Introducing Duke’s Frosh: #50, Justin Robinson

SDBB - #50 Justin Robinson

As Coach K’s Freshmen-laden roster prepares for their first exhibition game on Friday night against Florida Southern, we’d like to introduce you to Duke’s Frosh for this season.

We’ll do it by the numbers … jersey numbers, that is.

So here is Ro’s next Profile … #50, Justin Robinson

The youngest son of David Robinson, Justin, was originally meant to be a preferred Walk-on at Duke, but Coach K awarded him a scholarship once he arrived on campus.

Where does Duke need him ???

There was speculation that with his father being a late bloomer – The Admiral was a 6’7” Freshman – maybe Justin could be as well, and spring up to 6’10”Not quiet the seven footer his father is, but that could improve his game a lot.  No one ever complains that someone is too tall in basketball.  The thing is, the younger Robison is already 19, so we can’t bank on that at this point.  What we can hope is that he improves his weight, which is currently 190 pounds, so that he can be a stronger Power Forward and work on his game for the future.

Who does he remind us of ??? 

Best Case Scenario:   Lance Thomas and Thomas Hill have all been lithe Forwards that have competed very hard for championship teams at Duke. 

Worst Case Scenario:   Todd Zafirovski, a Walk-on that moved to a scholarship player though he never saw the court during competitive periods. 

Our Take …

Robinson has a fight on his hands to get on the court at Duke this season and next, considering the type of recruits the Blue Devils are currently targeting.  He is a very astute student who cited Duke’s academics as one of the reasons for his enrollment, so we suspect he may not be too broken up about his future playing time.

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Watch for our next Frosh introduction right behind this guy.

We welcome your comments, either here or on our Twitter site:

@SimplyDukeBB

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Introducing Duke’s Frosh: #30 Antonio Vrankovic

SDBB - #30 Antonio Vrankovic

As Coach K’s Freshmen-laden roster prepares for their first exhibition game on Friday night against Florida Southern, we’d like to introduce you to Duke’s Frosh for this season.

We’ll do it by the numbers … jersey numbers, that is.

So here is Ro’s next Profile … #30, Antonio Vrankovic

Antonio Vrankovich has all the makings of a hidden gem.  He is an unheralded Three Star recruit who is listed at seven feet tall.  In his own words , “I am a low post scorer who sets great screens.” 

With averages of 27 points, 16 rebounds and 5 blocked shots as a Senior in High School, one can’t help but feel his ranking could have been hampered by his not featuring heavily on the AAU circuit.

Where does Duke need him ???

With Sean Obi, Amile Jefferson, Chase Jeter, Marshall Plumlee another post player may seem as an over kill at this stage, considering Coach K loves a short bench.  If you watch game tape, or in our case highlight film, you can see the intrigue he brings to the table.

Who does he remind us of ???

Best Case Scenario:  Mitch McGary, who played at Michigan, or Tyler Zeller who played at North Carolina.

Worst Case Scenario:   Marshall Plumlee

Conclusion …

One can’t imagine Vrankovic being a featured player at Duke right now, but who knows what the future holds. He seems pretty agile for a big man, and the more he can push his teammates the better Duke will be overall.

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Watch for our next Frosh introduction right behind this guy.

We welcome your comments, either here or on our Twitter site:

@SimplyDukeBB

Introducing Duke’s Frosh: #14 Brandon Ingram

SDBB - #14 Brandon Ingram

As Coach K’s Freshmen-laden roster prepares for their first exhibition game on Friday night against Florida Southern, we’d like to introduce you to Duke’s Frosh for this season.

We’ll do it by the numbers … jersey numbers, that is.

So here is Ro’s next Profile … #14, Brandon Ingram

Brandon Ingram is the highest rated player in Duke’s 2015 Class, so there are some expectations that come with that title.  Standing at 6’9” with a wingspan of 7’3” he is clearly a physically gifted individual that.

Where does Duke need him ??? 

Duke needs Ingram to play to his strength, which is scoring.  Without Quinn Cook, Jahlil Okafor, Tyus Jones and Justise Winslow, the bulk of the Blue Devils’ scoring need to be replaced.  Ingram is a multi faceted scorer, in that he can score off the dribble, shoot the Three, or score in the Post.

