Charles Choi got to go to the London games and sent us these impressions. Thanks Charles!
I was lucky enough to be in Europe for a conference and visited a friend
in London to watch the Duke basketball team play its first exhibition game
against the Belgian Antwerp Manpower at the Crystal Palace last Sunday Oct
13th. I know it's a week late but I hope the DBR readers will appreciate
some of the info.
The game was split into 4 10-minute quarters. We had the luxury of
sitting a couple rows behind the Duke bench to hear Coach K talk with his
players and saw Dahntay Jones' family. As you maybe able to tell from the
photos on the DBR page the environment was much like a high school
basketball gym. The crowd was very pro-Duke with several alumni in the
audience. A couple hundred people. The evening game with the London
Towers probably drew more local fans.
The game started out slowly with Duke looking a little lackadaisical. We
arrived a couple minutes after the tip and the unit on the floor was
Shelden Williams, Shavlik Randolph, Dahntay Jones, Chris Duhon and Daniel
Ewing. The offense lacked some flow in the first quarter and the
defensive intensity was a bit lacking as well. I'm sure part of it was
the jet lag and getting into the flow of a game. Coach K substituted
fairly regularly to try different combinations on the floor. Horvath,
Dockery, and Redick all got decent minutes. A couple things that I'm sure
will be ironed out with more practice is that the young big men and the
guards had a hard time setting up nice baseline screens. Several were run
for J.J. Redick and he had a hard time getting free of his man. Also he
didn't take his defender off the dribble much during the game and deferred
to his teammates if he didn't have a decent look.
The first quarter ended with Antwerp ahead 26-19. We were definitely
getting outplayed as the Manpower were led by recent Michigan grad Chris
Young who had 11 pts in the first quarter and ended up with 21 for the
game leading the Manpower. As he showed in the Duke-Michigan game last
year, he can definitely score and be productive in the lowpost. Our young
guns didn't have an answer for Young early. Coach K was fuming during the
time out between quarters. He pointed out that Antwerp was on pace to
score 104 points in the game and the defensive intensity needed to be
picked up and everyone needed to play harder. He also pointed out the
Antwerp were "men" and not "boys" who were playing professional ball in
Europe and the guys had to step it up in the 2nd quarter.
The speech definitely struck a chord with the team b/c Duke came out
blazing in the second quarter outscoring Antwerp 32-8 in the 2nd frame to
go up 51-34 at the break. Dahntay Jones raised his game and played
terrific on the offensive end and emerged as the offensive leader. He had
a stretch of 3 straight 3-ptrs at one point in the game. Reminiscent of
Dunleavy's stretch in the Arizona title game. Shavlik Randolph has a knack
for being in the right place for rebounding and was the other offensive
spark in the game. Although I didn't see our guys get many rebounds in
traffic, Shav in particular was outstanding in getting to the right spots
and clearing the glass.
In the 2nd half, Duke pretty much cruised to a comfortable win. There
were a couple plays when our big men had opportunities to dunk it and go up
strong but went with weak layups that missed or waited for contact. Coach
K was adamant about going up strong and dunking it. That's another area
where I think our big men will need to get better and more aggressive in
their mentality down low. Didn't have as many back to the basket
low-post entries in the game. That's been a constant weakness of the
Duke offense in being too perimeter oriented but with this group and
depth of big men, I hope we'll have a strong commitment to our inside
game on the offensive end. A few times, the spacing was bad in making an
entry to the low box, as the defenders were able to double down easily and
guard 2 men at the same time. Coach K also pointed this out and I'm sure
it'll be worked on.
Here are my observations and comments on each player:
Chris Duhon: He had a quiet offensive game. He hit a couple shots but
struggled somewhat. He had some nice 2 man games with Shelden in the low
post and working give and gos on the baseline. He didn't take the ball
into the lane off penetrations as much during the game which I would like
to have seen more of but I expect him to have a huge year with all the
talent he has on this team to pass to. Another encouraging sight was that
he didn't take any 30 ft 3-ptrs. Really tried to get his teammates
involved more in this game.
Dahntay Jones: Emerged as the clear offensive leader on the team and
probably the team leader as well. His stretch of 3 straight 3 pointers
provide the burst for Duke to get a comfortable cushion in the game. I
haven't seen as much of him taking his man off the dribble but his
perimeter and mid range shot has improved and that'll be a huge asset in
the big games. Dahntay is the most indispensible player on the squad this
year b/c the SF position is where Duke lacks depth and experience. Shav
and Ewing may play some SF if Jones gets in foul trouble. Melchionni
could also provide some minutes.
Daniel Ewing: Also had a quiet game but came alive late in the game to hit
some nice shots in the 4th quarter including a nice pass on a fast break.
