As the AAU season winds down, here is yet another BDN Premium Duke Basketball Team and Recruiting Update for our members. Are you ready for a few thousand words on the latest? If so, keep reading and be sure to join to get all the freshest info. In this edition I reveal some new names on the radar, give an in-depth recap of the Duke targets from the recent Nike Peach Jam, and more. Know that this is the perfect time to join BDN Premium in that we have recruiting analyst Andrew Slater reporting from Las Vegas all weekend long.
Let's start with a recap of Peach Jam happenings :
Semi Ojeleye - What you see is what you get, and that is consistent effort. Ojeleye has a college-ready body, and he uses it to his advantage. In Augusta, he struggled a bit from the outside, and never really found his rhythm, but nevertheless he is a versatile stat stuffer who guards multiple positions, and who plays team basketball, so what's not to like? Semi is a classy young man on the court and off, and is a perfect fit for the Blue Devils -- and some of the Duke staff feel it is just a matter of time with Ojeleye. I think he's a real Duke-type kid, and a player I would love to see in a Duke uniform.
Julius Randle - After his first game in Augusta, I was ready to proclaim him the top player in his class. He dominated that game, but in the rest of the tournament, though his overall numbers were strong, [private] I saw him miss an unusually large number of chippies. Part of that may be because, while he's a real physical specimen, he's not a great leaper. Also, he moved outside more than expected. He plays for a Texas Titans team that runs a three guard lineup, so it seemed unnecessary for him to handle the ball on the perimeter as much as he did. Randle is great with the ball in his hands, but he will not be used that way in college unless he goes to a team with little talent. Which is highly unlikely. When he takes it to the hole, he finishes with authority and when he draws fouls, he is a decent free throw shooter. When Randle does go down to the blocks, he dominates, and while I realize he is trying to broaden his game, in my opinion he needs to go down in the low post more often, as at this point on the AAU circuit he is a man among boys down there. He is also an intimidating defender down low.
I will say, however, that when Randle went against better competition, he struggled a bit. He has the propensity to be a little foul prone; he is like a bull in a china shop, almost inviting contact on every play, and when he's out of control, it gets him in trouble.
The gym was packed for each Titans game. Coach Capel missed only one, and in that instance Nate James was there in his stead. The highlight was the matchup with CIA Bounce and stud forward Andrew Wiggins, in a game for the ages. Wiggins got the better of Julius, but not by a wide margin. Randle struggled getting his shot off when he went one-on-one versus the ultra-athletic (though smaller) Wiggins; Randle also was saddled with two early fouls, which did not allow him to remain aggressive down the stretch, and ultimately he fouled out.
While Randle may have fallen to #2 or #3 in the imaginary rankings, he can reclaim the top spot by simply taking his team far in Orlando over the next several days. Make no mistake, Julius is a special talent, and is one of the four best players in high school basketball. He's going to be an immediate impact player at the college level. Randle, quite simply, is as likely as anyone to have a one-and-done type of freshman season.
Matt Jones - Matt has improved his game. He is better off the dribble, he is a good (but occasionally streaky) shooter and he now loves to mix it up on put-backs and other plays underneath. He has improved defensively as well; he checked Andrew Wiggins for much of their matchup and did a great job on him on the perimeter despite giving up some size. In fact, most of Wiggins's hoops came on angles and also off of steals and breakaways, meaning there were few times when he faced up Jones for a jump shot. Jones tried to carry his team after Randle fouled out, but a dribble off the opponent's foot derailed that. It was clear that he was the go-to guy when Randle was out. Matt erupted for a couple of 25+ point games during the event, and overall played very well.
Jahlil Okafor - There is always a game in each tournament when he is just not impressive, but he always bounces back. As I've mentioned before, Okafor continues to be plagued by the fact that his Mac Irvin teammates simply do not look for him in the blocks as they should. The result is they get dusted. It didn't help that Jabari Parker did not play for Mac this past week due to his foot injury, and that certainly changed the team's dynamic. It took them awhile to adjust as a team, but when they finally started going inside to Okafor, he answered the bell, shooting an efficient 7 of 8 from the field and grabbing 13 boards. In the team's remaining games, his teammates continued to feed him, and Okafor really responded with solid numbers the rest of the way. His body is still a work in progress -- it is truly frightening to think what he may look like once all the baby fat is off.
