There is a lot to talk about in this weeks Monday Musings column with concern to Duke Basketball, especially on the recruiting front. As you already know, Duke made an offer to 6-10 forward Austin Nichols and that kicks off the AAU season.
Speaking of the AAU season, Blue Devil Nation Recruiting Analyst, Andrew Slater covered the Nike EYBL and showed his prowess on the beat. Slaters' twitter site blew up this weekend with premium like information as it happened. Our premium members know that Slater is the best at what he does and now the secret is out that Team BDN is as good as it gets. My side kick is a protege of the infamous Tom Knochalski, a legend and pioneer on prospect evaluation and his in depth interviews and analysis on the front is unmatched.
Slater will unveil an interview with Marcus Lee who plays for California Supreme, a prospect who caught the Blue Devils staff eyes this past weekend. BDN tipped the nation off last night that there is a new kid firmly on the radar. But Slater also spoke with Jabari Parker and a dozen more true Duke prospects, so BDN Premium is the place to be this week, so join today and see just how awesome our AAU coverage is. You will love the value and knowledge we bring to the table, I guarantee it.
Is today the day Tony Parker decides? Well, if it is, it will put an end to one of the more bizarre recruitment's of the season. Parker has frustrated some national recruiting analyst to the point where they will not even give him the time of day with coverage. This talented young man would fit well with Duke next season but whether the golden opportunity dawns on him before his 4:00 scheduled decision remains to be seen. Parker has had a bit too much fun with the media and there will be a collective and anxiously awaited sigh from the schools still in the running for him in that the roller coaster will finally come to a halt.
There is still no word on when Philly product Amile Jefferson will decide but many feel it is down to Duke and N.C. State. I would think his choice would come this week, so lot's going on this week beyond the pending NFL Draft. Yep! Basketball recruiting is in bloom and Duke fans anxiously await the Jefferson decision to see if he will be added to the roster next season.
Congratulations to the Duke Men's LAX team for downing arch rival North Carolina to win the ACC Championship. The boys in royal blue scored 10 second half goals in a furious comeback for the victory and now it is on to the NCAA's.
Now that the Andre Dawkins news forced it's way out, there should be no more happenings around the team in that manner. I didn't say there would not be rumors, but hopefully people will learn to follow those sources with long time proven track records and not some poster who tells you he's the man and he said, she said the neighbors dog groomer, cuts Skippys' coat and Skip belongs to the guy that runs the cleaners where a player goes and a player told that player that another player said that so and so was unhappy at Duke . Silly, isn't it? Still, many would fall for it hook, line and sinker in the steadily growing and unstable world of web based reporting.
In ending, again, consider joining BDN Premium and see for yourself what you are missing. Duke will be on the trail this weekend at two events and we'll be out there just like this past weekend. And be sure to follow Andrew Slater on his twitter site and our resident football analyst Patrick Cacchio here and then there is of course my BDN site here.
Have a good week Blue Devil Nation and visit often for there will be a lot to talk about in the coming days.
The Duke Blue Devils Men's Basketball staff will be more than a little busy in the coming weeks as the open recruiting period gets into full swing. Two prospects in Amile Jefferson and Tony Parker have yet to make their decision but the focus will soon shift to the Class of 2013 and 2014. BDN Premium takes a look at the new names and some you are familiar with in our latest team and recruiting update. And as always, our AAU coverage will be as good as it gets where recruiting analyst Andrew Slater will be updating you as the action happens this weekend from the Nike EYBL in Minneapolis, Minnesota. It's a great time to join BDN Premium where you are sure to be happy with what we feel is the best staff on the circuit.
Let's start with the class of 2012 and Amile Jefferson. The hybrid forward is expected to [private] make his decision at the earliest late this week and the latest next week. Jefferson has likely cooled on N.C. State with the return of C.J. Leslie but many will tell you they are still in the lead. Okay, NCSU types will tell you that. Had he been such a sure thing to the Pack he would have popped by now. The real competition for his services are Kentucky and Villanova. Both are making hard late runs but the recent transfer of Michael Gbinije certainly shows that their is playing time in Durham and I feel this is the Blue Devils biggest attraction.
