|4||Â Carlos Boozer||C||6-9||260||So.|
|5||Â Ryan Caldbeck||G||6-3||190||Sr.|
|3||Â Nick Horvath||F||6-10||215||So.|
With Midnight Madness less than a month away, it's time to start thinking
about the season. Here's the first of our annual previews of ACC teams. As
always, we start with the Devils.
By all accounts, Duke is loaded for bear this season. With the return of Shane
Battier, who seems likely to be the next Devil with a retired jersey, a more
mature and slimmer Jason Williams, and Mike Dunleavy, Carlos Boozer, and Nate
James, the nucleus is in place for what could be a great season is in
place.Â Still, there are question marks.
- Nate James has had difficulty with tendinitis.Â Will he be ready to
go? After last year's tremendous improvement, we hope so.
- Carlos Boozer reportedly went to tryouts for the U.S.20 and Under National
Team out of shape and was manhandled by Zach Randolph - a high school
senior. Not a good thing. Boozer did however attend Pete Newell's Big Man
- The maturation of Dunleavy, Horvath, and Sanders. All three were painfully
skinny last season. With some muscle they can help a lot more.
- Matt Christiansen. With a passing resemblance to Bill Laimbeer,
Christiansen is the biggest big man Duke has - by far. It took him awhile
last season to figure out how to fit in, but three years away can do that.
All things considered, though, Duke starts the season in tremendous
shape.Â Having a guy like Shane Battier, who is the best defender in the
country, hands down (or up), is a great place to start.Â Add in Jason
Williams at point and Mike Dunleay at wherever he wants to be, and you have the
makings of a monster team.
Still, a lot will depend on how healthy Nate James is.Â It's pretty
clear that Battier is marvelous, that Williams is gifted, that Dunleavy knows
the game inside out, and that Carlos Boozer could be a dominant player. None of
them are capable of playing the range defensively that James is.Â Â The only player of
similar size to James is freshman Andre Sweet (and walkon Reggie Love).Â If
James has serious problems, Duke's offense won't suffer - Dunleavy and Duhon
(sounds like a law firm) would probably start. ButÂ the defense will suffer.
Next year Dahntay Jones will fill that responsibility.
Ok, that's about it for the downside.Â Things mostly are looking pretty
cheerful in Durham, with the exception of the Maggette cloud which still
lingers.Â Let's look at the main players:
- Shane Battier. This guy has come a long way from the defensive specialist
of his freshman year.Â At times he has erupted, particularly the
near-legendary Maryland game after watching a show on Shaolin monks, and
Kansas last year.Â He has developed into a remarkable all-round talent,
and is still the best defender in college basketball.Â What could
possibly be on this year's wish list?Â Not much. Continued improvement,
- Nate James.Â Last season James was a huge question mark.Â By the
end of the year, most of the questions were resolved.Â He's a tough,
tough defender, a good outside shooter, and most of all a leader.Â This
quality showed up early in his career but wasn't obvious on the court due to
his injuries. As we mentioned, his knees are a problem.Â We hope he can
go 100% all year, because he is pretty effective.Â His major weakness
is ballhandling, and periodically he starts off without considering where
he's going to end up.Â Minor problem considering what he offers the
team in terms of leadership.
- Carlos Boozer. A bit of an enigma.Â At times he did some absolutely
amazing things last season.Â At other times he
disappeared.Â Â Â It's important to remember that after a
broken foot, we didn't see Boozer at his best. Nonetheless, his performance
was up and down. Asked to play center, he did well at times but when faced
with a bigger player he struggled at times inside (see Haywood,
Brendan).Â On the other hand, he was pretty comfortable playing with
both hands, periodically demonstrated range, and had a few outstanding
rebounding performances as well.Â Before his foot injury, there were
some concerns in the media and online about his conditioning.Â That
resurfaced this summer as he was dominated at the US Trials by Zach
Randolph.Â Boozer, according to one school of thought, may entertain
NBA ideas.Â If so, he should be very focused on intensity,
conditioning, and improvement.Â That's what the NBA requires. It's a
very serious commitment, and they'll dump him in a New York nanosecond if
he's not ready.Â Aside from the Bigs, he needs to make the commitment
to his teammates. Boozer is a key part of this team. He has tremendous
talent and huge potential.Â The time to harness it is now.