Marcus Lee - Two words. Foul prone. In three of his games, he landed on the bench with five fouls, and his numbers were down due to the reduced minutes. But when he did play, he was good, and he did save his best two games for late. But overall, I was disappointed by his play and that of his team, as California Supreme layed an egg, winning (if I'm not mistaken) but a single game. Lee is athletic and long, but tends to disappear for stretches. Personally, I think he hurt himself here, and he is not what I consider to be a super elite player. The staff watched some of his games, but to be honest, most of them were a bore.
Theo Pinson - Pinson is steady and he's been that all summer long, and in the process he has solidified himself as one of the very best players in his class. His jumper is ugly but it works for him, and his slashing ability is quite nice. He's getting better and is just starting to get a bit more serious in thinking about schools, which is good because he and his dad have been talking for a long time about having a lot of time to decide. Make no mistake, the offer to Justise Winslow did not go unnoticed by the Pinson camp. While there was some concern, the fact is that Pinson has visited Duke, played at Duke, been to games at Duke, and he stays in contact with Duke, so there are no real worries. I have to admit, it upsets me that I cannot share more about this, but the reason is the unwarranted knee-jerk reaction from some on the board who state that there has been no TLC for Theo from the staff, when in reality, that is hardly the case. Again, Pinson has just not been that serious about his recruitment. So why should Duke be all over him if he hasn't been that focused on it? Duke has done its due diligence; Theo has an offer and has had an offer, but it simply got lost in translation. Sure, he was excited by the UNC offer as well, but he and his dad know Duke features wings, so some members need to chill out a bit and try not to go into "sky is falling" mode when you really have only limited information on the details. Pinson likes Duke and Duke likes Pinson, and thus the offer. For now, enough said.
Justise Winslow - I love his game and I liked his demeanor during my interview, as he was respectful, he took his time with each response, and he said all the right things. Justise is another kid who would be a great fit at Duke, as his education truly matters to him. On the floor, in addition to a terrific skill set, he plays bigger than his size at times and he is ultra-athletic. He is also a leader. It's no surprise that so many analysts are raving about him now and all the top coaches are at every one of his games. It was truly ridiculous the lengths that some coaches went just to be seen by him. Anyhow, the Winslow offer is exciting; I would take him on the spot. But then again, I would take Pinson too. There is room for one of them, but not both, at Duke.
Tyus Jones - He is the best PG in his class. He is a winner. He is a team player. He is a scoring point, but an unselfish one, and can put his team on his back despite their lacking much of an inside presence. While Jones is not super athletic, his feel for the game is a thing of beauty. Tyus is also a young man of character and maturity, and he will make any school he attends an immediate Final Four contender. Lastly, every coach in America wants him. Did I mention his feel for the game? Give him the ball, surround him with talent, and take home a trophy. I hope Duke lands him.
Damien Jones - One assistant told me he was a long shot, so I did not pursue him initially. I sat with Johnny Dawkins and Mark Madsen for a game, and they love him -- it's not surprising that a good ballplayer and good student like Damien would draw interest from the likes of Duke and Stanford. Now Duke is a little more interested, so I am setting up an interview. He's rising in the rankings, but it's hard to rate his game because he plays on the Texas Titans with Matt Jones and Randle, and as one coach said, it's hard to figure out just how good anybody is on the Titans because of Randle. At this point Damien Jones is solid but not spectacular; he's a bit slender and needs to put on some muscle. But in a class with few quality bigs, he has suddenly become a hotter commodity. He told me he liked Duke a lot and that he would be open to them if they came calling. Duke is evaluating him and will take another look in Orlando.
