Breaking: Amile Jefferson to Duke

Amile Jefferson has committed to Duke University, becoming the Blue Devils’ second commit in the high school class of 2012, joining shooting guard Rasheed Sulaimon. Jefferson, a 6-foot-8, 200 pound forward from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, played at Friends’ Central School in Philadelphia. His team has made consistent appearances in the national rankings over the past few years.

Duke entered the recruiting process for Jefferson late in the game, but were able to come on strong enough to snag the power forward, who is touted by Scout.com as the #3 power forward in the class of 2012. Jefferson was also considering Villanova along with Ohio State, North Carolina State, and Kentucky. “Duke was always a school I had interest in,” he said in an interview with Scout.com on January 15. “I’ve been talking to Coach K. You go there, you know you have a chance to compete for national championships and play with some of the best players in the country.”

Jefferson averaged 18.5 points and 9.6 rebounds per game for Friends’ Central during his junior season. He led the team to its third consecutive PAISAA title and was named Gatorade State Player of the Year. One of the reasons why Jefferson is a great fit at Duke is because like many of his future Blue Devils teammates, he is not used to losing. His high school team went 75-9 in his first three years there.

He recently finished the regular season for the Phoenix when Friends Central fell 55-53 to The Westtown School in the Friends School League semifinal. Jefferson led the way for Friends Central with 26 points, 10 rebounds, and two blocks. They moved on to compete in the Pennsylvania Independent Schools Tournament, where they capped off Jefferson’s illustrious high school career with a fourth consecutive state championship, finishing with a 22-5 record. Amile finished his senior season averaging 19.8 points per game and had a double-double in his team’s state title victory over The Westtown School.

Amile brings to Duke the perfect combination of strength, size, speed, and power. He’s the type of player that can hurt you all over the floor, with an uncanny ability to get to the hole and a quickly developing perimeter game. Head coach Jason Polykoff at Friends’ Central told Crazie-Talk that the most impressive part of Amile’s game was actually not one of his numerous physical tools. “One of the reason why so many schools wanted Amile was because besides his physical abilities he has such a high basketball IQ,” Polykoff said. “He’ll come into his college program with an understanding of the game that not all freshmen have.”

Polykoff contended that although Amile is one of the top seniors in the country, he still has some work to do before he takes his game to the next level. “He knows that he needs to get stronger and ready to play against these other guys that have these developed bodies. He knows he needs to improve his outside shot,” Polykoff said. “He can handle the ball for someone his size but he can always work on his perimeter game and attack the ball off the dribble. He finishes pretty well but now he’s got to be ready to finish with contact.”

His coach also told Crazie-Talk that Duke’s main draw for Jefferson was its tradition of excellence both on and off the basketball court. Playing for Mike Krzyzewski, arguably the greatest basketball coach on the planet, is quite the draw, but Jefferson truly desired to play in awinning basketball environment. But according to his coach, Duke means more to Amile than just basketball. “I think Duke basketball aside, the academic reputation of Duke is very appealing to him,” Polykoff added. “He’s a kid that is used to going to rigorous academic schools throughout middle school and high school. If you can combine high academics with a good basketball program, that’s kind of his niche.”

One of the most impressive facets of Amile’s game is his unselfish outlook on the game of basketball. He is the type of player that will do whatever it takes to help his team win a basketball game, whether that is scoring 30 points or taking two shots and pulling down 15 rebounds or blocking five shots. “It’s very rare for somebody of his skill nowadays to be more concerned about the team than the individual, and he’s been doing that since he was a freshman, Polykoff said. “He just wants to win.”

The addition of Jefferson is a significant victory for the Blue Devils in what has proved to be a very difficult recruiting season. He will add extra depth to the team next year and has the potential to develop into a prolific scorer in years to come. His devotion to academics as well as basketball and the Duke basketball tradition indicates that Amile intends to stick around- don’t expect a one and done from this kid. Before he tries to take his talents to the pros, he wants to win a ring or two. Polykoff was adamant that the sky truly is the limit for Amile Jefferson. “If he improves the way he’s improved over the last four years, he’s one of the best seniors in the country right now I don’t see why he couldn’t remain one of the best players in the country at the college level.”

Welcome to the Duke basketball family, Amile. See you in August.

Mailbag: NCAA Tournament Edition

We had to much fun with our last mailbag, we figured we’d just have to do it again. The NCAA Tournament is our favorite time of the year, so we’re here to answer all your questions about Duke and March Madness.

