation. He doesn’t try to showcase his skills set. He does whatever the situation requires. I don’t think he’ll be a step-out four. I think he’ll be a three. as his legs get stronger, he’ll be able to guard away from the basket very easily. He’s got to shoot the ball away from the basket more consistently, but I think he’ll be a three.

Tyler Adams
Tyler Adams

Tyler Adams: The [private] only time I’ve seen him since last July at the Reebok All-American Camp and the Peach Jam with the Jackson Tigers was recently at the Boo Williams. I don’t know if his skills have improved that much or…, um, he’s a very nice kid. He’s a good teammate. He has a big-time body. He has an SEC football body, forget about an ACC basketball body. Really, this year, just like last year…in the class of 2011, just like the class of 2010, there just aren’t a lot of great big guys in the class. I’ll tell you what he’s got a good attitude and he’ll work hard. I think he’ll be extremely coachable. He’s not a guy who’s going to go in thinking he’s going to be the main guy. I think he can be a contributor. He’s a guy who comes in without a lot of offense and he’s a big, strong kid. That’s what I think, in the past, Duke has lacked. Brian Zoubek gave them that this year. The Plumlees will hopefully give them that next year. A wise old coach once said that you can never have too many big men. I think he’s about 6’8″ or 6’9″ right now.

Shabazz Muhammad: I haven’t been able to see him in a while because he was injured and wasn’t able to play in the Beach Ball Classic.  What I remember is that he was extremely active. He had a good motor and really played every possession. He pursued relentlessly loose balls and offensive rebounds. He’s a left-hander, which screws people up defensively. He didn’t have a lot of range to his game. He was like a 6’4″ small forward at the time. I’d like to see to what degree he has developed his skill set, but, to be a really effective college player, he’s really got to expand his offensive skill set and take his game at least a little bit further away from the basket. Then again, I haven’t seen him recently, but, hopefully, I’ll be able to see him again at the Bob Gibbons tournament. He played for Dream Vision last year. They won the tournament and he was the MVP. He’s a guy who plays extremely hard. There’s a lot of quickness to his game and he’s just so active. He’s got to be able to score from outside against defenses. He’s got to be able to start his drives towards the basket a little further from the basket. He has a tendency to get the ball either at the short baseline or at the high post and just slice to the basket. He’s got to put a change of direction to his game and be a little more careful with the ball. I can say this, as a left-hander myself, he’s got to improve his right-hand a little bit and definitely improve his change of direction. There’s a slightly broken feel to his game. He’s got to move his game away from the basket. He’s a wing right now and, hopefully, in time, he’ll develop the skills to be a guard.

Austin Rivers

Austin Rivers: Well, first of all, there’s no one in high school basketball who has a better skill set, regardless of position. He’s great playing off of the dribble. He can get to the basket. Because he has been parented and coached by a former pro and a current NBA coach, he has a lot of the tricks of the trade. He’s spent intensive time developing his point guard skills at the Steve Nash Skills Camp as well as the Deron Williams Skills Camp. He has a lot of Steve Nash’s unorthodox skills. He drives to the basket and takes what I call a half-volley shot, where he takes a half-volley layup in the lane off of the wrong foot to throw off or stay a step ahead of the defenses. In spite of the fact that his left thumb affects his shot far too much..to the point where he almost shoots a two-handed jump shot, just by repetition, he’s made himself into a lethal three point shooter. Somewhat streaky, but he’s a lethal three-point shooter when he gets into a groove. When I first saw him, as a ninth grader, I thought he made his teammates better. I thought he saw the court really well and made his teammates better. I think he’s gotten a little caught up recently with playing one-on-one. I think he looks for his offense too much. A player who is highly touted always in the back of his mind wants to be the number one player in his class and he’s absolutely a contender to be that, but I think because of that he’s tried to change his game.  At the next level, he’s got to change it back and return to making plays for others, instead of only for himself. In the event that he and Kyrie play together, I think they’ll share the ball and whoever gets the ball will just take it up and initiate the offense. Duke has played that way in the past and quite well.