Defensively Ingram should be able to be a lock-down defender. His foot speed is nothing to brag about but, with his length and reach, he should be able to either contain his defensive assignment, or recover in time to block or alter shots.

Who does he remind us of ??? 

Best Case Scenario:   Many have compared Ingram to Kevin Durant, who played Power Forward while he was at Texas.  It is easy to see this comparison and it has a lot of merit, as they are similar in measurements and size.

We do see a little of Luol Deng in him too. Both are of similar height, however at this stage Ingram has more range on his jumper.  Deng was a very good defender as well – something Ingram can aspire to, hopefully.

Jabari Parker was a much bigger player, but one can imagine that Duke will use Ingram in the same manner.

Worst Case Scenario:   Harrison Barnes had a good two seasons at North Carolina, but there were long periods where he just completely underwhelming, because what he could do, and was doing, was miles apart. 

Our Take … 

Duke will be a perimeter-based team this season and Ingram will be the star attraction.   Coach K says that Ingram has added 23 pounds of muscle, since he arrived on Campus two months ago, which should help in the Post.

There is currently no established go-to-guy, but Ingram should have plenty of opportunities to fill this role based on his raw talent, and the excitement with which his coach spoke of him.

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Watch for our next Frosh introduction right behind this guy.

We welcome your comments, either here or on our Twitter site:

@SimplyDukeBB

Simply Duke Basketball – Introducing Duke’s Frosh: #12 Derryck Thornton

SDBB - #12 Derryck Thornton

As Coach K’s Freshmen-laden roster prepares for their first exhibition game on Friday night against Florida Southern, we’d like to introduce you to Duke’s Frosh for this season.

We’ll do it by the numbers … jersey numbers, that is.

So here is Ro’s next Profile … #12, Derryck Thornton

Duke will have only one prototypical Point Guard on the roster this season, and that will be Derryck Thornton.  Thornton skipped his Senior year of High School, but he turned 18 last May so he should be mature enough to step into this role.

He is a quick player that can finish with either hand in the Paint, preferably on floaters, and has a very good midrange jumper.  He has great vision, but if his teammates aren’t aligned with him, it can result in multiple turnovers. 

Where does Duke need him ???

Duke has a major vacancy at Point Guard and they are hoping that Thornton is the answer. A Point Guard is very crucial, especially this season where there is a shorter Shot Clock.

Coach K didn’t exactly anoint his as a Starter at the recent press conference but Thornton is crucial none the less.

Who does he remind us of ???

Best Case Scenario:  Thornton’s biggest strength is his ball handling ability, which reminds us of Kyrie Irving.  He also is just as quick.  Irving only played 11 games for Duke, due to injury, but he was exceptional from Game One.

Worst Case Scenario:  Quinn Cook is credited for setting the tone for last year’s team, however his transition to college basketball was as fluid as a ship in bad weather.  Thornton will have to be good from Day One as the only Point Guard.

Conclusion …

Thornton will no doubt thrive best in a run-and-gun atmosphere and Duke certainly has the pieces for that. More often than not, opponents dictate to most college basketball offenses, which means there will be plenty of Half-Court Sets, especially in ACC play.

Thornton will have to learn fast as he is already behind, being one of the later arrivals on campus due to his finishing up the requirements for his early enrollment.

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Watch for our next Frosh introduction right behind this guy.

We welcome your comments, either here or on our Twitter site:

@SimplyDukeBB

Introducing Duke’s Frosh: #5 Luke Kennard

SDBB - #5 Luke Kennnard

As Coach K’s Freshmen-laden roster prepares for their first exhibition game on Friday night against Florida Southern, we’d like to introduce you to Duke’s Frosh for this season.

We’ll do it by the numbers … jersey numbers, that is.

So here is Ro’s next Profile … #5, Luke Kennard

In basketball it helps to be as versatile as can be, but if you can master one skill very well it will take you a lot further, especially if it is shooting.   Luke Kennard can shoot the ball very well, but he is also a versatile player. At 6’5” he has great size for a Shooting Guard.  He is more of a combo Guard accustomed to having the ball in his hands.