Tony Parker on the other hand switched his announcement date for like the fifteenth time and is now slated to make his pick known at his Miller Grove High School next Monday. The buzz around the Jordan Brand All Star game was that he was UCLA bound and they are attractive to him. But Parker is a bit of a momma's boy and I think it will be hard for him to stray too far. He seemingly is still bucking going to Duke despite his parents being in their corner and that opens things up for Georgia. After all that has happened, a Georgia choice would be almost a great end to what has bordered on comedy. Truthfully though, I don't think Tony knows where he is going as I type, so there is still a crack in the door.
The coaches have been active at open gyms where Coach K went to see Julius Randle yesterday. The Blue Devils have the full court press on the behemoth in the paint and he is exactly what the doctor would order especially if they lose Parker which most feel will happen. Randle of course, is teammates with Duke bound Matt Jones for the Texas Titans AAU team and assistant coach Jeff Capel stays in regular contact.
This weekend kicks off our infamous AAU coverage where our resident recruiting analyst Andrew Slater will be in Minnesota for the Nike EYBL Session I. He will see the aforementioned Julius Randle and Matt Jones while there and we hope to hear from Randle. We hesitate to put too much of where our guys will be out for our comp tries to hire a stringer and the way I see it, we're not going to help them do their jobs or allow them to ride our coattails at events. The AAU events provide some of the most unprofessional media types you will run up on and the rumors, gossip and games played are tiresome. BDN only wants to concentrate on what we do while avoiding drama being dropped at our door step without provocation. We will continue to adhere to high standards and bring you accurate coverage.
The Nike circuit is loaded with prospect this season and Andrew will also take a look at Jabari Parker (2013) and Jahlil Okafor of Mac Irwin Fire. Parker is the top rated player in his class with Randle close behind. Jabari had long been a Duke target and Coach K has a great relationship with the Chicago native. Okafor is in the class of 2014, a bruising post player who has showed early interest in Duke and the Blue Devils got on him early. Watching the Fire will be a lot of fun this spring and summer.
Boo Williams is back on the radar, the system that produced Andre Dawkins. Allerik Freeman who made a name for himself as a Duke prospect of late and Anthony Barber are firmly on the radar. Barber is probably the prospect which best fits the Blue Devils needs while Freeman is a bit of a swing man without a set position at the college level at this time. Coach K will be taking a close look at these and other players on Saturday and possibly Sunday.
During last seasons Peach Jam, Blue Devil Nation took notice of Howard Pulley and PG Tyus Jones where we were the first Duke site to interview the fabulous 2014 prospect. He caught my eye the season before and I could see where he would gain interest thus the interview. Since that time, he is the nations PG of choice. While not a flashy player, he is a stat stuffer, a winner and far ahead of his years with concern to maturity,
Then there are a bunch of kids we like to say are being evaluated. This means Duke wants to take a good hard look at them and determine which will make the cut or deserve further evaluation. Team Takeover features Ismail Wainwright and Beejay Anya. It will be interesting to see how their organization reacts after Michael Gbinije transferred. Anya has been on the radar and teams will look to see how his body is shaping up as he gets older. Wainwright is under evaluation.
CIA Bounce out of Canada has been producing some big time talent and Duke will take a look at Tyler Ennis and Andrew Wiggins. You have seen several interviews here past with Wiggins and he will be a tough get with everybody on him.
MoKan Elite will feature Semu Ojeleye, another player Duke will consider and then there is CP3 and Theo Pinson, another player you have heard from in 2014. Pinson is not expected to get serious for another year yet.
Andre had the foresight to talk with Wayne Selden of BABC and he is now on the Blue Devils radar as well and will get a good long look from the staff. A new name on the radar is E1T1 prospect Joel Berry.
