Crazie Talk's Preseason Top 25

With the release of the first Associated Press rankings of the season last week,  we here at Crazie Talk have put together four sets of rankings from our writers and compiled them into the Official Crazie Talk Preseason Top 25.

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The #1 team in each poll receives 25 points while the #25 team receives 1 point. The sum of the totals is displayed below.

[TABLE=39]

Others receiving votes: Minnesota (3), Notre Dame (3), Syracuse (3), Illinois (2), Siena (1).

Grad Campout '09: Crazier Than Ever

“The Premier Social Event of the Year”

The basketball universe respects Duke undergrads for the absurd things we do to watch basketball games in Cameron Indoor Stadium. From sleeping in flooded tent cities to burning massive wooden benches, Dukies “blow off steam” in ways that the average American college student wouldn’t consider even at the pinnacle of inebriation. Thus, the Cameron Crazies are widely considered the best and most creative fans in college basketball.

But there’s one thing some Blue Devils may not know—the Graduate students just might be the craziest of the whole lot.

This past weekend, students from Duke’s 60 graduate programs flooded three Blue Zone parking lots with trucks, tents, DJ Equipment, and of course, a healthy, fun loving attitude. Typically, each graduate program carves out a section of turf and sets up dozens of tents, or in the case of the Fuqua Business School, rented RV’s.

Like K-ville, campers must complete mandatory tent checks signaled by blaring sirens. If you miss one tent check, you’re out of the running for one of the coveted 725 grad student season tickets. Typically, students enter the lottery in groups. For example, a group of 30 law students will camp out together. When the names are drawn, 15 of them win season tickets. Those 15 have their choice of games, but the home games are “divided” among the original group of 30. The system satisfies everyone.

Jonathan Page, a second year Divinity Student, observed that the high stakes of the weekend “makes for a more intense moment” when a tent check occurs. At the sound of the siren, the mass of students horded around the white check-in tent, arranged alphabetically by last name. After checking in, students dispersed back to their activities, which included a Guitar Hero tournament, basketball shoot-out, and enormous projection screens erected to watch college football and classic Duke basketball games.

The weekend is planned by the Graduate and Professional Student Council’s Basketball Committee. Campout co-chair Mark Kohler, a Ph.D. candidate in chemistry, said that the weekend took over five months to plan.

“About 2,500 campers signed up, and around 2,000 are here,” he said Saturday night, “it’s great to have everyone coming together for a great weekend.”

Kohler noted that since graduate students have different schedules than undergrads, the idea of “sleeping outside for weeks” is simply impossible. “People are teaching, grading papers, we’re all busy.” He also observed that Grad Campout has its traditions just like K-Ville. “Some people have come back for ten years running.” Traditions like creative t-shirts, beer pong tables, and late night karaoke lend the weekend an aura of intensity that would impress even the undergrad tenants of Tent 1.

The grad students may not occupy the marquee spots in Cameron, but as Campout Weekend ’09 demonstrated,  there’s no doubting their crazieness.

“The Season Starts Tonight”

On the same day that he was inducted into the Army’s Sports Hall of Fame, Coach Mike Krzyzewski stood before another group several hours after Duke football’s 35-19 win over the Black Knights in West Point.

We need to have an edge...

"We need to have an edge..."

Around 9pm on Saturday, Coach K and the men’s basketball team filed into the Blue Zone for Krzyzewski’s annual speech to the Graduate Students. The team donned the official Grad Student t-shirts, and K took up the microphone before an ocean of students seated on the pavement.

He began with introductions of the “new guys”–freshmen Mason Plumlee, Ryan Kelly, Andre Dawkins, and Seth Curry. He noted jokingly that Dawkins is “going to turn 18 this month.” A voice then yelled out to Andre, “Show me your I.D.!” “Just don’t find one for him!” Coach K replied.

The trademark wit continued through the talk, but Coach K was sure to inform the graduate students of Cameron’s new developments. To the cheers of the crowd, K announced that the end zone opposite the graduate section, usually occupied by padded seats, is now part of the grad section. The new seats push the number of season tickets from 700 to 725.

Coach K also offered some advice: “We need an edge, not just enthusiasm…We should come [to Cameron] to kick someone’s ass.”

He reiterated throughout the speech that “the season starts tonight.”  Trust us, Coach. We can’t wait to see what the team can do in your 30th year at the helm.