Where does Duke need him ??? 

Kennard’s role was all set until Grayson Allen blew up in the NCAA Tournament.  Now it isn’t so certain.  As a shooter there will always be a place for him in Duke’s offense, but Matt Jones and Allen are likely ahead of him in the depth chart, at the moment.

One position where Duke can use him in is as a ball handler/backup Point Guard.  Even though he is a great shooter he can also handle the ball and was accustomed to being the main facilitator on offense for his high school team.

Who does he remind us of ???

Best Case Scenario:   The obvious choice is Jon Scheyer, who came to Duke as a Shooting Guard and, out of necessity, became the lead Guard during his Senior year, when he led to Duke the 2010 National Championship.

Luke Kennard is a little more athletic and will throw it down if given just enough space.

JJ Reddick is not a bad comparison either, in terms of shooting, but Kennard is much further ahead as a Freshman in terms of scoring off the dribble.

Worse Case Scenario:    Andre Dawkins

Our Take … 

At the moment Kennard may be the odd man out, but given the opportunity he will flourish.  If he isn’t given a starring role from Day One, he will make his mark with the Duke faithful by season’s end.

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Watch for our next Frosh introduction right behind this guy.

We welcome your comments, either here or on our Twitter site:

@SimplyDukeBB

 

 

Introducing Duke’s Frosh: #2, Chase Jeter

SDBB - #2 Chase Jeter

As Coach K’s Freshmen-laden roster prepares for their first exhibition game on Friday night against Florida Southern, we’d like to introduce you to Duke’s Frosh for this season.

We’ll do it by the numbers … jersey numbers, that is.

So here is Ro’s Profile of #2, Chase Jeter …

 

Chase Jeter is 6’10” and about 230 pounds and can play either Center or Power Forward.  He runs the floor very well and can finish plays around the basket.

Where does Duke need him ???

Duke needs a low post target to balance the abundance of outside shooters they currently have.  Seniors Amile Jefferson and Marshall Plumlee can score in the Post, but at this stage their consistency is questionable.

We expect Jeter to be given every opportunity to fulfil this role.

Who does he remind us of? ???

Best Case Scenario:   A quicker more agile version of Shavlik Randolph, who is able to stay on the court avoiding foul trouble. Randolph was a great Post scorer but a liability on the other side of the court.

Who remembers him going 6-for-6 against UConn’s front line during the 2004 Final Four game ???   Jeter has a similar length, better defensive awareness, and is no doubt much quicker.

Greg Monroe is another player Jeter is being compared to, though Monroe is a lefty.   The former Georgetown star was one of the best passing big men in college basketball during his time.   One can see Jeter blossoming into something similar especially with the talent Duke has on the perimeter.

Worst Case Scenario:    Josh McRoberts.

Our Take …

At the season opening press conference Coach K said that, “… low Post scoring will be more opportunistic than with Jah, where it is planned.”   So basically they won’t be running as much set plays to the Post as they did last season with Jahlil Okafor.   So, if Jeter wants to stay on the court he will have to rebound, set screens and take advantage of every opportunity that comes his way to score.   The better he performs, the more likely it is that his role will expand.

His Take …

“I just want to bring effort to the table,” Jeter said, “… running the floor, rebounding, scoring in transition, scoring in the paint, blocking shots.”

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Watch for our next Frosh introduction right behind this guy.

We welcome your comments, either here or on our Twitter site:

@SimplyDukeBB

CountDown to the “CountDown …” – Quinn Cook

Today’s Profile is by Rowan Shiell

SDBB - 2014 Profiles - Quinn Cook Collage

Quinn Cook is Duke’s lone Senior, one of two players remaining from the #2 ranked recruiting class of 2011. There were five recruits in that class: Austin Rivers, Marshall Plumlee, Michael Gibinije, Alex Murphy and Cook.