Austin Nichols was a player we hoped to see with Nike but will not be in EYBL this spring and summer. He is playing with M33M team out of Memphis that will be playing in a local event this weekend and then will be at Real Deal on the Hill in Arkansas next weekend. Coach K will stop into see him on Friday in Memphis.
The Blue Devils are all in on Rodney Hood, a player we made you aware of three seasons ago who grew up a Duke fan. The staff is working with the Hood family for an official visit and they have made sure hood knows of their interest through contact. Hood would add versatility and a bit of seasoning after a good freshman year at Mississippi State but he will have to sit out a year,
The bottom line is that Duke will drop and add player/prospects over the next two weeks so things are very liquid. I will be at Boo Williams in Hampton next week with the Nike kids and Real Deal is going on as well, another event the coaches will cover. This will be the first year coaches are allowed in Hampton and I am expecting a bit of a mess in an already crowded venue. It is clear that the priority is to go hard after Jabari Parker and Julius Randle while keeping Matt Jones in their view. With the Olympics coming up, the Blue Devils will have the max limit of assistants out at all times. Note to premium members - if you are not registered for the premium message board, please do so, then e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org so we can have you approved after checking your paypal payment. [/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]
Before Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski can map out how he will use his 2012-13 roster, the dust has to clear on many looming decisions. To mention that a lot is going on behind the scenes right now within the program is like being Captain Obvious. The Blue Devils, like other schools, will meet with players individually where they'll be told what is expected of them next season and how they will be used in what many call exit interviews.
These meetings will at times allow players who are not happy with their projected roles to make a move and or transfer. While transfers are rare, they are a part of the game and the rumor mill has been full of talk. Now, I am not saying Duke is destined for transfers, only that one could happen and the public will not know until GoDuke.com announces them in an official manner.
Already waiting in the wings could be a transfer into the program in Trey Zeigler, a player who is leaving Central Michigan. Zeigler is visiting several schools including Pitt this week, but the Blue Devils reportedly feel he could help their team. Zeigler has the ability to guard the 6-5 big guard types and would add some experience but we'll only know how this one turns out at the end of April or in early May for his decision will not be made until other things are settled.
It's worth noting that Krzyzewski and Duke have rarely accepted transfers but the ones which have joined the royal blue have been successful. Roshown McCleod and Dahntay Jones certainly made their impact felt.
The big key, at the moment, hinges on the decision of rising senior Mason Plumlee. The question is will he join his eldest brother Miles by signing with an agent to achieve his goal of reaching the NBA or will he come back to Duke to play a year with his youngest brother, Marshall.
Should Mason head to the draft with an agent, it leaves a huge hole in the middle at Duke and that's when a Blue Devil recruiting target, Tony Parker's decision becomes oh-so important. Duke has been recruiting Parker for a good long time and Krzyzewski has stayed steadfast and consistent during the process. But Parker has been the reason for burgeoning gray hairs in many fans in that his comments are often inconsistent or hard to read.
Oddly, Parker is rumored to be more likely to come if Mason leaves, but it would make sense for him to want Mason around to learn from as a freshman and play beside. But then there is the possibility that Duke might lose Parker and the middle of the three Plumlee brothers and that would suggest for some tough times in the paint in Durham.
Most Duke fans feel it should be a no brainer for Tony Parker in that Duke has a specific need for a player with his skill set, but if it were only that simple. Regardless, Parker can all but guarantee himself going to one of the nation's elite programs and playing right away if he chooses Duke.
As for Plumlee, his decision is a little less clear for perceived results. He has long been considered an NBA prospect and some feel when you are guaranteed a few million bucks you have to take it, but other factors are at play. This year's draft is fast becoming loaded with prospects and can he get a team to guarantee he would be their pick in the first round if he falls to them?
Should Plumlee return, he will anchor the post at Duke and pardon the pun, but be the big man on campus, likely being considered for many preseason honors and getting a few sleek magazine covers as the Blue Devils' best player. On the other hand, who can ever blame a kid for taking the money if it is there for sure? Personally, I do not feel that his return will hurt his stock for I just cannot see a player with his physical abilities regressing.
