Before you ask, yes, we know we’ve been on hiatus for an eternity. Internships, all of us being away from Duke for so long, and life in general does that to you sometimes. Forgive us…pleeeeeeaaase? We’ll do our best to keep you updated with happenings once the school year starts up again! Remember when we brought you this? And this?
In the meantime, as you all know, Duke is currently in the midst of a worldwide tour, stopping in China and Dubai. I can’t say that I’ve been to Kunshan, Shanghai, or anywhere else in China for that matter. But, I did stop in Dubai’s airport once for an 8 hour layover, which pretty much makes me a citizen, right? It sure seemed like forever…that place is straight BALLIN though, and Duke’s gonna have a great time checking out the sights there. Duke as a university is really committed to internationalizing their brand, and what better way to do it than through our most prominent product: Duke Basketball. This is a venture years in the making, starting with Coach K’s own trip to China with the 2008 US Olympic Team. We’ve also done our best to promote Duke basketball to Chinese audiences by broadcasting games in Mandarin (CT’s own John Sheng was the Mandarin play-by-play announcer for Duke’s home game against UVA last year). And of course, we’re building a beautiful new campus in Kunshan.
Anyways, we’re all anxious as ever to see how the Duke basketball team is going to turn out during the 2011-2012 season. While we could simply mope about what could have been in 2011 IF IT WEREN’T FOR A #&!@$&@ TOE, I’d prefer to take the high road and look to the future with hope. In my opinion, this year’s Duke team is among the most unproven in recent memory. That’s sure to generate a lot of anxiety but a lot of eager anticipation and excitement as well. What’s more fun than watching yesterday’s role players grow into tomorrow’s superstars?
I’d be lying to you if I didn’t admit that Duke has lost a ton of legendary scoring, leadership, and talent over the last few years. Losing the entire lawfirm of Singler, Smith, and Scheyer not only set us back legally, but we’ve also lost somewhere around eleventy bajillion points of career scoring. And then, this guy left. And then “that dude” stayed. Seth Curry Saved Duke against UNC but couldn’t save us against Arizona (for the love of God, please don’t click on that Arizona link. It just hurts too much).
Alas, that’s how the college basketball gods are sometimes. One day, they put you on the pinnacle of the mountain, and the next, they Sparta Kick you off the edge. Additionally, it’s incredible how quickly momentum can shift in this one-of-a-kind rivalry of ours. Just at the beginning of last season, Duke fans (myself included) felt practically invincible. We had just won a national title in a whirlwind, near-perfect season, while UNC was licking the bottom of rock bottom.
…But then, these guys went back to sweet home California, started rapping, surfing, and whatever else you do in that damned beautiful state. Kendall Marshall quickly rose to prevalence following Larry Drew’s exodus, and the UNC juggernaut was quickly revitalized. To be completely honest, this seems like deja vu all over again. It really does almost seem like our freshman year (2009), when Duke was unproven and UNC returned all of their star power. I just hope it doesn’t turn out like freshman year did. Don’t click that link either.
Somewhere in China, Duke’s returning players probably feel like slapping me. I wouldn’t blame them, because certainly I haven’t yet given them their due. But again, who on our current team has proven himself? Don’t get me wrong, the potential and talent is certainly there, and we’ve seen flashes of it at times. Like I said, ultimately that’s what this worldwide tour and new season is all about: watching 2010-11’s role players ascend into 2011-12’s stars. Off to China we go!
As a warning, we as fans must learn not to take TOO much out of exhibition games abroad in August. To start with, Duke’s first game against the Chinese Junior National Team took place after a delayed flight, surely leading to lingering jetlag taking its toll. As someone who has made cross-continent trips to nearby India many, many times as a kid, I want you to trust me on this one: Jetlag. Sucks. Nonetheless, the guys played pretty well against a team with some serious size and aggressiveness, winning the first game in Kunshan 77-64. Festivities shifted to Shanghai the following day with similar results, Duke winning 78-66. In the next few paragraphs, I’ll focus my analysis on the individual performances themselves. Keep in mind, however, that there was some seriously delicious Chinese home-cooking going on, complete with rice, dumplings, and extremely questionable calls.