I really like him pushing the ball on the fast break. I think he'll have
a terrific year and probably will be the starting shooting guard.
Casey Sanders: Didn't get as many minutes as Shelden, Shav or Horvath
but played very well. He's still our best shot blocker and had a great
stretch of blocking a shot, hustling and getting a rebound and scoring a
bucket. It was great to see. Reminiscent of the energy he played with in
the 2001 national title run with Boozer out. It was also nice to see
Casey and Nick encouraging the young big men after Coach K was yelling at
them to get them to focus and play harder. Nice show of leadership by
Nick Horvath: Nick was the most vocal player on the court. Getting his
teammates energized and communicating the best. That's another area where
the team could be more active in talking on the court. Nick also hit 2
3-ptrs at the top of the key and that was a great sign. Glad to see he's
rediscovered his shooting touch. He may start at center at the beginning
of the year as Shelden challenges him.
Shavlik Randolph: The most skilled of the freshman. He's also taller than
I expected and has a knack for being in the right place for rebounds. I
think he ended up with 20 pts in the game. Had a nice dunk on a breakaway
and played a solid mid range game. He didn't show as many back to the
basket moves but had several put backs and was very active. Shav is also
an outstanding free throw shooter. He got to the line a lot and has a
smooth stroke. He'll be a great asset in tight games.
Shelden Williams: He got yelled at for not being as active on defense
early in the game but picked up his intensity as the game went on. He's
clearly the strongest of the freshman and just needs to get more
comfortable and aggressive in the lowpost. He's got the strength and
ability to really score and dominate in the lowpost but needs to stay
aggressive on both ends.
Michael Thompson: Michael didn't get as many minutes so it was tough to
comment on his play. Coach K got on him in the 4th quarter when Chris
Young beat him to a loose ball on the floor. Coach K said "Chris Young
has been playing almost the whole game and you've only been in there for 4
minutes and he's out hustling you to the ball!!" The point was clear and
Michael immediately responded and was in a more active stance and playing
harder. He'll provide great depth and size off the bench this year.
J. J. Redick: J. J. was a favorite of my friend Julie and she thinks he
and Lee Melchionni will be the most popular with the female Duke fans this
year. But I digress. J. J. had better games in the other exhibitions as
Andy Katz and others have reports. Needs to work on getting open for his
shots off of screens and also creating more off the dribble. He's
definitely got a nice shot and I'm sure we'll work to set him up for
Lee Melchionni: Had a quiet game like Thompson. Gives some size at the
2-3 position and played with some energy but wasn't into the flow of the
game as much due to the limited minutes.
Sean Dockery: Had a great game with lots of minutes spelling Duhon and
Ewing and did a nice job bring the ball up and getting the offense flowing
in the half court. He also made some really nice shots including a nice
spin move at the free throw line to shake a defender. Sean will be a
great PG off the bench this year and I expect to see little or no drop
off. A true luxury for Coach K.
Coach K: I thought he was much more vocal and did a nice job of teaching
and explaining techniques for screening, defense, rebounding, etc during
the timeouts. With so many young players, Coach K will have to be more
hands-on this year and after coming off his recent hip surgeries, I expect
him to return to the more active teaching role he had earlier in his
career. That could spell trouble for everyone else in the nation. Coach
K seems to have more energy and was adamant about fundamentals. If the
young guns catch on fast, the sky's the limit for this team.
Defense: Needs to improve on the interior. Overall had good ball pressure
and on the first pass in the half court to the wings. Perimeter D was
pretty active and tight. Interior defense needs to improve as the young
big men improve. Chris Young and their other big men for Antwerp really
played well and were able to catch the ball close to the basket. Need to
deny better and also step out on big men who can shoot 3's.
Offense: The flow improved with the game and also didn't shoot a crazy
number of 3 pointers. A more balanced mid range game for Duke but still
need to try and get the ball inside more.
Summary: Duke has a promising and deep squad this year at every position
except maybe SF. They will need to form a stronger team identity and
continue to get better but the foundation is there. The freshman will be
huge in terms of depth and especially rebounding and interior defense and
we may struggle early as the team continues to learn and mature. Redick
and Dockery will provide a huge lift off the bench in the backcourt as
well. Dahntay and Chris need to be the vocal team leaders and Dahntay may
be our go to guy in the stretch on the perimeter. Ewing also has
tremendous potential to break out this year. With Chris setting up all
these guys I expect him to lead the ACC and maybe the nation in assists.
Low-post play will depend on the emergence of the young guns and the
contributions of Horvath and Sanders. Lots of depth and lots of
opportunities for growth at all positions. Definitely excited to watch
this team grow and improve!
A faithful DBR reader,