Peach Jam tidbits - I had a pretty incredible seat in between Bill Self and Leonard Hamilton for the classic matchup between the Texas Titans and CIA Bounce. I cannot begin to tell you how entertaining this back-and-forth game was, and how good Andrew Wiggins looked. Several times he drew the "wow" from the coaches seated next to me. I had a good conversation with both. Self, of course, was checking out Julius Randle and joked several times about all the ACC guys on his trail, not forgetting that he lost Matt Jones to Duke. We discussed recruiting a bit, and he said that one of the challenges at Kansas is the lack of much local high school talent. Still, kind of hard to feel sorry for him. Hamilton warmed up and talked about last season as well as the future, and he seems happy that Syracuse and Pitt are coming into the league. He also feels that football needs to be better in order for hoops to be. Not sure I agree, but he's a good guy and a heck of a coach, one who is getting a lot out of the pool of players he works with. He seemed to have a quiet confidence that the rebuilding job this season would be ahead of where most media and fans might think. I sat with Coaches Capel and James as well. While I try not to talk about that kind of thing too much, it is always cool to be near any of the Duke staff and just hang out and chat. The gym was brutally cold and most coaches had on long sleeve shirts or jackets, including our guys who were both probably glad to get home and thaw out -- as was I. Capel had a nasty bug and sure enough I caught it the last day as well, and it has slowed my reporting. Thus the late update.
But the one thing that may tickle members is the musical chair show that Calipari and UK assistant Orlando Antigua played. Word is Kentucky covets a big-time PG. So the two strategically scoped out and sat on the corner seats with the partition in between them in back to back seats while PG prospects Joel Berry and Tyus Jones were playing on opposite courts. The two coaches would switch back and forth in an unapologetic fashion, literally pushing other coaches out of the way in an SRO crowd. Antigua nudged a Western Kentucky assistant to the side without even a look, much less an apology. They were by no means breaking any rules, but still. Not cool. Oh, and yes Virginia, Kentucky did start that rumor via Adam Zagoria, who sat beside me in the media area for most of the event. If you missed it, they used Zagoria to put it out there that Duke leads for Jabari Parker, probably trying to sabotage it somehow. As for Zagoria, he's a nice enough guy, but if you are being lured in by his sensationalist blog, you are not getting an accurate picture of what is really happening, for he is simply going for hits and hits alone, accuracy be darned. Coaches know which media members to go to when they want to propagandize, and Zagoria is but one of many. Other coaches leak a kid's secret on where he will go to school and ruin his big moment out of spite, even after the kid has the decency to make a courtesy call to show some respect to the coach who has lost out. And some coaches even leak when a kid verbals to them in an effort to keep him from changing his mind. You gotta love recruiting!
What happens in Vegas, goes on Twitter - Andrew is in Las Vegas and will be bouncing to various tournaments while following the nation's elite prospects. Be sure to follow our site updates and our Twitter feeds for the latest information. I have turned up a few names of kids catching the Blue Devils' eye, and one of those is Austin Grandstaff, a 2015 guard from Rowlett, Texas, whose father coaches his Team Texas AAU team. He will be visiting Duke. I originally kept that on the down low to avoid other local schools trying to get him on their campuses for an unofficial while he's in the area. Grandstaff's teammate Elijah Thomas caught my attention too, and that of Coach Capel as well. Thomas wasted no time retweeting our interview with him just moments ago. Duke is evaluating a lot of young talent in an effort to lay early groundwork. I will be checking in with Grayson Allen, who is a 2014 shooting guard that has contacted Duke and grew up rooting for the Blue Devils. He carries a 4.0 GPA and played in the Peach State Classic down the road from the Augusta in Aiken, SC this past weekend. He does not play for a big-time AAU program, so like Robert Hubbs, he has flown under the radar. I have two other names I need to keep on the down low until I can talk to them, but they will come out soon as well. Once we put names out there, everybody jumps on them.
Orlando - I elected not to go due to the overall lack of #Duke prospects as well as the cost. But Coach Capel is following the Texas Titans targets as well as a couple of other kids. As Andrew has mentioned, Nate James is in Vegas. We will surely be hearing a lot from the weekend as it's a loaded event out there, and Andrew is sure to do his usual excellent job of reporting.
A lot going on - I thank all members for their patience as we have been beyond busy. More members means more content, so encourage others to join. I am in the process of doing whatever it takes to make BDN better, and will leave no rock unturned as we move towards making the promised changes actually happen.