Alex Murphy: I haven’t seen him since we saw him together. I was in Providence last week and hoped to see him there, but his team was upset by the Granite State Jayhawks, who are really no great shakes. I can tell you that people are saying that he’s playing very well and he’s got a lot of personality. He’s much more extroverted than Erik was. I think he can be a really good player. I think he needs to get stronger, but I think that’s sort of a family trait. The three boys are all very tall and the youngest one, Tomas, who’s in fifth grade, Jay says is going to be the tallest one. The mother played in Scandinavia. She’s a big-boned woman, but the boys really take after the father. Jay has gotten thick now, but he was pretty skinny coming out of high school and when he entered Boston College. Alex is about 6’8″ right now. I’d say 6’8.”

Quincy Miller

Quincy Miller: I saw him twice at Boo Williams and both times they got blown out. The first game I saw them against the Drew Gooden Soldiers and they were down 46-16 at the half. In the next game, they played the Saint Louis Eagles and they ended up losing 98-60. He isn’t playing with a great team. He’s 6’8 1/2 “, although they often list him at 6’10.” He is skilled and has a predilection for playing on the perimeter. He can shoot the three, but he tries too much to be a perimeter player. In the past, and this is a function of his lack of strength, but he’s taken a lot of plays off. he’s got to learn to play with more intensity.  He is 6’8 1/2″ to 6’9″ and he’s got to learn to use his body. His body should be a weapon in his arsenal. He can’t be or play in denial of his height. There are plenty of players who would give their eye teeth for his height. He’s got a great deal of skill, very mobile, very good in the open court. He can shoot the three, handle the ball a bit, but he’s got to bulk up a bit. More than anything else, though, he’s got to calcify his nose and get tougher. He’s got to learn to play 6’9″ and do the dirty stuff inside. He’s transferring to Westchester. I won’t be going to Houston or LA, but, given their performance at Boo Williams, they’re unlikely to qualify for the Peach Jam. That said, Quincy will definitely be picked up by one of the good squads and I hope to see him there with an improved squad. He’ll definitely be playing at the Peach Jam, but I don’t think it will be with D-One Sports. Someone will definitely pick him up.

L.J. Rose: I saw J-Mychal Reese and him last year for the first time and, although Reese came in with a bigger reputation, I thought Rose outplayed him at the event. I then saw him at the Boo Williams twice, but, at this point, I have to say that I really don’t have a clear feel for him. I couldn’t tell you much about him.

J.P. Tokoto: A tremendous athlete. He has so much natural athleticism. He can handle the ball. He’s got to shoot the ball more consistently. He’s great going to the basket. He can make plays. He can really pass the ball. He’s big enough. He can rebound. I think he has to add a little more toughness to himself, but I think he’s going to be really, really good. He’s a big wing player with skill, but he’s got to become a more consistent outside shooter. He can really handle the ball. He has skill and athleticism and that’s a lethal combination. He can be really, really good. The guy who brought him to Duke’s attention is a guy by the name of Dave Cooks, who is in a wheelchair. I don’t know if he was in an accident. I’ve known him for about fifteen years and he coaches Marquette high school in Milwaukee. He always works the Duke camp. Tokoto said that he’s going to spend this summer working on his shot and I think he has to. Right now, his strength is driving to the basket and making plays off of the dribble. He has the size and can rebound. He has quickness, but he’s got to get stronger. He has a nice frame. I’d rather see a young kid with a body like that than, well, someone who looks likes he’s topped out. He’s listed at 6’6.” He’s probably 6’5,” maybe 6’5 1/2.” He’s going to be a heck of a player.

Amir Williams: I saw him at the Peach Jam and at Boo Williams. He didn’t make it here. I like him. There are other big guys, who are probably more athletic. He has very good hands. He’s efficient and I think he knows what he is. He’s not a perimeter wannabe. He makes simple plays and is a good finisher inside. Ben Franklin said more than two hundred years ago “There are three things extremely hard: steel, a diamond, and to know one’s self.” That’s the first step on the road to success. Know what you are. I think he realizes that he’s 6’10” or 6’11.” His skill set has got to be tailored to interior play. That’s why I think he’s going to be an effective player. He goes to a very good school. He’s a smart kid. Hopefully, there is some transferal from off of the court to on the court or vise versa. I think he’ll be very good.

