Brian Zoubek has been criticized by every Duke fan and non-Duke fan since his arrival at campus. He was always injured. He was slow and non-athletic, I mean really…how can a 7 foot basketball player not be able to dunk a basketball? He was soft in the post and weak with the ball always getting pushed around or getting the ball slapped away. He was too slow to play defense and not skilled enough to block shots. He had no post move whatsoever frequently getting called for traveling. He had Duke fans and every basketball fan alike wondering out loud “He's on scholarship?? Coach K recruited him???” He was ranked as a top 25 PLAYER in his class??? Yes you read that right...top 25 PLAYER not top 25 center. HOW???? WHY????
After giving the fans nothing but clumsiness, quick fouls and no flashes of potential for 3.5 years as well as directly feeding the stereotype that Duke is unathletic (alarmingly), Brian Zoubek seemingly hit the switch. After gaining no playing time the past 3 years on teams heavily depleted on the front line and just desperate for any type of inside physical play, Zoubek never delivered….until now.
Sporting a new rugged look with a fully grown beard, he had a few decent games earlier in the year but for the most part everyone was happy and content with the young Miles Plumlee getting the starting nod. Somewhere during the ACC season, Miles Plumlee lost his mojo. He continued to foul quick and often and forgot to box out leading to erratic playing time and an eventual benching.
The beneficiary was senior Brian Zoubek. Inserted into the starting lineup against rival Maryland on Coach K’s birthday seemed to give this man a supreme confidence boost and it’s amazing what confidence can do.
Since that moment he has been on an absolute rampage and has become an intimidating presence in the middle. He has become, dare I say it, a dominating post presence and has me thinking *gasp* he may be able to make someone's team and play backup at the next level. Yes the real next level because after all you can't coach being tall. If Aaron Gray can make it....
But he’s achieved this not with points but with everything else. With elbows and bodies flying around Zoubek has managed to up the ante on his defense with effective sliding and positioning as well as using his strength to push opposing players off the block. He finally uses his 7 ft wide body frame to box out, grab rebounds and make (arguably) a decent amount of putbacks.
He has learned to control his fouling habit by not reaching and keeping his hands straight in the air. He’s been seen altering and blocking shots with authority and knocking opposing players to the ground when they come in the lane. Zoubek has been setting bone crushing screens for every player on offense. This must have been what Coach K envisioned when he recruited him in the first place.
Now with Duke in the Final Four and favored to win it all after a full season of doubt, Zoubek has a chance to become legend as he rebounds and provides Duke with the toughness and tallness on the inside that has been missing since the days of Shane Battier ( and arguably Shelden Williams). If Duke is able to win the national championship everyone will look to the Big 3 as the reason but fans will undoubtedly know that Zoubek’s mid season emergence put Duke over the top.