Pro Am - Tonight is apt to be the last night Duke kids play, so take note. I will let you know if something changes. Some have asked if Murphy will play. I think he'll be resting up after a long trip home, but we'll see.
ESPN U - will carry some games from Orlando, so check the listings.
Please note: I recently had to remove some information because the reaction to it was basically negativity and excessive paranoia. I have said it before and will again: do not read so much into every little thing you see and hear on the Internet, and don't believe every little thing either. After all, the reason you subscribe to BDN is to get accurate information that you can bank on.
Thanks to all of you who make up the Blue Devil Nation, and remember, Members, to check out Andrew Slater's work all weekend long. Let's go Devils! [/private]
The Nike Peach Jam is in full swing and we are here in South Carolina to bring you updates on all the action and the latest on the many Duke prospects here. Austin Nichols, Matt Jones, Julius Randle, Justise Winslow, Theo Pinson, and Jahlil Okafor are but a few of the informative interviews we have on tap. In addition, there are some younger kids starting to catch the staff's eye as well. You can learn about them and much more as a member. Considering the bevy of interviews we have up for Blue Devil Nation Premium members, if you've been on the fence about it, this is the perfect time to join.
Here is the recap of the Friday day session:
Howard Pulley 74 Team Texas 65
First of all, this game had some intensity to it, as Roy Williams, Billy Donovan, Tom Izzo, the Duke staff and others crowded the court to the point where they would not let any more people into the gym once the game started. The game was much closer than the score indicates. A Julius Randle turnover allowed Pulley to go up 4, but he then came down to score and "and one" inside, which cut it to 1 with little time left. Pulley's Tyus Jones drew a triple team and found an open teammate for a 3 and that pretty much sealed the deal. After a Team Texas miss, Jones quickly scored again on a drive and then assisted on another trey and that made the final score 74-65. Despite his team being upset, Randle was a beast again, scoring 31 points and grabbing 17 boards. While aggressiveness is something Randle thrives on (and as he told BDN, he feels he can take anybody off the dribble at any time) his aggression sometimes causes turnovers and could also make him foul prone at the next level. But the big picture with Randle is he is a big-time force on the floor. One coach sitting beside me quipped, "It's hard to evaluate the players around him and those who defend him in that he's so good." I have to agree. Then there was Tyus Jones, a smooth, spunky leader on the court who thinks [private] "team first," yet still gets his own shots too. Jones's late heroics helped his team to a win; he finished with 24 points, 8 assists and 4 rebounds. Randle and Jones are now the number one and two scorers at the entire event.
Capel will follow Team Texas
Jeff Capel has been sitting with his brother Jason for much of the camp today. Capel said he would go to Orlando and the AAU Nationals and be anywhere Julius Randle and Matt Jones were playing. So, yes, there will always be a Duke presence as Randle nears his decision.
Semi Ojeleye continues to play well
Ojeleye scored 20 points and grabbed 3 boards as his team coasted past Bluff City Legends. I just love his size and strength. I have a mini-interview coming with Semi. I will tell you that the Duke staff feels really good about their chances with him, and that it could be over in the near future. He's just a Duke kid through and through.
Jahlil Okafor struggles?
Part of the problem is his own play, but part is his teammates just not looking for him. While I think the latter is the main culprit, still Jahlil was not impressive in Mac Irvin's loss to CIA Bounce. He fouled out in 15 minutes of play and his numbers were dismal: 2 points and 0 rebounds. He has not helped himself here so far. By the way, Andrew Wiggins had 21 points for CIA. He is one of the four best players in camp.
The dysfunctional bunch known as Boo Williams is again winless. In their first game, Anthony "Cat" Barber and Al Freeman jawed hard at one another, and it took a while for Barber to let it go. Talent and no production makes college coaches pause. Freeman and his game are still a bit of a wreck. Note: the Duke staff has not watched a single game this squad has played. And wasn't star forward Troy Williams supposed to have decided? Hmm.
Marcus Lee struggles as well
Marcus Lee is foul prone in a big way, and he once again finished the game on the bench as California Supreme lost again, and is now 0-3. Lee had 2 points and 5 boards; his offense is anemic. Yes he's talented and long, but putting all the hype aside, he is a little overrated and I am not the only one who feels that way.