- Mike Dunleavy. One coach told us over the summer that Dunleavy was going
to explode this season, that he would have 30 point games and be possibly
the best player in the country. Wow!Â From all accounts he has
continued to grow and has put on weight.Â Last season, before he came
down with mono, Dunleavy was a fascinating player. In some games he was just
devastating - particularly in running games. Enjoy him on the break.Â
Get on the edge of your seat when he's out there.Â At other times his
shot abandoned him and he seemed to make poor decisions.Â Â Â
But that's freshmen stuff.Â The real problem he had last year was he
was so thin.Â In halfcourt games he could disappear, and of course he
got muscled a lot.Â Yet he still snuck in and got rebounds in the
crowd.Â Dunleavy has a natural intellect for the game which will only
look better as his body catches up.Â We still think back on his
astonishing game against USC as an indicator of what he is capable of -
dominating the game like Bird.Â We're not saying he's Bird.Â But
he's got some Bird in him.
- Jason Williams.Â We got e-mail last year after the New York games
claiming the kid was a bust. No one was saying that by the end of the year,
and certainly no one is saying it after this summer, where he apparently has
been dominant.Â Â His faults last year were primarily faults of
impatience - a rash three pointer here, a forced pass there.Â But when
he did those things he did them because he was trying to win, not because he
was foolish.Â This season Williams could have a quantum leap - but
he'll have to focus on patience.
- Chris Duhon.Â The rookie, we hear, has gained weight and power, which
is good because he looked like a cross between Johnny Dawkins and Phil
Henderson frame-wise.Â Nonetheless, like Dawkins, he can play the hell
out of this game.Â He is one of the best outside shots around. Playing
at a small school, when his team needed points, he could light it up,
hitting threes in bunches.Â He is skilled enough to play at point but
with a shot like his he's likely going to be running off of screens a
lot.Â He's a superb shooter, and a willing defender as well.Â He
may or may not start, but regardless, he'll play a lot.
- Matt Christensen.Â His freshman year (he and Taymon Domzalski came in
at the same time, believe it or not), Matt showed some smarts.Â He is
limited physically, but has pretty good hands.Â If he can figure out a
way to score underneath, or to do something productive after a board, he'll
be a huge help.Â There were a few occasions last season where he
grabbed 2 or 3 offensive boards in a row.
- Casey Sanders. The Diamond in the rough.Â We saw Sanders start in the
backcourt last season and beat the guards downcourt.Â That's
impressive.Â At the beginning of the season, he was scared to go up
under the basket.Â He would look around and hesitate.Â By the end
he had a few moves down and was effective in bursts.Â Casey's progress
is entirely up to him. He has tremendous physical gifts.Â From here on
out it's weights and repetitions, and that's about it.Â If he gets
enough of both, he can be whatever he wants in basketball.
- Nick Horvath.Â At times he showed a tremendous savvy, hitting a game
winning three at one point,Â making plays beyond his years in traffic
at others. Yet at times he wasn't a confident player, and he didn't play
defense well enough to earn more time, and that hurt the team, particularly
down the stretch.Â Horvath isn't a great natural athlete, but he's
athletic enough (at least as athletic as Dunleavy, probably more so) to have
an impact.Â Like Sanders and Dunleavy, his need is to get
stronger.Â We saw enough in him to be intrigued and to want to see
more. The shooting is obvious, but the savvy is not always recognzied. He
did some nifty things in traffic. He loves offense; now he must grok defense
- Andre Buckner. A late pickup, he was basically signed as insurance. He'll
probably not start at Duke, but he's a quick little guard, and a pest on
defense.Â He's fun to watch.
- Andre Sweet.Â We've only seen him once, but as a utility man, and a
defender, he can find a role early if he wants it.Â There's a place on
this team for a stopper.
- Reggie Love. The X-factor. A really good ballplayer, he'll play football
until December, then come over.Â At one measurement (inside) he leaped
higher than anyone thought anyone could, and so they had to estimate his
leap because he put his palm on the celing. It's not Cameron, but it's still
This team is a bit deeper than last year, when depth ended the season. K
teams usually do well against pressing teams, but he was down to 5 players
against Florida and the gas just wasn't there. That will help.Â But this
team has a few key questions to resolve to determine how far it goes: 1) big man
production from Boozer, Christensen, and Sanders; 2) wing defense beyond James,
a key element in any Duke attack, and 3) muscle. Aside from Boozer, Christensen
and Battier, this isn't a huge bunch.Â But they're smart, and quick, and
will pass very well. With Maryland and UNC, they should vie for #1 in the
conference.Â Duke only lost 1 game in the past two ACC seasons. That'll be
hard to match, but then again, it was hard to do in the first place.