SDBB – 2017-18 Coach K’s Assistants at Duke …

By Bill Wheeler

Duke is unique from other major college basketball programs with 4 Assistant Coaches who played their college ball at Duke under Coach K.   There are 3 who were on National Championship teams.   This brings solid continuity to communicating and implementing the Head Coach’s expectations.   One question we ask is if the impacts challenges to the Coach K’s idiosyncrasy of limiting player game development to 7 or 8 players in the past several seasons.  So, without further adieu, here are Coach K’s Right Hand Men …

Nolan Smith, Special Assistant to Coach K

Nolan is the latest Duke graduate to join the team as a Special Assistant in February 2016. He played for the Blue Devils from from 2009 to 2011, and helped lead Duke to the 2010 NCAA title.   His duties now include assisting the coaching staff in developing game strategies, breaking down game film, planning practices and contributing in staff meetings..

He has volunteered with Teen Cancer America and was named its North Carolina State Ambassador in the summer of 2016.

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Jon Scheyer, Assistant Coach

Jon is in his 4th year as an Assistant Coach after joining the staff as a Special Assistant. Jon  Duke to the 2010 NCAA title, and named MVP in the Championship game.  After graduation in 2010, he played in the NBA’s summer league and suffered an eye poke to his right eye that resulted in optic nerve damage and legal blindness. “Mentally and physically, it took a lot of hours in the gym to get my skill back.”   Jon has been instrumental in developing Duke players Tyus Jones, Frank Jackson and Luke Kennard.    This year he recruited Alex O’Connell.   This past May, Jon married the former, Marcelle Provencial.

The following is a link to a Sporting News article about Scheyer’s injury:

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Nate James, Assistant Coach

Nate is in his 11th year as a member of the Duke staff.  He played on Duke’s 2001 NCAA title team and was an assistant coach on the 2010 and 2015 title teams.    Following his Duke graduation, Nate played professionally in the United States and overseas.   He has served as an Assistant Strength Coach, Special Assistant and Assistant Coach.   Nate has a knack for training front-line players including Jabari Parker, The 3 Plumlee brothers, Jahlil Okafor and Harry Giles.  He was instrumental in recruiting 4 ranked forwards on this season’s team:   Jordan Goldwire, Javin DeLaurier, Marques Bolden, & Antonio Vrankovic,

Nate and his wife Bobbi have a son Nathanial.

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SDBB – Duke 2017-18 Player Profiles – Alex O’Connell

By Bill Wheeler

Alex is a 6’6″ 171 lbs. Guard, from Roswell, Georgia, who will wear #15 for Duke this season. He was ranked #55 overall by Rivals & #66 by Scout.  He was ranked #85 overall & #20 among Shooting Guards in the 2017 class by ESPN.

Alex comes to Duke with a multitude of accolades culminating in his being named Atlanta/North Fulton Player of the Year, as a Senior.   Thus, he attracted offers from Louisville (before the scandal), Syracuse, Georgia Tech, and Georgia.

Alex is athletic and can play at the #2 and #3 positions.  He has a quick release and is a good 3-Point and Mid-Range shooter facing, or falling away from the basket.  He can also play above the Rim.

At 170 pounds he needs to add muscle and weight.  In his own words “I need to improve my ability to play through contact.”  Possessing a need to develop his body and a desire to continue his academic career, we should have a chance to be seen at Duke for the next 3 or 4 years.

He was recruited by Coach Jon Scheyer.

Alex is the son of David and Crystal O’Connell.  He has 2  brothers, Shawn and Brady. Shawn plays Forward at Georgia Southern.

His family’s athletic genes include his father, David, who played basketball for Duke from 1973 to 1976.  His 2 uncles played at Notre Dame and Xavier.

He has a strong religious background, and stated in his commitment announcement:  “First off I want to thank God for blessing me with the ability to play basketball, and to compete at the highest level… I am excited to announce that I will be continuing my academic and basketball career at Duke University.”


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Jersey’s of Duke Players Retired: Chris Collins & Jon Scheyer in Illinois … Jay Williams in NJ


SDBB - Jerseys Retired - Collins, Scheyer, & WilliamsOne of the most incredibly special honours any player can have is to have his (or her) jerseys retired by their schools.  Recently three Duke standouts experienced this honour.