The Blue Devils prepare for their first round game with an open practice in Greensboro (photo courtesy of DukeBluePlanet.com)

First, let’s take a look at a couple questions about Duke’s chances in the tournament this year.

Q: How far can Duke go this year?@jameezy9
Q: After now seeing the brackets, what’s CT’s honest expectations of the Duke team?@mrgoodvar

Our most honest assessment is that this is going to be a very tough road for Duke this year. The selection committee was not kind to the South region this year, which is by far the hardest of the four. This is particularly perplexing because the top seed in this year’s tournament, Kentucky, resides in the South. Typically the selection committee would seek to reward the top overall seed with the easiest road to the Final Four, but apparently this year that is not the case. The South region is stacked full of talented teams- other than Kentucky teams like Baylor and Indiana appear to be particularly dangerous. Luckily for Duke and Kentucky, two of the other biggest threats in this region, Wichita St. and UNLV both went down on Thursday.

As for Duke, this is a team that came off of a difficult stretch late in the season. After the first round none of these games will be easy, regardless of their opponent. Our predictions for the South region had Duke advancing to the Elite 8 before falling to Kentucky, but to even get there will be a challenge. We hope that Duke will find its form and be able to accomplish this. Luckily for us, Duke has proven all year that it will play up or down to its competition, so having other tough teams in the region could actually be beneficial for the Blue Devils. Our predictions have Duke defeating #10 seed Xavier in the second round and #6 seed UNLV in the Sweet 16. We already know the latter will not be happening. There simply isn’t another team in this region that will be able to compete with Kentucky, unfortunately. They are too talented and Anthony Davis will give this team fits inside.

We received quite a few questions about Duke forward Ryan Kelly and his availability.

Q: So what’s the update on Ryan Kelly? I feel we need him to make a deep run.@dukesjayash
Q: Will Ryan be back for the NCAA Tournament?@bryan_williams2
Q: Is Ryan Kelly going to play Friday? And if he does at 100%?@Dukeallday24

Losing Ryan Kelly will hurt Duke for sure. (photo courtesy of DukeBluePlanet.com)

We learned yesterday that Ryan Kelly would not be available to play in Duke’s first round contest against Lehigh. His availability beyond then remains to be seen. Rumblings around campus have been that Kelly’s sprain was fairly severe, and it appears the team has been rushing to try and get him back on the court as soon as possible. I would say they will probably be cautious in doing so as to not jeopardize his ability to play later in the tournament and train during the offseason. At the moment, I would say that it is doubtful that you see very much of him this weekend, and if you do he will be far from 100%.

As for Kelly’s importance to this Duke team, it is unquestionable. When Ryan Kelly plays well, this team wins basketball games. Duke is 17-1 in games where Ryan scores 10 points or more. It was clear that this team was missing something while playing without him in the ACC Tournament. Not only do they lack a big body that eats up space in the paint, they lose one of their better shooters and most versatile matchup problems. Let’s all hope for a speedy recovery, because it will be hard for Duke to be successful beyond the first weekend without Ryan Kelly.

Q: If Duke & UK meet in the Elite 8, we’ll all start having 1992 flashbacks. What does Duke need to make it happen?@jstorm64

First thing’s first- Duke is going to have to make it to the Elite 8 to face Kentucky. But in order to make it to the Elite 8 and to knock off Kentucky, the Blue Devils will have to follow the same gameplan. First and foremost, they’ll need to shoot the lights out. They cannot afford to have a game where they don’t knock down their long range shots against any opponent in this region, let alone Kentucky. They will need to get the Plumlee brothers involved early and often inside. Throughout the season, the Miles and Mason have been Duke’s two most efficient options on the offensive end. But more than anything, this team will need to defend the hell out of any team they face, especially on the inside. They’ll need to lock down the opposing team’s big men- for Kentucky this would mean Anthony Davis- and crash the board relentlessly. If these two meet in the Elite 8 we’ll have many flashbacks about the greatest college basketball game ever played 20 years ago. But fact of the matter is, Duke was the more talented team in that game. This year, they won’t be, so there is a much slimmer margin for error when going up against a power like Kentucky. Unfortunately, to make a long story short, they will need to be nothing short of perfect.

