Just because the season is over doesn’t mean that the narrative of college basketball has taken a hiatus.
As the saying goes, championships are won in the offseason. The Duke Blue Devils have a boatload of young players. The development of those youngsters will dictate just how good Duke can be next season.
Therefore, there are several storylines that Duke fans will want to keep an eye on. Each one will give insight into just how high the ceiling for the 2013-14 season could be.
Last offseason Mike Krzyzewski said that Marshall Plumlee was the sixth-best player on the roster. Then the youngest Plumlee got hurt. His season never really got going, as he saw very limited playing time.
Almost as soon as Duke’s season was over, Plumlee had surgery. His health concerns are sadly becoming an offseason tradition for the Blue Devils.
The first step to Plumlee becoming a major contributor is to get on the court consistently. So tracking his recovery will be an important part of Duke’s offseason. All that missed time has also hampered the big man’s development. Once he’s fully healthy, Plumlee will need to do everything he can to improve his game.
The Blue Devils will have a ton of talent in the upcoming season, but post players are in short supply. Jabari Parker can play in the paint, but he’ll be a freshman. Amile Jefferson—who I’ll get to in a minute—proved to be a smart, capable player, but as the only player on the roster over 6’8”, Marshall Plumlee would be a huge asset in the post.
The Blue Devils will be hoping that Plumlee stays healthy and shows that he can at least be a regular in the rotation. That kind of development would auger well for Duke’s title chances.
Jefferson quickly became a fan favorite. He had a fantastic work rate on both ends of the floor. Aside from all the hustle, Jefferson also demonstrated an excellent basketball IQ. He made nice cuts off the ball and seemed comfortable in help defense.
The only complaint that could be leveled at Jefferson had to do with his size.
He entered the season at 6’8” and 195 pounds, but Jefferson’s gaunt figure improved as the season progressed. By March, he still wasn’t able to out-muscle bigger opponents, but he added enough muscle mass to top the 200-pound mark.
No one is asking Jefferson to come out in 2013 looking like a UFC fighter. However, he needs to increase his strength to the point that he can box out and defend opposing post players. Duke isn’t blessed with a ton of height, so Jefferson will be counted on to contribute as Duke’s inside presence. He’ll need to be stronger to hold his own in the paint against centers and bulky power forwards.
If he comes back with added strength, that’ll bode well for the Blue Devils’ inside game.
There is a perception that Duke doesn’t develop post players. That perception is fed by the fact that Duke’s coaching staff is guard-centric.
When Chris Collins took the head coaching job at Northwestern, it was predetermined that Nate James would take his spot on the bench. Of course, that left Nate James’ previous position of special assistant empty.
The reality is that a special assistant can’t recruit or do any in-game coaching. But a special assistant can help a team by doing one-on-one workouts and by offering up advice during practice. The critics who believe that Duke doesn’t coach up bigs well would’ve wanted a former post player to take up the position.
Instead, Duke hired Jon Scheyer.
Honestly, the idea that Duke doesn’t develop big men is a canard. Mason Plumlee might not have played like a player of the year candidate, but his growth over four years is undeniable. Mason Plumlee went from an athletic—but profoundly uncoordinated player—to one that had a complete game.
More importantly, Plumlee was often the focal point of the Duke offense. So the myth that Duke doesn’t care about post players and doesn’t develop them simply doesn’t hold water. The hiring of Scheyer, therefore, should be anything but a mistake. It’ll be interesting to see how his deep understanding of the game, and familiarity with playing shooting guard and combo guard for Duke rubs off on the current crop of players.
Not to belabor the point that Duke’s post play is the biggest question mark going into the 2013-14 season, but the Blue Devils are pursuing rising senior Tarik Black.
Black graduated from Memphis and is looking to transfer to a school where he’d attend graduate school. It’s a pretty smart way to gain access to a top-notch graduate program, and plenty of teams would be happy to have him.
Black averaged 9.3 points per game in his three years at Memphis. He’s also an adept rebounder and shot-blocker. At 6’9” and 262 pounds, Duke would love to have Black eat up space in the paint while the various small forwards and shooting guards on the roster space the floor.
No one will confuse Black with a dominant interior player or someone who could make an All-American team or even an All-ACC team. Still, he’d at least be a reliable player to put in the rotation. Given the question marks surrounding Marshall Plumlee, and the potential for foul trouble involving Jefferson, he’d be a welcome addition to the Blue Devils roster.
After stepping away from basketball last year, Andre Dawkins confirmed that he’ll be back on the active roster for the upcoming season. It’s great news in terms of the best interest of Andre Dawkins the person and Andre Dawkins the basketball player.
So, as Duke fans celebrate his return, it’s worth wondering what to expect from the fifth-year senior.
Dawkins was capable of pouring in points. Every so often he’d have a hot hand that made Duke’s offense absolutely explosive. Unfortunately, Dawkins also suffered from stretches of cold shooting. That kind of one-extreme-or-the-other scoring ability added up to averaging 8.1 points as a sophomore and 8.4 points as a junior (via ESPN).
Next season Duke won’t need Dawkins to be the team’s primary scoring option. The Blue Devils will be able to sub Dawkins in and give him the chance to blow the game open with hot three-point shooting.
Of course, that supporting role requires a certain patience and understanding from a player. At times during his career, Dawkins didn’t look particularly enthused about having to sit on the bench. In his last two seasons he averaged over 21 minutes per game. That number may be lower given how deep the Duke roster appears to be.
According to Star News Online, Dawkins promised via Twitter to be a different player than he was. That’ll be most evident by him switching his number from 20 to 34. Beyond that, it will be interesting to see how Dawkins fits into the rotation and what kind of shooting ability he has after a year away from basketball.