During their time at Duke, the Blue Devils had two first round exits, once in their Freshman season when they lost to Lehigh, and another loss to Mercer in what would have been their Junior year.  The furthest they have been in the NCAA tournament is the Elite Eight.  Prior to their arrival, Duke won three straight ACC championship titles.

Now Alex Murphy and Gibinije have transferred. Austin Rivers played a season before leaving for the NBA. Marshall Plumlee is still around but the jury is still out on him.  He initially Red Shirted and has not played much to date, so no one has a clear idea of what he is capable of on the court.

However, with Cook, no one is prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt. If he had decided to transfer for his Senior season, he would probably have left to a collective sigh of relief.

Last season was meant to be Cook’s coming out party.  He had previously played in the shadows of Rivers, Seth Curry, Ryan Kelly and Mason Plumlee.  He even made a heartfelt video about wanting to be a leader after having spent the summer in Durham with his teammates.

Then the season started, and Coach Krzyzewski didn’t immediately anoint Cook his undisputed leader. In fact, he had based his team around top ranked freshman, Jabari Parker and Red Shirt Sophomore, Rodney Hood, who was surprisingly named as a Captain, over Cook.

There were rumours the previous season about Hood being the best player in practice, and Jabari Parker, who was basically on a season’s lease, was a projected NBA draft pick.

These two were exceptional players, however, knowing that the Point Guard is the most important position in college basketball, you would have thought that Cook, who was also the top returning scorer, would have been given some elevation rather than just being seen as an afterthought at the season opening press conference.

“It’s not like one guy is trying to beat out one guy — basically, you’re trying to blend,” Krzyzewski said. “The two guys you initially want to blend with are Rodney and Jabari because they’re two very talented and versatile players.  So that’s what we’re going to try to do.”

The plan to blend with these two exceptional players looked promising in the first game of the season as Duke had four 20-point scorers in a game, for the first time in school history, as they took Davidson down, 117-77.  Sophomore, Rasheed Sulaimon, who started as a Freshman but was now coming off the bench, had 20.  Parker and Hood both scored 22. Cook looked as if he had taken that extra step to elite level with 20 points and eight assists.

However, the next game gave a clearer picture of the season to come.  Duke ranked #4 in the preseason played #5 ranked Kansas and their elite recruits of Joel Embiid and Andrew Wiggins.  Parker was exceptional again, on one side of the court, where he scored 27 points but defensively he was a sieve. His assignments Perry Ellis, scored 24 points and Wiggins scored 22 points to pace Kansas, as they ran away with the victory in the second half, 94-83. Hood had 11 points.

Cook scored 10 points and dished out 4 assists in 36 minutes. Even though Coach K hadn’t anointed Cook a leader, clearly he was prepared to play him big minutes. Cook’s scoring slump wasn’t the cause of the loss, the Jayhawks had outrebounded the Blue Devils 39-24.

Duke had set out to reprise USA Basketball’s model of playing their best five players, but that does not work in college basketball, especially if the designated “Bigs” can’t defend the opposing Frontcourt. A similar thing happened in loses to Arizona, Clemson, and at Syracuse (the return game at Cameron was a gift from first year ACC coach, Jim Boeheim).

Every player had some fault or the other, but their positives may have overshadowed their shortcomings, except for Cook. He may not have been named a Captain, but he was held accountable for the shortcomings of the team. He wasn’t a scapegoat.

Kenny Smith recently said “The success of a Point Guard will come from the fact that he understands how to play with people and still be an individual.” Cook struggled with this balance immensely.

Smith also said that controlling the tempo of the game was just as important as rebounding, defending, assisting and scoring, for a point guard. When the game got tough, Cook would try to shoot his way out instead of trying to get players like sharp shooter, Andre Dawkins, involved, or finding the “hot hand.”

The Clemson game in January was a prime example. They out rebounded Duke 48-30.   The three frontcourt players for Clemson, finished with “double-doubles” (scoring and rebounding). Hood had 20 points but barely registered any other statistic in 30 minutes of play. Parker had 15 and seven rebounds.

Cook played 40 minutes and finished with seven points and eight assists. He was 3-of-14 from the field, as Duke lost by 13. The game got away in the second half, once again.

