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ACC Preview #12 - Duke

Over the last couple of seasons, after Luol Deng left early and Kris Humphries
and Shaun Livingston made commitments they didn't keep, Duke's talent thinned
out a good bit and the team became less athletic than usual and more reliant on
two players (J.J. Redick and Shelden Williams) than it normally is. That's
all changed this season.

Redick and Williams are gone, and the team is far younger and vastly more
athletic than it has been in some time.

Led by Greg Paulus, DeMarcus Nelson and Josh McRoberts, Duke is young, deep,
and very athletic. DeMarcus Nelson is a junior; everyone else is a sophomore or

Greg Paulus is not one of the highly athletic players on the team, but he is
a very smart point guard who can really zip a pass. Look for him to have
plenty of targets this season, and hope that he recovers from his foot injury
very soon. He showed signs last year of being a remarkable floor leader.

Nelson has shown flashes of immense athleticism, but he has been injured far
too often at Duke to really show it. This summer, though, he went through
a grueling training regimen offered by a former Navy SEAL and is in phenomenal
condition. If he gets a healthy year, look for Nelson to be
spectacular. He has some weaknesses in his game - he's not a great
ballhandler, and he sometimes takes it in when he'd be smarter not to - but his talent
is undeniable.

One could argue that Duke will start five guards, even with Josh McRoberts in
the lineup. At 6-10, McRoberts is a tremendous ballhandler and passer,
often leading the break for Duke. He's a real luxury, although his outlandish
perimeter game puts a 6-10 guy all over the place.

But if freshman Brian Zoubek can come through, it won't matter.

At 7-1, and over 250, Zoubek was called the "second coming of Mike
Gminski" by one analyst. He's already shown he's better than a lot of
people thought, and he has excellent footwork, the result of an outstanding work

At the absolute least, he'll be a big body off the bench, although we're
expecting better things from him than that. So is Jay Bilas, who
says this to the Philadelphia Inquirer:
"He has a ways to go
strength-wise, but I think he has a great future," Bilas said. "He is
a pro, no question, and will complement (Josh) McRoberts."

Redshirt sophomore Dave McClure returns, and is showing a higher than
expected athleticism after a season off for knee problems. He has the
capacity to be a real defensive force, whether he's starting or coming off the
bench. His shot looks a little suspect, but like Nelson, he has worked
hard to overcome injury, and it has really paid off.

Martynas Pocius had an up-and-down year last year, as he struggled to master
Duke's defense, but he too is a very athletic player, capable of alley-oops or
flying out of nowhere to block a fast break layup from behind, both of which he
did last year. He has said he thinks he's improved a lot defensively, and
if that's so, then look out.

Jamal Boykin is perhaps the least athletic player Duke currently has, but he
is one of the hardest workers and a fan favorite. If he can seize a role,
everyone will be very pleased.

The other freshmen (other than Zoubek that is) have all started at least
once. 6-5 Jon Scheyer has filled in for Paulus, and has shown great poise and
that he's an impressive shooter. He's a savvy 6-5, and will make his
mark. So will 6-4 Gerald Henderson, who has brought some memories of Grant
Hill. He's four inches shorter, and not a forward, but he's explosive, and a
force offensively and defensively. Watch as he becomes one of Paulus's
favorite targets this year. He's going to be something to watch.

Lance Thomas was the last recruit to sign - the the other three committed
over three remarkable days, truly a treat for Duke fans.

At 6-8, Thomas gives Duke a run-jump player on the wing, and he'll be
invaluable against guys like Al Thornton. Agile forwards gave Duke fits
last year. That figures to change. Hes' already shown he's a high
energy guy and capable of pressure on defense and penetration on offense.
He's going to be fun.

Over the last couple of years, Duke has had to throttle back pressure defense
and be careful about minutes as depth and athleticism were in short
supply. So it's going to be fun to watch as these guys really get after
it. Despite the brilliance of Redick and Williams, it's been a tough
couple of years as there just weren't enough bodies to ratchet things up.
But this year there should be. Look for lots of heavy D, lots of breaks
off of turnovers, and lots of new tactics - and some old ones - which liven
things up just a bit in Durham.