Check out the video of Coach K’s speech below, which contains some language. For more scenes from the crazie weekend, check out our Photos page.

CRAZIE NOTES:

Karaoke

The Karaoke Station

At the karaoke station, people leapfrogged in a circle while a pair of students sung a heartfelt rendition of “Total Eclipse of the Heart”

– Fuqua students on their RV neighborhood: “We keep it classy.”

– A student asked: “Are we going to beat UNC at home this year?” To be brief, K was not too pleased by this question.

When Coach K mentioned practice, several students yelled, “You talkin’ bout practice?” mimicking Allen Iverson’s famous press conference. Coach wisely said, “If you don’t practice, you can end up in Memphis.” Nice.

Coach K is going to take us to the promised land.

"Coach K is going to take us to the promised land."

Coach K Quotables

On speedo guys: “I’m not a speedo guy. I’m 62…speedoes [sighs]…anyway. It’s not a good scene.”

– On Team USA: the experience has increased his shelf life at Duke, and has been positive in every way.

– After accepting a cozy from a student, Coach K joked, “Do wine glasses fit in these? I’m a big wine guy.” But not a big wine and cheese guy, hopefully.

– “Coach is going to take us to the promised land,” said Captain Lance Thomas.

– On the grad school campout and the commitment of the students: “Thank you for what you’ve done. Don’t ever lose this.”

Jake & Amogh collaborated on this article.

A Recruiting Whirlwind

Over the past few years,  Blue Devil fans bemoaned the near-misses and shocking twists that came to characterize Duke recruiting. But this was not always the case.

As many fans can recall, Duke enjoyed a recruiting “renaissance” in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s that resulted in five consecutive (1997-2001) and six overall ACC Regular Season Titles, five consecutive ACC Tournament Championships (1999-2003), four consecutive seasons ranked No. 1 in the  final AP poll (1999-2002), three Final Fours (1999, 2001, 2004), and the 2001 National Championship.

But the mighty did finally fall, even if what Duke has achieved in the past few years outranks a vast majority of Division I programs. One can mark the genesis of the recruiting struggles in 2004 – with the three man recruiting class of Shaun Livingston, Demarcus Nelson, and David McClure. Livingston was a prep phenomenon—many called him the prototype point guard of basketball’s next generation. Boasting a height of 6’7”, a fantastic passing game, and innate leadership skills, Livingston was the next great Duke floor general. That is, until he declared for the NBA Draft, and left a loaded Duke team weakened at the most important position. Livingston would later suffer a devastating knee injury, derailing what looked to be a promising professional career.

Since then, many highly-touted recruits have either spurned Duke (despite previously praising us) or not panned out (despite high expectations and rankings). Greg Monroe broke hearts by attending Georgetown (although he floundered in Cameron this past year) and Kenny Boynton decided to stay in his home state of Florida. Former Tar Heel Brandan Wright seriously considered Duke (after Kentucky, of course) before crossing over to the light blue side (It should be noted that since leaving after his freshman campaign, he has played in only 77 games in two years in the NBA). Meanwhile, Greg Echenique declined to follow fellow Garden State native Lance Thomas’ path to Durham, electing to attend Rutgers instead (?!).  To be certain, Duke has known pain on the recruiting trail for several years now—and fans have rationally theorized that the sub par recruiting has led to lackluster performance in March. Actually, it guarantees fewer wins and disappointment in the postseason (see: Josh McRoberts). It’s a natural law, like Bernoulli’s principle or whatever.

In that murky light, the revamped recruiting efforts of the last 6 months have quickened the heart rates of Blue Devils nationwide. Instead of targeting a select few recruits and praying for their commitments, Coach K and the coaching staff have adopted the tried and true “wide net” strategy. The practice is simple: get in touch with several elite players at each needed position. When a relationship is firmly established, and said player understands that he may need to compete for minutes in the rotation, extend an offer of scholarship. At worst, the player loses interest and chooses another school. At best, the group of players develops camaraderie and appreciates the competitive nature of their recruitment. They get excited at the team’s potential. Several of them commit and compose a highly talented and touted class. Championships ensue, and benches are set ablaze on the West Campus quad.

