BDN goes one on one with sophomore point guard Tyler Thornton -
BDN goes one on one with sophomore point guard Tyler Thornton -
BDN goes one on one with sophomore point guard Tyler Thornton -
In less than one month's time, incoming Duke freshman Quinn Cook will arrive in the Gothic Wonderland known as Duke University. It doesn't seem like that long ago when I first talked to Cook as a sophomore at DeMatha. With his grandfather lovingly hovering in the background, young Quinn answered each of my questions in a polite and concise way.
Needless to say, he made a good impression on me. Even then when asked about Duke, he glowed. Cook grew up a UNC fan but, as time went on during the long and arduous recruiting process, he came to know that Duke was the best fit for him.
I also remember the first time I saw Cook in action, when he played for the U-16 D.C. Assault team during the Boo Williams event when he was just a rising sophomore. He put his team on his back on his way to leading them to a comeback win against a more talented squad. Cook showed off his leadership skills that day and he had that special look of determination in his eyes, something you cannot teach. He was simply unstoppable down the stretch on his way to 26 points and 8 assists.
Cook went head to head while at DeMatha with the likes of his future teammate, Tyler Thornton, and UNC PG, Kendall Marshall, so he is already a bit familiar with some of the players he'll face in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Going into his senior season, Cook felt going to Oak Hill Academy, an institution known for its disciplined school and powerful basketball team, would be the right choice for him in order to prepare for college. Cook was slowed by a knee injury during his senior season and Oak Hill, which is in the middle of nowhere and where cell phone signals come and go with the wind, had few facilities to do any major rehab work.
Cook reached deep during this time, often gaining strength from the memory of his beloved father, who moved on with an untimely death. One thing nobody doubts about Cook is his heart, one which he wears on his sleeve.
As you read the following interview, you will surely see his character shining through. He is not talking, "I am going to come in and start from day one." Nope. Instead, he is talking, "I want to come in and be the best I can be and do whatever it takes to help my team."
So, what have you been up to since the All Star games?
I just finished up my school work and graduated and I've been trying strengthen my knee up. I'm no longer a high school student, so I'm just getting ready for Duke. Graduation was cool, my family came down, maybe like 50 people, my Mom. It was special because they got to see what I went through this year at Oak Hill. They were shocked to see what all I wen through and I was just happy they were there.
A proud moment ...
Yes, very much so.
And I think there was another person [His Father] looking down from above that was very proud of you as well.
You'll be arriving on the Duke campus soon enough. Is there a date set yet as to when you'll arrive.
If I'm not mistaken, we'll get there on July 1st. I know Tyler, Josh and Andre are already up there.
Yeah, especially Tyler [Thornton] because I played AAU with him and faced him in high school at DeMatha as well. And Andre [Dawkins]? I've known him for a while. And Seth [Curry] I'm real cool with him. I talk to all of them here and there because I'm excited to be a part of the Duke Family.
Duke is also in the process of recruiting a lot of who might be your future teammates, do you get involved a bit with that?
Yeah, you know, definitely a little bit. Guys like Shabazz Muhammad and Tony Parker you know. It's not like I'm recruiting them real hard, just trying to tell little jokes out there. I want them to make their decision on what is best for them. I would never pressure a guy hard to come to Duke but I let them know what is cool about it.
You had a knew injury which slowed you down. Whats been up with that? How is it coming along?
I tore my meniscus in the Mobile 24 game and I played all season on it before ever really letting it heal. After the Nike Hoops summer game my knew was really swollen and it was hard to walk. I then got an MRI and saw that it hadn't healed yet but didn't see anything new. So, I have been out a month but finally got back to playing recently. My knee feels good right now but it still needs some time to heal so I can get back to full strength.
Well, one reason to look forward to being an athlete at Duke is that they have one of the very best medical staffs and facilities in the country.
Exactly. And at Oak Hill, there are not a lot of facilities or much of nothing., so it'll be great to have the best medical staff in America on my side.
Well, Duke is obviously looking for a point guard next year with the departure of Kyrie Irving to the NBA, where he'll likely be the top pick. Is it your goal to start at the point from the word go?
My goal is not to necessarily be the point guard, but just to get on the floor. There is a lot of talent there. They have a PG in Tyler Thornton there already and he's my brother and a great guard. He will be there to push me and make me better. That's what he's been doing for five years, pushing me and making me better. Going in, I am not trying to think I am the point guard, I just want to get better as a player in person and everything will fall into place.
