As many of you are aware, the Duke Men’s Basketball staff has been very active on the road of late, but they will now take a break to spend time with their families. Just about all of the Blue Devils players are at home with their families for the Holiday season. We will be covering a few kids live after Christmas and I will have more on that later. Let’s just say that BDN will be back in the groove in a major way in the coming year and our coverage will be better than ever.
Many of you have asked if there is anything new going on and the answer is [private] not much. We’ll start with Austin Rivers who you can see on ESPNU tonight against one of the best teams in the country. Rivers dropped 45 points and, as we told you months ago now, he will concentrate on his high school season. Rivers continues to say he is a Florida Gator, and that is technically true. However, Rivers is quick to tell you that Duke is recruiting him and that he likes the fact that Coach K has taken an interest in him. Rivers will take a visit to Duke this season after the new year if all works out. I continue to feel very good about Duke’s chances of landing Rivers – far too many reasons to list, but it’s not over until it’s over. The Rivers family will watch and see how UF and Duke fare this season and see how Austin fits in. It’s no secret that Rivers has stayed in close touch with Kyrie and Andre among others. Krzyzewski loves what Rivers brings to the table and he has been front and center for Rivers games since the AAU Nationals in Orlando, Florida. Krzyzewski and Collins attended Rivers’ game last week. The staff will follow him closely, staying in touch as often as the NCAA rules allow. This one will go to Spring or after the season.
As many of you know, one of my pet peeves is the unsubstantiated rumors that make message boards go crazy. It’s one of the reasons I spend little time on my own board these days. The latest one says that Duke has stopped recruiting Roscoe Smith, which is false. I have been telling you for a good while that Duke has been trying to arrange an on-campus visit and that remains true today. UConn is the chief competition and probably the leader at this time. It’s been hard for Duke to proceed, for they need to make sure Smith can qualify. There is no secret that it is easier to qualify for UConn than Duke. My understanding is that Krzyzewski likes Smith’s potential and he did catch one of his games over the break. So, there is a wait and see approach with concerns to Smith and the picture should become clear in the next month or two. Nobody would have put Smith and Duke together early last summer, but Nate James hit the road running and developed a good relationship with the prospect.
Rocky Mount’s Tashawn Mabry and his family sat behind the Duke bench for a game recently and Duke is in the evaluation or get to know stage with Mabry. I was scheduled to check him out during the Glaxo Tournament, but Rocky Mount could not work out the logistics to be there. Mabry was one of the most underrated players in the country but his star is rising this season.
One thing to keep in mind is that Duke will be careful who they offer and they will not just throw one out there for anyone who they don’t think can contribute. I must admit that project players like Boateng or Czyz rarely work out, for the learning curve is behind other kids. Duke has, however, had success with role player types going all the way back to Brian Davis and Marty Clark for but two examples.
Brace yourself for a ride with two prospects. Quincy Miller attended the Duke Elite Camp and he, indeed, likes the Devils as does a key member of his family. Miller is a good interview in person and he has a great personality, but the recruiting game seems to get fun for these kids as they go along and anything they say until they are a rising senior should be taken with a grain of salt. The longer this one goes on, the more familiar it will seem, meaning a little stress. Still, Duke is right there for Miller at this time and there is a strong foundation with concerns to relations with the coaching staff. I will be catching one of Miller’s games soon and we will eventually talk with him.
Then there is JP Tokoto who loved the Duke Elite Camp but he grew up a UNC fan. Tokoto sent signals that he may commit early, but that changed in a matter of days and he is now scheduled to visit UNC for the Duke game. The Heels are coming on strong and will offer him as a junior. Whether Duke decides to look elsewhere or pull back remains to be seen. But they will surely send some feelers out there to gauge his interest. If he is like PJ Hairston and the debacle Harrison Barnes, maybe Duke should broaden their options. It’s hard to imagine Duke wanting to go down to the wire again while other talented kids might be a better option. Tokoto’s stepfather likes Duke, but he also likes UNC. This one promises to be, as I mentioned, stressful over time.
Duke has been keeping tabs on Trey Ziegler for a long time now and they are still checking him out, seeing him play recently. There haven’t been enough developments to take this much further at this time.
Duke will continue to watch Marshall Plumlee and Christ School as the new year comes in as well.
As for Brad Beal, he just had his mind set on Florida and he was simply unable to make visits due to family reasons. As things started looking good with Rivers, Duke pulled back on the reins with the talented Beal.
Let’s talk about Olek Czyz for a minute. The transfer is on good terms and he has already talked with Nevada but is looking elsewhere. Czyz was rated in the top twenty players in his class by Clark Francis in perhaps one of the clearest cases of gurus rating players too high after a single AAU event. Czyz, always a dunking machine, simply never got the rest of his game together. He worked hard over the summer, but when given a chance he would miss assignments, causing a chink in the armor when he was on the court. Duke will not miss Czyz and to make a lot out of the transfers of late is overreacting a bit. Many never consider that kids may struggle in the classroom as well as the hardwood. In short, Czyz leaves in good standing and simply wants to go to a school where he can start. We wish him luck.
The staff is happy with this year’s team and feel like they are in a good place for this time of the season. Duke is now ranked seventh in both polls and their team defense has been a pleasant surprise. Look for Duke to continue to play the bigs that produce while on the court. Expect more development with Mason in the new year and Kelly has positioned himself with hard work to contribute more. Duke is looking for consistency down low.
If Jon Scheyer continues his play he will push for not only All ACC honors but ACC POY and maybe even All American. The staff is not worried about him wearing down, saying he is young and in the best shape of his life.
Some good news is that at this time the Duke feels Kyle Singler will return for his senior season. Singler is enjoying the college life and it may be in his best interest to return in what could be a magical senior campaign.
Back to future Dukies, the staff is pleased with the development of Josh Hairston who is going against tougher comp this season. The same holds true for Tyler Thornton. We’ll check in with both of these guys after Christmas and or the holidays.
Nate James checked out 7-1 Aziz Ndiaye JUCO from Southern Idaho. Word is that this kid is a beast. He also took in Carrick Felix, a 6-6 swing who is swift afoot.
When there is some real news or changes I will let you know without you having to ask daily if anything is different. We’ll talk to the kids and bring you our famous interviews, but until there are legitimate developments BDN decided not to bug these kids until after the holidays. After all, they are all playing in tournaments galore and no matter what site you visit, they are saying nothing you haven’t heard here a long time ago. Sometimes, things are just a little slow and we have been facing that after Barnes’ recruitment. So hang in there and you will see what separates us from the rest as time goes on. You have to keep in mind that Duke is in the midst of the season and sometimes it’s good to enjoy the current team instead of always worrying about the future. Okay, I will admit that only works for a awhile Happy Holidays to the Blue Devil Nation! [/private]