Luol Deng 6-8, 218 pound recruit has set abuzz, the many who have seen him play during the Duke Basketball Camp that ended tonight in hallowed Cameron Indoor Stadium. I was able to catch his game the past three nights and have decided to concentrate mainly on our sensational freshman recruit, mainly due to the lack of scholarship players in town this week.
Now, don't get me wrong, some other Devils made an impact on me and I will go over their play first. Lee Melchionni showed a sweet outside touch all summer by drilling threes with ease and hustles up and down the court at all times. Lee has improved his game, including his defense. He often guarded Luol, and made his life tough at times by extending a hand in his face or playing physical with him down low, slapping at the ball, etc. Lee is looking like a player that wants some PT.
Shelden Williams played with Deng the second night, and the two did well together. Shelden is passing the ball better, and has a nice one hander on the offensive end. He took a blow to a quad last yesterday and sat out tonights action.
Walk-ons Andy Means and Patrick Johnson also played the entire week and deserve mention. Means and his stocky build made it possible to grab several rebounds, and Johnson at 6-8, challenged inside, once rejecting a Duhon shot tonight. Both are very valuable in the practice system, and bigger than players in those roles in the past.
Chris Duhon wasn't all out tonight, but he has just starting back playing this week and is acclimating his teammates to the system. His shot was money on night two and after losing their first game, his team rolled off four straight before I left tonight.
Chris looks ready to lead a talented bunch, and has worked on his game. He has gained confidence in throwing the three up, and showed ability to make some tough shots on drives.
The aforementioned players show how the competition was down this week. JJ is in Colorado Springs still alive for a spot on the US team. Daniel, Michael and Sean were out of town, some at home. I am still not sure where Nick has been, but seem to remember him working out in his home Minnesota.
Now I'd like to talk about perspective, and encourage some to temper their enthusiasm. I will start with Shavlik Randolph and his weight gain. While I fully expect him to keep some of it as muscle, consider that crutches pump your upper body up ... I know from experience. Also, he has indeed been lifting and that is obvious, but hasn't been able to participate in many cardio exercises. He shot set shots in between games the night before last, sporting a Seattle Super Sonics T-Shirt. I look
forward to seeing Randolph return, and expect him to have a huge year. This kid will probably improve leaps and bounds over last year and will eventually land in the league. No players potential on our team excites me more.
Now, that brings me to perspective number two in the talented Luol Deng. Keep in mind that internet board buzz has some anointing him ACC POY after some pick ups. Did he buzz the place this week? You
betcha, but even Luol has some areas of his game to work on, and the Coaches haven't introduced him to what they expect yet.
Let's start with Luol's strengths, which are many. It has been awhile since I have seen a big kid handle the ball as well as he does. He moves effortlessly with the ball down court. In fact, tonight he stripped the ball and went in for a reverse slam to seal a win. He took the ball the length of the court after a rebound to dunk. In fact, he started the first game with a rebound, drove the length and threw a sweet bounce pass to Duhon, which showed off his propensity for team play.
The night before he drove the length on a break, threw the ball off the glass and caught it and threw down one handed dunk. The ooohs and ahhs echoed through the hallowed and currently reconstructed halls of Cameron. His arms are always near the ball and his passing skills and teamwork bring back memories of Blue Devils past, ala Grant Hill.
Luol missed his first four three point attempts on Monday, but before I could question him, he hit three in a row from beyond the stripe. I consider his outside shot a slight weakness, however, he is ahead of Shane as a freshman, and that says a lot. Okay, for those who don't remember, Shanes outside shot was a bit clunky as a freshman.
Luol has good range, and the staff will refine this area of his game, which isn't bad by any means, but can get better.
He runs the court like a deer, but needs to work on hand strength inside. He would sometimes lose the handle when the opposition slapped at the ball, mainly an
aggressive Melchionni, who may have been instructed to do so. In fact, strength training will be important for young Luol, as he was sometimes pushed off the ball inside, and players will indeed play physical in the ACC. He is best when in the open court, and learned to drive when he found lesser opponents on him or a pesky Melchionni elswhere. His arms make it easy for him to get his shot off on drives, especially on the right side of the paint.
Strength will come for Luol, who shows great balance and fluid movement and awarness of his body. Assistant strength coach William Stephens was showing Luol the
stretching ropes before tonights games, and he has been around. For those who never think about it or know, the Devils have an intense stretching routine they adhere to, and Stephens plays a huge part. While I am sure other schools have the same, I have watched the refinement of their drills over the years which can last twenty minutes.
Okay, back on subject, it is good to know that Luol is human and can improve in some areas. His versatility will be a welcomed sight and I am sure the Crazies will let him know that come November, or better yet, the Blue-White games, where he'll team with all his talented mates.
Coach K appeared tonight, and graciously signed for a line of fifty people. Oddly, glancing over there
thirty minutes later, there were still fifty people in line ... go figure.
The rest of our fine staff was also there, as were the managers who are a big part of the team. By all accounts the first year they held three sessions of camp was a success and thrilled many a kid and parent alike in
Now, for some recruiting news relating to the Blue Devils. Shaun Livingston was injured and was unable to compete in an anticipated match up with DeMarcus Nelson. Livingston remains a Duke lean and a prime target, but he will not take official visits until the Fall. Shaun should be fine, and I am sure all Devil fans wish the young talented man, the best of luck.
DeMarcus Nelson? All this stud did was lead the camp in scoring in Colorado, and with the talent level there was an accomplishment. The guy is a scorer and we all look foward to next season when he comes to Durham.
Sasha Kaun, the huge talent from Florida suffered an injury that will keep him out of action until early August. The young man still lists Duke among seven schools.
In great news, Virginia native Marcus Ginyard, who attended Dukes first session of camp, has named the Blue Devils as the leader for his athletic services.
Rumors persist that Greg Paulus will announce his decision soon, I have heard no word on Dwight Howard, the coveted Georgia big man.
Lastly, Cameron Indoor Stadium is getting yet another face lift. New windows are being installed, the plate glass type, and there may be tile floors in the concourse. A portion has already been covered and it is cushy, and probably a lot easier for upkeep. Marty Clark appeared on crutches late tonight, and I wish him well. If I am not mistaken, he is, or was one of the many assistants with the NBA Mavericks. The Yoh building continues to look better too, and excites one when visiting for the football season. It is a fact, that Duke (support football too) has more players in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, than any other team in our conference - things you learn with a walk through.
I will end with wishing JJ luck in making the US team, and urging a prayer for Jason Williams, who is in many Blue Devil hearts and thoughts. I encourage anyone who missed Merry
Rabb's take on JWill to catch it. It is great to be a Duke fan, eh?