Now, you've played against a lot these guys in the ACC before. Down at UNC, there is Kendall Marshall who you played against all through high school. Are you looking forward to going against him for the first time?
Yeah, I mean it is going to be fun. I've known him since I was eight years old and while I was at DeMatha we were rivals you know. I played him about three times a year so going up against him again is almost surreal.
We all know Oak Hill is a tough school. Do you ever look back and wonder if the transfer was the right thing for Quinn Cook?
I honestly think it was the right decision, so I definitely got better in the class room at Oak Hill. I got more focused kind of an in my heart I felt it was the best decision for me to go and get away from D.C. Oak Hill is like a college. You go on the road a lot and you have to be responsible for the schoolwork you missed and it really helped me going into my freshman year at Duke.
Now, one of the Duke coaches that worked with you during the process was Nate James, a D.C. product himself. They've recently added Jeff Capel who was a PG at Duke, the former Oklahoma coach to the staff, so that is a great addition. Plus, Nate will still be around and quite involved with the program as well.
Oh yeah. He's a great addition and was a good coach at VCU and Oklahoma and I had a chance to meet him this summer when he coached the our USA team He knew then Duke was on my list and now that he's on staff? It's just goog that he is there adding another great coach to an already great staff and that just makes the organization better. He played at Duke and coached at a high level, so he know everything.
One last quest Quinn. What do you look most forward to when arriving and being on the Duke campus.
Just being a college kid. Being alone and all and being responsible for everything. Getting up to go to class and go to workouts. So, just being a college kid for you only get that chance once in life and I'm going to take it all in.
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Blue Devil Nation captured video highlights of Duke's celebrations on the floor of the Greensboro Coliseum as the Blue Devils celebrate their 2011 ACC Championship with a dominant victory over North Carolina. Click on each of the videos below to partake in the celebrations!
2011 ACC Champs Cut Down the Nets:
Kyrie Irving and Coach K Cut Down the 2011 ACC Championship Nets:
Nate James and Chris Carrawell on the Floor of the 2011 ACC Championship:
Scene on the Floor after the 2011 ACC Championship:
Tyler Thornton on the Floor of the 2011 ACC Championship:
What do we know about this year's team as 2011 quickly approaches? Well, for starters, we know Duke is deep with the ability to place a lot of top talent onto the court. Plus, we know Duke has all the different pieces required to be a champion commencing with senior leadership. Additionally, we know Kyrie Irving is the real deal. He has proven all the hype was warranted. Unfortunately, what we do not know is when Kyrie will be available and on the court for Duke due to his right big toe injury. We know the freshman to sophomore jump is alive and well in Durham. All one has to do is look at the improvements in the play of Mason Plumlee, Andre Dawkins and Ryan Kelly. Finally, we know the team still needs to develop and improve if they are to equal the accomplishments of last season's team.
There’s no real point in discussing Kyrie’s injury because there is too much we do not know so let's take a look at each of the "things we know" and break them down:
Duke has senior leadership.
The presence of senior leadership is not widespread in today’s college basketball landscape; however that does not make it any less valuable. In fact, it makes it more valuable as Duke has what few other teams have – two proven senior leaders in All American candidates Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith.
Coach Krzyzewski discussed Singler after the victory over Oregon in Portland: "I'm very proud of Kyle. Today was a special day for him. He is truly one of the special kids I've had the opportunity to coach at any level. He has a warrior's spirit. He's all about winning and playing hard and I love the way he performs. He's never nervous. He's the same all the time. He never has a play in a game or in practice when he's not working hard. He's what I call a no-maintenance guy."
Nolan Smith is currently number eight on statistics guru Ken Pomeroy’s list of contenders for the 2011 Player-of-the-Year Award.
During the St. Louis post game press conference, Associate Head Coach Chris Collins stated, “For Nolan to get back, I mean he didn’t have a field goal against Bradley the other night, but he played a good floor game. For him to come back today and have the six rebounds, five assists but also get 22 points at the point guard position, I thought was really good.”
Last season’s run to the national championship demonstrated the utility of senior leadership as Scheyer, Thomas and Zoubek combined to be a steadying influence upon the Blue Devils during the stretch run. In 2009, North Carolina won the championship with senior Tyler Hansbrough as their key player. Kansas started two seniors and two juniors in 2008 when they won the national championship, and when the Florida Gators repeated as national champions in 2007, they started a senior and four juniors.
