Jon Scheyer

Duke commit Luke Kennard responds to Tyus Jones’ departure

1 Comment

NEW YORK – On Wednesday morning, Tyus Jones, the Final Four Most Outstanding Player, followed in the footsteps of teammates Jahlil Okafor and Justise Winslow, becoming the third Duke freshman to enter his name into this year’s NBA draft.

In light of the news of Jones’ decision, lone Jordan Brand Classic Duke commit Luke Kennard, a 6-foot-5 shooting guard from Franklin, Ohio, was repeatedly asked to address the state of the post-champion Blue Devils, whose key components have been stripped down and shipped to the NBA.

Kennard, who made waves earlier this season by passing LeBron James on Ohio’s all-time scoring list, acknowledged that, prior to the season, he assumed Okafor would likely be NBA-bound regardless of the season’s result. He also stated Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski explained, when it came to Jones and Winslow’s respective futures, the determining factor would be their late-season performances.

Even with the idea of all three breakout freshman jumping to the NBA implanted in the back of his mind, Kennard made it clear it was still a pill he had to choke down.

“It kind of stinks that they’re leaving, they’re great players,” Kennard said. “I played with Justise and Tyus on the USA Team, U-18, this past summer. It’s going to be tough but we’re ready to come in and just play good and prove [ourselves].”

The departure of Jones leaves the Blue Devils without a point guard to their name, just a season after playing with two — Jones and senior Quinn Cook — in their starting lineup. With the tarp officially being torn off the gaping hole, Krzyzewski is trying to convince either, or both, of 2016 targets Derryck Thornton and Jamal Murray, to reclassify and join Duke a year early.

However, if those plans end up fizzling, Kennard may be the Blue Devils’ fall-back to run the offense next season. Kennard, who played some point in AAU, as well as high school, told SNY.tv that assistant coach Jon Scheyer reached out to him and told him to, “keep working on that ball-handling,” because they may need it sooner rather than later.

If anyone knows about converted point guards, it’s Scheyer. After playing off the ball his first three years at Duke, Scheyer moved to the point in the midst of his senior season and led the Blue Devils to their fourth national title.

Kennard also admitted that, even though his sales pitch may not be as polished as Kryzyewski’s, he’s been doing some recruiting of his own. And while his efforts to lure Caleb Swanigan to Durham proved futile, Kennard said him and fellow Duke commit — as well as future roommate — Chase Jeter have been “going hard” at Brandon Ingram about joining them next season.

Ingram, ranked by Rivals as the No. 19 overall player in the 2015 class, would be a tremendous signing for Duke, but, as a small forward, he would not be the answer to their point guard woes.

While the final recruiting picture remains blurry, one thing is for sure: whether it’s from the two, off the bench, or as the starting point guard, Duke will need some major contributions from Kennard, along with the rest of their incoming class.

Duke players put some Cameron Crazies through preseason ‘boot camp’ (VIDEO)

Leave a comment

The offseason for college basketball players is anything but a vacation, with the preparations for the upcoming season requiring them to make strides on the basketball court and in the weight room in order to improve their skill level. But what about the students who cheer them on throughout the course of the season? There really isn’t a “training” regimen for student sections, but rather the expectation that they’ll bring the energy needed to make their home court inhospitable to visitors and the occasional “cheat sheet” filled with chants to yell throughout the course of a game.

Duke junior center Marshall Plumlee took a different approach, as he put some Cameron Crazies through a boot camp of sorts in order to prepare them for the upcoming season. Plumlee took on the role of drill sergeant, with some of his teammates helping out with some of the drills. And there’s also an appearance from Duke assistant coach Jon Scheyer, who had to once again remind Plumlee that he doesn’t have his own office.

The video was shown Saturday night as part of Duke’s “Countdown to Craziness” event.

How do other hauls compare to Kentucky’s recent classes?

8 Comments

Some things never change.

Kentucky landed 2012’s top prospect in Nerlens Noel Wednesday night, a move that’ll almost certainly give the Wildcats the top-rated recruiting class in college basketball. Consider coach John Calipari four-for-four while in Lexington.

(He’s not done yet, either. Power forward Anthony Bennett, another 5-star player, is considering Kentucky, as are 5-star forwards Amile Jefferson and Devonta Pollard. Bennett is the best bet for the Wildcats, though.)

That’s a run unlike any other in college hoops history and gives the Wildcats four of the top recruiting classes the game’s seen since 2002.

Per Drew Cannon, who’s done work analyzing prospects for Scout.com and Basketball Prospectus, only North Carolina’s 2006 class and Duke’s 2002 class can compare to any of the last four groups Kentucky’s gathered. He places all of the ‘Cats classes ahead of 2007 Ohio State – the Greg Oden-led group that reached the title game – and ’06 Texas, which boasted Kevin Durant, D.J. Augustin, Damion James and Dexter Pittman (!).

Here’s his rundown of the top 16 classes since 2002, a combination of highly rated prospects and number of guys in said class:

That makes 2012 the closest hoarding of elite talent at a select group of schools since 2006. And those were some good groups in ’06.