Chris Collins’ #20 and Jon Scheyer’s #23 were retired by their High School, Glenbrook, North in Illinois.  Interestingly enough, both have gone on to coaching positions with Duke, when their playing days were done.  Chris has become the Head Coach at Northwestern, while Jon is in his second year as a Duke Assistant.

If you take a moment to consider the odds of two youngsters playing for the same High School, then College, and then coaching at the same University, it boggles the mind.

Makes you wonder what’s in the water there, eh ???


 Jason “Jay” Williams has already enjoyed having his #32 jersey retired by St. Joseph’s High School in Metuchen, NJ.  Recently Jay also had his old Grammar School retire his old #32 jersey.  The former Sacred Heart School in South Plainfield, New Jersey extended that honour during a recent re-dedication of the school gymnasium.

I have always had a special interest in Jay as I also attended Sacred Heart and then St, Joe’s some 26 years earlier.

The gymnasium they re-dedicated was originally a church sanctuary built to be an essential part of the student’s daily lives, then for the congregation on Sunday and and other Holy Days.   As a 6th grader, I was part of one the first squads to play on that “real” gymnasium floor, once the sanctuary had been re-located to a newly constructed church.  A few years later, I would move on to St. Joe’s and have my basketball career stunted by a freak accident just as basketball season began.   I put my hand thru a glass door on my way to Science Class in an annex.  My hand, deeply cut, meant my playing days were essentially over.

I’ve long enjoyed what might be the closest connection a fan can have to a player, and while St. Joe’s has seen other players continue their careers, none have done it the way Jay has.  Many do not know that he excelled at other interests from the classroom to Chess.  He is now an integral part of ESPN’s college basketball team.

Having a Grammar School recognize his achievements is certainly a grand gesture, but one most certainly appropriate.  I guess you could say that having your jersey retired in all three of your schools is the ultimate “Trifecta” !!!

CountDown to the “CountDown …” – Rasheed Sulaimon

 This Article by Bermuda Bob

SDBB - 2014 Profiles - Rasheed Sulaimon Collage

Rasheed Sulaimon was heavily recruited out of High School and came to Duke, playing every game as a Frosh.  That was the year Duke reached the Elite 8.  His future looked bright as the odds-on favourite to pair with Quinn Cook in the BackCourt, but something happened along the way.  He apparently fell out of the favour of Coach K. The reason was the fodder of great speculation.

The truth of the matter was that he was subverted by Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood being cemented into starting roles.  He fell into a quandary as to what his role was expected to be.

Who will forget the game when he sat for the whole game, compared to his role in keeping Duke in their first conference game at Syracuse.  It seemed the tale of two players in one mind and body.

I have not been shy about my worry about the psyche of a player, recruited heavily by Duke, only to find themselves see a player recruited behind them to a starting position.  I’m not criticizing the kids who are recruited such as Jabari Parker, but ask you simply to put yourself in the kids’s shoes.  In the Sports Illustrated article about Jabari last season, there was a reference to Jabari’s mother being able to insist on a meeting with Coach K.  It makes me wonder if each player’s parents can do the same.

So, after a stellar Freshman season, a query of a Sophmore season, Rasheed finds himself, once again, needing to accept a role having to prove himself behind a player recruited behind him.   Once again, I’m not down on that Frosh, I’m just wondering how much a kid like Rasheed is oblidged to be able to accept.

This is one of the unexpected and unreported downsides of the “one-and-done” debacle.  It is apparent that to get those great recruits each year, “representations” of some sort are made.  So, what must go thru a player’s mind, when year after year he is subverted to a player who comes to Duke, have no intention of matriculating ???  Now, put yourself in Rasheed’s shoes.  He did not come to Duke as a “one-and-done” recruit.  He had a wonderful Freshman season.  Then he discovers that regardless of how well he plays, the Starting role he expected is summarily handed off to an incoming kid, who has no intentions of staying at Duke any longer than he has to.  No wonder some speculated that he came back to school less than the Coaching Staff might have expected.

In recent comments by Coach K, we hear things like “I think Rasheed is in a real good place, I think at times you, as you are growing as a young player, you see yourself in only one role. You don’t see yourself in the most productive role. I think right now he sees himself in what would be his most productive role.”