From my conversation with him, this really seems like a good kid. He has recently been offered by Calipari and Kentucky, and he spoke highly of them, but Duke is on his list and he also spoke well of Coach K and his recent U-17 camp experience with Team USA. His production here has been good; he went for 16 points and 8 rebounds in his team's two point win this morning.
Yes, Theo! You do have an offer!
Theo Pinson has had an offer for over eight months. Odd how nobody knew, but the bottom line is he does now. More may come out from this, not that it even matters at this point. In the morning game he scored 23 points to lead CP3 to a 75-71 win over California Supreme.
Don't miss Andrew's interview with Austin Nichols. The Duke coaches feel he will take all five of his visits before deciding.
"He who is prudent and lies in wait for an enemy who is not, will be victorious." - Sun Tzu
At fifteen, Tyus Jones, the 6'1" 175 lb point guard from Apple Valley, Minnesota, has accomplished more on the basketball court than almost all of his peers, utilizing a mix of court vision, change of pace, and advanced perimeter skills.
On a national level, Jones' coming out party was last April in Dallas when, playing for the Howard Pulley Panthers, he scorched a Seattle AAU team for forty-five points, despite being more than two years younger than his competition. He quickly followed that up by earning a spot on the ultra-competitive USA Basketball's U-16 team in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Soon thereafter, the self-described "pass-first point guard" helped lead the United States to a gold medal at the FIBA Americas 16U Championship in Cancun, Mexico. Jones broke current Duke point guard Quinn Cook's tournament assist record, dishing off twenty-eight assists to, amongst others, fellow Duke recruits Jabari Parker, Jahlil Okafor, and Theo Pinson.
Tyus has been playing varsity basketball for Apple Valley, a suburb of the Twin Cities and home of the Minnesota Zoo, since he was an eighth grader. Last year, he missed more than eight weeks (thirteen games) of the season after lacerating his kidney, when he unfortunately landed in the heel of a St. Louis Park player.
This year, the sophomore came back and lead the Eagles to a 23-6 record, scoring more than twenty-eight points per game. For the season, despite being the focal point of a variety of "junk" defenses, the precocious point guard shot an eye-popping 56% from the field, 44% from beyond the three-point arc, and better than 86% from the charity stripe. In addition to earning a MaxPreps All-American distinction and the Star-Tribune's Player of the Year, Gatorade named the sophomore Minnesota's Player of the Year, noting his performance on the court, 3.1 GPA, and charitable work with Feed My Starving Children.
In the late winter, Coach Mike Krzyzewski formally offered Jones a scholarship to Duke University. It was an unusually early scholarship offer for the Duke program, but, as a rising sophomore, Tyus Jones first captured the attention of the four-time National Champion and Olympic gold medal-winning head coach at last year's Peach Jam. Jones has already visited unofficially three Big Ten schools: Ohio State, Michigan State, and his hometown Minnesota Gophers. Tyus told BDN that he will definitely visit Duke in the future.
The sophomore lead guard comes from a tight basketball family. His affable father, Rob Jones, who is 6'6," played for Proviso East (IL) HS and the University of Wisconsin-Parkside, while his mother, Debbie, won a state title as the point guard for Devils Lake (ND) HS. His older brother, 6'2" Jadee, played for Furman and Minnesota State-Monkato. Jadee has been Tyus' trainer and the one he credits for his shooting prowess, working on repetitions and technique.
If anyone thought that there might be a sophomore slump with Tyus, they've been sorely disappointed. The shrew lead guard is now at the top of the national leaders in both points (21 per game) and assists (6.55 per game), while exhibiting more vocal leadership skills. His team, the Howard Pulley Panthers, currently have a 5-4 record through the first two legs of the competitive Nike EYBL. This weekend, at the Boo Williams Complex in Hampton, Virginia, Tyus concluded the weekend with a 37 point, 8 assist, and 5 rebound performance in a win over the Bluff City Legends of Tennessee. Throughout the two live period weekends, the Duke coaches have been a constant presence at his games.