All of the above classes include at least one 5-star guy, most have at least two or three. Some, like ’05 Kansas, feature four 5-star guys. And many were extremely successful. At least four (’11 Kentucky, ’06 UNC, ’05 Kansas, ’06 Duke) provided the backbone for national title teams.

The only question I have: Where will Kentucky’s 2013 class fall on this list?

You also can follow me on Twitter @MikeMillerNBC.

Cuonzo Martin presents an interesting option for Illinois

Leave a comment

Illinois’ all-out push for Shaka Smart might not be enough. The VCU coach is reportedly considering the school’s offer – thought to be in the $2 million range – to replace Bruce Weber, who was fired after the Big Ten tournament.

But if Smart doesn’t want it, there seem to be two candidates who do.

One is Duke assistant Chris Collins, who played high school ball in the Chicago area and has recruiting players from there to Duke, including Jon Scheyer.

‘‘He’s recruited in this area,’’ his dad, Doug, told the Chicago Sun-Times. ‘‘He’s come in and got some of the best players in Illinois to go to Duke, and I just think he’s going to be a terrific young coach. That sounds like maybe a proud daddy — and I am — but I’ve watched him.”

The other coach is Tennessee’s Cuonzo Martin, an intriguing candidate mostly for his Vols tenure – one season – and his ties to the Big Ten. Martin was a star at Purdue, grew up in East St. Louis and still has ties in the area.

And that’s important aspect. One of the biggest criticisms surrounding Weber was that he didn’t recruit the Chicago area very well. Martin would solve that.

From CSN Chicago’s Gail Fischer:

As a bonus, my source believes if Martin were coaching the Illini, he would put former Illini star Deon Thomas on his staff. Thomas, a Simeon product, would give Illinois another ‘in’ with the public league and help coach the program’s big-men which has been a source of weakness for the Illini.

Right now, Thomas is the head basketball coach at Lewis and Clark Community College in Godfrey, so he is gaining coaching experience. I’ve always wondered why the player who is Illinois’ all-time leading scorer and a public-league product is not involved with the program in any capacity? Martin is the first person to recognize this and suggest he join the coaching staff. I’d hire the guy based on that suggestion alone.

Tennessee finished 19-15 this season with some awful losses (Austin Peay, College of Charleston), but the Vols were so good down the stretch that they were on the NCAA tournament bubble. He also spent three years at Missouri State, where he was 61-41, including a 26-9 season his last year there.

He can coach. And if he can tap into the Chicago recruiting pipeline, he’d be a great hire.

You also can follow me on Twitter @MikeMillerNBC.

Duke loss shows how quickly tournament performance can shift perceptions

8 Comments

The NCAA Tournament is great at distorting reality.

While it’s the greatest playoff system in all of American sports, you must at least concede that the best team does not always cut down the nets.

To cap off a wild early-evening slate of games, Duke suffered what some may call the most embarrassing and unexpected loss in the history of the Coach K’s tenure in Durham.

A country rejoiced as C.J McCulloum led Lehigh through to the next round,  pulling off an improbable win that embodies what makes this tournament so unique.

But with the loss, one question must be raised:

How different, really, was this Duke team from many of their recent squads? More specifically, was this team really any less talented than the 2010 NCAA Championship winning Blue Devils team?

On the surface, the obvious answer is that, yes, the 2010 Blue Devils were a far better team.

They won the National Championship, so this should be a no brainer!

Yes, I understand that, but depending on how you interpret “better” and “team” in this context is important, so let’s  run some numbers on the two clubs so we can maybe get some good perspective here.

In 2010 the Blue Devils entered the post-season at 26-5 overall, 13-3 in the ACC.

The 2012 Blue Devils? They were 26-6, and also 13-3 in conference play.

Additionally, both teams went 7-4 in the regular season against the RPI top 50.

Basically, these teams had accomplished virtually the same. They had roughly the same number of good wins and bad losses, and everyone in the world hated them equally.

The similarities continue in some statistical areas as well.

This year’s Blue Devils team actually shot the ball better from the floor, with an 53 eFG percentage, a  few points better than in 2010 when they shot 50.5 percent.

Why?

While the 2010 team shot a bit better from the three-point line, you’d be surprised to know that this year’s team actually was better from inside the arc, with a 51 2pt percentage, compared to 47 percent in 2010. You can thank Austin Rivers’ dribble penetration for that.

Overall, the Blue Devils 2010 team were the game’s best in adjusted-offensive efficiency (123.5), which was a KenPom.com stat Duke apologists desperately held on to in March, arguing that their team was worthy of a number one seed based primarily on this figure.

Good for eighth best this season, the 2012 Blue Devils had an AdjO rating of 117, which actually ranks higher than top seeds Syracuse and North Carolina.