I’m sorry folks, but that does not sound like a resounding endorsement, nor affirmation. I know it leaves me, and most likely Rasheed as well, echoing the words of GrandPa in the movie “MoonStruck who, when asked why he was crying proclaimed, “I’m confused.”

There are two basic tenants, that are well documented in Duke Basketball:

  1. The players must buy into Coach K’s vision for them.
  2. The players must prove themselves each week in Practice.

So, once again, let’s listen to what Coach K has recently said about Sulaimon: “I think Rasheed is in a real good place, I think at times you, as you are growing as a young player, you see yourself in only one role. You don’t see yourself in the most productive role. I think right now he sees himself in what would be his most productive role.”

As a long-time fan and observer, all I have to depend on right now is what is being released in carefully molded snippets. Assistant Coach Jon Scheyer recently noted that “Rasheed needs consistency.”  

Then again, Coach K adds: “He is our best on-ball defender.  At 6-4, he’s an outstanding athlete.  That’s what he does the best.  So concentrate on that, as your staple, your foundation. Then the other things will come.  And how does that fit in to the other things that we’re trying to do ???”

Gosh, I hope that’s something positive because right now, it appears that Rasheed is the proverbial “6th Man” who is expected to come in off the Bench and put fires out … I hope !!!  He is too good a player to be just giving the Starters a “blow.”

By now, you have a pretty good idea that I’ve long been a fan of Rasheed “Su-Su-Su-laimon” as I have been know to Tweet when referring to times when he excels.

I am known for noting that incoming players are nothing but a blank sheet of paper because they come to Duke and face some of the roughest competition in college basketball. We have no way of knowing if they will rise from being the center of attention in High School. If they do, then it’s going to be a fun year, if they don’t, then my prediction of the downside of the “one-and-done” recruit comes to pass.  One only needs to recall Lehigh and Mercer as proof of my contention.

The prevailing thought right now is that Rasheed will rise from ashes and emerge a stronger, more versatile, and smarter veteran player on a team that desperately needs the leadership I hope he will be allowed to bring.

Rock On, ‘Sheed, Rock On !!!

CountDown to “CountDown …” – Assistant Coach Jon Scheyer

 This Article by Bermuda Bob

Simply Duke Basketball - 2014 Profiles - Jon Scheyer Collage

Jonathan James Scheyer

“Jon” to all of us, is a well known role player at Duke, having led the 2009-10 team to the last National Championship for the school. Very often called on to switch from his natural Shooting Guard position, he always did so with great aplomb.

During his four (4) years at Duke, his pages and pages of accomplishments, are something I suggest you look up and marvel at when you have the time.

He will always be remembered as a deft shooter from anywhere on the Court, especially from the Charity Stripe. His trademark passing and acrobatic penetrations to the basket made some equate him to “Pistol Pete” Maravich. He produced one of the best Assist-to-Turnover Ratios in the country his Senior year.

After cutting down the Net in Indianapolis, Jon went undrafted but was signed to the Miami Heat’s 19 man Summer League roster for 2010.   As expected, he excelled, but his success was short lived. In July, he was poked in the right eye. The injury tore his eyelid, detached and tore the Retina, and injured the Optic Nerve. The injury also caused him to suffer from incapacitating headaches.

Essentially, with his eye fully healed, Jon got some time in with the Houston Rocket’s D-League squad, he averaged 13.1 Points, 4 Assists, & 4 Rebounds. Then he signed with Maccabi Tel Aviv of the European League and played a year there. He came back to the states, played sparingly in the 76’ers Summer League and for Spain’s Gran Canaria.

As anyone who knows, Coach K keeps tract of his extended family. Understanding the potential Jon could bring to the sidelines, he appointed Jon as a Special Assistant, filling the spot left open when Chris Collins left for the Head Coaching job at Northwestern in 2013. The next year, Jon would be promoted to Assistant Coach when WoJo was named Head Coach at Marquette.

Jon brings plenty to the Coaching Staff, but moreover, as a four (4) year graduate, he understands, along with Jeff Capel and Nate James what fully matriculated players mean to the Duke programme. I’m sure he will be at Duke for a long time, and I doubt if you could find anyone who doesn’t think that it’s a great idea !!!

Rock On !!!