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Coach K's '05 class ready for action

Judging from last year’s problems and this year’s recruiting class, one might say men’s basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski is a quick learner.

Last season's Blue Devils were felled by the lack of a stable offensive point guard and a dearth of post depth. This year's five-man recruiting class, touted as the nation's best by a number of recruiting services, brings both.

The class features two headline recruits: power forward Josh McRoberts and point guard Greg Paulus. The 6-foot-11, 235-pound McRoberts is a crafty and athletic left-handed big man who operates remarkably well from the high post. One of the nation's top-five players and arguably the country's most-skilled big man, McRoberts is a tenacious rebounder who will provide the Blue Devils with another shotblocker alongside Shelden Williams and Shavlik Randolph. In addition, McRoberts has above average ball-handling skills for a player his size, remarkable footwork and good post moves in the low block. His biggest weakness is his shot—McRoberts has range to the three-point line, but a small hitch in his release makes him a less-than-reliable perimeter shooter.

What separates McRoberts from the rest of the big men in the class, however, is his passing. As a 6-foot-11 power forward, McRoberts can distribute the ball all across the court with pinpoint accuracy, effectively giving the Blue Devils a point center. He will make a push for immediate playing time and may even usurp Randolph as the team's starting power forward by mid-season.

Paulus, McRoberts' future roommate, may not have the rating of his taller counterpart, but the 6-foot-2, 180-pound point guard will be a welcome addition to a team that lacked offensive stability at the point guard position last season. Paulus notched nine assists at the McDonald's All-American game and 10 at the Hoop Summit. A pass-first point guard, Paulus possesses an innate ability to break down a defense, constantly finding players either wide open or in isolation against a single defender. His greatest strength, however, may be one of his greatest weaknesses—Paulus is an assist machine, but his high-risk, high-reward passing style generates a number of turnovers. Likewise, he is prone to losing the ball while dribbling, and a streaky shot and less-than-ideal lateral quickness prevent Paulus from being a surefire NBA prospect.

Nevertheless, Paulus is one of the elite passers to come from the high school game, and his toughness and leadership are reminiscent of former great Duke point guards such as Chris Duhon, Steve Wojciehowski and Bobby Hurley. Streaky shot and turnovers aside, his passing ability is too valuable to leave on the bench for any extended period of time, and like McRoberts, he could challenge for a starting spot immediately.

In addition to McRoberts, Krzyzewski grabbed another five-star big man, Eric Boateng, one of the nation's top two centers. Originally from London, England, the 6-foot-10, 230-pound Boateng has only three years of experience with American high school basketball. His long arms and athleticism, however, give him as much potential as any big man in the class. Boateng is a prospect who can do it all—boasting solid footwork, his shooting range extends to the three-point line. Nevertheless, Boateng is somewhat slight for his size and is an extremely raw prospect. Like Casey Sanders six years before him, Boateng is a prospect with the athleticism and the physical tools to become one of the ACC's top centers. His lack of experience, however, prevents him from being an immediate-impact player.

Along with Boateng and McRoberts, 6-foot-7, 225-pound power forward Jamal Boykin will help anchor the Duke frontline. Boykin has all the makings of a fan favorite in Cameron Indoor Stadium—he is a heady, hard-working player. Like Paulus, he is also an outspoken and emotional leader. Boykin is a solid defender and a very good rebounder; however, he is undersized as a power forward and not quite as athletic as most shooting forwards. As a result, he may find it difficult to make an immediate impact as a Blue Devil.

The last member of the Duke recruiting class, Martynas Pocius, is the most unknown. A 6-foot-5, 180-pound shooting guard from Lithuania, Pocius has been playing basketball at a small prep school in New Hampshire the last two years and has not played on the AAU basketball circuit. As a result, he is a relatively unknown prospect. Nevertheless, he is said to be a tremendous athlete with a sweet shot, garnering scholarship offers from the likes of Arizona, Kansas and Utah, high school head coach Jamie Gallagher said. He could, then, give the Blue Devils the athletic wing player they coveted in the class. He is very slender for his height, however, and his lack of exposure makes it difficult to predict what impact he will have on Duke's team next year.


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