So what are the fruits of this labor? Duke landed Andre Dawkins in June 2008, with Josh Hairston and Tyler Thornton following a few months later. Dawkins, a Duke fan since childhood, has already added to his legend by enrolling early and strengthening this year’s guard core. Hairston and Thornton are eager to join him in two seasons. Moreover, Duke has a reasonably high chance of landing both Harrison Barnes (who plans to visit canpus on October 23rd) and Kyrie Irving (September 18th), two top-10 players in 2010, as well as Baltimore-area prospect Roscoe Smith. We have also been in contact with three other top point guards: Brandon Knight, Ray McCallum Jr., and Joe Jackson. Although it’s improbable and/or impossible to land all of these players, the new strategy instills hope in our upcoming classes, rather than anxiety at what they may lack.

More recently (especially within the past two weeks), Duke has been involved with standout athletes from the junior and sophomore high school classes. 2011 power forwards Quincy Miller and Marshall Plumlee (yes, the youngest brother of Miles and Mason) have been offered scholarships, and Class of 2012 standout J.P. Tokoto received a scholarship offer on Tuesday, August 25th after separating himself from the pack at the High Performance Camp this past weekend. Duke has also contacted several other elite recruits in the 2011 class, including shooting guard Bradley Beal, point guard Quinn Cook, and power forward James McAdoo. Each player on Duke’s list is a major national prospect, armed with offers from elite programs. Duke fits firmly in that category—there is no reason to settle for less than the best recruits.

Coach K and the coaching staff have sent a clear message: the proverbial “eggs” will no longer be in only a select few baskets. By actively recruiting a surplus of prospects, Duke is acting confidently and adapting to changes in prep basketball. This aggressive approach should allow Duke to once again redefine the upper echelon of college basketball in the near future.

The recruiting lilt of the past 5 years directly correlates with our relative slip over the past 5 years. It’s time for that tide to turn.

Reporting from the N.C. Pro-Am

The North Carolina Pro-Am Summer League continued this week at N.C. Central University, with several Duke stars in action. Amogh and Jake were on scene July 28th and 30th.

Jon Scheyer, Chris Duhon, and Mason Plumlee—teammates? Yeah, we wish.

From N.C. Pro-Am (July 15, 28, 30)

On Tuesday night, NCCU’s McDougald Gymnasium felt the presence of several current and former Blue Devils. Jon Scheyer, Kyle Singler, Mason Plumlee, Ryan Kelly, and newly minted walk-on Casey Peters represented the modern Devils, while former guard greats Chris Duhon and Sean Dockery (remember VT?) returned to the Triangle for some elite pickup competition.

In Tuesday’s penultimate game, Kyle Singler and Team E-net gutted out a 55-50 comback win. Somewhat alarming—Kyle showed noticeable discomfort and appeared bothered by his elbow. He quickly taped it up, but it clearly affected the rest of his night. Thus, this was not a vintage Singler performance, but the projected All-American should be back to the hardwood soon.

The final game was the night’s best. Team Duhon, undefeated in eight outings, was tested by Team WR Starkey, led by Word of God (Raleigh, NC) star CJ Leslie and Anthony Greenup of the Harlem Globetrotters. Team Duhon’s roster was a veritable Duke all-star team, with Scheyer, Mason, and Dockery joining the namesake Knicks point guard. The Blue Devil connection was scintillating; Duhon consistently found Plumlee and Scheyer for easy buckets. Mason was exceptional around the rim, grabbing boards and finishing strong on almost every touch. Needless to say, Duhon and company easily built a commanding lead by halftime. After wholesale substitutions in the third quarter, Starkey’s Leslie led a furious comeback with a series of thrilling dunks and alley-oops. At crunch time, however, free throw shooting ended up sealing the deal for an 89-80 Duhon win—how Duke-esque!

The action continued on Thursday, with Ryan Kelly and Team Starkey facing Team Hendrick, led by UNC alumnus David Noel. Kelly led his team admirably in a losing effort, collecting 26 points on 10-18 shooting, 6 rebounds, 5 assists, and 3 blocks. He displayed a deceptive quickness in defending the stronger Noel, a skill that will earn him minutes in K’s system. After a slow first quarter, Kelly showed off his midrange stroke, hitting a number of fadeaway jumpers from about 15 feet. He was the most impressive player on the floor.

Thursday’s second game featured sophomore Miles Plumlee, playing for Team E-Net. Miles has obviously been in the weight room, and his added strength translated to a solid performance—24 points on 10-15 shooting, 11 rebounds, and 2 blocks in a loss. He also converted one of two 3-point attempts. The good news is that Miles was aggressive on offense. He was the focal point of E-Net’s attack, often backing down the defender and getting to the rim (see video below). However, Miles was unmotivated at times. While this can be partly attributed to the lack of competitive play in these summer leagues, he will have to exhibit more effort on defense in order to get minutes in our crowded frontcourt rotation.

