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Correcting A Recruiting Myth

Any program, successful or not, gets stereotyped. Consider Michigan and the long shadow of the Fab Five. For years, Georgia Tech was considered Point Guard U. Dean Smith was said to be the only one who could control Michael Jordan offensively; Kenny Anderson rejected UNC because he didn't want to be "just another horse in Dean Smith's stable."

Temple still hasn't escaped the dour and ferocious persona of John Chaney and Indiana is just now emerging from the considerable shadow of Bob Knight.

And Duke?

Well, lately, part of it has been that Duke restricts big men too much. Which is, of course, nonsense.

What Duke has done for a long time is to allow players to grow into their skill sets. So while you might see Brian Zoubek setting a lot of screens, and rebounding, you'll see other guys with broader abilities doing more stuff: Duke's offense really ran through Danny Ferry when he was in Durham. Carlos Boozer was a solid scorer, as he's proved since leaving Duke. Elton Brand could do whatever he wanted; Mason Plumlee leads the break on a regular basis. Shane Battier's instructions were often to "run around and make things happen."

And most of all, Christian Laettner was anything but chained to the post.

Basically, people are allowed to expand their game to meet their abilities.

The second part of this misconception is the notion that Wojo can't coach big men or that only big men can coach big men.

If that's true, wouldn't it mean as well that big men can't coach little men?
So what the hell did John Thompson do for Allan Iverson? Why is Danny Manning moving into coaching? What's the point of addressing the game outside of your own narrow experience?

Bill Guthridge was an absolutely superb coach for big men, but he was no seven footer.

But enough of that, let's look at the evidence, with the proviso that what anyone does in high school is irrelevant to the college game.

  • Brian Zoubek: anyone who can't see the remarkable improvement he made during his career is delusional. Zoobs never was particularly talented, but he carved out a niche which was pretty amazing.
  • Shelden Williams: as a freshman, Williams had no meaningful offensive skills. He became a solid big man at Duke, good enough to have his number retired.
  • Lance Thomas: despite his high school reputation, Thomas was a marginal player when he got to Duke. His entire freshman season, for instance, he recorded but one assist. Yet he became a key part of a national title team.
  • Mason Plumlee: he has been erratic, to be sure, but as a junior, he developed a solid jump hook and plays with intensity and passion. If he opts to return for his senior year, he can be expected to show continued improvement.

It's fair to say that the less talented big men Duke has had have had, obviously, less imposing offensive skill sets. However, the more talented players - the Laettners, Ferrys, Boozers and Brands - have always had a great deal of freedom. Duke's offense is designed to adapt to personnel, and it would adapt to whoever showed up. It's hard to imagine, for instance, that Duke would not know how to use Jared Sullinger, Cody Zeller or Anthony Davis. Or for that matter, Tony Parker or Mitch McGary.

If you're good enough, you can do as much as you are capable of</>