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 30th, 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 Towerview Magazine / The Chronicle

1. Hungry and Humble

Fantastic read on Kyrie from the summer issue of Towerview Magazine. Kyrie is the very first freshman athlete to be featured on the cover in the magazine’s history.

2. New Devils Welcomed

Every year, the incoming freshman class meets in Wallace Wade to meet their fellow freshman athletes. It was pretty cool to see Kyrie, Josh, and Tyler address their classmates on Saturday night.

3. Rivers Sets Visit Dates

Austin Rivers has set a few dates for his official visits, according to KUTheShiver. Austin plans on visiting Duke on October 1st and will be at Late Night with Huckleberry in Chapel Hill on October 16th. No word on whether he’ll stop by at Countdown to Craziness on the 15th.

4. Tyler Adams Refutes Rumors

A few weeks ago, some reports surfaced that Tyler Adams had been in contact with Georgetown and Mississippi State.

5. Boost Mobile Elite 24 Recap

An excellent recap of the Boost Mobile Elite 24 event in Venice Beach, CA, this past weekend.  The event featured one Duke commit, Michael Gbinije, and a number of Duke recruits, namely Austin Rivers, Quinn Cook, Quincy Miller, Shabazz Muhammad, and Alex Murphy.

6.  Coach K Day

Save the date. September 15 will officially be Coach K Day in the city of Chicago.

BONUS: Nolan and Mason count down the Top Ten Plays of the 2009-2010 season!

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.

Deviled Eggs: July 19th, 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.

Redick and Williams sign new NBA deals

The former teammate All-Americans JJ Redick and Shelden Williams signed new deals in the past few days—Redick staying with the Orlando Magic, and Shelden signing with the Denver Nuggets.

Redick cashed in on a steady season (averaging about 10 ppg off the bench), earning a 3 year/$19 million deal. The Chicago Bulls had offered JJ that same amount, but the Magic exercised his free agent option and kept him. Good choice, Orlando. JJ was the most competent bench player for the Magic throughout the playoffs, upping his scoring to 11.2 points per game in the thrilling Boston series, and consistently making smart plays (even if he should’ve called that timeout in Game 2). With Vince Carter moving into his late innings, JJ could earn more playing time (and more money) after these three years are up. Whether he remains in Florida for the rest of his career or moves elsewhere, Redick has duped all of his critics (including this author) who thought he wouldn’t be able to hang in the league. Congrats, JJ—you can laugh at the haters all the way to BofA.

Shelden has been more of an enigma. Short stints in Atlanta and Sacramento and last year’s run to the Finals with Boston yielded little for Duke’s all-time record holder in rebounds and blocks. Thus far in the NBA, The Landlord’s only tenant has been himself, on the pine. Who knows, maybe that will change in Denver. The Nuggets’ two power forward options, Kenyon Martin and Chris “Birdman” Andersen, are both recovering from knee surgery in the offseason. I think with some more PT in the regular season (before Martin and Andersen are at full strength) will boost Shel’s confidence a lot. He looked lost when thrust into the lineup in the late games of the Finals, blowing a wide open dunk at one point. This is not the beast Duke fans knew during his time in college (or the man Candace Parker fell for). The former fifth draft pick (wow) needs to prove himself in Denver to stick in the league. Good luck, Shel.

ETA: Duke connections just abound, don’t they? Lee Melchionni is Shelden Williams’ agent. That’s what you call a family.

2012 wing prospects Alex Murphy and Shabazz Muhammad light up the summer stage

With the 2011 class adding another member last week, Duke recruitniks are looking toward 2012 to see what high school prospects we’d like to add to the roster (but will we even exist in 2012?). Murphy and Muhammad are two guys the coaching staff are really pursuing, and for good reason. Some thought Murphy (older brother Erik was a former Duke recruit and now plays for Florida) was a Duke lock after he and his family chatted up Coach K in his office during the Bob Gibbons Tournament of Champions in the Triangle. But Murphy, a smooth and skilled 6’8” wing, is getting looks from all the top dogs, including the dreaded Calipari (don’t buy his shtick, Alex, or let him buy you a car or whatever he does). Muhammad will end up a top-5 prospect in my opinion—see the video linked above for a sample of his many skills. We have a legitimate shot with both players, but don’t be surprised if we get neither. Talented guys like Murphy and ‘Bazz have all kinds of options.

For more on these two players check out our highlight video and scouting report from the Tournament of Champions.

Jon Scheyer leaves Heat summer league team with injured eye

Bummer, man. After a promising start to the NBA summer league, Jon Scheyer was smacked (inadvertently) in the eye during a game against the Golden State Warriors. What’s worse is that Scheyer left the Las Vegas camp to see a specialist in Chicago, and will likely miss the rest of the summer league games. Jon’s chance to ride the Heat wave (see what I did there?) deep into the playoffs seems to be receding into nothingness like the Florida Everglades. It’d take a big effort by the Miami brass to get Scheyer onto the roster, and let’s face it, Pat Riley is a huge ass and head coach Erik Spoelstra is like, what—16 years old? Not happening.