There seems to be a pattern here and the pattern is experience is King come March and April. The experienced leadership on Duke’s roster in 2011 will provide the Blue Devils a decided advantage once the post season arrives. Singler and Smith are two of the best players in the nation.
Duke is deep and talented.
The roster contains five McDonald’s All Americans: Kyle Singler, Nolan Smith, Mason Plumlee, Ryan Kelly and Kyrie Irving. However, other players on the roster earned accolades prior to arriving in Durham.
Freshman Tyler Thornton was the Washington D.C. Gatorade Player-of-the-Year while fellow freshman Josh Hairston was the Maryland Gatorade Player-of-the-Year. After the St. Louis game, Associate Head Coach Chris Collins commented on the play of Thornton and Hairston, “I mean we felt great when the guys came off the bench. I mean Josh Hairston and Tyler Thornton did a great job, especially in the second half. They hit us with a little run to start the half. We weren’t as happy with our energy coming out of halftime. We went to our bench and those guys played great.”
Prior to transferring to Duke, Seth Curry was the Big South Conference Freshman of the Year.
Andre Dawkins skipped his senior year of high school and enrolled at Duke early so he missed out on the opportunity to be named as a member of the various All American teams. However, he was a two-time first team NCSAA All-American.
Duke has all the requisite pieces required to be a champion.
It takes more than talented players to win a championship. It takes the right mix of players who complement each others game. A championship team needs perimeter players and inside players, jump shooters as well as players who can attack the rim, rebounding specialists and defensive specialists. Chemistry is vital to building a championship team.
Duke’s roster contains all of those individual pieces.
The freshman to sophomore jump is alive and well in Durham.
Andre Dawkins was inserted into the starting line-up for the Bradley game in response to Irving’s toe injury. Dawkins responded by scoring 28 points on 8-14 shooting on 3-pointers. After the game, Coach Krzyzewski stated, “It’s great; I hope it’s not a passing fancy. Andre has been, and I said it last week, Andre has been as consistent as anybody we’ve had this season including Kyle and Nolan and Kyrie. Andre has been solid, just really solid and was hitting with a limited amount of shots.”
Dawkins currently leads the ACC in 3-PT FG percentage at .536 and is averaging 12 points per game.
Mason Plumlee is averaging 8.3 points and 7.7 rebounds per game. Against Michigan State, in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge, Mason played 35 minutes, having five steals, to go along with a 10 points, 10 rebounds double-double. Coach Krzyzewski praised his performance, “Mason had to play 35 minutes with the foul trouble we had and they kept alternating bigs and Mason got a double-double and five steals. As obviously sensational as Kyrie was, quietly Mason was outstanding, he was outstanding.”
Mason’s high scoring game so far this season was against Marquette when the 6’10 big man exploded for 25 points on 12-16 shooting from the field. Additionally, he recorded 12 rebounds and five blocked shots. Mason leads the team in blocked shots.
Ryan Kelly scored a career high 13 points in the most recent game against Elon. Kelly is a versatile player with advanced passing skills and solid shooting ability. He has demonstrated rebounding and shot blocking skills as well. As his playing time increases, his game will continue to develop. Kelly is much better now than he was as a freshman, and he will most likely be much better in March compared to December.
Seth Curry is the fourth sophomore but he is two years removed from his freshman season due to sitting out last season after his transfer to Duke from Liberty. Curry has been a little inconsistent at times this season but he has demonstrated a solid shooting stroke and excellent wing defense skills. Curry has second most steals on the team behind Singler.
This team still needs to develop in several areas.
Duke is 11-0 and the unanimous number one ranked team in the country. The ACC schedule kicks off next week when the Miami Hurricanes visit Cameron Indoor Stadium, and with the conference schedule comes games against teams, and perhaps more importantly coaches, who are intimately familiar with the Blue Devils. Things are going to get tougher in January and February before the real test of March and hopefully April arrives. This Duke team is deep and talented with the senior leadership that provides an unlimited upside, so 2011 has the potential to be another great year, but everyone knows there is a lot of work to be accomplished over the next three and a half months.
Every team has to develop their unique identity but this year’s team has been thrown a curve ball with the injury to Irving. Therefore, a need exists for the team to rediscover who they are specifically in regard to playing style. Will the team continue to apply maximum pressure on the perimeter with an emphasis on creating turnovers? Or will they revert to last season’s style, which focused upon rebounding? On offense, will they push the ball at every opportunity? Or will they look to become a dominant half court offensive team?
