McDonald's All-American Game: What Duke Recruits' Performances Tell Us
It is hard to glean a lot of information from All-Star games anymore, especially the McDonald's All-Star game.
In this day and age of AAU, private schools and prep schools, most of the nation's best college basketball prospects have been competing against each other from a young age.
Duke recruit Austin Rivers' dad, Doc Rivers, discussed as much when he was interviewed by ESPN during this year's McDonald's game.
He said that when he played in the game, it was the first time many had seen the other great players in the country.
"It was a competition," Rivers said.
Not so much anymore.
With these players all too familiar with one another, these days, most of the All-Star games just give the kids a chance to showcase their athleticism. There is very little fundamentally sound basketball to be found.
The late John Wooden was often critical of how the McDonald's game had turned into more of a hot dog eating contest than a real basketball game.
You'd expect as much from a coach who prided himself on teaching the fundamentals of the game. Of course, it served him and his teams well enough.
Which of Duke's McDonald's All-American's can contribute the most right away?
This year's game didn't provide anything different from what it has over the last 15 to 20 years. Still, the game is as savory as a Big Mac to its consumers—the enthusiastic, if not crazed, fanbases that tune in to see their team's future stars.
The Duke Blue Devils featured three future players: the aforementioned Austin Rivers (the No. 1-rated recruit), Quinn Cook and Marshall Plumlee.
Each has a lot of potential, and despite the helter skelter nature of the game, each showed some indications of what they could bring next year to Duke.
Rivers is clearly the cream of the crop. He has shown the ability to be a scorer. He is both a solid shooter and can slash to the basket.
He is a very skilled ball-handler and a very good jumper. Overall, offensively, there isn't much he can't do. The defensive end is where Rivers has to get better.
In the McDonald's game, not many of the kids play defense beyond the bigs who try to block shots. Beyond that, it is very much a one-on-one game with no help or team defensive concepts stressed.
How well Rivers can pick up Duke's help, high-pressure, man-to-man defense will determine how successful his year will be.
Rivers did appear to force some things offensively as the showmanship of the players got the better of them, but rest assured Mike Krzyzewski will know how rein him in and use him. He certainly could be the kind of guy to have a green light, similar to Kyrie Irving.
While Cook is no Kyrie Irving, he showed Wednesday night he is quick, agile and that he can stroke it from distance—he finished second in the three-point skills competition.
Cook brings the kind of chip on his should that any good point guard needs. He looks to be a skilled set-up man, but also appears, despite still recovering from a partially torn meniscus, to be able to beat defenders off the dribble, though it is the McDonald's game, where defense is optional.
Duke fans should be pleased with what they get from him, as long as they don't expect him to be as good as Irving was this season.
Still he needs to work on keeping his head. At times he played out of control—again, the nature of an All-Star game, and his emotions seemed to get the better of him.
A couple of times, he seemed exasperated at not getting a call. With Duke's focus on defense, he won't have the luxury of giving officials inquisitive looks if he wants to play significant minutes.
Still, he has a reputation as a solid defender, and if he can grasp how to run a Krzyzewski team on the floor, he should be able to create good competition between he, Seth Curry and Tyler Thornton for serious playing time at the point guard spot should Irving elect to leave early.
The third incarnation of the Plumlees will join the Blue Devils in the fall, and should the middle Plumlee, Mason, decide not to go pro, then all three will play together.
Granted, playing time would be relative, as Marshall appears to still have a lot of developing to do before he gets significant minutes.
Like his brothers, Miles and Mason, Marshall is very athletic, can run the floor and can disrupt shots in the lane on defense. But also like his brothers, he appears to lack confidence outside a dunk competition when playing with his back to the basket.
He also showed the potential to have his older brothers' propensity for committing silly fouls when trying to swipe at the ball on defense.
Marshall has to get stronger as bigger, as stronger big men can and will push him around. He has a nice jump shot, but the college game separates the men from the boys, especially at a school like Duke.
It may take a year for him to get serious minutes as he adjusts to the college game. In the McDonald's game, at times he looked good, but other times, he looked tentative. He will definitely need a year or two of seasoning before Duke fans will know how good he will be.
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