Getty Images

Duke’s R.J. Barrett could have big role on Canadian senior national team

1 Comment

Duke incoming freshman R.J. Barrett has made a big impact on the Canadian senior national team during his first two exhibition games.

Considered by some to be the No. 1 incoming freshman in college basketball this season, the 6-foot-7 Barrett averaged 18.5 points per game during Canada’s two exhibition friendlies against the Chinese national team. Canada basketball is preparing for an important stretch as they play in the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 Americas Qualifier next.

In the second win, Barrett had 21 points to go along with five assists and three rebounds as he was the team’s leading scorer. Considering that the Canadian senior national team features NBA players and other professionals, this is quite an accomplishment and something to keep an eye on over these next few weeks. Barrett has previously been a star for the Canadian national team, but it has come at the younger levels of FIBA play and not with the senior national team.

It’s one thing to dominant at the U19 level against a John Calipari-coached team of American high school and college stars. It’s another level when established pros are deferring to a player who is fresh out of high school.

Barrett’s development into a potential go-to player is not only intriguing for the future of Canadian men’s basketball, but it’s also important for Duke. Barrett has a chance to be a special talent next season.

With the Blue Devils having a very young team once again next season, they’ll ideally need someone like Barrett to take the burden of being the primary scorer. There isn’t a senior fallback option like Grayson Allen to rely on now that he’s moved on to the NBA. Duke is going to be one of the most talented teams in the country — on paper. But we still need to see how this extremely talented freshman class handles the expectations and the rigors of the ACC.

If Barrett shows an ability to take over games like he’s done with the Canadian senior national team, then it will be a good sign that he can be a dominant offensive player for the Blue Devils this season. It’s also interesting to note that Barrett will be the only member of Duke’s expected rotation who is not on campus with the team during the upcoming July 2nd summer session. Barrett is expected to join the team later this summer as the Blue Devils get an important overseas trip (and 10 extra practice days) to try to get the freshmen playing on the same page.

While Barrett has been the showstopper for the Canadians so far, Florida incoming freshman guard Andrew Nembhard will also be a player to watch with regards to the college ranks in this event. After going scoreless during the first Canadian exhibition win, Nembhard exploded for 18 points and three assists in the second win, as he went an impressive 6-for-7 behind the FIBA three-point line.

Coach K receives birthday cake fit for an all-time great

Justin K. Aller/Getty Images
Leave a comment

On Tuesday Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski celebrated his 71st birthday, and to mark the occasion he was gifted a creative birthday cake.

Coach K’s cake was a design of the Cameron Indoor Stadium court with a goat sitting atop half-court. Of course, the goat represents the moniker “greatest of all time,” and it also had medals around its neck to commemorate the three Olympic gold medals he led USA Basketball to in 2008 (Beijing), 2012 (London) and 2016 (Rio de Janeiro).

Duke recruit Bagley hoping to play in the 2017-18 season

(Jon Lopez/Nike)
2 Comments

Marvin Bagley III, widely considered the top recruit in the class of 2018, reclassified this week and could be eligible to play for Duke in the upcoming season.

His decision immediately thrusts the Blue Devils toward the front of the national-title conversation for the 2017-18 season.

But what exactly does it mean to reclassify and how does the process work?

According to the NCAA, all incoming student-athletes must complete 16 core courses from a list that includes English, math, natural or physical science, social science, foreign language, comparative religion or philosophy. Classes such as physical education, health and music do not count as core courses, nor do remedial classes or classes completed through credit-by-exam.

The student-athlete must also show proof of graduation from high school and have an ACT/SAT test score that corresponds to his or her core course GPA on a sliding scale; the higher the GPA, the lower the standardized test score needs to be.

The NCAA eligibility center’s amateurism team then determines whether to certify a student-athlete. The process and requirements are the same for every sport.

Bagley is scheduled to graduate from Southern California’s Sierra Canyon High School later this month, completing his course work a year ahead of schedule. His transcripts may be a little more complicated because he attended three different high schools and the NCAA will review his final transcript following his graduation to determine if he is eligible to play Division I basketball.

Bagley’s move is not unprecedented.

Through the years, five-star prospects who want to get a jump on their college careers — and potentially professional careers — have gone through the same process, though usually not right before the fall semester begins as Bagley did.

Mike Gminski is considered the leave-high-school-early originator, graduating a year early so he could play at Duke in 1976. He went on to become an All-American and played 17 NBA seasons.

In recent years, Kansas’ Andrew Wiggins, North Carolina State’s Dennis Smith Jr., Duke’s Derryck Thornton and Kentucky’s Karl-Anthony Towns were among the student-athletes who graduated early to play college basketball sooner. Kentucky’s Hamidou Diallo graduated a semester early and joined the Wildcats in January last season, but did not play. He declared for the NBA draft before deciding to return to Lexington.

Jontay Porter reclassified this year so he could play a year early with his brother, top recruit Michael, at Missouri. Canadian guard R.J. Barrett, considered the top recruit in 2019, has reclassified so he can graduate in 2018.

“With AAU and year-round competition basically, a lot of the players are ready for college-level play at an earlier age,” Gminski told WRAL in Raleigh, North Carolina, in 2015. “And most of these guys have been around a lot. They do a lot of traveling. They tend to mature pretty fast.”

Early graduation in football became popular in the early 2000s, though they typically only do it a semester early to enroll in college for the spring semester and participate in spring practices.