There are a lot of questions and the answers will be forthcoming over the next month, all one has to do is watch. Coach Krzyzewski is a master at transforming a team.
Free throw shooting is another area where the team could improve. Duke is shooting .743 as a team; however, Mason Plumlee (.417), Miles Plumlee (.611) and Josh Hairston (.538) all have room to improve. In a close game, the ability of these players to convert from the free throw line could the decisive factor.
With 2011 literally just around the corner, it is time for Duke fans to sit back and enjoy the ride as Coach Krzyzewski and the Staff lead the Blue Devils in their pursuit of excellence. No one knows how the season will end, but it is apparent the 2011 Duke Blue Devils have all the pieces in place to make a serious run toward Houston and another national championship.
DURHAM - Josh Hairston dropped 18 points in game two going 9 of 14 during last evenings Blue-White contest held during Countdown to Craziness. After going 0-4 in the first contest, Hairston's teammate Kyrie Irving got him involved early on when the teams redistributed their lineups at the half. BDN spoke to Hairston after the contest and his fellow freshman Tyler Thornton who tallied 10 points and 6 assists.
Just press play -
Several of the 2010-11 Duke Blue Devils participated in summer basketball events including the N.C. Pro Am and BDN breaks them down after multiple live views. There is no doubt that this coming season will be more than just a little entertaining as Duke will almost certainly be tabbed number one in the nation in the pre season basketball polls. While we realize you can tell but so much from summer basketball, after years of following the off season exploits of our players I have an idea of what to look for. BDN had representatives at all the N.C Pro Am games and off season camps, so our take is from in person accounts. Be sure to bookmark BDN for year round coverage of the Duke Beat and follow us on twitter and facebook for future updates.
Mason Plumlee -Mason spent time in Chicago as a camp counselor in two events this summer. The first event allowed Plumlee to train with Tim Grover of Attack Athletes, who is infamous for tutoring Michael Jordan. Recently, Plumlee attended the Adidas Nations event where he was able to watch his brother Marshall who is Duke's most recent commitment. Mason also participated in the N.C. Pro Am where BDN took in all of his games. Plumlee showed off his athletic abilities and when talking with his teammates, they loved playing with him in that he often hit the open man with passes most big men cannot make. Plumlee is physically more mature and he's stretching his outside shot to the three point stripe, but he will be counted on more in the middle for Duke this season. Plumlee seems to be in great condition and had to play the whole game more often than not at the Pro Am. Players use the tournament to work on certain things and while Plumlee will have his back to the basket more often than not this season, he chose to work on his face up game. In short, he worked on the things he doesn't have a chance to as much in the system. A key for Mason this season will be his defensive footwork and positioning on post defense and you have to love the fact that he has a little nastiness in his game.
Miles Plumlee- Like Mason, Miles attended Adidas Nations as a camp counselor. This is an honor for they normally select the top college players for this role. Plumlee showed of a one handed push hook and worked on his outside shot during the Pro Am more-so than his post game. Still, Plumlee was depended upon for rebounding and there were several plays where he brought the crowd to their feet with his athleticism. Plumlee had a nice perimeter shot in high school and he is trying to get that back on a more consistent basis. He is most effective from twelve feet in and he doesn't have but maybe two pounds of body fat on his physique. Like Mason, Miles will benefit by Duke pushing the ball in an up temp style this coming season and pressure is sure to come the brothers Plumlee's way for they will be depended upon to anchor the middle all season long. The one thing which stood out to me in the Pro Am was the fact he never gave up despite having to play major minutes for a middle of the pack team. The key for Miles will be to bring consistent intensity and for him to realize he can do things few other players can.
Andre Dawkins- It's almost as if you can count on Andre Dawkins to erupt every five games or so and he had one of those performances where he tossed in 36 points during the Pro Am. A shooter keeps shooting and that fits Andre perfectly. He still is dependent on the three ball to score more-so than moves to the basket and he has worked on his handle during the off season. Ball handling is vital for Andre to have the ability to take players off the dribble which will loosen up the outside for him. Dawkins role for the Blue Devils will again, a shooter but he has improved his footwork defensively and is capable of back side help. He is also a good finisher when in the open court and a solid free throw shooter but his passing skills need more development. He will be the recipient of a lot of kick out passes when Duke's deep backcourt drives to the lane.