Q: Heard anything on Amile Jefferson and what are our chances in your mind on Shabazz?@dukefan6190

Amile Jefferson’s situation continues to be a mystery to us. It was our understanding that Amile would be prepared to make a decision this past weekend, but it appears he has chosen to wait a bit longer and weigh his options. This indicates that the competition for Amile between Duke and NC State is a bit closer than we originally thought. Our best guess is that he is waiting until the offseason to see whether certain players from Duke or NC State will decide to leave early and go pro before making his decision. It is unclear, however, whether that decision will be motivated by playing time or whether he is waiting to see if certain players he wants to play with will have left school before he arrives. Hopefully more on this situation becomes clear to us soon.

As for Shabazz Muhammad, he continues to weigh his options. My gut feeling is that Duke’s chances to land Shabazz are fairly good, but only time will tell at this point. If this season has showed us anything, it’s that we need a player like him to come here.

Q: How could anyone pick Missouri to get past the Elite 8 with Frank Haith as their head coach?@Mark_Jessup

Well, it’s pretty easy. We picked Missouri to get to the Final Four in our preview of the West region. Although Haith’s reputation as a head coach is suspect due to his past endeavors, you’ve have to hand it to him and his team because Missouri is playing some fantastic basketball right now. Other than Michigan State, who many consider to be the weakest and most vulnerable of the #1 seeds, there isn’t much other competition in the West region for them to face. Other than that, it’s just a case of a hot team playing great ball. They’ve proven to be an offensive juggernaut, and we believe that will at least get them through one of the weaker regions in this year’s tournament.

Q: Most memorable tourney game prior to being in college?@Caroline12White

Great question. As for my most memorable Duke game, it would have to be Duke coming back from 22 points down in the Final Four against Maryland in 2001. I remember staying up late and watching that game with my parents when I was just nine years old. That was probably one of the most exciting basketball games of my childhood and really got me hooked on the NCAA Tournament.

As for my most memorable non-Duke game, I’m going to have to go with the 2008 national championship game: Kansas 75, Memphis 68 in OT. That’s definitely one of the most underrated tournament games of the past decade, and Mario Chalmers’ 3-pointer to send the game into overtime is definitely one of the most underrated clutch shots ever hit. Derrick Rose showed glimpses of the brilliance we would watch in the NBA for years to come, but good triumphed over evil as John Calipari’s Memphis Tigers choked the game away with poor free throw shooting and ineligible SAT scores.

Thanks to everyone for submitting some great questions. Hope you enjoyed the mailbag, and enjoy the basketball this weekend. This is the best weekend in sports.

Recruiting Roundup: Duke-UNC Brings Out Top High School Talent

College basketball’s greatest rivalry is much more than just a game or a way of life. For Duke and North Carolina, college basketball’s biggest stage also serves as a vital recruiting tool. This season, a number of top recruits were on hand to watch the Blue Devils fall to the Tar Heels at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Let’s take a closer look at these high school phenoms and assess their chances of being the next generation of Duke basketball.

Shabazz Muhammad
Class of 2012
Bishop Gorman High School- Las Vegas, Nevada
SF- 6’6″, 215 lbs.
#1 in Rivals150, #2 by Scout.com, #2 in ESPNU100

Shabazz Muhammad was far and away the top recruit in his class until Tilton’s Nerlens Noel decided to reclassify to the Class of 2012 and graduate this spring. He still possesses an unmistakable talent and has had college programs across the country salivating throughout the year as they await his decision. This man is simply a scorer, using his sizable frame to get to the basket at will against some of the top high school competition in the nation. The lefty was named a McDonald’s All-American and will play for the West on March 28 in Chicago. He could stand to work a bit on his perimeter shooting, but Muhammad is easily the most NBA-ready talent in this year’s recruiting class. Although he has unmistakable offensive prowess, Shabazz possesses great skills on the glass and the defensive end for a man his size. He averaged 25.1 points and 7.7 rebounds per game in his junior season. Muhammad recently led Bishop Gorman to a state championship, scoring 36 points on 15-of-17 shooting as Bishop Gorman thumped Reno’s Hug High School 96-51. 30 of his 36 points came in the first half, in which he outscored Hug’s team 30-25. This was Bishop Gorman’s third consecutive state title.

Shabazz has narrowed down his top six schools to Duke, Kentucky, UNLV, Kansas, UCLA, and North Carolina. The most major players at this point, however, appear to be Duke, Kentucky, and UNLV. Kansas remains in the mix as a dark horse and UCLA, who was considered to be the outright leaders in the Shabazz sweepstakes earlier in the season, appears to have fallen out of the race. Although UNLV appears to be a black sheep on this list as a school outside of a power-six conference, Muhammad has indicated that he might not mind staying close to home, and the Rebels boast a young and revitalized team under first-year head coach Dave Rice.