Defensively, things start to break up a bit, but not to the point where you could confidently say that this year’s Duke team should be placed on upset alert against a 15-seed. 2012 Duke allowed exactly one point-per-possession on 43.3 FG percentage, while 2010 Duke just 0.92 on 40 percent. Both teams were average and nearly identical in defensive rebounding.

Even without the numbers, I’m sure you’ve gathered that the difference between the 2010 Duke Blue Devils and 2012 Duke Blue Devils is rather negligible, or about 50 percent C.J McCollum and 50 percent the fate of a number of other championship contending teams.

Remember that in 2010 the Blue Devils peeved a number of people by grabbing the fourth number one seed. Nobody believed they were deserving,  but then Kansas got Ali Farokhmanesh’ed by Northern Iowa, Butler came out of the West, and West Virginia upset Kentucky in the Elite Eight.

Suddenly, the Blue Devils were the only one-seed in the Final Four, and it became their tournament to lose. They didn’t really have a star (although Kyle Singler assumed that role as best he could), played with a point-guard by committee (remember Jon Scheyer), and relied on a 7-0 Brian Zoubek to anchor the middle (a career four-point, five-rebound guy).

If anything, this year’s Duke Blue Devils team had more weapons, and were built at least get out of the first weekend. Guard oriented with a freshman that could create his own shot if the rest of the team was struggling, Rivers, in theory, could single-handedly save his team offensively when needed.

Last night Rivers tied for a team high 19-points. He shot only 5-14 from the floor, but it’s this type of player the Blue Devils did not have in 2010. They were far more reliant on offensive execution – a sustainable plan to win a National Championship, but oddly what can leave you susceptible to an early round exit if shots simply are not falling or match-ups do not work in your favor.

If Duke were to get past Lehigh, a trip to the South Regional final was perfectly within reach. Assuming they would meet Kentucky, it’s likely the run would end in Atlanta for this team, but even then we’d be talking about how respectable the Blue Devils season was, one that ended in only their second trip to the Elite Eight in seven years.

The tournament can be cruel and terrible for historical perspective, but these are the breaks in a field of 68.

Follow Nick Fasulo on Twitter @billyedelinSBN

Bruce Weber, recruiting and the Illinois’ recent struggles

Leave a comment

Its no secret that basketball in the state of Illinois is down.

Illinois hasn’t reached the same levels with Bruce Weber at the helm as they did when he was coaching Bill Self’s players to the national title game. DePaul, who was once a national powerhouse, is now the laughing stock of the Big East while Northwestern is, well, Northwestern. Southern Illinois had a run as the power of the Missouri Valley for a couple years, but they’ve fallen on hard times. Eastern Illinois, Northern Illinois, SIU-Edwardsville, Loyola (IL), Illinois-Chicago, Chicago State and Bradley are all sitting at the bottom of their respective league standings. Its a bad sign for a state that produces as much basketball talent as Illinois that Illinois State, who is smack in the middle of the pack in the Missouri Valley, is the second best team this season.

The problem, most believe, is that the programs in the state are unable to keep the region’s most talented players in the region. Just look at the freshman in this year’s class. Anthony Davis is at Kentucky. Ryan Boatright is playing for UConn. Wayne Blackshear picked Louisville. Past Windy City prep stars have left the state as well — Julian Wright and Sherron Collins went to Kansas, Jon Scheyer went to Duke, Derrick Rose did his year at Memphis.

Carbondale, IL, native and former Illini Stephen Bardo told the Chicago Tribune, the problem is that recruiting is a dirty game, and Weber isn’t willing to swim in that cesspool:

“Unfortunately it seems some that are (cheating) get some of the better players,” Bardo was quoted as saying. “It’s a fact of college basketball and something people don’t like talking about. People know Bruce Weber runs a clean program. He’s penalized because some people get kids out of Chicago who aren’t running a clean program.”

That’s probably a safe assumption, but its also not a secret. Who, in this day and age, is actually surprised that talented high school recruits are being bought? Its how the recruiting game works.

Personally, I think there is more to it than the simple fact that the state is losing talent to its neighbors.

The best of the best in Chicago aren’t going to start playing at DePaul until someone can prove that they can turn the Blue Demons into a winner, and Oliver Purnell looks like he has that program trending in the right direction. Northwestern is in a unique situation as they are only able to recruit kids that are as much a student as they are an athlete. Northern Illinois, Chicago State and Bradley and enduring coaching changes. Chris Lowery found out the hard way at Southern Illinois that bringing high-major talents into a mid-major program doesn’t always guarantee success.

But as far as Illinois is concerned, the issue isn’t recruiting. Bruce Weber has four top 100 players from the state of Illinois in his class for 2011. He had three in his class for 2010 and two more in 2009. Do the math, and Weber currently has nine players on his roster that were ranked in the top 100 nationally that hail from the state of Illinois.

Blaming the current struggles on the inability of Weber to recruit the state is a cop out. He is recruiting the state, and he’s doing it pretty well. But if you can’t coach up the talent you bring into your program, you aren’t going to win many games. (Fretting about his job security also isn’t new.)

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @ballinisahabit.