Mailbag: Austin Rivers, Recruiting Updates, and the Best DBP Videos Ever

Happy FDOC, Crazies! Welcome to our first ever mailbag, where we asked you to tweet us some of your most burning Duke basketball questions. Special thanks to all who submitted their queries – we couldn’t have done this without you.

This team has grown a lot since winning the Maui Invitational. #nomee (Photo courtesy of DukeBluePlanet)

Q: What happened to the dominant team we saw in Hawaii? – @AyeJayTwo 

I think we’re not looking as “dominant” as we were in Hawaii because we’re starting to face teams that can really exploit our weaknesses, namely big, athletic guards/SFs who can take our guards off the dribble. That, and we’re starting to play legitimate road games, unlike a certain team 8 miles down the road. From Dec 6-Jan 10, UNC has played 9 home games. In. A. Row. But I digress. We’re 13-2 after a crazy beginning of the season, and we have a very young squad. Even in Hawaii, I don’t think we were ever a dominant team, since it did take quite a bit of luck to take down Kansas. Unfortunately, unless this team has a defensive renaissance, many of our upcoming games will likely be closer than we’d like them to be. [Arun]

Q: Can Duke win it all with Austin playing small forward where he is struggling and having to play against much bigger guys? – @bluedevilrayne 

I’m assuming that you’re suggesting that we shift Austin to the two. The problem with shifting Austin to his natural position at the shooting guard spot is that Seth Curry is already occupying it. We’ve got quite a bit of natural two guard talent on the team right now, with Curry, Rivers, and Dawkins, and since it looks like Coach K is giving Quinn Cook the reins at the point guard spot, Seth Curry will need to stay at the two (since he’s obviously not big enough to be a wing). In my opinion, if we want to have our best scoring/point guard options on the floor, then Cook, Curry, and Rivers need to be on the floor. So back to your question…can we win it all with Austin playing small forward against bigger guys? I’d say yes, but unfortunately, I think this is the best option we have, since we really can’t afford to shift him and consequently lose a huge chunk of our scoring. Of course, there’s also the possibility that we bring in Mike G to the 3 spot, shift Austin to the two, and alternate between Seth/Quinn at the PG. But again, we can’t afford to eliminate Seth’s scoring ability by taking him off the floor for an extended period of time. However, I think that Austin’s gradually becoming a better defender, and he definitely has the physical abilities to be a good one. Let’s just give him some time. [Arun]

Silent G has shown glimpses of awesomeness so far. (Photo courtesy of DukeBluePlanet)

Q: Why do Josh and Michael not play more? They are our only true [small forwards]. Throw out the 3 guard crap!@dukies2012 

That’s an interesting question to pose. Really, it comes down to a matter of offense vs. defense. The coaching staff feels that the 3 guard line-up, with whoever it may be on the court, provides better mismatches on the offensive end. There are a plethora of guards on the roster. Any combination of them in the game gives the team great chances to score, and that cannot be overlooked (see Arun’s response to the previous question). At this point in the season, Hairston and Gbinije haven’t quite shown themselves to be huge offensive threats, though both have shown some spurts of success on that end. However, the Temple game showed that the team needs to improve its perimeter defense.  The tail end of the Georgia Tech game also showed that, as Glen Rice Jr. was almost scoring at will. That’s where someone like Gbinije could step in. He has the speed, size, and wingspan needed to excel in stopping that type of player. Hairston is also great on defense, but he is more of a power forward than a small forward and should get his minutes working down low. Now, as a Duke fan, you might be looking ahead to the two dates with Carolina this season and asking yourself who’s going to guard someone like say…Harrison Barnes? Barnes is almost an automatic mismatch, it seems. At this point, it’s unclear, but that certainly could be a role that Gbinije takes on. As the first game with UNC nears, be on the watch for more from us on topics like this. [Scott]

Q: Is anyone working with Rivers on his mid-range game? – @jameezy9

Austin’s been in a bit of a slump lately, no denying that. 9 of 29 shooting in the last 3 games isn’t quite what we’ve come to expect from him, nor is it what he expects out of himself. I can’t say for sure if a coach is working with him on his mid-range game, but it’s likely the case. We can already see how Austin’s made strides in his court vision and passing ability in the few games so far this season, and his mid-range shooting is just another area of his game he will improve. He’s a workhorse and seeks the best out of himself. Just take a look to his Twitter account. His bio reads “Creator of M.o.a.M,” or “Man on a Mission.” And after returning home from the Temple loss, Austin went right back to the gym:

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/#!/AustinRivers25/status/154765449668722689″%5D

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/#!/AustinRivers25/status/154793716555591680″%5D

In time, the mid-range success will come. Remember, he’s still getting adjusted to the college level and has played only a few games at Duke. The success he’s had so far is definitely a reason to smile. Where Austin may be most effective for the Blue Devils this year though is driving to the basket. No doubt he is the best on the team at getting to the hoop. After that, it’s up to him to decide whether he should finish at the rim or dish it out to someone else if the defense collapses. Again, he’s improved drastically in this area of the game, and look for him only to get better. [Scott]

Q: What’s the 411 on Amile Jefferson? What kind of player is he? Thanks! – @C_Henderson76

Amile Jefferson is a big combo forward from Philly who has stayed steady in the top 25 of most recruiting databases. Scout.com currently lists him as the fourth best power forward in the class of 2012; his measurements stand at 6’9” and 200 lbs. In order to be a highly effective forward in the NCAA, Amile will likely have to add some weight, but that’s not an uncommon goal for players of his height in high school. Not everyone can look like Jared Sullinger right away.