Michael Gbinije: Gbinije is a good player, very skilled perimeter player. There are some guys who are more explosive, but he has very good skills and size. He plays within the flow of the game and generally lets the game come to him. He plays with a very good AAU team and a good high school team, Benedictine, and so he doesn’t have to do everything himself. It’s not as if he has to be a volume shooter for the teams to be successful. I think he will be a very good player for them.

D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera: Well, he’s young. He’s a sophomore. He should be thinking about preparing for his junior year and not whether Duke will be recruiting him. He should be thinking about getting good enough to play at Duke. He’s good. He’s about 6’3″ and he’s strong. He’s a player who has a toughness to him and a strength. He plays for a good program and a good coach and he’s won a championship. All else being equal, coaches like to recruit players from winning programs because they know about sacrificing and usually it’s important for them to win. A kid who has never won sometimes raises a red flag that the young man may care more about individual success than team success. He’s a tough kid, that plays hard, and comes from a winning program. He’s got to get a little more quickness and develop into more of a perimeter player. He’s listed as a 6’4″ wing now that is strong enough now to play inside, but he’s got to be able to guard outside. If he ever wants to be a guard, he’s got to get a lot quicker. I know he’s said about waiting to play some point, but I think he ought to forget about it because I don’t think he’ll ever develop that level of quickness to be able to take players off of the dribble or withstand pressure. I don’t think there’s a lot of growth left in him. I think he’s about 6’3″ right now.

Anthony Davis: He hasn’t played AAU ball since the eighth grade. I’ve known Loren Jackson for a long time and Loren’s father and son. He told me about Anthony and then I read more about him in a profile, while I was waiting at O’Hare  to fly here. There are two major leagues in the Chicago Public League: the Red, which is stronger, and the Blue, which is the weak one. If you finish in last place in the Red, you’re demoted to the Blue. Well, Anthony has played for Perspectives high school, which plays in the Blue-West. There have been a lot of schools that have wanted him to transfer, but he’s stayed at Perspectives and remained loyal to his school and coaches, who he likes. He’s been going there since the sixth grade and just liked it there. He’s got great grades there. He looks like a tremendous prospect. I think he’s more of a four than a five, although he has to add some strength. He’s got a nice jump hook, can drop-step, and he can finish on either block. He has good feet. He has great hands. He has good energy and instincts. He can block shots and gets into the passing lanes and adds pressure. He can put the ball in the basket and can hit the three, like he did today again in the semifinal against Indiana Elite. You mentioned he hit two in the game before that. I think he can be very, very good. Here’s a guy who obviously hasn’t played nearly as much basketball as some of his peers, who have played AAU ball or against nearly the same level of competition. AAU ball can supplement high school competition. He’s grown so much over the past year, but, right now, I would recruit him more as a four than a five. He seems like a very coachable kid. Loren Jackson told me he’s been a great kid to deal with and Davis listens. [/private]

Veteran talent analyst Tom Konchalski talks Duke Basketball Recruits

Tom Konchalski is one of the most respected talent analyst around
Tom Konchalski is one of the most respected talent analyst around
At 6’6,” Tom Konchalski would stand out in any crowd, but, even among the pituitary cases dotting the hardwood courts, he is revered and respected for his candor, integrity, kindness, and eye for talent. His vise-like handshake and words of encouragement are a rite of passage for nearly every major U.S.-born high school basketball player. Currently, more than 200 colleges subscribe to the High School Basketball Insider Report, where he has been the editor and publisher for more than thirty-five years. He is one of the select McDonald’s All-American voters. At the birthplace of basketball, Mr. Konchalski sat courtside with Blue Devil Nation in Springfield College’s gymnasium for the HoopHall Classic and discussed several Duke commitments and recruits.
[Andrew Slater asks questions in bold)

Kyrie Irving of Duke
Duke bound Kyrie Irving earns rave remarks

Kyrie Irving?