Plumlee has until April 10th per the NCAA to announce his decision to enter the draft, but he could actually say he is coming back and still change his mind by April 29th, which is the NBA deadline. Plumlee has yet to make his decision but it will surely happen soon and Duke fans are sitting on pins and needles in anticipation.
Then the Blue Devils are in contention for the nation's top player in Shabazz Muhammad, who includes them alongside UCLA and Kentucky. Duke has an opening for another one and done player but this will not be an easy one to close on and right now most feel UCLA and Kentucky are ahead of the Blue Devils in the process. My understanding is that Duke has been and will remain in the process and who wouldn't remain in the chase for a player like Muhammad, who can shift the balance of power instantly?
Another player which would add a different skill set to the roster is Amile Jefferson, a sleek, but slender forward out of Philadelphia. Jefferson is not the answer in the post for Duke but he is a player which can help in the block per his skill set. Like Parker and Muhammad, his decision should come around April 11th and that will be a day when the Duke message boards will be non-stop buzzing.
The attraction to Jefferson is the fact he provides different options with his potential and he's a team player, which is always needed. Jefferson is also a top-notch student. N.C. State recruiting types are supremely confident that they are the favorites but we'll have to wait and see for Duke seems to be in as good a shape as anyone.
There is a lot of talk about the Duke program slipping out there as well, but if a piece or two fall into place or even more, then Duke is a national title contender and no matter what happens, they'll contend in the ACC. We live in a time when talking heads can influence society with falsehoods and tainted perceptions and the Blue Devils are a victim of that now more than ever.
In the end, the Blue Devils always seem to push away the critics and force them to start fawning over the program again from the fact they win and do so as consistently as anyone. Okay, they do so a lot more than most, but reading some of the preseason top 25 projected polls would have you think the sky is falling.
Make no mistake, Duke is a college basketball juggernaut and they won 27 games against a difficult schedule, so to write off them or any of their players would be a mistake. But it is clear that Duke wants and needs to add to the mix and that is why the pending decisions are critical in many ways.
So strap yourself in for the next few weeks will be a wild ride and if you want more, join BDN Premium where we constantly update what we are hearing provided they are fact based or from consistent sources.
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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The Duke Blue Devils fan base is excited about Rasheed Sulaimon coming to Duke this coming season and he is excited as well. BDN Premium caught up to Sulaimon yesterday, hot off his 18 point performance where he keyed the West squad to a win in the famed McDonald's All American game. Sulaimon, of course, won the three point shooting contest as well. We discussed a myriad of subjects which included his play and the staff and fans reaction to his play and what he will work on now that he is back home. Sulaimon touches on recruiting where Duke is in hot pursuit of Amile Jefferson, Shabazz Muhammad and Tony Parker and his relationship with them. He also talks of getting a challenge from Duke assistant coach Chris Collins after he won the three point shooting contest and what Coach K has him working on in another in depth interview from BDN.
Congratulations on winning the three point shot contest at the McDonald's All American Game, that was awesome. What are your thought and what was going through your mind as you were competing?
I was nervous to begin with but once the buzzer rang I just started to focus and found a rhythm and kept shooting and they were just going in. After the first round I knew there was a really good chance I could win it and my confidence was high and I felt like I was the best shooter going into the competition.
Your family had to be really happy for you. What was their reaction?
My parents were very excited that I won and that my hard work payed off.
Have you been able to talk with any of the Duke coaches since that happened? Did anybody like text you and say congratulations or that kind of thing?
Yes, yes. I talked with all the coaches and they [private] just told me congratulations and Coach Collins sent me a text message talking a little trash because he was the first Duke guy to win the contest. So, he congratulated me, but he said I still had a ways to go before I could reach him.
He does talk a little smack, I'll tell you he's still got a nice outside shot. The coaches will go at it with the managers and walk ons during the season. You'll see that they get out there and ball. But you represented Duke well and then there is the McDonald's game itself where you scored 18 points, knocked down four treys. What was it like to play against the best of the best?
