Andre Dawkins

Rasheed Sulaimon benched

Duke doesn’t need Rasheed Sulaimon if they have three guys that fit into a role

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DURHAM, N.C. — The story of No. 10 Duke’s 79-69 win over No. 22 Michigan on Tuesday night was some combination of the Blue Devils’ defensive prowess and the Wolverine’s offensive struggles.

Whether you believe that Michigan’s horrendous night, which saw them score 50 points and shoot 39.1% from the floor in the first 38 minutes, was evidence that the Blue Devils have turned a corner on the defensive end or is proof-positive that the Wolverines aren’t going to be a factor in the Big Ten title race probably depends on what shade of blue you’re wearing.

But what’s inarguable is that Duke put a thorough whooping on Michigan.

It was the best game that Duke has played this season.

“Definitely,” Rodney Hood said after the game. “Especially defensively.”

Which is interesting when you consider the fact that Rasheed Sulaimon took the dreaded DNP-CD: Did Not Play-Coach’s Decision. Remember, we’re talking about a guy that averaged 11.6 points as a freshman, a guy that many expected to be an explosive No. 3 scoring option for the Blue Devils this season. He was supposed to be another weapon is what is a lethal offensive attack for Mike Krzyzewski.

Except he hasn’t been.

Sulaimon scored 33 points in his first two games this season, but has been a non-factor over the course of the six games leading into Monday night. He was 6-for-28 (21.4%) from the floor during that stretch, hitting just 1-for-9 from three and averaging just 4.0 points. “He has to play better than the guys who played tonight,” Krzyzewski in his press conference last night.

“As a man, he has to step up and accept what he needs to do,” Tyler Thornton said to Laura Keeley of the Raleigh News & Observer. “We need him. That’s all I can really say about that.”

“He knows what he needs to do, I don’t really want to speak on that. He has a week and a half until our next game. We have a lot of practice time. Hopefully we can get what we need out of him in that span.”

“It’s basketball,” senior guard Andre Dawkins said. “Everybody who plays shooting guard has had a DNP already this year. It’s what happens when you have this deep of a team, sometimes guys just aren’t going to play. It doesn’t mean we don’t need him to be good or to help us out.”

Dawkins’ answer is interesting.

He’s had his own trials and tribulations as a member of the Blue Devils. He was essentially told to take last season off by the Duke staff as he dealt with the grief of losing his sister. He returned this season, posting some big numbers in games against teams like UNC-Asheville, Vermont and Florida Atlantic. But he didn’t play against Kansas. He managed all of 12 minutes in two games at the Garden last week. He’s been pushed way down the bench this season, but he also stepped up and made the two biggest shots of the game last night.

Michigan had chipped the lead all the way down to 46-40 and had the momentum midway through the second half. You could feel it in the building; the Wolverines were going to make this a game. And then, BOOM, Dawkins comes in cold off the bench and buries a three on his first touch. On the next possession, BOOM, he drills another three to put Duke up 12. He added a running layup a minute later, which all but sealed Michigan’s fate.

Those were the two biggest shots of the game.

Without question.

Duke’s other two off-guards, Thornton and freshman Matt Jones, finished with just eight points in 38 combined minutes, but they were just as valuable as Dawkins. Duke’s game-plan defensively was to take away Nik Stauskas first and foremost, worrying about the rest of Michigan’s roster after they ran the Canadian gun-slinger off the three-point line and limited his driving lanes at the rim.

Thornton and Jones drew that assignment. Stauskas played 34 minutes and finished 0-for-2 from the floor.

Coach K can’t ask for much more out of his off-guards, and that’s a massive problem for Sulaimon.

The bottom-line is that Duke’s offensive is going to run through Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood. That’s not changing. Quinn Cook has proven that he’s more than capable of being a third-option offensively. Don’t believe? Last night, with Parker and Hood struggling, Cook exploded for 24 points and nine assists, doing most of his damage after halftime.

Quite frankly, Duke doesn’t need Sulaimon to be “Rasheed Sulaimon”. They need an off-guard willing to guy into a role. They need a lockdown defender that can knock down threes. If Sulaimon is unwilling to buy into that role, the three-headed monster of Thornton, Jones and Dawkins have proven themselves to be more than capable.

If he doesn’t want to play that role, then he doesn’t want to play.

Duke looks like they’ll be just fine.

Andre Dawkins’ shooting tonight could be an important development for No. 4 Duke

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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.

Assigned Reading: Andre Dawkins’ battle with depression

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Duke’s Andre Dawkins was expected to be a star.

A former five-star recruit, Dawkins enrolled at school a year early and became a key member of the Blue Devil’s 2010 national title winning team.

The future was bright for the sharpshooting Dawkins, but he never lived up to that potential. You see, his sister died tragically during his freshman year: driving to Durham to see him play. It was a soul-crashing for Dawkins, one that he was unable to deal with.

He became depressed, and over the course of the next two years, kept to himself more and more. Eventually, he was told to take a leave of absence from the program by Mike Krzyzewski.

He did. For a year. And now he’s back. Seth Davis has the story of Dawkins’ return from the dark side, and it is just as good as advertised.

Assigned Reading: Andre Dawkins returns to the court

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Andre Dawkins’ college career got off to a great start. Enrolling at Duke a year earlier than expected, the 6-foot-5 shooting guard proved to be a valuable role player on a team that won the national title in 2010. But was doing this while dealing with tragedy.

On December 5, 2009 his sister lost her life in a car accident, with the accident occurring as she and Andre’s mother were on their way to Durham to watch the Blue Devils take on St. John’s.