Get well soon, Jon. Even if he has to sit out the NBA for a season (maybe a good thing, with a potential lockout pending anyway), I’m confident his talents are good enough to earn a roster spot in the future. And what NBA audience wouldn’t love the Scheyerface?

Michael Gbinije leads Team Takeover to Peach Jam crown (video)

The Nike Peach Jam in North Augusta, S.C. wrapped up over the weekend, and ’11 commit Michael Gbinije was the ostensible star, racking up 19 points in the final (His teammate, 2012 prospect James Robinson, is another player to keep and eye on). Congratulations to Mike G. and his D.C. team. In the video above (ESPNU recruiting ‘guru’ Paul Biancardi…I know, sorry), the Gbinije highlights start at 1:12. Kid’s got confidence going to the rim to go with his smooth jumper. Some Duke fans have compared him to what Ricky Price was supposed to be (without all of Ricky’s crazy athleticism).

ESPN loves Duke enough to give us an ESPY

…for best Male Collegiate Athletic program. Pretty well-deserved, considering our triumphs in hoops and lacrosse, with a strong showing by the men’s tennis team (Henrique Cunha—remember the name). We even won five games in football. Congratulations to Duke A.D. Kevin White, who is awesome, and Kyle and Zoubs, who got the “TwESPY” for tallest collective at the awards show. Whatever that means.

Ten Great Moments from 2009-10

Our cohort in the Duke blogosphere DukeHoop is counting down ten great moments from the 2009-10 Title season. Check the above link for moment number ten, which is actually several moments of pure Duke toughness. Or, as my friend back in Asheville, N.C. used to say when I dove on the floor for a loose ball in a meaningless pickup game—”THAT’S DUKE HUSTLE!”

For random “Deviled Eggs” throughout the week, be sure to follow C-T on our totally awesome Twitter, bro.

Scouting the Tournament of Champions

On Saturday, Crazie-Talk and a few friends were lucky enough to get to the Bob Gibbons Tournament of Champions. The annual event is hosted at Duke, UNC, and NC State. Fortunately, quite a few recruits on Duke’s radar played games in Cameron. Among them were top 2012 targets Alex Murphy and Shabazz Muhammad, as well as two 2011 prospects in combo guard Quinn Cook, who happens to be Nolan Smith’s god-brother, and Marshall Plumlee, who happens to be the third and final Plumlee brother. Check out video highlights (courtesy of our good friend Peter) and our own scouting reports after the jump.


Photo property of Crazie-Talk. Unauthorized use prohibited.

Murphy likes to be assertive in taking the ball to the rim at every opportunity. He was very successful in doing so and was fouled a lot of his attempts, resulting in a handful of and-1s. He wasn’t hitting his free throws in this game though, finishing 3-8 from the line. The outside shots were not falling either, and he came up empty from beyond the arc. However, his handles are quite good for someone his size, and this helps him when he decides to take it to the rim. His team used him as their primary ballhandler when their starting point guard was on the bench. He isn’t afraid of contact either and likes to drive into the body of his opponent. As a result, he went to the line more than anyone else in the game. Defensively, he did a very good job of staying alert and switching on screens and having active hands. On the offensive end, he was sometimes prone to standing on the wing and waiting for something to happen, without a whole lot of motion. Probably not one of his best games overall but it gave a good feel of what he can bring on the court.

Bottom Line: The staff is very high on Alex, and for good reason. He could fit into the niche carved out by legends Mike Dunleavy and Kyle Singler very well. After speaking with him briefly after his game, Murphy mentioned that he would be taking an unofficial visit with his family today. Here’s to hoping he falls for Gothic Wonderland.

Photo property of Crazie-Talk. Unauthorized use prohibited.

Muhammad, fresh off of a 30-plus point performance on Friday night, played extremely well in Dream Vision’s matchup with Team Philly. This looked to be a marquee matchup heading into the weekend, but Team Philly’s star wing Amile Jefferson (who is also on Duke’s radar) was unable to play. Although there is a bevy of talented wings in the 2012 class, Muhammad seemed to be as good as advertised. He has ridiculous athleticism and a smooth jump shot. That combination allowed him to score more than 20 points in a plethora of ways. An aggressive lefty, Shabazz can also finish strong at the rim. From what we were able to see, Shabazz is definitely worth the hype.

Bottom Line: Shabazz Muhammad is easily one of the top players in his class, and rightfully so. Duke will have to battle with Kansas and UNC, among others, in his recruitment, but Shabazz seemed to enjoy the confines of Cameron Indoor Stadium.