After an EYBL game, Tyus spoke with me about, amongst other things, leadership, USA Basketball, pre-game visualization, his use of change of pace, the early Duke offer, pressure to stay home for college, and his family's support.
You recently won the Gatorade Player of the Year.
It was a huge honor. It’s a humbling experience and feeling. It’s just amazing. It just goes to show that hard work and dedication does pay off and my teammates helped me with that with making shots to help us win games. My coaches setting up stuff, so I just was really proud of that honor.
It’s also a well-rounded award. I was talking to the guy that runs it and obviously basketball is a key criteria, but they’re also looking for people who won’t embarrass their brand off the court.
Exactly, exactly. My parents raised me to be the young man that I am. They keep me grounded and I don’t want to embarrass them.
You’ve been playing varsity since the 8th grade.
Yeah, it helps me because this year we had a young team that is helped because I had some experience seeing a lot of the situations in the games that they hadn’t. I’ve just got to lead and lead by example and be vocal. It’s helped a lot.
Being vocal is an issue I wanted to get to, but I want to wait a bit. Let’s talk about playing in front of your home fans. It can get really packed. Your dad, Rob, said that your home games were almost all sell-outs and obviously it’s been standing room only here.
It was great playing in front of hometown fans, like you said. We’ve got a good turnout, a lot of families have come here. It’s been a good turnout, I think we’ve shown our fans in Minnesota that we can play and we can play at a high level. We can compete and it was good. I’m impressed with how we played.
Sure, I was speaking before with Jahlil about the USA Basketball experience and we were talking a little bit about you. What are your memories of going through that experience about going through the tryouts and winning the gold medal and everything else?
Right, USA Basketball was an amazing experience. It was an unbelievable feeling to put USA across your chest to represent your whole country, the whole nation. It was an unbelievable experience. We built a great bond with our teammates. Credit goes to Coach Showalter and Coach Jones. They trained us and worked us hard and brought us together to become a family. They’re great guys.
Give the audience a sense of the tryouts. I know they were very competitive in Colorado Springs.
The tryouts were in Colorado Springs. They were very tough, very tough. Every single drill, every single play, every possession. It was unbelievable and you’ve got to come to play and you can’t take a play off because you’ll get exposed.
What’s your take on Jahlil (Okafor) and Theo (Pinson)?
They’re two of my good friends and we all in a sense, them included, bonded together. They’re great characters, they’re great students, they’re great basketball players, so everything worked out.
You had a lacerated kidney. What did you learned about yourself and basketball in the time you were unable to play?
Oh, yeah, that was a huge thing in my career.
For the audience members who may not know, how did it happen?
Oh, yeah, I got double-teamed and got pushed into a kid.
If you want to say so.. I fell onto the back of his leg and into his heel. His heel just pushed right up into my kidney and cut it.
Yeah, it was. I cut it and I ended up having to sit out for eight weeks. It kind of made me step back and see…
What did you realize?
It made me step back from the game of basketball and really what I had in front of me and what was really important and just kind of cherished the game more and just cherish everything more because the game can just go away from you. In a split second, it can be gone.
Who do you try to model your game after?
I try to take bits and pieces from, you know, all the great point guards in the NBA. Guys like Chris Paul, I think he does everything well and I try to just take as much as I can from him. And Rondo, you know he sets up his teammates incredibly well and…
He’s a great defender.
Yeah, exactly, and he anticipates and everything like that. He anticipates everything well on the floor. And then there’s Russell Westbrook..
Well, by the way, you might shoot a little better than Rondo at this point.
(laughs) With Russell Westbrook, I love to see how he uses his explosion and just gets his team where they need to go. And there’s all kinds of little things you can take from different point guards’ play because they’re in the NBA for a reason.
You come from a bit of a basketball family. Your father, your mother, and your brother all played at various levels. How do you think that helps you and differentiates you from other players?
Yeah, it helps a lot because any one of my relatives I can go to and talk about basketball just like they’re all behind me and support me in any way I need and whatever I do. They’re all there for me. So, you know, being born and raised in a basketball family, it’s helped me love the game and just pushed me.
Does it make you more competitive when you’re growing up in a family like that?