I think he will be the best guard to ever play for Mike Krzyzewski at Duke. He will certainly be the best guard since Jason Williams. Kyrie has tremendous skill combined with great athletic ability. He has unforced athletic ability, using it only when necessary. Some guys want to show you how quick they are, how high they jump, and how explosive they are on every single possession. He doesn’t play for effect, but rather he plays for the result. On every possession, you might discover one more weapon in his arsenal. He just plays the game the right way. He plays very much within himself. He lets the defense tell him what he is going to do and he has a counter for every defense. He’s also a very, very nice young man. He’s quiet and soft-spoken. I really think that he is going to be a standout almost from the get go…right from the get go. With Scheyer leaving and Nolan Smith being able to play off of the ball, I expect that he’ll be able to step in and be a scoring point guard for them right away. I would be surprised if he wouldn’t.

What about Seth Curry as a sixth man?

I think … Tom goes on to talk of  Josh Hairston Tyler Thornton, Austin Rivers, Quincy Miller J.P. Tokoto, Trey Zeigler, Amiele Jefferson, Marshall Plumlee, Terrence Ross, Quin Cook and Michael Gilchrist in his  conversation with Andrew Slater Join BDN Premium for full site access where you’ll be informed of the latest happenings and discuss those on our members only message board. [private] he’ll be more of a scorer than anything else. Anyone who shoots the ball as well as the Currys, I don’t think you want them to handle any of the other responsibilities that would take them away from what their true weapon is.

Josh Hairston visits Duke
Josh Hairston and Qincy Miller attend a Duke home game - BDNP

Josh Hairston?

Well, I want to say that I haven’t seen him this high school season, but I’ve seen him quite a bit leading up to his switch to Montrose. I think he will improve considerably under the tutelage of Stu Vetter. The last time I saw him play was for the Assault and I thought he needed to become more aggressive offensively and assertive. He’s a very nice kid and has a really good skill level for a 6’8” kid. He reminds me physically of Edmund Saunders, who went to UConn. This isn’t my final evaluation and I will be certain to go down there and observe him at least once during the season. I expect that he will be much improved for having played under Stu Vetter.

Tyler Thornton takes aim
Tyler Thornton takes aim during last years AAU TOC event which BDN covered.

Tyler Thornton?

He can be a piece of the puzzle. Offensively, he’s not at the level of the previously mentioned guards. He plays hard and can defend. I think that’s where his value to the program will be. He’s going to be a utility guard and give them some depth at the position. He’ll be a four-year player. He can certainly be a contributor, if not right away, then certainly by his junior year. I think he’ll be a contributor. Even if they didn’t get Kyrie Irving, I don’t think you could ever expect him to come in right away and start at a place like Duke.

Out of curiosity, would you feel comfortable having him start right away as a point guard at the mid-major level?

I think he could have and I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of him starting later in his college career. That said, I don’t think he’s ready to withstand the quickness and pressure that he would be asked to handle right away at Duke and at the ACC level and be a thirty minute player.

Trey Zeigler?

I’ve only seen him a couple of times. I don’t know him well enough to comment. Nate James was here yesterday.

Yeah, he and Coach Krzyzewski flew out to see him play recently.  Terrence Ross?

You mean the one that committed to Maryland. When I saw him a couple of times last year, he wasn’t as aggressive as when I had seen him before at other events. The last time I saw him was at the Boost Mobile Elite 24 at the end of August. He didn’t play particularly well. Stu Vetter tells me that he’s really improved since that time. He has good size and Stu Vetter tells me that he’s shooting the ball so much better. He’s got to get a lot stronger physically. Even though the ACC is more of a finesse league, he’s got to get a lot stronger. I think he’s a pretty good athlete, but not a great one. His feet are fairly fluid. I really liked what I saw of him at the Peach Jam, but then he, well, he’s playing for one of the best coaches and instructors in the country. He should really improve this year and be much more prepared to be able to play at the ACC level, going in as a freshman.