That started a downward spiral for Cook who always seems to slump in January. That shooting slump eventually got him consigned to the Bench. However, the 6’2” guard responded positively, in the first game from the Bench, scoring 21 points in a victory over Boston College.

Duke would go on to win seven of their next eleven games but it wouldn’t get any better for Cook, until he scored 23 against Mercer, in a valiant losing effort, in the second round of the NCAA tournament.

By that time there were rumblings of better days to come because there was a package deal that would address all of Duke’s problems. Rebounding and game control goes with perimeter defense, in one swoop. This package deal signalled Cook was once again the outsider, only he is now a Senior.

Back in November, Jahil Okafor, the top recruit in the class of 2014, committed to Duke with his good friend Tyus Jones, a Point Guard who many see as the saviour to Duke’s Backcourt issues. Justice Winslow would eventually commit and Grayson Allen, who had already committed months before, made this recruiting class one of the best of the 2014.

Before the “one-and-done” rule, most Top 10 ranked kids had a very good chance of making an NBA team, somewhere down the line. Now if they are Sophomores, it is considered that something went wrong. Hence, it would be to their advantage to choose a school where they can show case their talents, and not have to wait behind upperclassmen for their turn on the court. If Tyus Jones, arguably the top Point Guard in his class, chose Duke, it is beyond imagination that he was going to fight for playing time.

Then there is the other aspect to this type of the deal. The school that a player picks will have do everything it possible, to make sure that the said player meets or exceeds expectations. If players that are expected to spend a year in college are around for much longer, then it only hurts future recruiting as other schools may use this against them.

This could be the real reason that Jones recently went on record to say he does not see Cook as a rival. If certain promises were made to him before he committed, then he would more than likely see Cook as someone who can help him that than deter him.

“We’re both trying to play in the backcourt at the same time and with each other we feel … we both bring different dynamics to the table that can help our team be good,” Jones said, as reported by Yahoo. “We’re looking at it as a positive rather than a negative. It’s a positive to have two point guards on the floor, so that’s what we’re trying to do.”

Ryan Harrow had a tough time at Kentucky before he transferred to Georgia State, where he had his best season, scoring 17 points a game and dishing out 4.2 assists. Thus, helping Georgia State win the Sun Belt title. He also played with another capable Point Guard, Devonte White.

Quinn Cook could have taken a similar option, as Harrow, by transferring to another school with less pressure, but he chose to stay. That says that he wants to be at Duke, which makes them better. Cook has never really had any competition, the last two seasons. Tyler Thornton was more of a running mate than a rival. Maybe this is what Cook Needs to keep him sharp throughout the whole season.

“I never looked at it as competition,” Cook said. “I get it – I get the Tweets, the Instagram posts. ‘Jones coming next year’ ‘Cook to the bench.’ That obviously motivates me, but I don’t put that against Tyus. Tyus isn’t saying that.”

Playing two point guards at the same time isn’t a bad thing. Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatwright just led UConn to a Championship. Coach Krzyzewski played Chris Duhon and Jason Williams together, during the 2001 Championship, and John Scheyer and Nolan Smith split the duties in the last Championship.

It is fascinating how much Quinn Cook’s time at Duke mirrors Smith’s. The exception is the latter is a Champion who made that extra step in his Junior season and will always be cherished by the fan base. Cook has yet to make that step but his time isn’t done yet. No one is more appreciative of an extra year than the Senior.

“I’m glad that college is four years,” He said. “I’ve got one more crack at it, and I want to make the best of it. I’ve just had this fuel in my mind and in my body all summer to leave as a winner.”

The greatest sports heroes aren’t those that had immediate success, but the ones that eventually overcame their inner demons to succeed.

 

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 the “CountDown …” – Justise Winslow

Today’s Profile is by Rowan Shiell

SDBB - 2014 Profiles - Justise Winslow Collage

With the graduation of Tyler Thornton, Duke is in search of a defender. All five players defend, but all the best teams have that guy who goes out every night with the intention of giving his defensive assignment a bad night.  Thornton was all heart but Justice Winslow has the desire and will to succeed as one of the best defenders in the ACC next season.  Here is the ESPN scouting report for the Freshman.