The thing about the grieving process is that we never know its duration; like anything else all people are different and they address such situations in their own way. That was the case for Andre, who played three seasons at Duke before it was decided that he needed to redshirt last season in order to best take care of himself.

Krzyzewski publicly announced that Andre was redshirting, and the program would honor Andre’s scholarship, but redshirts usually participate in most team activities and practices apart from actual games. But Andre had nothing whatsoever to do with the team during the 2012-13 season.. “The main mission for him,” Duke assistant coach Jeff Capel told GoDuke.com recently, was “for him to get better.”

In a story written by Brandon Sneed of SB Nation, that process is addressed but not in the usual “athlete pours out his soul in an interview” kind of way. The story can be read here.

2013-2014 Season Preview: No. 5 Duke Blue Devils

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All month long, CBT will be rolling out our 2013-2014 season preview. Check back throughout the day, as we’ll be posting three or four preview items every day.

To browse through the preview posts we’ve already published, click here. The rest of our Top 25 Countdown can be found here. For a schedule of our previews for the month, click here.

Last Season: 30-6, 14-4 ACC (2nd); Lost to Louisville in the Elite 8

Head Coach: Mike Krzyzewski (34th season at Duke: 884-238 overall, 350-153 ACC)

Key Losses: Seth Curry, Mason Plumlee, Ryan Kelly

Newcomers: Jabari Parker, Rodney Hood, Matt Jones, Semi Ojeleye

Projected Lineup

G: Quinn Cook, Jr.
G: Rasheed Sulaimon, So.
F: Rodney Hood, So.
F: Jabari Parker, Fr.
C: Amile Jefferson, So.
Bench: Marshall Plumlee, So.; Josh Hairston, Sr.; Matt Jones, Fr.; Semi Ojeleye, Fr.; Andre Dawkins, Sr.; Alex Murphy, So.; Tyler Thornton, So.

They’ll be good because …: The Blue Devils just have so many talented perimeter weapons on their roster this year, including three guys that could eventually be lottery picks in the NBA Draft. We’ll start with the obvious: a consensus top three recruit in Jabari Parker, a 6-foot-8 do-it-all wing that will team up with Rodney Hood, a Mississippi State transfer and another 6-foot-8 do-it-all wing, to give Coach K arguably the best pair of forwards in the country. Throw in sophomore Rasheed Sulaimon, the underrated Quinn Cook at the point and Matt Jones, Andre Dawkins and Tyler Thornton off the bench, and it is going to be tough to earn minutes in the Blue Devil’s back court.

What makes this team the most dangerous is that Parker and Hood are big enough that they can essentially play with five perimeter players this season, creating all kinds of different mismatches. Can you imagine opposing centers trying to stay with Parker or Hood 20 feet from the basket? It’s a terrifying thought, really. With the amount of perimeter shooting and offensive firepower that the Blue Devils have, don’t be surprised to see them spread the floor, get up and down the court, and score a lot of point this season.

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Jabari Parker (AP) and Rodney Hood (GoDuke.com)

But they might disappoint because …: Duke really doesn’t have any size at all this season. Amile Jefferson got the start in the middle in the Blue Devil’s first exhibition game of the season over the weekend, and he is naturally a wing that’s slender and stands all of 6-foot-7. Marshall Plumlee is a seven-footer with a ton of athleticism, but does he have the strength to hold his own in the paint in the toughest league in the country? Josh Hairston has been a solid role player for three years for Duke, but he’s really not much more than that. Semi Ojeleye can soar, but he’s still undersized as a front court player.

The reason that Duke is dangerous this season is that they can create mismatches on the offensive end of the floor, but what happens when they play talented teams that have forwards that can defend on the perimeter? What happens when they have to try and stop a Julius Randle or a Mitch McGary in the paint? Will Duke be able to keep teams off of the offensive glass? Will those mismatches be worth the risk of getting Parker or Hood in foul trouble?

Outlook: Duke is in a weird spot this season, as they might end up being better than they were a season ago despite losing their top three scorers from that team. The influx of talent they get this season with Parker and Hood will help keep them afloat, but the fact that Coach K didn’t bring in a big body from the recruiting trail is a bit concerning.

That said, Duke will be quite a bit of fun to watch this season if everything goes according to plan. Their smaller lineups will be a nightmare for teams with a more traditional roster makeup to try and matchup with, and the fact that they’ll be playing an open, uptempo style that should include plenty of three balls won’t hurt, either. Throw in the new physicality rules, and Duke is going to be a team that will score a lot of points this year. They should enter the season as the ACC favorites.

Andre Dawkins will reportedly not practice with team during redshirted 2012-13 season

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Early this summer, Andre Dawkins was redshirted for the upcoming 2012-13 season as he continued to cope with the death of his sister.

Now, it had been decided that Dawkins will not practice with the team, though he will remain in school, the News & Observer is reporting.

“He is doing really well with that,” Andre Dawkins Sr. told the paper. “We’re supporting him in whatever way we can. We’re just taking it one day at a time.”

Dawkins’ sister, Lacey, was killed in a car accident in Dec. 2009 as she drove to see her brother play against St. John’s in Durham.

He averaged 8.4 points in just over 22 minutes per game last season for the Blue Devils, with his biggest game coming in November against Michigan State when he scored 26 points and added four steals.

He will have one year of eligibility remaining when he takes the court in 2013-14, a plan that his father insists will remain on track, despite recent setbacks.

Duke opens its season against Georgia State on Nov. 9 at Cameron Indoor.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_