They’re apparently not sure that they can get him in academically.

If he’s good enough, they can find a way. Look at Sean Dockery. Look at William Avery.

Sure. Sure. The next one is Austin Rivers. You had a great quote about him on Zagoria’s web site in August.

What did I say?

He asked you if you could select one player to choose from the Boost Mobile game to start a college program with, which one would you choose and why?

Oh, well, first of all, he has great size. In high school, out of necessity, he’s got to play scoring guard for Winter Park, but I think, at the next level, he’s a point guard, at least eventually. Now, if he goes to Duke and Kyrie is still there when he gets there, he’s not going to take the ball out of Kyrie’s hands. Here’s a guy, who even though he has flaws in his stroke, you see he has a hitch in his stroke plus his elbow is way out. He never gets his elbow under the ball, but I mean he can make it. Well, first of all, he has great penetration ability and he is such a good finisher going to the basket. He has very good balance and body control. He can change his direction right in the air. He finishes plays right beneath the basket. He also shoots what I call a half-volley. It is a Steve Nash shot, where when he drives to the basket and, by the way, he was at the Steve Nash’s Point Guard Skills Camp at least one year, he shoots off the wrong foot in order to get his shot off more quickly against the defense. In a half volley, for example, you’ll shoot with your right hand and go off your left foot. Austin Rivers has that, but he’s also a guy who will shoot better from behind the three point line in the last two minutes of a game than he will in the first thirty. I think he just has tremendous court awareness, great presence, and I think he’s going to be an outstanding player. If they can get him, he’s going to be very unpopular in the state of Florida, but…

Well, I asked him about that and, on the record, he said there was a lot of pressure to commit at the time because they were just coming off back-to-back titles at the end of his freshmen year.

What did he tell you about schools?

He said he was open.

Did he include UCLA, UConn, and UNC as well?

Well, I mean his father said yesterday that he’s really only looking at two schools, Florida and Duke.

Really?

Yeah, late in the summer, he mentioned those other schools, but not..

Well, trust me, the father wanted him to reopen his commitment. I really think Austin will be a great guard.

Quincy Miller?

Big kid, very long, very skilled, a nice kid, who’s got to get a lot stronger physically even though he’s probably going to be a three man, but, even at that position, he’s got to get a lot stronger.

You think he’s more likely to develop into a three than a four.

Here’s the thing, right now he’s not going to guard a three, but, offensively, he has perimeter skills. I think it’ll probably be easier for him to adjust and guard away from the basket than it will be for him to bulk up and be able to guard a four. I don’t know that he has the frame where he can really get thick and become more of a power player. I frankly don’t think he’ll be able to do that as easily.

Marshall Plumlee?

He’s big. I’ve only seen him play with Indiana Elite. His father played for a friend of mine down at Tennessee Tech. They‘re very nice people.

Quinn Cook?

I love him, but I don’t know how he could coexist with Kyrie Irving, if he’s still there.

He is very close with Nolan Smith, for what it’s worth.

Yes, he played really well and had great court presence, when I saw him recently. Kevin (Armstrong) and I went down and watched him play and he just took over in the second half. He had seventeen second half points and not only did he score, but just made big plays and really took over the game completely. He’s DeMatha’s next really great player.

What about his defense? Do you think he can..

No, he’s not a great athlete. He’s smaller and he’s got to get stronger as well, but most kids who are sixteen year old juniors don’t have really have a major college body either. I love Quinn Cook.

Off the court, I find him great to deal with and a really good teammate on the AAU level. He’s a crafty little point guard. Here’s a relatively local kid, Desmond Hubert. He came to visit them already. He’s a very thin young man.

Yes, he’s a long kid, he can block shots, he runs well, he can get off the floor easily for a big kid, but he’s a long way away physically. His offense is really just in its initial stage, in its infancy. He’s got to be a five because he doesn’t have any skills. The best things he does are block shots and grab defensive rebounds.

He is quick though for his..

Yes, he is quick and very mobile for 6’9.” He runs the court well.