Photo property of Crazie-Talk. Unauthorized use prohibited.

Cook started off slowly, with some turnover troubles early on. However, he soon readjusted, and he excelled in DC Assault’s transition offense. After he settled down a bit, the turnovers diminished and his handles tightened up. Cook has no problem with the ball in his hands, using an array of crossovers and spin moves to get around his defender. One of his favorite moves is a spin move to right, transitioning into a pull-up jumper which he used effectively. There really wasn’t anyone on the opposing team who could contain him. His free-throw shooting was also good, but he struggled from long range. Although he excels in transition, he sometimes tries to make too much happen in the half court set and can run into trouble if he drives into multiple defenders. However, he can finish with either hand and has a varied repertoire of offensive moves off the dribble. Defensively, he had no troubles keeping up with quick guards and even snagged a couple of rebounds away from the opposing team’s front line.

Bottom Line: It seems that Quinn is much more of a combo guard than he is a traditional point guard (a la Nolan Smith). He is a gifted scorer with great ball handling skills, but he lacks size at 5’11. Regardless, Cook is a high major player who will excel in a system that thrives on transition offense. It’s no surprise, then, that he’s getting heavy interest from UNC. Look for Cook to remain on Duke’s radar, but with the stable of guards already on the roster, it seems unlikely that Duke will be a major player in his recruitment.

Marshall Plumlee (Center – Class of 2011)

Saturday’s matchup with Long Island Lightning was definitely not one of Marshall Plumlee’s best games for Indiana Elite. Still, we could see flashes of what makes him a high major recruit. Plumlee is very vocal on the court, constantly calling out help defense and screens. His length can be a big issue for the opposition, but during this game, the other squad constantly took it to Plumlee and the Indiana Elite frontline with great success. Marshall could be a little more assertive in using his height and agility to grab boards, and in this game, the smaller Long Island bigs managed to pull down a lot of offensive boards. Naturally, comparisons need to be made to his older brothers, Mason and Miles. All three brothers share their uncanny agility and athleticism for near 7-footers. This was apparent in Marshall’s game today when he surprised the defense by storming to the rack and finishing with a two-handed slam. From what we saw, however, he might not have the same kind of ups as Mason and Miles, but he is also slightly taller than them, being a legitimate 7’0. As a result, Marshall is more of a traditional back-to-the-basket center instead of a F/C combo like his older brothers. He has a go-to move in a spin into a baby hook that he attempted a few times this game. At this point, however, he is pretty lanky and can still be pushed around by opposing bigs. Also, like his brothers, he has the tendency to pick up cheap reaching fouls, which caused him to sit for most of this game in foul trouble.

Bottom Line: Marshall still has a ways to go before his body is ready for the college game, but he’s definitely got the potential to become a very good player. Although Duke has already taken a center in Tyler Adams in the Class of 2011, the Devils should not be discounted in Marshall’s recruitment. The fact that his two older brothers have had very positive experiences thus far in their careers is undoubtedly an important factor that Plumlee will consider. That said, playing in the shadow of two older brothers may be something that leads Marshall away from Durham. Look for Duke to remain in the mix for MP3 until it’s all said and done.

Other Names to Watch

Unfortunately, we didn’t get a chance to see all of the guys on Duke’s radar playing at T.O.C. Some of these included:

  • Andre Drummond, a 6’9 PF/C in the Class of 2012. Ranked near the top of his class by most recruiting services, Drummond has been likened to a younger Amar’e Stoudemire. Andre, a Connecticut native, has been on UConn’s watch list for quite a while. However, in light of recent allegations against Calhoun’s program, Drummond may be looking to go elsewhere.
  • J.P Tokoto, a 6’6 SF in the Class of 2012. Tokoto attended Duke’s first Elite Camp last summer and has been on Duke’s watch for quite some time. Tokoto, who hails from Wisconsin, also lists UNC, Kansas, and Kentucky, among others. Ole Roy has been in hot pursuit of Tokoto, presumably in anticipation of Prince Harriet’s early entry to the NBA. But don’t count Duke out yet: J.P. (which stands for Jean Pierre), like the aforementioned Alex Murphy, will be taking an unofficial visit today.
  • Chasson Randle, a 6’2 PG in the Class of 2011. Duke has recently reached out to Randle, and his recruitment is still in its early stages. But if the campaign to make Austin Rivers a Blue Devil somehow falls short, look for Randle to get a serious look from the staff.

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It looks like the summer of 2010 will be an eventful one in terms of recruiting (…wink wink). We’ll be doing our best to stay up to date everything. As always, if you have any questions, comments, or suggestions, feel free to contact us at email@crazie-talk.com!