Baseball player Bryce Harper left his Las Vegas high school after his sophomore season and earned his GED so he could start playing professional baseball sooner. He played one season for the College of Southern Nevada and was taken with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 MLB draft by the Washington Nationals.

An opposite trend has started playing out in recent years, with parents holding their kids back a year so they can become bigger, stronger and more polished — some as early as middle school. Many top-tier recruits hold off going to college for a year, instead playing for elite prep schools after graduation for more seasoning and exposure.

Bagley opted for the get-to-college-early route, changing the landscape in college basketball in the process

Duke and Krzyzewski have “a decision” to make as injuries linger

Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images
1 Comment

Duke missed the production of veterans Grayson Allen and Amile Jefferson on Saturday in its 55-50 loss to Miami, the Blue Devils’ second-straight loss after falling to Syracuse earlier in the week. It also missed their influence on the offensive end.

Allen missed the game with an ankle injury while the foot problem that sidelined Jefferson for a pair of games in January continues to be an issue and limited to minor second-half minutes Saturday. Without the pair, Duke shot 31.8 percent from the floor and had 13 turnovers against the Hurricanes.

We need those guys to calm people down on the offensive end,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said after the game. “The continuity on the offensive end is not up to par with the defense.”

Both players will be re-evaluated before Tuesday’s home contest against Florida State, but Jefferson’s injury would appear to be the most concerning given it has lingered for well over a month now.

“I’ve got to make a decision with Amile,” Krzyzewski said. “He’s not running. He is not running at all.”

Duke could likely make it work in the short term if it was short just one of the Allen-Jefferson duo, but without both it stresses the ballhandling, playmaking and inexperienced frontcourt all at the same time. Luke Kennard was the only Blue Devil to crack double figures scoring against the ‘Canes while freshmen Marques Bolden and Harry Giles, who both have had their injury issues, were relatively ineffective in player fewer than 20 minutes apiece. Both Kennard and Jayson Tatum played a full 40.

At the start of the season, Duke had the look of a juggernaut, but given the multitude of issues they’ve faced seemingly from the jump, it has a bit of a slog with only a seven-game winning streak to have eased their pain all year.

What made the Blue Devils look so formidable before the season was their sheer level of talent. With Allen and Jefferson ailing, the move for Krzyzewski might be to just bet on that talent in the NCAA tournament rather than jockey for seeding position. He could keep Jefferson and Allen on the shelf as they heal, give Giles and Bolden a ton of run and then just make a go of it in the Big Dance, betting on the talent overcoming the inconsistency of the season.

Like Krzyzewski said about Jefferson, he’s got a decision to make.

Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski to have surgery

Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
4 Comments

Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski will miss an undetermined number of games as he is scheduled to undergo lower back surgery.

The procedure will remove a fragment of a herniated disk, and the expected recovery time is four weeks. He will coach Wednesday’s game against Georgia Tech before current associate head coach and former Oklahoma head coach Jeff Capel will step in as the interim coach, beginning with Jan. 7th’s game against Boston College. Capel also filled in for Coach K last season when he missed a game against Georgia Tech.

Capel was the point guard for Duke in 1995, when Coach K was forced to missed the second half of the season due to complications from a different back surgery. The Blue Devils went 13-18 that season.

“Dr. William Richardson, Dr. Friedman, and our medical team have worked tirelessly to help manage this issue for several weeks,” said Krzyzewski. “Together, we have determined that surgery is the best course of action at this time. During my recovery process, the team will be in the capable hands of Coach Capel, Coach James and Coach Scheyer. As soon as the doctors clear me to do so, I look forward to returning and giving our team 100% of my energy and attention, which is certainly something that they deserve.”

This is yet another twist in what has been a weird year for the Blue Devils. It started with Duke landing one of the nation’s best recruiting classes before watching all three of their highly-touted newcomers – Jayson Tatum, Harry Giles III and Marques Bolden – miss the start of the season through injury.

After Luke Kennard and Amile Jefferson carried the team to terrific start in their absence, the Blue Devils struggled against Elon and Tennessee State before Christmas and followed that up by getting pasted in their ACC opener at Virginia Tech over the weekend.

They are also still dealing with the fallout of Grayson Allen’s latest tripping incident. Allen is still indefinitely suspended from competition, and that is just the beginning of what is currently ailing Duke.

Duke’s season is at a crossroads. For a team that looked to be the heavy favorite to win the title as recently as Dec. 10th, this has been quite the turn of events.

VIDEO: Tearful Grayson Allen apologizes for another trip

Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images
5 Comments

While what will happen to Grayson Allen following his third tripping incident in a year remains to be seen, the Duke junior owned up to the mistake immediately following the Blue Devils’ win over Elon.

“I made a really bad play. I’m sorry to him, (Steven) Santa Ana. I’m sorry to the officials who have to call that. I’m sorry to my team because it’s selfish and taking away from them.

“I’m not proud of it at all.”

The mea culpa certainly appears sincere, and Allen deserves credit for taking ownership of his mistake. It’s something, though, he’s done in the past after such incidents and why many, including me, have called for a suspension for Allen with the reckless on-court behavior not changing despite the public proclamations of regret.

“I handle things the way I handle them,” coach Mike Krzyzewski said after the game, “and I think I’ve handled this correctly, and moving forward I will continue to handle it correctly, and I don’t need to satisfy what other people think I should do.”