Yeah, definitely. I was trying to compete with my brother, my cousins, everyone who was older. I just was always trying to compete with my brother in everything. I was just trying to hang with them as much as I could and I think it just helped. It really turned me into a competitor. Yeah, now that I’m older I can hang with them. We’re much more competitive.
You guys must kill with two-on-two at the local YMCA.
(laughs) It’s competitive. We always go back and forth.
What was it like when you first beat one of your older relatives?
It kind of just told me that I was getting there. I was getting bigger, I was getting older.
It was a first step.
Right, right. It felt like a big deal.
In terms of leadership, what was it like being the captain of the team this year as a sophomore?
Being captain was a good honor. It was big being named leader of your team and you’ve got to set a good example. I think I do that well and guys are looking for you to lead and you just got to be on point and you’ve got to be ready to lead them.
You wanted to be more vocal this year. You mentioned it a little bit earlier as well.
Yeah, I mean, you can never communicate too much.
Particularly with a young team.
Yeah, exactly, especially on a young team, you’re being just vocal and communicating, it makes it a lot easier for everybody. Than if you are being quiet, just being vocal it starts up top and everybody else communicates.
Are you loud or more quiet by nature?
I would say I’m more laid back and quiet by nature. So it’s just something that’s out of my element to be more vocal. You know, I’d rather lead by example, but I just have to be more vocal. It’s something that I have to constantly work on and have to step out of my comfort zone and be vocal.
Another important issue with point guards is leadership. We talked before about you being named captain, but how would you assess your leadership skills at this point?
Leadership is obviously important. You’re the leader on your court at all times and I’m just a point guard and just try to take that and go with that.
We talked before about all the fans showing up to support you in high school and here. Would you say there’s a lot of pressure for you to stay home for college?
There is. There’s been a lot of pressure to stay home, but I’ve just got to take it in stride. You just go through this once and you just have to have fun with it.
I was at your game last year in Dallas where you scored over 40 points (45 points). Shooting is obviously one of the things you do relatively well. How do you account for your shooting and what is your shooting regimen?
Oh, yeah, I just try to put up as many shots as I can in the off-season, just work on repetition. You know, you can never put too many shots up. There’s never too much repetition.
How did you learn how to shoot originally?
My older brother was a tremendous shooter and he worked with me a lot and, you know, it just worked its way out.
You try to mentally and visually prepare before the games. That’s something unusual for a kid your age.
Oh, yeah, I just kind of get into my own zone and where I want to go with the ball and how I want to pass it. A lot of guys are just different. I don’t know. It’s the way I feel I need to get ready for the game and it’s worked for me. Some guys goof around, some guys are very serious, and some guys are off on their own. It’s a matter of trying to be comfortable with how you feel.
What about your use of change of pace?
Oh, yeah, definitely change of pace is very important to me. I’m trying to work on my change of pace because it makes it hard for guys to try to stay in front of you.
It’s kind of like in baseball where if you’re a changeup pitcher, it makes your fastball look a lot faster.
Yeah, that’s a good example.
What do you view as your strengths and weaknesses right now?
My strengths are just seeing the floor and being that true point guard out there. My weaknesses are, you know, you can always be a better defender. I’ve just got to work on the little things, like being a good leader out there. Those little things are always very important.
You get a lot of junk defenses thrown at you, particularly in high school ball. How have you adjusted to the different defenses?
Oh, yeah, I think I’ve seen them all. It just comes with the territory from our team’s success. You know, when we get success, you just have to go with it and figure out a way for your team to win.
Do you watch a lot of basketball? I know Rubio is another popular point guard around here. Do you watch a lot of college or pro basketball?
I do. I watch as much basketball as I can, both college and pro.
What about being a passer versus scorer? You’re sort of known as being a scoring point guard with your AAU team, but for USA Basketball, you were much more of a facilitator as a passing point guard.
I actually think I’m a pass-first point guard, but I just try to take what the defense will give me. If the defense gives me points, I’m going to take it, but if the defense gets up on me, I’m going to pass it immediately and I’ll hit the open man. I love to set up my guys. It just makes it fun, it makes it easier. I love to just, you know, get your team going.
So, all things being equal, you like to have a great pass over a great jumpshot?