Another one we watched together last month in the Bronx, Amile Jefferson?

I think he’s potentially very good. He’s skilled. He’s a young boy physically. He doesn’t have a lot of strength. He doesn’t have a tremendous amount of athletic ability, but he has good skills and certainly be a three man. I don’t know if he’s quite what people are making him out to be right now. I think he’s going to be a good player, but, whether he ‘s going to be one of the best in the country in his class, I’m not prepared to go there right now. He’s on a team with several good seniors and so he’s not asked to contribute a lot, in terms of scoring. He does have the potential to be a very good player, however. He’s another guy who’s such a young colt that you don’t know quite when his body will catch up to him.

J.P. Tokoto?

I’ve only seen him once. I know they’ve offered him. He’s supposed to be a terrific player. Dave Cooks..Do you know Dave Cooks?

No.

Well, he’s the coach of Marquette Prep out in Milwaukee. He always goes down the Duke Camp every year. It’s a road trip for him. He’s the guy who’s pushing him. I saw him at Spiece briefly. He looked to be a true 6’4” wing that was playing up one level.

The last player I wanted to ask you about is Mike Gilchrist.

He’s a terrific player, but, to really be a franchise player, he’s really got be able to score more from the outside and be able to score more consistently against defenses that are geared up to stop him. He’s not really a perfect scorer. He’s got great hands and he has great feet. He has really long arms and a great nose for the ball, which really help make him a great offensive rebounder. Although he’s not particularly strong, he’s a great finisher around the baseline of the basket. To really be a star, however, he’s really got to work on his perimeter shot.

Do you think he’ll work on it?  Do you think he’s committed to the game enough to maximize his potential? You know him a lot better than I do.

On the last two times I went to see him, they were snowed out and the next time he never got out of his warm-up suit clapping on his teammates. You mentioned before this that he played down in Princeton and so I’ll see him tomorrow. I think he’s a nice enough kid, but (pauses) how far he goes, to a large extent, will be determined by how many voices he eliminates from his ears.

You’re absolutely right.

Right now, he has too many people in his ear.

Yeah, I had a situation last spring with his AAU guy Rob Brown, where, let’s say, he was running interference.

That’s not the person that he’s got to be afraid of.

I can think of another guy.(laughs)

Yeah, you know who it is. The thing is everyone wants to be his friend. Everyone wants to be his advisor and everyone wants to be able to say they know Michael Gilchrist.

You’ve been doing this for nearly forty years, who do you compare him to? Is there another player that immediately jumps to mind?

Someone like Billy Owens, but he can’t score from the perimeter like Billy Owens. Billy Owens was one of the best forwards that I’ve ever seen. It didn’t, well, he should’ve been a much better player than he turned out to be. He got heavy and then he had a series of foot injuries and leg injuries. He should’ve been one of the great forwards. He was one of the handful of best high school players I’ve ever seen.

Thank you very much for doing this.

No problem, really, no problem.[/private]

BDN’s Slater gets talent guru Tom Konchalski’s thoughts on Duke committments

Tom Konchalski has been the editor and publisher of the highly respected High School Basketball Insider Report for more than thirty-five years. Currently, more than 225 colleges subscribe to his service. He is one of the select McDonald’s All-American voters. After a weekend at the Hoophall Classic in Springfield, Massachusetts, Mr. Konchalski sat down with Blue Devil Nation to talk about some Duke commitments and prospects.

Mason Plumlee
Mason Plumlee

Mason Plumlee: First of all, he has surprising athleticism. He can really jump. The trouble is his body lacks flexibility. He’s got to get pliable. I really think he needs a person to work with him on that. He plays too erect. He never really bends his knees. He tries to back people down. He’s got the quickness. The main thing he lacks is flexibility. He’s got the size. He’s very coachable. [private] He’ll be a four-year player there and I think he’ll be a good player in time.

 

Ryan Kelly
Ryan Kelly

Ryan Kelly: Ryan has so much more fluidity to his game right now. He really does so many things. He’s got nearly a perfect skill set for a guy 6’9.” He’s not going to be a three. He’s a step out four man, who has very good skills. Defensively, he’ll be capable of defending the four, but he just needs to get stronger. Plumlee less so, but also most kids coming from high school need to get a lot stronger.

