It’s strange to see Johnny Dawkins on the other bench in an NCAA game. He’s been such an iconic figure at Duke. Dawkins was Coach K’s first key recruit and also his first significant recruit in the DMV region, which soon brought Duke Tommy Amaker, Danny Ferry, Billy King, John Smith and many others, including Grant Hill and, more recently, Quinn Cook.
Dawkins, Jay Bilas, Mark Alarie, David Henderson and Weldon Williams laid the foundation for what has happened at Duke since 1982 and no one was more key than Dawkins. A razor-thin guard with surpassing quickness, Dawkins was a tough guy to match up with. He did have some tough opponents though: we can clearly remember him driving and then seeing Georgia Tech’s Mark Price swipe the ball away in mid-air and head the other way. We can also remember seeing him in the ACC Tournament just stop dribbling, worried that Muggsy Bogues was behind him (he wasn’t). The look on his face was anguished, urgent and very funny. Muggsy could do that to guys.
For the most part though, #24 was tough, resourceful and a great leader. One of his greatest moments was taking on Notre Dame’s David Rivers one on one as the clock wound down on an upset bid...and blocking his shot near the foul line.
It was sheer badassery.
Dawkins had a nice pro career until injuries took their toll and then returned to Duke. He did radio work for a bit before moving to the bench.
Coach K praised him for his ability to spot talent and to get guys in peak physical condition. He’s demonstrated both at Stanford, where he was somewhat limited by inflexible admissions, and UCF where he is less so.
A quick aside about Stanford: his dismissal there was, truly, lovely. His AD spoke of his character and how good a man he was and how anguishing it was to have to let someone like that go and how much his colleagues respected and admired him. It wasn’t your standard thank you for your contributions and get the hell out bit. It was heartfelt.
At UCF, Dawkins in his third year and his most intriguing two players are Tacko Fall and his own son Aubrey.
At 7-6, Fall, a native of Dakar, Senegal, is the tallest player in college currently and one of the tallest men in the world today. There are a handful bigger but not many.
He’s gone from being a skinny giant to someone closer to the Mountain in Game of Thrones. He now weighs 310 lbs and will be hard to move around.
In UCF’s first game, a win over VCU, he had 13 points, 18 rebounds and five blocks and helped shut down the inside. He’s not particularly agile. He’s a bit ponderous actually but he’s very strong and has good hands. His strengths are rebounding and shot blocking. Before the tournament, he had only taken 10 jump shots in his career. Why bother when you can dunk without jumping?
He’s not a great basketball player and may never be. He’ll never get much quicker than he is now.
Doesn’t matter. He’s a serious obstacle to anyone.
However he’s not totally unique. He’s only a bit taller than Florida State’s Christ Koumadje, who is 7-4 and considerably more agile. Duke did reasonably well against him so we’ll see what the Blue Devils do with Fall.
It’s a particular concern because Duke has famously not shot well outside this year. If Fall can control the lane and Duke can’t hit jumpers, it could be trouble.
However, UCF is far from a perfect team. The Knights are 24-8 and lost to FAU and Missouri and also lost to the better teams in the AAC (Memphis, Wichita, Cincinnati, UConn).
They also had fairly tight games with ECU, Tulsa and Georgia Southern.
Dawkins’ most promising player is probably his son. Aubrey Dawkins is bigger than his dad - 6-6 and 205 - and he could follow his father to the NBA.
He’s averaging 15.1 mpg, 5.1 rpg, 1.3 apg and shooting 45. 3 percent. Duke will be able to counter him with solid defenders RJ Barrett, Cam Reddish, Tre Jones and Jordan Goldwire. He grew up around Duke basketball and has absorbed a lot.
Jones will primarily be tasked with stopping point guard BJ Taylor. Dawkins, Taylor and Fall are the only double digit scorers for UCF.
Not that it matters. They score enough to win.
For Duke, as noted, Fall presents some special challenges. However, there are some things he can’t do. He's not particularly good at running the break. He doesn’t shoot particularly well and he’s not particularly fast.
All of this suggests that Duke could blow the game open on defense. As we saw against North Dakota State, and multiple times during the year, Duke in transition is very difficult to stop.
In short, Duke has an excellent chance at winning this game, but not if it allows Fall to dictate the terms on defense.
As you’ve probably heard, there was a bit of media mischief where someone basically provoked Fall to say he wouldn't let Williamson dunk on him.
For his part, Williamson refused to be baited, saying “what is he supposed to say?” and professing his respect.
Knowing Duke as he does so well, we imagine that Dawkins chuckled or shook his head ruefully. Nothing there for UCF to work with.
One final note. Jack White is not likely to play due to his hamstring.
DBR Auctions|Blue Healer Auctions| Drop us a line