You know, it was just a great day having the elite talent in the nation come there and compete and it was very special. And then there was Chicago and the arena itself where Michael Jordan use to play and such a big crowd. It was kind of nerve racking at first, but like I said after I started to get in the flow and everything like that, I just got back in the flow and played basketball.
It looks like you had all kinds of fun, participating in the Duke-UNC-NCSU smack down and all kinds of things. Which guys did you kind of hit it off with out there?
I hit it off with a lot of guys and I knew almost everybody that was there, But a couple of the guys I kind of really hit it off with was me, Shabazz (Muhammad) and Amile Jefferson, we were all pretty cool. And Kyle Anderson and Yogi Ferrell as well, so I had a good relationship with a lot of guys on the team just to name a few.
I have to ask this, Duke is hotly pursuing Amile Jefferson and Shabazz Muhammad. I'm assuming per our past conversations that you were in their ear a little bit.
Oh yes, of course. I was in their ear constantly in that we (Duke) are recruiting both of them. I'm trying to get them to come to Durham with me next year and I think we have a good chance if we keep recruiting them hard and stay on their tails, then I think we've got a good chance to get both.
It looks like it will come down to the last minute as there is a lot of transition going on, Duke is worried about losing Mason Plumlee, so a lot is going on. What about Tony Parker? Was there anything going on there?
Oh yeah. I talked with Tony a little bit and I told him or got in his ear a little bit but I think he is still reviewing the schools that is left. I'm not too sure where he's at with his decision making, but he still says Duke is in it.
That's interesting. So what do you do now that you are back home after being in all the hullabaloo of the All American event? Where does Rasheed go from here?
Back to the gym. I have to go get better, get stronger and get faster and work on parts of my game and just get ready for the Nike Hoops Summit and the Jordan-Brand Classic and then getting ready for Durham.
You'll be in around July 1st or so?
Obviously what you have been working on has been good for you are putting the ball on the floor better, your perimeter game is tight. Have the coaches told you to work on any particular thing? Your game is really coming together.
Thank you (with humbled emphasis)
Oh, you're welcome. Everybody that saw the game and objective media thought you were one of the three best players in the game and there is a lot of talk of you. So, it has to feel good to get the compliments.
Yes sir. Some of the things the coaches want me to work on are key in on just staying in the gym everyday and get better polishing my skill set and everything like that. A couple of things they really focused on though, was for me to continue to get stronger each and every day and continue to tighten my ball handling in that I will need it next year. I have a good handle now but it wouldn't hurt to make it better and become quicker and faster.
Have they talked to you at all about possibly testing you at the PG position?
Yes, they have. We've talked about possibilities of me playing the PG in certain situations and the off guard. It looks like I will be used in a combo of both this coming season.
You move your feet really well. Therefore you have the chance to become a really good on ball defender, the kind they really didn't have at Duke last year. Is this something they have spoken to you about as well?
Oh yeah. Definitely, definably. I have always taken pride in my defense and want to take the best perimeter player on that end but they challenged me with the expectation of me coming in and playing great defense and I'm ready for that challenge. I'm going to step up and do whatever I can and play as hard as I can to meet Coach K's challenges.
Do you still converse back and forth with some of the players on the team?
Oh yeah. I keep in touch with a lot of them, like Quinn Cook, Tyler Thornton. Josh Hairston and Alex Murphy. I keep in touch with a number of players on the team and I have good chemistry with them.
That's great! You've been blessed.
Yes sir. I can't complain about anything, I've been blessed my whole life.
That's great. Everything is coming full circle for you. Coach K saw something in you and offered early on and you have continued to improve and climb the rankings since that time. The Duke fan base is very excited about you coming to Durham and our message boards are buzzing and blowing up with how giddy fans are.
Thank you so much, I appreciate the call and interview.
Best of luck the rest of the summer and you're welcome, Rasheed.