With Countdown to Craziness a day old, here is what we noticed about the Blue-White game:
Firstly, loved seeing Duke hosting some potential recruits for the event including Theo Pinson, Tyus Jones, Justice Winslow and Jahlil Okafor in the class of 2014; Karl Towns in the class of 2015; and Harry Giles in the class of 2016. The crowd paid homage to each and showed them love, before during and after the game. Jeff Capel toured the prospects around the facilities before the Craziness began.
Obviously only so much can be gleaned from a scrimmage but what you can measure is how players react, aggressiveness and drive. Certain things we already new. One is that Mason Plumlee should lead this team in scoring and rebounding, he showed a variety of moves and played under control and scoring 12 points (total of both games) on 5 of 9 shooting.
Ryan Kelly is the other senior that needs to put his mark on the scoring column for Duke this year and he did that in this scrimmage, scoring 15 points on 6 for 12 shooting.
It was nice seeing a “stronger and faster” Josh Hairston, admittedly not being in great game shape in his career so far, Josh was up and down the floor looking fleet footed and hitting some nice shots from the outside. He will definitely have a chance to get minutes this season and he could make this team better and more versatile if that is the case.
The surprise of the night was probably the play of Rasheed Sulaimon, clearly tempering my enthusiasm some is the fact that this is just a scrimmage, but Sulaimon in relief of an injured Seth Curry showed that he is most definitely up to the task. Sulaimon showed he is a freshman that plans to impact this team immediately and looked to be the most ready of the freshmen. Going 2 of 4 from 3pt range and 5 of 7 overall, Rasheed did not force the issue and press as some freshman do. Sulaimon rebounded well, defended well and even dished a couple of assists.
It will be hard to keep a player like Rasheed off of the floor, his skill set will complement those of Dukes other starters very well. Teaming with Quinn Cook he becomes another option on the wing for 3 point shots, and can also get himself to the rim and finish, a part of his game that most people tend to forget. With Tyler Thornton Duke could have the most stingy backcourt in the ACC, teams would be hard pressed to get by that guard tandem, and while Thornton isn’t known as a scorer in a lineup featuring Ryan Kelly and Mason Plumlee he wouldn’t need to score. I could see Thornton on the wing as a spot up shooter with Sulaimon running the point at times, assuming the rumors of Thorntons improved jumpshot are true.
Also in the real deal category is Alex Murphy. He is a very heady player and a lineup with Mason Plumlee and Ryan Kelly and Murph could be formidable each with the ability to hit from the ouside as well as drive and dish. Murphy will definitely be the X-factor for Duke this season. What he brings to the table is still a bit unknown, but with he and Amile Jefferson fighting it out in practice and learning from each other Duke should be much improved on the wing. Amile looks to be a very intelligent player and sort of reminds me of Kevin McHale in the way he can worm his way up and under defenders to get his shot in. The only issue I see is from a strength perspective, he is still rail thin and could get pushed around in the very physical ACC.
Rodney Hood is probably the most gifted player on this team. He has a smooth jump shot that he can hit from anywhere on the floor but his drives to the hoop albatross style are pretty to watch, he is long and tall and can finish over players. He nearly had an impressive dunk over Mason Plumlee but it was blocked by the taller Plumlee. It’s hard to watch a player that good have to sit for so long but next year this team is going to be uber loaded. With the pieces they bring back next year and what is coming through the doors Duke should have one of its best teams on paper in a long time…but that’s a year away.
This team will definitely not be the scoring juggernaut Duke team. It will have to be defense that rules the day and if Duke does not stop anyone, it will not win, it’s just that simple. It will not be a 3 point happy team either, Duke will look to manufacture points in the paint and the mid-range. If Duke can be successful in the mid-range, players like Cook, Thornton, Sulaimon and Kelly could get those open looks from beyond the arc.