Great. Now we’re gonna get censored over there.
Austin Rivers: Let’s start off with Duke’s newest superstar frosh. He’s the son of Doc Rivers, the high school player of the year, yada yada…you’ve already heard it all. In a nutshell, he’s about where we expect him to be right now. He’s a prolific scorer, and that crossover of his is straight up disgusting. As a slasher, the kid is nearly unstoppable, and he was our leading scorer during the first game with 18. Judging from his first couple of games, though, he’s also making some very freshman-esque mistakes, especially in terms of decision making and on the defensive end. We’ve seen him play before, and when he’s on from long range, he’s on. But, he’s got somewhat of a tendency of wanting to jack threes to shoot himself out of slumps, and in that regard, he needs to work on shot selection. Defensively, he’s also got to learn that if he’s going to shoot those ultra long-range threes, there’s going to be long rebounds that result. Long rebounds lead to opposing fast breaks, and he needs to be the first guy back if he’s the one chucking that long shot. Besides that, he’s certainly got big-time potential and will be one of our top scoring options this year. The force is strong in this one.
Seth Curry: We’ve constantly heard that @sdotcurry’s been the man to beat in Duke’s pre-China practices. His strengths are evident: he’s a Curry. That means you’re going to get an offensive weapon and a crisp jump shooter night in and night out. What we want to see more of is Seth working off the dribble, trying to create his own shot. He showed flashes of brilliance in this regard last year, especially against the Baby Blue, and it would be good to see him maintain it. In the first couple of games, we’ve seen some streaky shooting but also a few pretty teardrop floater moves off the dribble. It will be interesting to see how he adjusts to being Duke’s primary PG.
Nowitzki Kelly: It’s absolutely way, way, WAY too early to be making that comparison, but from what we’ve seen so far, this kid has straight up stepped up. Yeah, it’s only been two games, but just by looking at Ryan, you can tell that he is a different player. And it’s not just the Zoubeard. RKelly is stronger, faster…smarter? And he’s playing with a certain confidence and edge to his game. During the first couple of games in China, Ryan displayed a vast repertoire of turn around jump shots, fadeaways, post moves, and drives to the bucket. He finished with 21 points on 9-11 shooting against a big, aggressive Chinese front line. His rebounding has improved, too. I don’t think it’s unfair to use Dirk as the very distant, extreme upper limit for this guy. I mean, purely physically, how different are they really? I hope that he can maintain the momentum going into the rest of the exhibitions and into the season, but the potential is there for him to be one of our top offensive options this year. The obvious big question will be how he does against UNC’s imposing frontline of Zeller and Henson. Everything comes down to the rivalry, right?
Andre Dawkins: It seemed like an eternity ago that Dre came in to save the day his freshman year. I mean think about it, what would we have done without this kid in 2009-10? Apparently, Jon Scheyer had a bigger lung capacity and VO2 max than Lance Armstrong or some crap like that, but what would we have done with a two guard rotation that year? I’ll tell you one thing we wouldn’t have done: win the national championship. We’ve all been waiting for Dre to take the next step in his game. Twitteratti and forumites alike have put his ceiling somewhere near Gerald Henderson. The two are both freaky athletes, that’s for sure, with Dre being perhaps a better shooter at this stage and G a better slasher/creator. G made the leap to the league after his breakout junior year…could Dre do anything remotely close to that? I certainly hope so, and as is the case with a lot of the other players on this team, we’ve seen flashes of brilliance in the past. I remember when he nearly single-handedly brought us from the brink against Wisconsin in 2009, hitting 4 threes in the span of a minute or something. He’s also had some vicious dunks and OMFG moments, like when he scored 28 against Bradley last year. From what we’ve seen so far in the exhibition games, that potential is starting to seep through. Andre’s always been known as somewhat of a one-trick pony (three point shooting), so it was nice to see him make some drives to the bucket against China. Defensively, he’s been a liability in the past, but so far, he’s looking pretty good laterally and help-wise. And of course, the dude lost his braces. Trust me, it’s a good feeling to get rid of those damn things. Keep doing your thing, Dre.