 

 

Andrer Dawkins
Andrer Dawkins

Andre Dawkins: He’s a very good shooter… 6’4″…plays in a system. He’s a guy that you don’t need to get fifteen shots per game. He’ll play within the system. He will knock down the three-pointer, but he’s very patient. He doesn’t really look to create his shot that much, but he’ll take the shots that come to him. He’ll be a very good system player. He’s a big off guard that can shoot the ball. He’s a good example of the saying “good shots make good shooters and bad shots make bad shooters.”

Tyler Thornton
Tyler Thornton

Tyler Thornton: He’s a utility guard. I don’t think he’s a pure point guard. He’s not a great outside shooter, but he has really active hands. I think he’ll be a defensive catalyst. He’ll be a utility guard…a little point guard…a little off guard. He’s a program player. You might say that’s a euphemism for a career backup, but he’ll be a program player. He’ll be part of a winning process. Listen I don’t think they’re going to beat North Carolina or win the ACC or a national title with Thornton starting for them, but I think he can help.

Joshn Hairston
Joshn Hairston

Josh Hairston: Now, Josh Hairston’s got a chance to be really good. He’s 6’8,” skilled, athletic with a good body, yet hasn’t really hit the weights much yet. I think a big part of going after Tyler was that he was a D.C. teammate of his and continue to work D.C. Assault. Nolan was the first player to commit from the program and, if these two also have a good experience at Duke, they will be in good position to get future players as well.

 

John Wall
John Wall

John Wall: He’s Evil Knievel without the cycle. He’s the most explosive athlete in the class. He’s just in a different class. He’s 6’3 ½.” He tries to just run by people. He plays at one speed. He’s got to…if hes going to play and be an elite point guard…learn to play at different speeds. He’ll drive by you…dunk on you…throw alley oops, but he’s got to learn to not always try to play at one hundred miles per hour. As a point guard right now, he’ll get assists mainly because he’ll get by people and create numerical disadvantage. Through that…he’ll find people, but he’s got to learn to play at different speeds. He’s just explosive. He’s got to shoot it better. He’s got to get more selective with his shot and push the ball at different paces. Someone has got to work with him on that…but there is no one in this class at his level of athleticism.

Harrison Barnes: I’ve never had a chance to see him play yet, but he’s supposed to be a terrific player. I was at Reebok, when he was at Nike.

Kyrie Irving: Very good player. His father is in the Hall of Fame at BU. He played at Adlai Stevenson in the Bronx. His name is pronounced “Dedrick,” but it’s spelled Drederick. He played mostly for Jarvis at BU. He was a very, very good player at BU. He was about 6’3.” Kyrie is now 6’1.” He transferred in from Montclair Kimberly Academy. He would be eligible today, but they don’t play again until Thursday. Right now, he’s sort of a combination guard…at least 6’1.” I’ll tell you what I thought he and Isaiah Epps (Pitt) were the best junior guards in Jersey, but now he may very well be the best. He can shoot the ball very well. He can handle it and he’s younger physically. See, Isaiah Epps is going to have to go prep school next year. He’s run out of eligibility. I think he’s a combination guard, but because of his size…he’s 6’1″…wherever he goes they’ll probably try to make him into a point guard. He’s a talented player. He could play at that level. Would he be an all-American at Duke? Probably not, but he could be very good for them.

Jason Morris: Well, he didn’t shoot well today again. His father, Phil, played in NY too. He lives with his mother down in Augusta, but the father played in New York and first talked about him when he was in the sixth grade…but everybody thinks their kid is great in the sixth grade. He goes to a very good school. He’s going to play with the Gauchos, but he’s played with other organizations in the past. Jason Morris has great explosion with the ball. He really elevates. He’s got Otis-like elevation with the ball. He can stop on a dime and explode with his jump shot. I think he’ll be very good and he’s mature for his age. [/private]