The 2012-13 Duke basketball season may only be a few days old, but after Countdown to Craziness it is already apparent that there are some noticeable differences in this year’s squad. Here are some observations from the season’s kickoff event.
A bigger, better perimeter
Head coach Mike Krzyzewski has significantly upgraded his perimeter with true freshman guard Rasheed Sulaimon and redshirt freshman small forward Alex Murphy. The two newcomers finished with 14 and nine points, respectively, on the night.
Replacing injured senior Seth Curry for night, Sulaimon looks to be the most athletic guard on the roster due to his exceptional lateral quickness and ideal size at 6-foot-4. The Texan is also a dual threat offensively with his long-range shooting prowess and ability to get into the lane off the dribble.
Hitting back-to-back three-pointers in the second half, Sulaimon appeared to get better as the game wore on.
“I had some jitters at the beginning,” Sulaimon said. “But as the game started to get going I started to feel more comfortable. Once I got comfortable, I got into a groove and everything went smoothly.”
In his second year at Duke, Murphy is leaps and bounds ahead of where he was a season ago. Noticeably bigger and stronger, the 6-foot-8 small forward was active defensively all night and had a team-high three blocked shots. He made his presence felt on the glass too, grabbing eight rebounds on the night, which was the most of any player. Even though he did not shoot the ball particularly well, Murphy’s presence at the small forward position should make Duke a more complete team this year.
Senior big men Mason Plumlee and Ryan Kelly were impressive in their final Countdown to Craziness.
“It’s hard to believe,” Kelly said. “Things fly by fast. I just want to make this year something special.”
Being assertive offensively and scoring early and often in the post, the two co-captains will seemingly be the go-to-guys this season.
Kelly led all scorers, netting 15 points, despite shooting 0-for-6 on 3-pointers.
Spurning the NBA to return to Duke for his senior season, Plumlee finished with 12 points and six rebounds. The preseason first-team All-ACC selection looked more polished on the block and showed some added diversity to his low post game.
The duo’s greatest asset to this team may be their leadership in making the team a more cohesive unit, a dynamic that was lacking last season.
“Coach [Krzyzewski] talks about being together,” Kelly said. “And I think we certainly are more together.”
Mississippi State transfer Rodney Hood’s debut was perhaps the most anticipated of the evening, and he did not disappoint in his only outing for Duke this year. The 6-foot-8 swingman finished with 13 points and five rebounds, showing off his silky smooth mid-range game and slashing ability.
Hood going against Sulaimon was easily the most entertaining one-on-one matchup of the game.
“[Sulaimon] hit shots, and I hit shots,” Hood said. “It was competition, and we were at there competing. He is going to help me a lot. He is a very good player and just to go against him every day pushes myself.”
With Hood on board, the future is bright on the wing for the Blue Devils. The versatile and springy left-hander from Mississippi should be an All-ACC caliber player next season for the Blue Devils.
Recruits take in the festivities
A host of five-star recruits from the class of 2014 were on hand for Countdown to Craziness—point guard Tyus Jones, power forward Jahlil Okafor and small forward Theo Pinson. Combo forward Karl Towns—the top-ranked player in 2015—was also in attendance, as well as Harry Giles, who is one of the top forwards in the class of 2016.
The Cameron Crazies loudly chanted at the group as they walked across the court at the start of the event.
On Friday night during the game, Jones tweeted, “Duke fans showing me too much love out here!! It’s great lol.”
Similarly, Okafor tweeted, “Duke fans are crazy! Loving it though. Students going nuts. Ayyyyye.”
With assistant coaches Jeff Capel, Chris Collins, Steve Wojciechowski and Nate James coaching the Blue and White teams for the scrimmage, Krzyzewski did not do much coaching Friday night. Rather, much of Krzyzewski’s time was spent talking with the recruits during the scrimmage.