As far as Duke’s involvement with Amile, don’t expect us to land this particular five star prospect. Just last week, Philly.com reported that his final five schools, in no particular order of preference, are Villanova, Temple, Kentucky, Ohio State, and NC State. This would be a coup for the Wolfpack, who have recruited him hard but haven’t had too much success luring talent from the Northeast since Julius Hodge.

However, Amile and his family have made it clear that  “have long been enamored with the Blue Devils”, and word is that he was recently extended an official scholarship offer. Furthermore, according to reports, Coach K and Coach Collins were in Philadelphia on Tuesday night to watch Amile’s Friends Central squad take on Westtown.  [Jake]

Q: What has happened to Duke and Tony Parker?  – @Zak_Spi10
Things aren’t very clear with Tony Parker. According to Scout, he has offers from Duke, Ohio State, Kansas, Memphis and UCLA. Kentucky is entering the contest as well, and Georgetown is coming on strong. I worry about Duke’s chances with Parker. He could develop into a Shelden Williams-type role of bruising rebounder and low block presence–something we haven’t had since, well, Shelden Williams. But our lack of success recruiting this type of player does not bode well considering the competition. Ohio State can pitch their bevy of big men successes, as can Georgetown somewhat. And you can never count out the Kentucky/LeBron/Drake nexus.
My guess is that Parker ends up at Ohio State and Duke moves onto bigger and better things in the coming years, like budding stars Julius Randle, Jabari Parker and Jahlil Okafor. [Jake]

Q: “Wouldn’t improving FT shooting be a relatively easy skill for certain Plumlees to improve?” – @WhySharksMatter
The simple answer to this question is yes, free throw shooting should be a fairly easy skill for the Plumlee brothers to improve. But interestingly enough, over the past few games both Miles and Mason have started to exhibit improvement in their free throw shooting. Mason has struggled more from the line this year, shooting 42.2% from the charity stripe to date, but has gone 8/12 from the line in Duke’s past four games. Though that is not ideal, it is an improvement, and as one 80’s rocker once said, two out of three ain’t bad. But it is has been MIles who has made a more prominent improvement in his free throw shooting this year. Although his numbers don’t look fantastic (68.3% on the year), he is shooting 73.7% from the line in Duke’s past 10 games, which is completely respectable for a big man. As Miles continues to assert his presence down low and polish his quickly-improving offensive game, look for him to earn more trips to the line. [Dan]

Q: “What videos comprise the DBP Final 4 of best DBP videos ever?”@dukeblueplanet

This might be the hardest question in our mailbag to answer. DukeBluePlanet has produced 325 videos over the past five years, so narrowing it down to four is a tall order. Feel free to disagree with me on any of my choices, but this is what I’d have to say were the top four in my book:

Honorable Mention: Kyle Gets Buckets
Though the shots were not as impressive as the sequel, Kyle Gets Buckets was the seed that sprung the beautiful flower that was Kyle Gets Buckets 2.0. You wouldn’t have any of the magic that was Kyle Gets Buckets 2.0 without the original, so we need to take a moment and pay homage to the idea that started it all.
4. Top Plays/Senior Night vs. UNC (2010)
Not only does this video show the top plays from one of the most memorable (and cathartic) games in recent Duke history, but it has extra bonus footage of Duke players speaking after the game in their Senior Night celebration. The 82-50 victory is one of the defining moments of Duke’s 2010 national championship season, and it was great to see seniors like Jon Scheyer, Lance Thomas, and Brian Zoubek speak after such a thrilling win. If a movie critic were to review this video, they might call it the feel-good story of the year. At least I can’t think of anything that brings me a warm and fuzzy feeling more than a 32 point win over North Carolina on Senior Night.
3. A Saturday With Showtime (2009)
The premise of this video is quite simple: you take an ordinary video camera, you hand it to one of the most entertaining figures in the history of Duke basketball, and legends are made. With a trip to Cameron, a glimpse at the freshman version of Ryan Kelly, and a Target run with Nolan and Todd Zafirovski, every second of this video is absolutely priceless. Not to mention everyone loves watching Nolan Smith rock out in his car to Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.
2. Kyle Gets Buckets 2.0 (2011)
With just 831,000 views, Kyle Got Buckets 2.0 went viral in just a matter of days and is the has the second most views of any DukeBluePlanet video in history. Kyle Got Buckets 2.0 captures the ability of former Duke star Kyle Singler to do what he does best- get buckets. Whether he’s hanging around Kville, jumping off the high dive (which I personally believe is the most underrated shot in the video), or nailing the famous Chapel shot, Kyle gets buckets wherever he goes. Fun fact about the Chapel shot, it took him a grand total of five attempts to make two shots from the top of the 210-foot tall steeple. I’ll give you all a moment to handle your amazement.
1. Duke’s Shining Moment (2010)
Nothing can get better than this. It’s a fact. I enjoy watching CBS’s One Shining Moment video every year after the national championship game, but to see the entire video dedicated to Duke’s championship run is beyond incredible. The video captures the greatest moments of Duke’s run to the Final Four, some of which get lost in translation when looking at the 2010 season, with a prime example being the Blue Devils’ huge victory over Baylor in the Elite 8. Unfortunately there’s not too much I can do to put this video into words, but the feeling that it instills in a Duke fan viewing it is simply indescribable.

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