Duke Basketball: Top 11 Shutdown Defenders in Blue Devils History
The tittle of "shutdown defender" is elusive because it is not easy to measure how great a player has been defensively.
Today we have such advanced stats such as plus/minus which tells you how a player affects the score while he is on the court. But that cannot be properly assessed to all players at Duke over the years without the proper resources.
Nevertheless I have compiled a list of players who deserved some credit for their defense. Some paid more attention to the defensive end of the basketball court than their own offense and took pride in being able to give opposing players a bad night.
This is a tribute to those guys. Most may not be great scorers but they stole the ball at a high rate, blocked shots, or when they were in the game the opposing team's offense stagnated.
No. 11 Brian Zoubek
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Brian Zoubek spent three unremarkable seasons at Duke before he went on a four month run, at the latter part of his senior year, to give Mike Krzyzewski his fourth championship.
If he had not battled injuries the majority of his time at Duke this 7'1" center probably would have been higher on this list.
He used his size to worry his defensive assignments, altered shots and rebounded at a high rate. Allowing Jon Scheyer, Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler to do what they do best, score.
Honorable mention needs to be handed to Zoubek's frontcourt mate, Lance Thomas for doing a first-rate job on defense as well.
No. 10 Thomas Hill
Thomas Hill's numbers, at Duke, won't overwhelm anyone. He played on a team with Bobby Hurley, Grant Hill and Christian Laettner. Someone had to be that hustle player capable of taking on big assignments.
Duke went through Michigan's Fab Five and UNLV's athletic team to win it's first championship, in part because of Thomas Hill.
Hill, a 6'8" forward is tied for 10th place in steals, in Duke History.
No. 9 DeMarcus Nelson
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DeMarcus Nelson, at 6'4" was one of the most versatile defenders in Mike Krzyzewski's tenure at Duke. He played every position between center and point guard at one point while in college.
Nelson was the 2008 ACC Defensive Player of the Year. This quote taken from ACC.com, was the reason he won.
He forced Davidson's Stephen Curry, the nation's fifth-leading scorer, into eight turnovers; held Michigan's Manny Harris, the No. 3 scorer in the Big Ten, to less than half his average of 16.4 points; and pestered North Carolina's Wayne Ellington into a 3-of-14 shooting performance in last month's victory over the Tar Heels.
He had some great assignments in which he lived up to the moment.
No. 8 Chris Duhon
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Chris Duhon is Duke's all time leader in steals. Something that can easily be overlooked because of his other values to the team.
Duhon was one of the best floor generals in Duke history. He was a smart heady point guard who did not care much for scoring.
He was a leader on the offensive end and also the defensive side of the game.
No. 7 Christian Laettner
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Strange to see Laettner on a list of defensive players for Duke, but the No. 3 all time scorer at Duke's offensive game may have overshadowed his defensive achievements.
Laettner is fourth all time in steals per game and fifth in blocked shots. He is also third all time in rebounds per game.
He may not be viewed as a lock down defender, but his numbers prove that he was was very useful on either side of the court.
No. 6 Steve Wojciechowski
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Steve Wojciechowski was named the NABC Defensive Player of the Year in 1998.
Watching Wojciechowski' s harass an opposing point guard was a thing of beauty. It was as if that guard had to literally fight Wojciechowski for every inch of the court.
Wojciechowski would pick his man up as soon as the ball was inbounded, then get into the lowest defensive stand ever seen in basketball. The fact that he is 5'11" made this easy.
Imagine trying to dribble a basketball, read the defense and still have to worry about a guy at your knees trying to steal the ball.
Wojciechowski, currently an assistant coach at Duke, is eighth all time in steals in school history.
He graduated in 1998, but one can't help but salivate at the thought of; what if he had one more year of eligibility and had played on the very talented 1999 squad?
No. 5 Billy King
After Duke made it to the Final Four in 1988, Billy King became the first player in Duke history to be named National Defensive Player of the Year.
Sometimes a player will sacrifice his offensive abilities, whether limited or not, to take on the best players on the opposing team.
I can only guess King was that guy. He started both his junior and senior years but only finished with averages of 4.5 points, 2.5 rebounds and 1.9 assists.
King was known for his hard nose defence while in college.
No. 4 Tommy Amaker
Tommy Amaker was the second player in school history to win the award of National Player of the Year at Duke. He won it in 1987, the first time a Duke player would win this award in consecutive years.
The 6'0'' point guard is third all time in steals for the Blue Devils.
Duke made it to the NCAA tournament all four years Amaker was enrolled. Best finish was the 1986 runner up in the national finals.
No. 3 Shelden Williams
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Affectionately known as the "Landlord," Shelden Williams once recorded 19 points, 11 rebounds and 10 blocks against Maryland.
That tied him for the most blocked shots in a game by a Duke player with Cherokee Parks.
Williams is Duke's all time leader in rebounds and blocked shots. He also holds the record for single season blocked shots.
He is one of two Duke players to be named ACC Defensive Player of the Year (DeMarcus Nelson is the other). Williams won this award twice in 2005 and 2006.
Both those years, he was also named the National Defensive Player of the Year.
Williams would have been No. 1 on this list except for the fact that the other two players won the ultimate award, an NCAA championship.
No. 2 Grant Hill
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In 1991 UNLV completely humiliated Duke in the NCAA finals. Next year, Grant Hill came to Durham, the missing piece for a championship.
Hill was arguably the best player on that team, but instead of demanding the ball and being a very high scorer, from day one he concentrated on the little things.
He is sixth all time in blocked shots and steals in school history.
He was the National Defensive Player of the Year in 1993.
He won back to back titles in 1991 and 1992, his first two years at Duke. He also led Duke to the national finals in 1994.
The Detroit Pistons stole him with the third pick of the 1994 NBA draft.
No. 1 Shane Battier
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These days Shane Battier only concentrates on the defensive side of things, but in college he excelled on both sides of the court.
Battier was National Defensive Player of the Year, not twice, but three times.
He won this award his sophomore year, right after Wojo had won it in 1999. Then he won it again, two straight years in a row, even though he had to share it with Cincinati's Kenyon Martin in 2000.
He is fourth all time in blocked shots and second in steals in school history.
Battier led the Blue Devils to a national championship in 2001, where Duke defeated the Arizona Wildcats in finals.