We got to swing by and catch some pickup on Saturday
afternoon, and were we ever glad to get over. It was a worthwhile trip,
too. The main revelation: the skinny guys got bigger, and Matt and Jason have
slimmed down. Everyone looks to be in excellent shape.
The most startling physique was Chris Duhon's. Before
he looked like Phil Henderson or Johnny Dawkins. We really didn't recognize
him at first and had to ask who it was. He has really bulked up. He
spent most of the afternoon playing point and chasing Jason Williams
around. He didn't shoot at all when we were there, but there's no
worries there. He's pure gold on the jump shot.
Williams has obviously lost some weight and chiseled his
body. He's in much better shape, not to say he was in bad shape.
He and Chris contested each other a fair amount, but neither shot much. Both
basically ran their teams. Jason from time to time got out and pushed
it, but mostly his game seemed to be about control.
There's not too much to say about Battier, really, other
than he ran the game, pretty much. There's not much doubt about who is
in charge. This is Shane's team.
Nate played but didn't show anything particularly new or
impressive. He was solid, however. Same for Sweet. If he plays
hard defense, he can claim a real role on this team.
We were also intrigued/impressed with Dahntay Jones. He's
obviously very athletic, runs the floor well, handles the ball well, and is
just generally solid. If he plays great defense, he'll have a memorable
career at Duke, short though it may be.
Now to the skinny guys. While they're all still
slender - meaning Sanders, Horvath, and Dunleavy - none of them are frail any
longer, and all of them seemed that way last season. Horvath has made
the most progress bulking up, but Dunleavy has filled out, too.
Horvath seemed more comfortable mixing it up under the
basket than he did last year. Of the three, Horvath is the only one to
add significant definition to any particular area. In his case, his arms,
shoulders, and chest are beginning to be defined. He's capable of
resisting under the basket, which he wasn't last season, not really. Or
maybe he was and lacked the confidence to do it. Either way, he's better at it
Sanders has always been a phenomenal talent, which probably
came as a big surprise to his mother, an artist, and his father, a
musician. Chances are they didn't see a 6-11 ballplayer coming, but
that's what they have. His size gain isn't as noticeable until
you compare it to last year. And more importantly, last year at this
time he was intimidated. He doesn't always know the right thing to do
basketball wise yet, but he isn't scared on the court anymore (he got over
that by February but has made huge progress in a year. Moreover, last year he
was so skinny that his shorts had trouble finding purchase and were constantly
in danger of heading south. That's a thing of the past.
Dunleavy. What can you add besides weight? That's not a
rhetorical question. His skills can improve, but his understanding of the game
is already so refined that there's not much to add to that. His weight
will help. We saw him go up in a crowd a couple of times, and also just the
way he moves, it's obvious that he feels stronger. That'll be an
The big guys looked pretty good. Boozer didn't play a whole
lot while we were there, but performed reasonably well. Matt Christensen
in many ways is the surprise. He has really refined his body and defined
it for this sport to a tremendous degree. He's much slimmer than he was
last year, and his feet seem quicker. We were impressed. There are still some
weaknesses - he doesn't take it to the hoop as well as one might like but
that's relative. He does it a lot better this year than he did last year.
Battier, as we said, had a smooth game and was really in
charge when he was on the floor.
Chris Carrawell and Roshown McLeod showed up, and while
Cwell played like Cwell, Roshown is a dramatically better player than he was
when he was at Duke. Regardless of his statistical output, the nature of
being a professional is hard work, and he has improved in almost every
aspect. It's a testament to his work ethic, and should be an advisory
for anyone who is thinking of leaving early. None of the current players, with
the possible exception of Battier, can play at the level Roshown does, though
many of them are at least as talented, if not more talented. Most young
players don't understand that a guy like McLeod, or even a guy like Travis
Knight or Eric Montross, will eat their lunch.
For this game we were asked to sit upstairs, which was
different but, as it turned out, great. We got a whole different view of
Card, the angles were clear and close, and we recommend it to anyone. It's
much better than downstairs, actually.
On Friday we were on campus for business and so had the
opportunity to swing by Card to see if there was any pickup going on. There
was; it was the women's team. We recognized most of last year's players,
though come to think of it Krista Gingrich didn't play, but the newcomers we
didn't recognize at first. One was particularly intriguing, because she
was very tall, very slender, and exceedingly quick. On two occasions she anticipated
steals brilliantly, and actually it was pretty much the same steal both times
- she caught her opponent half-turned, sprinted across court, and batted the
pass away, left handed, before it was caught. Then it was off to the
races. She has, it is immediately clear, a remarkable ability. Duke fans
should take note, because she's highly unusual.