  • Winslow has a college-ready body and mindset that will help him influence the game with his defensive prowess.  His defensive versatility might be the best among the entire freshman class as the 6-foot-6 forward can defend Point Guards through Power Forwards.  The athletic Winslow can be a factor in full-court pressure or trapping situations as well as in a straight-up man-to-man denial defense locking up, the opposing team’s best offensive threat.  What makes him a special defender is that he is always thinking about where he should be next on the floor. Winslow will be extremely important for Duke next season.

The last sentence says it all.  Years gone by, Duke’s teams were able to get themselves back into games where they had an unfavourable start.  Not any more, the norm now is if they start the game badly it usually ends badly.  The reason being that they just did not have that defensive mindset to get back into games.  There isn’t that point in the game where you could almost guarantee Duke a token run anymore, you just hope for one as a fan.

It doesn’t help that the NCAA changed a few rules to encourage higher scoring, which took a lot away from the game defensively. No hand checking, or more precisely the defender cannot initiate any kind of contact with the offensive player without incurring a foul.  So, if a team doesn’t have a rim protector, or a player who takes pride in limiting his assignment, by moving his feet, it is game over (this could explain Mercer and Lehigh).

If they have that one guy who can effectively limit his mark then the knocked down effect would be a huge payoff.  If an opposing team can’t rely on their best player because he is having a bad night, due to said defender, it could throw them off.

As a Freshman, Rasheed Sulaimon was a superb defender but somehow regressed as a Sophomore.  If he can get back to that form and Justice Winslow meets or exceeds the hype, Duke would be in a good position, with two elite defenders, which will elevate their teammates’ defense.

The ACC is much stronger with the addition of Notre Dame, Syracuse and Pittsburgh last year, and Louisville this year.  These teams bring some outstanding guards and wing players not to mention their tradition of winning.

On top of that, the Blue Devils still have to deal with the usual conference suspects such as North Carolina, Virginia, and NC State. Teams such as Clemson and Virginia cannot be overlooked either, as their coaches have them on the rise.

Duke is going to need an elite defender to stop or impede the likes of Kaleb Joseph, Jerian Grant, Cat Barber, Justin Jackson, and Marcus Paige, just to name a few.

Think of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, who was a great defender for Kentucky in 2012, when they won the championship, or go back a little further to Luol Deng, who helped Duke to a Final Four in his lone season at Duke in 2004.

Deng was a shut down defender with a nice mid range jumper.  While Winslow’s shooting is seen as a work in progress, he is a strong dribble penetrator, however, if his defense lives up to the hype, anything he can add offensively would be like a full tank of gas in a 2014 Mustang.

“He is just competitive, says Tyus Jones.  “He is a lockdown defender. I think he is one of the best defenders on our team.”

Jones also says that he thinks that Winslow is a great rebounder, which is very valuable because one of Duke’s weaknesses is frontcourt depth.  Behind Jahil Okafor and Amile Jefferson is just Marshall Plumlee.  If any of those guys gets into foul trouble, the versatile Winslow maybe an obvious option considering scouts think he can defend power forwards as well.

One of the reasons that make Winslow such a talent is that he is a second-generation basketball player. Usually when we hear about Houston’s Phi Slama Jama, it’s mostly about Hakeem “the Dream” Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler but a basketball team is more than two individuals.

Ricky Winslow, Justice’s father, played with those two Hall of Famers as a Freshman and would go on to score over 1500 points in his four years at Houston.  He was drafted 28th, Second Round at the time, by the Chicago Bulls in 1987.

Sadly he didn’t get to play with a young Michael Jordan, but did play briefly for the Milwaukee Bucks before carving out a respectable career overseas.  His daughter, Bianca, who is currently a junior at Houston, was born in Italy.  Thankfully, for Duke, Justice is blazing his own path.

You know I have always imagined playing at the collegiate level,” says Winslow.  “So when it happens it will be surreal, in a way, but hopefully I won’t be too nervous. I am excited to be playing in front of the Crazies and in the best arena in the country.”