Crazie Notes: CJ Leslie has loads of talent but a bad attitude—he often looked disinterested and frequently argued with the refs. Is this why he’s being recruited by UNC?… Speaking of which, why was Roy Williams at the Pro-Am on Thursday while the AAU Nationals are in full swing in Orlando? Every major D-I coach is there… David Noel was hilariously petulant, even earning a technical for repeated ref abuse. Isn’t this just summer league?…PJ Tucker still has serious game. The former Texas star and elder statesman of the league threw down a furious dunk on Miles to the delight of the Tar Heel-laden crowd…Duhon showed up on Thursday, chatting with a few friends before leaving 30 minutes later…Will Seth Curry make an appearance? He’s listed on the Starkey roster, but hasn’t yet played in a Pro-Am game…Singler missed E-Net’s Thursday game, hopefully nursing his elbow.

The highlight of the night? Miles throwing down. With authority!

A Closer Look: Andre Dawkins

According to numerous sources, erstwhile Class of 2010 commit Andre Dawkins is considering enrolling at Duke one year early.

Such. A. Stud.

Such. A. Stud.

According to ESPN’s Andy Katz, Dawkins seems to have fulfilled the vast majority of requirements that would allow him to enroll this fall:

According to the source, Dawkins already had the necessary 16 core classes, a qualifying test score and the appropriate corresponding GPA to be admitted to Duke. Dawkins has been in high school for four years, starting out at Deep Creek High (Va.) in ninth grade before transferring to Atlantic Shores Christian High (Va.), where he repeated the same grade. That was done for basketball reasons, not academics, according to the source.

There was one hurdle, though. A player must be a high school graduate in order to be admitted. So this summer, Dawkins is taking the last class he needs to graduate…

The source with direct knowledge said Thursday that if Dawkins does graduate high school, there is no reason to believe he won’t play at Duke next season.

– Andy Katz, ESPN

Let’s take a closer look at Andre, who, if  he chooses to enroll,  will certainly provide talent in addition to much-needed depth in the backcourt next season.

We’ll be upfront: Andre Dawkins is Duke’s next superstar shooting guard. Armed with a jumper wetter than J.J Redick in an Indian monsoon and athleticism that likens to Corey Maggette and Gerald Henderson, Dawkins possesses the tools to dominate the ACC. Dawkins’ vertical leap is simply astonishing. He is a constant threat for offensive tip-ins and put-backs, as he often lurks around the rim after the shot. Although his ball-handling needs work, Andre’s physicality and shooting prowess will intimidate defenders for years to come.

Having grown up a Blue Devil fan in Virginia Beach, Dawkins is a great recruiter for the program, often getting in the ear of fellow Duke recruits and urging them to commit. Some of his (and our) favorite prospects include: Harrison Barnes, Kyrie Irving, Brandon Knight, and Ray McCallum. Let’s hope his hard work pays off.

It is not easy for anyone to bypass a year of high school basketball and jump right into one of the most storied programs in college basketball. But if anyone can handle it, it’s Dawkins. A dedicated student, fierce athlete, and obviously talented player, Andre is also mature and a proven winner. Many have touted the 2010 recruiting class as one of the Duke’s best in some time, but in an interview with HighSchoolHoop.com, Dawkins doesn’t buy it:

…I don’t really look at it like that. We’re just gonna come in and try to win games. That’s why they’re giving us the scholarship. We can’t say that we’re the best anything. That’s for guys like you to decide down the line. I don’t put pressure on myself or any of us. We have enough pressure coming to Duke. Until we go out there and prove it, it’s just people talking. Our goal isn’t to be one of the best classes ever. We’re just trying to go there and win games. That’s it.

Assuming that Dawkins does in fact enroll early, he will likely take the place of departed Elliot Williams in the rotation, behind Nolan Smith and  Jon Scheyer in the backcourt. This will allow Kyle Singler to play in his natural position on the wing, with Mason Plumlee, Lance Thomas, Ryan Kelly, Brian Zoubek, and Miles Plumlee rotating on the block. If anything, Duke will boast one of the deepest frontcourts and most versatile offensive rosters in the ACC and Division I.

Get ready, Crazie Talkers. We’re in for a show.