Who do you turn to for guidance whenever you make big decisions?
My parents, they’ve been there since day one and they really have my best interest at heart.
You’re quite lucky to have both parents.
Yeah, I’ve also got my grandparents, as you can see right behind you. My grandparents are right here, my aunts are right there, they’re all here to support me. I’ve got a great core group of people. I feel very comfortable with them. I really like to listen to their thoughts on things.
I mentioned before about that forty-five point game. That game sort of helped to put you on the map to a degree. What was going through your mind and what do you remember about that day?
It was just one of those days where I was just feeling it and our coaches are always like if you’re feeling it, just go with it. Don’t let up. They just say that if we’re feeling it, just keep going with it, so I just kept putting it up and it just kept falling. It was just incredible.
In terms of a timeline, when would you like to decide by?
I’m waiting, I’m not trying to rush into my recruitment or anything. I’m not looking to give an immediate commitment. I’m looking to survey things and looking deeply into everything. So it’ll be just a little while.
Have you taken any visits?
I’ve taken unofficials to Ohio State and to Michigan State.
And probably Minnesota too.
Yeah, and to Minnesota as well.
What would you like the audience to know about you away from the court?
I’m just a laid-back kid, I like to have fun. I’m not trying to draw a lot of attention to myself. I’m trying to be laid-back and do the right thing. I’m not one of those kids who is a trouble-maker or anything like that. I’m just pretty laid-back and I keep to myself.
You've grown up in Apple Valley.
Yeah, I grew up in Apple Valley. We have the Minnesota Zoo. It’s a nice community to grow up in.
What’s your current size?
I’m about 6’2,” 175.
Before we were talking about change of pace and I remember reading that one of the reasons you wanted to add that to your game was because you may not be the fastest guy…
Yeah, I’m definitely not the fastest guy, so I felt like if I could just add that to my game, I’d just be a lot more difficult to try to stay in front of, rather than if I rely on my straight-forward quickness.
Lastly, can you talk about the Duke offer and what you know about the program?
Yes, Duke has offered me a scholarship. I’m very grateful to them for that. Coach K is a legendary coach and he’s an unbelievable coach and Coach Wojciechowski and Coach Capel are great guys. I saw the Duke coaches watching. They've coached a lot of great players. It will be interesting to see what happens with this recruiting period.
Were you surprised by the offer? It’s much earlier than they usually give players scholarship offers...
Yeah, actually, I was. I guess it was earlier than they traditionally do offer kids. I just feel very blessed and I just feel very humbled that they’re even recruiting me and I never thought that I'd be recruited by any of the big-name colleges and so I feel very blessed to have them even interested in me.
Any thoughts on visiting them in the future?
Yeah, eventually, definitely. I want to take an unofficial there.
What are some future tournaments you will be playing in for fans who want to catch you? Obviously EYBL…
Yeah, EYBL at all of the locations, then at the end of the month, I’ll be in California.
Lastly, what are you hoping to show coaches this year?
I’m just hoping to show them my hard work and just the little things, like boxing-out and getting on the floor and just the little things.
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 entertained two key prospect this past weekend when Shabazz Muhammad and Amile Jefferson came to town for the Duke-North Carolina game. Jefferson will make a decision this coming week and we discuss the latest on both the recruiting trail and team in our latest update for Blue Devil Nation Premium Members. Patrick Cacchio has been talking to key football prospects as well and you can read those articles as well but becoming a member. And with AAU season coming up this is the perfect time to become a paying member where you will get all the inside scoop from the most active staff on the grass roots circuit.
We just posted our latest team and recruiting update on the Blue Devil Nation Premium message board which is a members only forum. For accurate and timely updates, BDN will always be a go to site. There is movement on the recruiting front and we break that down for you and let you know what to expect. We'll also tell you which players we've been positive on for almost a year while others are just jumping on the bandwagon. Our staff has background on Amile Jefferson with information you will only find here and we were on prospects like Tyus Jones before many realized the Blue Devils interest on him. Whether you're a former member or one on the fence, don't wonder what you are missing, join today. We have had a monthly option for a while now, but the yearly deal is by far the best value.