CountDown to the “CountDown …” – Amile Jefferson

Today’s Profile by Rowan Shiell

SDBB - 2014 Profiles - Amile Jefferson Collage

Going into his Junior season, Amile Jefferson seems to have been overlooked. Sure he was a top recruit who committed late to Duke among a lot of fanfare, but to date he seems to have just blended in. First it was the Mason Plumlee show. Then last season it was all about Jabari Parker, and to a slightly lesser extent, Rodney Hood.

This season Jefferson can’t hide, not that he did previously but a major contribution is required from him if Duke wants to make a deep run in the NCAA tournament. Even though he was injured over the summer and was off the court, he stood out enough, while Coach Krzyzewski was on USA duty, to be made a Captain upon the return of Coach.

Expectations are high for Duke with the arrival of four heralded Freshmen, but they can’t succeed without their upperclassmen. They have zero experience playing college basketball. So they are going to need help transitioning to a more disciplined and structured type of basketball.

That’s where Jefferson comes in and from all reports, he seems to be on the right track. A hip injury kept him off the court but he is fine now, ready to lead a relatively new squad into action.

Tyus Jones is hyped as one of the best pure, passing Point Guards in his recruiting class, if not the best. If he measures up to an inkling of his hype, Jefferson, who is very good at picking off defenders and rolling to the hoop, will fit with him smoothly.

After playing with Mason Plumlee, as a Freshman, Jefferson should get along perfectly with Jahil Okafor, who is considered not only the best Center, but the top recruit by ESPN in the class of 2014.

Duke will have a traditional team. Unlike last year’s experiment with players in their correct positions, except maybe Quinn Cook. He traditionally plays “Lead Guard,” but may start at “Off Guard” but that’s a minor concern as Cook can play both positions.

The Blue Devils should tick the boxes, for three-point-shooting, post play and mid range shooting. Three requisites of a potential championship team, which makes them harder to stop.

If a team can only shoot Threes and you take that away, so what are you left with ?  Not much, but if they can score inside and hit the midrange shot, it makes that team harder to pin down. This is basketball at its simplest terms.

The mid range area is where Amile needs to exceed to help Duke. Okafor is considered an elite Post player, so Jefferson will have some freedom to either take that mid-range jumper or pump-fake his man for a drive to the hoop. He is very good at finishing around the hoop. If he can hit that jumper consistently, it will keep the Defense from double-teaming Okafor in the post, giving the freshman ample room to do his best damage.

On the defensive end is where an entirely different struggle awaits the 6’9” forward. With a 7-foot wingspan, he should make a great help-defender, but as a one-on-one post defender he struggled to hold his position at times, hence his propensity to Foul. This has been Jefferson’s Achilles Heel. Last season, he had the highest Field Goal Percentage, by far, among his teammates, and struggled to stay on the court due to early foul trouble.

One of his best games was at Syracuse, where Duke lost in Overtime, but by that time Jefferson was reduced to a glorified cheerleader. He scored 14 Points, grabbed 7 Rebounds and dished out 5 Assists, but was eventually disqualified after picking up 5 Fouls. Syracuse was then able to take advantage of mismatches inside to win the game.

If anyone is primed for a breakout season it is Jefferson. If he can stay on the court and get 10 shots per game the return would be enormous for Duke, seeing that he made 64% of his field goal attempts as a Sophomore. He does need to improve his Free Throw Shooting though, as he made 50% of his attempts, last season. The silver lining here is he only attempted 2 per game.

Despite the wide criticism of his slight build, Jefferson doesn’t need to add further weight as he has the same build as Lance Thomas, who did a great job for Duke at around 220 pounds. So you have to figure Jefferson is fine as he is. Anthony Davis played at a similar weight at Kentucky and was named Player of the Year.

At the moment Coach Krzyzewski is very high on the junior captain.

“I think Amile has a huge role on this team,” Krzyzewski told the Herald Sun. “He is our best on-court communicator.  He talks well.  It’s a huge plus.  I’m not saying he’s Battier but that’s what Shane did.  He communicated the game as it was going on. You don’t have to wait for a time out.”