Over the next few days, we’ll highlight material from our gargantuan summer issue, with links and excerpts to our many articles with the hopes that you will find it all a little easier to digest. Yesterday and today we focus on Duke Men’s Basketball.
When Mason Plumlee enrolled at Duke last year, many Blue Devil fans dreamed he would soon join his brother Miles in Duke’s starting frontcourt. The brothers, fans hoped, would become the athletic, high-flying and skilled big men sought after for years.
That didn’t become a reality last year. The dream of a national championship, however, did.
The Plumlee brothers won’t complain about a reduced role last season, even if a preseason wrist injury knocked Mason out of the starting lineup and a resurgent Brian Zoubek also relegated Miles to the bench.
“Whatever happened was the right thing, so that was the best team we could be last year,” Miles said of the Blue Devils’ national title run. “I have no regrets.”
Miles gave other interesting quotes not included in the story. He faced even more troubles on the defensive end of the court than fans may have realized, he said. He also expects his scoring to go up this season:
Honestly, last year was the first year I really started to understand our defense, where freshman year was a big time learning year for me. I don’t think it’s going to change how we play, just play smarter and a little more under control and I think that will make a big difference.
[On what he needs to improve on defensively]: Just being more assertive on both ends of the court but especially on the offensive end. I’ve always been a big scorer through high school and I know I can contribute a lot in that way, so I think for us to be our best we’re going to have to have a low post presence, and I can be there every game.
[On playing with little bro]: It always feels good when you’re out there on the court and you see someone you’ve played with your whole life, and he’s playing well, so I can do it. It kind of goes both ways. We know each other’s potential capabilities and skill so playing with each other is a big confidence booster in my mind.
Patricia Lee wrote about the new captains, Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler:
With the departures of Jon Scheyer, Brian Zoubek and Lance Thomas—three seniors who developed into respected leaders during their ultimately successful tenures at Duke—the 2010-11 Blue Devils now look to a new corps of leaders.
And as forward Kyle Singler and guard Nolan Smith enter their final year as Blue Devils, both look forward to the challenge of guiding their team, albeit with a different style than their predecessors.
“Our leadership will definitely be different from last year’s under Jon and Lance,” said Smith, who finished last year third on the team in scoring with 17.4 points per game. “Kyle and I are probably the more quiet and laid-back type, and though Jon was the laid-back type, Lance was a vocal leader and an emotional leader. We had two great leaders last year, and we’re looking back on what they did for us last year and going by instinct.
“It’s really exciting having the chance to lead this year’s team, and we just have to remember to be vocal.”
Dueling columnists Andy Margius and Chris Cusack gave a point-counterpoint on the question on everyone’s minds: Will Duke repeat or not?
Andy was of the Yes They Will opinion:
Despite the departure of starters Jon Scheyer, Lance Thomas and Brian Zoubek, Duke remains the overwhelming favorite this year to cut down the nets in Houston.
After all, the Blue Devils broke out the scissors last year in Reliant Stadium after winning the South Regional. Why not do it again?
Duke’s roster is loaded. Kyle Singler, who spurned the NBA Draft to play for the Blue Devils as a senior, could be in for one of the most notable years in recent Duke basketball history. Averaging 19.8 points and 7.1 rebounds per game for the last month of the season, Singler may well live up to the hype of being a preseason All-American.
Then there’s Nolan Smith. The second member of the Triple-S combo of a season ago, the senior co-captain serves as another formidable scoring threat, capable of shouldering the offense load on the nights when Singler doesn’t shine. Stepping up in big situations, such as the South Regional championship game in which he dropped a career-high 29 points, Smith gives Duke a second clutch option in close games.
Chris, to the chagrin of some displeased commentators, was of the No They Won’t opinion:
There’s no doubt about it: the 2010-11 Blue Devils will be one of Mike Krzyzewski’s most prolific scoring teams ever. Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith are back for another year, Seth Curry and Kyrie Irving are here to replace Jon Scheyer, and Andre Dawkins and Mason Plumlee have their up-and-down freshman years behind them.
All the pieces seem to be in place for another banner in Cameron.
Duke’s fans certainly feel that way. Excitement for 2011 was palpable just minutes after leaving Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis last April—supporters shouted farewells to each other in the darkness, each ending with, “Same time next year!” and “We’ll meet you in Houston!”
Then all of the sudden they realized Brian Zoubek was just another 7-foot stiff, Scheyer was a poor man’s J.J. Redick and Lance Thomas was simply a filler player with an awkward jumper. The performance of the seniors was reevaluated, and people forgot the qualities the 2010 team possessed that made them champions—traits like experience, efficiency and rebounding.
Why won’t the 2011 team be the same? The lack of an imposing inside presence. Duke has never won a title without strong fourtcourt players, and the Blue Devils will simply not have the size or strength this season to compete in March. Every one of Duke’s national championship teams has had a significant post presence: Christian Laettner in ’91 and ’92, Carlos Boozer in ’01 and Brian Zoubek in ’10. True, Zoubek only became a high-quality player with a few weeks remaining in his career, but he was invaluable down the stretch.
In this upcoming season, however, there will only be three true power forward/centers on the roster, all with varying levels of immaturity and raw talent.
Finally, Alex Stuart talked to Scout.com’s Dave Telep and Montrose Christian’s Stu Vetter to get the inside scoop on Kyrie Irving, Tyler Thorton and Josh Hairston.
Telep’s quotes about Irving:
They are bringing in a player that can change the complexion of their team, [and] potentially alter talent in the league. Kyrie Irving is as big an ACC recruit as you can have. He gives this class… all of its swagger…. When you lose a guy like Jon Scheyer, the guy has to be replaced, and now he has been replaced with a guy that has even more basketball talent. He’s a multi-handed player in the lane, he’s starting to shoot the ball exceptionally well. This is the best point guard they have had come into their program in a while, and he will be expected to deliver and he will deliver. He’s got big shoes to fill but he can handle it and he’s ready to do it.
Stu Vetter, Hairston’s coach at Montrose Christian on Hairston:
He is a very versatile player; [he] can play inside and out…. [He] has developed into a very solid perimeter player. He plays very hard. He plays with a lot of passion. I think he will come in and make the adjustment to the college game. I think he has the ability to be a very good player for Duke.
Telep on Thorton:
He’s a guy who’s going to have a nice career at Duke. He’s going to be a team-first guy who understands his role, who is going to be great in the locker room. He’s going to fight.