Much has been made about the circumstances surround Duke senior guard Andre Dawkins’ return to the program after sitting out last season and rightfully so. Taking the time off to address personal issues, there were some who opened wondered if the Chesapeake, Va. native had played his last game in a Duke uniform. But he came back, with a new number (34) and a desire to finish his Duke career on a high note.
In the Blue Devils’ first two games Dawkins played a total of two minutes, and with the number of options at head coach Mike Krzyzewski’s disposal playing time could be tough to come by. But a good player will always prepare and remain mentally focused, with the idea being that at any time their name can be called. Dawkins’ name was called on Friday night as the fourth-ranked Blue Devils took on an overmatched opponent in Florida Atlantic and he responded, knocking down five three-pointers and finishing with 17 points in the 97-64 victory.
Dawkins did his damage in 19 minutes of action, adding three rebounds and two assists on a night that saw Duke shoot 54.5% from the field and 12-for-23 from beyond the arc. While the accepted stars for this group, Rodney Hood and Jabari Parker, played as expected and finished with 28 and 21 points respectively Dawkins’ performance could bode well for the Blue Devils going forward if he’s able to provide perimeter shooting on a consistent basis. Adding another shooter to the mix would help alleviate some of the pressure on Hood and Parker offensively, and as a result make the Blue Devils even tougher to defend.
Quinn Cook added a team-high eight assists, and as a team Duke assisted on 19 of their 34 made field goals with just nine turnovers. In the first game after their tough loss to No. 5 Kansas at the Champions Classic, the Blue Devils never trailed and led 12-3 at the first television timeout. There was no hangover and Duke did what good teams are supposed to against overmatched competition: they came out of the gates ready to go and removed any doubt early.
Also of note is the fact that with his 21-point outing (ten rebounds as well) Parker became the first Duke freshman during Krzyzewski’s tenure to begin his career with three straight games of 20 points or more. And given the many talented freshmen who have played for college basketball’s winningest coach, that’s quite the achievement.
Parker and Hood will receive many of the headlines and that’s to be expected given their importance to the Duke attack. But don’t overlook Dawkins’ performance either, not just for what he’s overcome but also for what it could mean down the line for Duke.
While a few teams did manage to hold special events for the official start of practice this weekend, most simply went about their business with drills and conditioning. One team that was the exception to all of this was Louisville, which held the first of its two intersquad scrimmages on Saturday. The Cardinals had a head start of sorts on the season, as they played six exhibition games in Puerto Rico this summer.
One hope heading into Saturday’s scrimmage was that guards Trey Lewis and Quentin Snider would have better chemistry than they did in Puerto Rico. But according to Jeff Greer of the Louisville Courier-Journal, that remains a work in progress for the Cleveland State transfer (Lewis) and rising sophomore (Snider).
They struggled in Puerto Rico, and they struggled again in Saturday’s Red-White scrimmage, the first public intrasquad practice since August. They played one half of the game together, paired with the presumed starting lineup with Mangok Mathiang out with an eye injury, a group that also included Damion Lee, Jaylen Johnson and Chinanu Onuaku.
That team lost the first half by 13 points to a younger group of Louisville players, and Lewis and Snider combined for eight points on 3-of-12 shooting, five turnovers, five steals, four assists and three rebounds.
“I thought (Snider) and (Lewis) did not play well together,” U of L coach Rick Pitino said. “They’ve got to get used to that. Neither guy made other guys better. That’s what they need to learn to do.”
As Greer also noted in his story the Cardinals have in recent years employed backcourt tandems in which both guards are capable of making plays for themselves and others. On the 2013 national champion team Peyton Siva and Russ Smith led the way, with Smith being joined by Terry Rozier or Chris Jones the following season and Rozier/Jones being the grouping last season before the latter was dismissed from the team.
Once Jones was dismissed Snider saw more time on the court, and his development was one of the keys for a Louisville team that fell one win short of the Final Four. Louisville needs him to take another step forward heading into the 2015-16 season, because even with Lewis’ experience at the Division I level Snider has more experience playing in Pitino’s system.
But while Saturday’s scrimmage didn’t go as well as anyone involved hoped, there’s still plenty of time for Louisville to work out the kinks before they open the season November 13 against Samford.
With practices beginning this weekend, not only are players looking to avoid the injury bug but their coaches are as well. And in the case of Memphis, the Tigers won’t have one of their assistants on the court for a little while due to a knee injury.
Assistant coach Damon Stoudamire, who returned to Josh Pastner’s staff this summer after a two-year stint at Arizona, suffered the injury during a recent workout according to L. Jason Smith of the Memphis Commercial-Appeal. And Stoudamire will require surgery, which will put him on the shelf for a little bit.
“He was working out himself and I think he thought he was in his rookie year,” Pastner said. “We think he’s got a torn meniscus, which will require surgery and put him out for a couple of days.”
Stoudamire isn’t the only assistant coach working through pain either. Syracuse’s Mike Hopkins, who is also Jim Boeheim’s heir apparent as head coach, suffered a neck injury body surfing during a family vacation last month. Hopkins spent some time in a neck brace while putting players through workouts as a result of the injury.
As for the Tigers, they’ll have a mixture of experience on the perimeter and youth in the front court as they look to get back to the NCAA tournament after missing out last season. Among the newcomers are talented forwards Dedric and K.J. Lawson, with experienced guards such as Kedren Johnson, Trahson Burrell and Ricky Tarrant (grad transfer from Alabama) expected to be key contributors on the perimeter.