Seth Curry- Silky smooth best defines Curry's game from my vantage. He moves in a very paced way which makes it look like an altered speed or slow on the surface. Or maybe I should say he weaves through defenders picking and choosing his spots? Anyhow, Curry is a scorer and his three point shot is solid as is his mid range game. He is a capable ball handler and he lulls his man to sleep as a defender allowing him to get in the passing lanes for steals. While not physically intimidating, he is a player you have to be aware of when he is on the court. Curry will not get as many shots as he did with Liberty with a talented Duke team and with that said, he could improve upon his passing skills in the open court. Everybody sees that his offense is solid, but major minutes will depend upon how well he does when playing off ball. The same can be said for the aforementioned Dawkins. Curry is capable of knocking down double digits this season for Duke and his game will thrive in the running style Duke will employ.
Ryan Kelly -No player gained more off season hype than did Ryan Kelly who at 6-11 is now Dukes tallest player. What a difference a year can make with a young mans physical maturity and what you've heard about his weight gain is spot on accurate. The additional strength is helping Kelly where he often got pushed off the blocks in his freshman campaign. Kelly was named the winner of the Spirit Award given out by Rodney Rodgers. Kelly is not a big rah-rah guy and I was told the award went to him for his consummate team play and the fact his teammates loved playing with him. A more confident Kelly showed signs of a baby hook and he has a nice inside-out game going now and that will earn him significant minutes. No player appears to have worked harder than Kelly in the off season and he is certainly Duke's most improved player, or is he?
Nolan Smith-While Kelly has improved, Nolan Smith seems to have found a whole other level for his game. Smith trained with the U.S. Select Team and that experience seems to have helped. Smith seems to be wanting a leadership role for Duke and he could not be stopped during his games at the N.C. Pro Am. He erupted for 43 points one evening and was essentially a human highlight reel when he was on the court. He left a lot of empty sneakers when slashing through defenders as if they were standing still and his shot was good. Really good. This led to him being named the events most outstanding player despite the fact he missed the last three games. Smith epitomizes how a player can improve each year in the Duke system to achieve their goals and remember where you heard it if Kyle Singler is the choice for Player of the Year, then Smith should be listed as 1-A. Quite simply, Smith is an All American in 2010-11.
Kyrie Irving- It's as if we got a sneak peek at Kyrie during the Pro Am where he created quite the buzz with his effortless moves which dazzled the audience. It was no surprise to me for I have seen him do some amazing things on the AAU trail where I witnessed at least 20 games he played in. Go down the checklist ... ball handling, shooting, penetrating, playing the passing lanes, finishing and KI draws a straight A report card. What he can get better at is defense and once K works on that a bit more there will be no stopping him from achieving his goals. No if's ands or but's about the fact that a backcourt of Smith and Irving will be the nations best and Irving brings mad skills to the table. He will make everybody on a talented team better with his ability to break people down off the dribble and he should dish for a lot of dunks to his teammates. Irving didn't play down the stretch in the Pro Am and that is probably all by design but his 30 plus point efforts had Duke fans grinning and opposing fans looking forward to hearing his name be called one day by the NBA commish in New York.
Josh Hairston -During the opening night of the Pro Am, Hairston struggled against veterans Josh Powell and Courtney Fells but that is the kind of learning experience these games provide. Some guys would have crawled in the corner but Hairston turned it around and averaged 14-15 ppg the rest of the way. Hairston loves the drop step and the turn around fade away jumper. He is not a real physical banger type but he is a well rounded front court player who could be depended upon in his first season with certain match ups Duke will face. Hairston showed steady improvement during the N.C. Pro Am event and he adds depth to the roster.
Tyler Thornton -It seems Thorntons play surprised everybody during the Pro Am, but not me. I have known all along that Thornton is underrated and he plays completely within his own skill set making him a steady player who will not hurt his team with turnovers or forced shots. The knock on Thornton was his outside shot but he improved upon that and showed it hitting three consecutive three pointers to open the event. Thornton is a confident player who is a nice addition to the team.
Kyle Singler -He was held out of the N.C. Pro Am and who could blame Duke in that he was the Final Four MVP and the odds on favorite to win national player of the year going into next season. Singler attended several camps including the LeBron James skills academies and most recently practiced with the US Select Team coached by Krzyzewski.