Duke basketball players Mason Plumlee, Ryan Kelly, Amile Jefferson and Rasheed Sulaimon spoke with the press this Wednesday in the Cameron Indoor Stadium Media Room.
After a surprisingly close opener last season against Belmont, the Blue Devils seem determined to set the tone Friday against Georgia State. Among the key news was that Rasheed Sulaimon will be in the starting lineup alongside Seth Curry and Quinn Cook in the backcourt, joining Ryan Kelly and Mason Plumlee.
Here are some highlights from the players' press conference:
On this year's freshmen:
"In both games our freshmen showed us what they are capable of. Rasheed will help us out a lot, offensively especially. Amile [Jefferson] brings a lot of energy. You never really know with freshmen until you get into a game setting or game situation. I thought they both played terrific."
On Seth Curry
"Seth is a really smart and experienced player. Saying that, he's so smooth when he's out there. as a teammate you know what he's going to do. you know he's going to make the right play. he doesn't force stuff. Obviously, he's one of the best shooters out there. He's probably our best shooter."
"We need him in a big way."
"I don't know how many minutes he played in the last game, but I'm sure he'll play more Friday."
On captains' responsibilities
Coach [Krzyzewski] just wants us to be hungry. This is our last go round, our last go at it. We want to leave a mark here but he wants us to do that as well. All three of us are on the same page with coach. We're excited to get this thing going.
On last year's game season-opening against Belmont
"Last year's game was a big game. They took us right down to the wire. You know we have to be ready for anything. We're going to start Rasheed, and we have some younger guys so I think the upperclassmen have to set the tone and take control of the game from the get-go. Hopefully it won't come down to hitting a big three in the end. We'll be in close games without putting ourselves in that situation against Georgia State."
On Rasheed Sulaimon
"Rasheed is going to start for us."
"He's so athletic and he's our best guy at penetrating and breaking down the defense. Personally I've just encouraged him to be aggressive. I know theres a lot of emphasis on getting the ball to me and ryan, and he's done a great job of that, but I've just the same time he's a scorer and a slasher and we don't want that to get in the way of him being aggressive and scoring. We don't want him to think to much, because obviously what he's been doing naturally has been good."
On senior leadership
"One of the big steps that [Seth, Mason and I] have to take is to be able to be the leaders that are constantly there every single day and every single game can be counted on. That doesn't mean we're going to have great games every single day, and the ball's not going to go in the basket every single game. But as leaders you always have to be there. We believe the three of us can certainly do that."
On Curry's return
"Seth is such a good player. He does so many things for us."
"We've seen what he has the ability to do. Now that he's getting into stepping on the floor with us, it's been pretty easy actually. I know for him he has to figure things out, but for us as his teammates I'd say it has been very easy. He's such an easy player to play with. His game's gonna come to us. We know he can score the basketball. We know what he can do for us. We expect those things from him at this point in his career, and he's going to bring those every day."
On last year's opener
"I think we said the biggest thing is you have to set a tone and send a message. This is the first step on a long journey. You want to make a giant leap and get as far as you can on your first step. But we're excited for it. Obviously the exhibition games are getting us better, but right now we are zero and zero."
On team defense and rebounding
"I feel like I've been saying this for three and a half years, but defense and rebounding have to be the two things that are our staple to start. If we're able to do that, our offensive is going to come. We have guys that can put the ball in the basket in a variety of ways. If we can do those two things, and those can be our core, that's what winning teams do."
"Personnel wise, we are better [defensively] in that our length at really all positions is just better, and that's huge. But also I think there has really been an effort by our guys this year such that when someone scores on us it hurts. It's painful when you give up a bucket."
On his first season opener
"I'm extremely excited. Getting to play those two exhibition games at Cameron, feeling that crowd, being able to bond with the guys and getting to play against someone else for a change really got me amped and ready to play this season. I'm just looking to help our guys get better and be better."
On his energy and emotional play style
"Playing in an atmosphere like this, it's almost unbelievable that somebody wouldn't have some sort of emotion or energy. The crowd here is amazing. Our fan base is great, and you're playing for Duke. It's something to be proud of, and every time I'm out there I just want to give my all."
"I know energy and communication and talking... those things are contagious. If I'm not bringing it and someone else is, then I know that will affect me. So I know if I try to do the same at some points in the game that I'm affecting guys and getting guys ready to play."
On the coaching staff
"It's amazing. With these guys you've got to be like a sponge. They are giving you so much information and you just have to soak it all up. You have to be coachable. You can't be a guy for whom it takes ten to fifteen times of somebody telling you something to get it right."
"They work with the best. To be quite frank, they are the best. I just want to learn all I can from them."
On Georgia State
"I know that they're going to be a really good team. I know they've played in a conference with Drexel which is close to my hometown, so I know the kind of style they play and how they're going to be aggressive. And we've been working really hard to scout them, doing reports, and just to be ready for Friday so there are no surprises. I think it's going to be a tough game. I think they're going to be a good team. But I think we're really prepared and we're going to come out and play some really good basketball."
On potentially getting the start
"It's very exciting. It's a great honor given to me by coach. I work very hard, and there's a lot of responsibility that comes with it. I have a big duty that I have to fulfill on the defensive end, and that's going to get me a lot of playing time. I just have to go in there and play my best and do whatever we need as a team to be successful."
On having Seth Curry back
"It just puts another deadly scorer, another leader on the floor. [Curry is] just another guy that's out there and puts confidence in all of us. He's a senior, he's been through it, and with him he makes us feel more comfortable. He runs the team, and he's a great overall scorer. He just makes my job easier."
On being more aggressive
"Coming in as a a freshman it's kind of easy to just take a backseat to the older guys, and to try and look for them. You always want to make your older guys happy. Listening to coach and listening to Mason and Ryan, those guys are telling me to be more aggressive and to look for my shot. It's definitely an adjustment but it's one that I've been making this week in practice, and I look to transition it into the game as well."
Duke will take on Georgia State this Friday, November 9th, at 7 p.m. in Cameron Indoor Stadium.