The Plumlees: I really shouldn’t lump Miles, Mason, and Marshall together like that, but now with three of them being on the team, it sorta is inevitable. For the past three years, we’ve had our share of #wow moments and #facepalm moments with these high-flying bros from Indiana. The worst thing that could have happened for them last year was Mr. Irving going down with his now-infamous injury, as they really thrived off his oops and trick dribbles. You know what you’re bound to get with these guys, with their rebounding, leaping, and shot blocking ability. We at CT have got some extra pride in Miles, being that he’s the only member of the class of 2012 at Duke these days. In terms of his potential for this year, I think it can be summarized in one word: Zoubekian. As long as he plays to his strengths and avoids fouls on the perimeter, Miles has the ability to become a rebounding and defensive force. Anything offensively is a plus, and from the first couple of exhibition games, we’ve started to see Miles resorting to a few go-to post moves. As for Mason, like almost everyone else on this roster, we’re just waiting for him to “break out” this year. I know I sound like a broken record, but the potential and athleticism are there. Mason just has to be a bit more aggressive and assertive offensively, and if he can work in a few hooks of his own, well, then that’s just peachy. And then there’s Marshall, who hasn’t seen much burn so far in China, but we’ve seen what he could do down the road. He’s probably the best pure post player of the Plumlees, but he seriously needs to be put on a Michael Phelps 8 million calorie diet (minus the illegal substances). Dude’s Henson-esque right now. So far in China, Miles has been the best of the three brothers and has been active on the offensive and defensive ends, getting into double figure scoring too. But guys, for the love of God, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE keep working on those free throws!
Josh Hairston and Tyler Thornton: Josh and Tyler are the remnants of the former Trio, now that Kyrie’s gone. It will be interesting to see how Josh’s role turns out this year, with Duke having a very deep post rotation, just like 2010. From the playing time he’s gotten during the China trip, we can see that he’s bulked up and has worked on his rebounding. I think that Lance Thomas would be a good potential comparison for Josh, since they’re both of similar build and could be labeled as “energy guys.” For Tyler, well, the one and only @ndotsmitty has said that the PG spot was his to lose this year. We’ll see how that goes, since the position is still very much up for grabs, in my opinion. Tyler was surprisingly steady defensively last year as a freshman, and I remember how his defense basically won the home game against Maryland a few months ago. Let’s see if he can keep improving offensively, too.
Mike Gbinije, Alex Murphy, Quinn Cook: The rest of Duke’s strong, five-man freshman class hasn’t seen very much burn during the China trip, especially during the second game. For Quinn Cook, the reason is obvious: he’s still nursing a knee injury suffered in high school. But, it’s cool to see him take over @ndotsmitty’s role as DukeBluePlanet’s lead reporter. All fun aside, Quinn’s a very talented point guard, and we’ve already seen him play in Cameron. He’s a very, very good passer and an excellent scorer too. We wish him the best in his recovery, which should be complete sometime before the beginning of the actual season. Silent G and Alex Murphy are our wings of the future. Gbinije is long, athletic, and has the gifts to be a talented defender someday, along with a solid offensive option. Murphy is our latest Dunleavy clone, following in the footsteps of Singler and wearing his number too. Can’t make too much judgement on these guys, since we’ve only seen Murphy play once a couple of years ago, but the future seems bright.
Todd Zafirovski: What a guy.
Potential, potential, potential. That’s the theme for this year. So much that’s unproven, so much to look forward to. Unfortunately, we’ve also been dreading this year: it’s our last as undergraduate Crazie-Talkers. College is supposed to be the best four years of your life, and without a doubt, I can say that it definitely has been. I’ll take so many wonderful memories away from my time here at Duke, with basketball of course being near the very top. Who knows what will happen next year and where we will be…but one thing’s for sure:
We’ll stay Crazie forever.
More to come during our senior year! Stay tuned to Crazie-Talk for more Duke goodness from the student section