Muhammad arrived for his Duke visit late Thursday afternoon last week. It was the last of his official visits- he had made his visit to Kentucky back in October for their Midnight Madness and attended Kansas’s second matchup with Missouri in February. He was hosted for a night by current Duke freshman Alex Murphy. Muhammad attended Thursday’s screening of Christian Laettner and Grant Hill’s documentary “Duke ’91 & ’92: Back To Back” with many current members of the Duke team. He also attended the Duke-UNC managers basketball game later that night and was seen having a good time with many of the Duke players. He was then on hand for the Duke-Carolina game at Cameron on Saturday night. Although the outcome of the game was not what the Blue Devils wanted, it appeared their visit with Muhammad was a very positive one. Although he seems to fit the mold of the stereotypical Kentucky one and done, he really did seem to enjoy Duke. Reports had surfaced earlier that week questioning whether or not Shabazz had received improper benefits and would be eligible to play next season, but it appears at the moment that his family is fully cooperating with the NCAA’s investigation and that he will remain eligible. Duke seems to be a stronger player for Muhammad than most people give them credit for. Although it does not normally serve as a destination for players who don’t expect to stay in college for more than a year, Shabazz is one of the most competitive high school players in the nation, so I’d consider his race to still be wide open.

Amile Jefferson
Class of 2012
Friends Central School- Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
PF- 6’8″, 200 lbs.
#36 in Rivals150, #22 by Scout.com, #18 in ESPNU100

Amile Jefferson, also a 2012 McDonald’s All-American, has continued the tradition set forth by Wilt Chamberlain, Kobe Bryant, and Rasheed Wallace of great high school basketball players to come out of Philadelphia. Jefferson recently led Friends Central to its fourth consecutive PAISAA state title, capping off the 2011-2012 season with a 22-5 record. He finished his senior season averaging 19.8 points per game and recorded a double-double in his team’s state championship victory over The Westtown School, outdueling fellow top recruit Daniel Ochefu. Jefferson has the quickness and versatility that will serve him well in college, though he will need to hit the weight room hard this summer to get strong enough to compete at the next level. He has an uncanny ability to drive and get to the hoop, especially for a power forward. One of Jefferson’s biggest draws is the unselfish nature of his play and his extremely high basketball IQ. It would be huge for the Blue Devils to land a big man like Amile in this year’s recruiting class. Their frontcourt could be a bit thin after this season with Miles Plumlee graduating and Mason Plumlee possibly departing for the NBA.

Jefferson’s college decision could be coming any day now. It was originally speculated that he would release his future plans on Wednesday or Thursday of this week, though Rivals.com’s ACC Basketball Recruiting Analyst Clint Jackson tweeted yesterday that according to Amile’s father, Malcolm Musgrove, an announcement should be expected “between Friday and Monday”. Duke entered the mix for Jefferson a bit later than most schools after it appeared they would not be able to land Lithonia, Georgia Center Tony Parker. Duke extended a scholarship offer to Amile in early January, but it appears Jefferson had his sights set on Duke for quite some time as the Blue Devils have quickly become one of the frontrunners to land him. Duke and NC State are the most competitive players vying for Amile, while he has also received scholarship offers from Kentucky, Ohio State, and Villanova.

Jefferson arrived for an unofficial visit last Saturday, just in time to watch Duke take on Carolina. He had already used up all of his official visits earlier in the recruiting season, before Duke was even in the picture for him. It is reasonable to assume that he stayed in Durham for all of Sunday at least. Amile was much harder to read when he was at Duke for his visit, mostly because the only time I saw him was while he was attending the game. Clearly he was not communicating with any of the current players or coaching staff at the time. However, unlike Muhammad, Duke seemed to be a much more clear-cut favorite for Amile prior to his official visit, so the Cameron Crazies could be well served to have a bit more confidence with him. This was believed to be his last official visit. He also made visits to Ohio State, Kentucky, NC State, and UConn in the fall. It is also reasonable to assume that as he lives in Philadelphia, he was able to see Villanova as well.

Be sure to check back for more on Amile later this week as he reveals his college decision.

