Last season, Brian Zoubek was just aiming to stay healthy enough for his senior year at Duke, trying to give his Blue Devils the presence inside they needed to go on a long post-season run.
A year later, and after being a dominant and emotional figure in the paint for the 2010 National Champions, Zoubek is looking to contribute to an NBA team as well. That hope, however, hinges on whether he hears his name called in this year's edition of the NBA Draft.
Zoubek certainly has made his case as one of the top big men in this year's class.
A once highly-touted recruit coming out of New Jersey, Zoubek entered his final season under Coach K completely healthy for the first time in his career. During his first three years at Duke, Zoubek was constantly nursing injuries to his knee and both feet.
This past summer, however, Zoubek was able to work on his foot-speed, conditioning and shooting during the months leading up to his senior year, improving his game in all aspects. He also dropped 20 pounds over this time, building up his stature to be a more physical player in the paint.
Perhaps the biggest improvements in Zoubek's game were made evident on February 13 against the Maryland Terrapins - Brian recorded 16 points and a career-high 17 rebounds, earning his place in the starting lineup for the remainder of the season.
During the Blue Devils' 2010 championship run, Zoubek averaged seven points, two assists, and shot over 72 percent from the field. But what was his most impressive stat over the postseason? Grabbing 10 rebounds a game, many at the offensive end, to give Duke extra opportunities.
While Zoubek was taller than many of the players he faced in college, what could he possibly bring to an NBA team?
Standing at 7'1" and 260 pounds, Zoubek can rebound the ball effectively, block shots at a consistent pace, and play tough in the post - skills that, along with his size, could make him a second-round NBA Draft pick on Thursday night.
His draft projections aren't as great as he would have hoped, but they are a huge leap from last summer when neither professional scouts nor fans knew what to expect out of Zoubek's final year in Durham.
If an NBA team does decide to take a chance and draft Zoubek on Thursday night, they will be adding a big man with big potential to succeed at the next level.
Brian Zoubek completely transformed his game in his final year at Duke, and should continue to improve in the following years to come. If he can stay healthy, Zoubek should have a long and successful career ahead of him in the NBA - regardless of what happens in the draft.
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