Today’s Article is by Rowan Shiell
In 2006, Mike Conley Junior and Greg Oden, the top ranked pure Point Guard and Center, respectively, chose to attend college together. They had played on the same high school team, winning three consecutive championships, so it was a slam-dunk to continue playing in college.
These are two players that do not directly compete with each other. One plays inside and the other played on the perimeter. The big man needed the Guard to feed him the ball and the Point Guard needed the Center to finish plays and protect the paint. A symbiotic relationship that saw Ohio State, their college choice, all the way to the NCAA championship game.
It took about seven years before a partnership like this was repeated when Tyus Jones and Jahil Okafor, committed to Duke. Unlike Oden and Conley, they didn’t play on the same high school team. They lived nearly eight hundred miles apart, but they got familiar with each other on the AAU circuit and later cemented their friendship playing for Team USA, according to Duke Report.
It is a wonder why players never make their recruiting a team affair. Kentucky does pull in the top recruits but that is a testament to the coaching staff. An ally on the court and a friend off, it will help make the transition to college go a little more smoothly.
“They’ve been around each other. They understand about playing for something bigger than yourself.” “Said Coach Nate James. “It’s an opportunity to play for something outside your AAU or high school program. Sometimes guys just don’t get it. By those guys being on that stage and playing for something so much bigger, coming here, obviously, playing with Duke on your chest, that’s pretty big. Right away, they understand they have to work hard and give of themselves. They have been a joy to be around.”
Ohio State did lose to the defending champions Florida; not saying that this will end the same for Duke, but it would be a significant improvement after the Mercer loss in the tournament.
Tyus Jones is widely considered the key to next season as Duke has many offensive weapons, but are still looking for that one player that could connect the pieces.
“I really just try to play with poise,” Jones told Duke Report. “Being the Point Guard, you really have to be under control, be able to lead your team, so you can’t really be frantic out there. I feel you have to command the game. I’m really a pass-first Point Guard.
All this is evident in this thirty-seven minute clip. You can see Jones in his element, warts and all, much unlike a highlight video that normally shows only the best plays.
In the video, he seems so cool he is almost freezing. The ball never stops with him as his eyes are always scanning the court and looking for the next play. He doesn’t force passes, or over dribble – a crime Duke Fans are only too familiar with. He keeps the game fluid and balances his teammates’ touches.
It is not all great though as he seems to apply his ‘cool’ demeanour on defence, which probably won’t work in college, because a more intensive approach to that department is required. Occasionally, he shows the ball too much and gets stripped (OK, twice!).
However, he is still a work in progress and one can only hope that the kinks in his game can be ironed out by the time the season starts.
Jones models himself after Chris Paul, but he has a lot more in common with Conley than the way they attended college. They are both listed as 6’1” and dribble in the same upright position, head up, except Conley is a southpaw. Though this doesn’t hamper Jones, as he seems to be comfortable finishing or passing with either hand.
When Conley arrived at Ohio State, he had only one Guard to beat for a starting position, just like Jones, even if it was considered a foregone conclusion that he would start.
Jamal Butler was named Ohio’s Mr Basketball coming out of high school. His total Assist record for The Buckeyes was only recently eclipsed by Aaron Craft. As a Sophomore he had averaged ten points and almost five assists and was ready for that expectant leap between the Sophomore and Junior seasons when Conley showed up.
Needless to say, Conley became the Starter, but Butler averaged more than 30 minutes per game that season and was the team’s best free throw shooter.
Quinn Cook is arguably a better player than Jamal Butler, or at least he was projected to be. He hasn’t made a firm mark on his Duke story yet. As the only Senior on the team it is widely speculated that Jones will have to go through Cook to star at Duke, except Jones doesn’t see it this way. As he recently went on record saying, he hopes to play with Cook rather than have him as a rival, according to the Star Tribune.
Having two Point Guards on the floor worked very well for Ohio State, hopefully, it will for Duke.