JaQuel Richmond
Class of 2014
Wesleyan Christian Academy- High Point, North Carolina
PG- 6’1″, 170 lbs.
#25 by Scout.com, #24 in ESPNU25

Sophomore JaQuel Richmond is only 16 years old, but is already catching the eye of many top college programs across the nation. He has reportedly already received interest from numerous Division I programs, and has received scholarship offers from Charlotte, Oklahoma State, Virginia, Virginia Tech, and Wake Forest. Most of the larger programs will scout players from their sophomore years on but won’t come on stronger with recruiting pitches until he is at least a junior. Richmond has made himself present at Duke quite a bit this year, however, which can’t be a bad sign. His interest in the program is quite apparent. He attended Countdown To Craziness in October in addition to being on hand for the Duke-Carolina game last weekend. Richmond looks as though he would be a great fit at Duke, who has lacked a true point guard this season since the departure of Nolan Smith. Quinn Cook has looked like the point guard of the future at times, but is still developing. Richmond could potentially learn under Cook during Cook’s senior season before taking the reins for the Blue Devils in the future. However, this is still a very young kid we’re talking about, so it appears to be way too early for speculation.

Theo Pinson
Class of 2014
Wesleyan Christian Academy- High Point, North Carolina
SF- 6’5″, 170 lbs.
#11 by Scout.com, #9 in ESPNU25

Theo Pinson, a teammate of Richmond’s at Wesleyan Christian Academy, also made the trip with him for the Duke-Carolina game. Pinson is currently the more highly touted of the two, having already received 11 scholarship offers by the end of his sophomore year. Duke, Clemson, Connecticut, Georgetown, Kentucky, Marquette, NC State, South Carolina, Syracuse, Tennessee, and Virginia Tech have reportedly all offered him scholarships, and North Carolina is showing interest as well. Pinson possesses the athletic ability that is rarely ever seen in a high school sophomore. He is a dynamic scorer and his freakish leaping ability lends itself well to many highlight reel dunks in transition. He is a rare talent who played at the 17s level in AAU competition when he himself was only in 8th grade. Keep a watch out for this guy as he should continue to develop into one of the top recruits in the country over the next couple of years. Although it is way too early to speculate, Duke appears to be in a good position early for Pinson. It is the only of his eleven scholarship offers listed by Rivals.com where his interest level is denoted as “high”.

For the record, the highlights from this video were all shot during Pinson’s freshman year. Be amazed.

Any thoughts on these recruits? Comment below!

Deviled Eggs: August 16th, 2010

Every Monday morning, Crazie Talk culls Duke basketball news, articles, and videos into a half dozen of the best “Deviled Eggs” on the interwebs.

Here are this week’s best:

Photo courtesy of DukeBluePlanet.com

1. Team USA’s Teenage Years
Fantastic piece by Duke alum and former Chronicle editor, Mr. Ben Cohen. Hopefully we’ll see Mr. Irving on the gold medal podium someday.

2. SLAM: Chillin’ With Kyrie Irving

Can you tell that we’re huge fans of Kyrie? Seriously, we’re going crazy just thinking about this kid on the floor in Cameron. Fifty-nine days until Countdown to Craziness…

3. R.Kelly Believes He Can Fly
Pun totally intended. Space Jam soundtrack classics aside, this is a great read from Al Featherston on Ryan Kelly’s summer of hard work. We absolutely cannot wait for him to blow up.

4. Adidas Nations Player Evaluations

NBADraft.net evaluates Nolan Smith, Miles Plumlee, Mason Plumlee, and Marshall Plumlee, as well as Duke recruits Quincy Miller, Quinn Cook, Shabazz Muhammad, Alex Murphy, and Amile Jefferson on their performance at the annual Adidas Nations event, which took place last weekend.

5. 2012 Wing Shabazz Muhammad Sits Down with HighSchoolHoop

Shabazz is a stud and a half.  In this interview with HSH, the name ‘Duke’ seems to come up quite a bit. He’ll be in Cameron for the December 4th matchup with Michigan State. Shabazz, along with 6’8 SF Alex Murphy, are the top priorities for the Duke staff in the Class of 2012.

6. News & Observer: That Dude Will Compete with Irving, Harrow

…to be the ACC’s top freshman. Let HB have his MVP season. Kyrie and the rest of the Blue Devils will see you in Houston.

BONUS:

Roster Updates

Courtesy of GoDuke.com. Ryan Kelly has grown an inch and gained fifteen pounds, making him the tallest player on the roster at 6’11. Andre Dawkins has also gained fifteen pounds to 205 lbs, while fellow sophomore Mason Plumlee has gained ten pounds to put him at 240 lbs. The only measurements that have not been updated are those of Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith, who have been playing with the Team USA Select squad for the past week.