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Interview with ESPN Recruiting Analyst Dave Telep

On Fri., Nov. 2nd, I was very fortunate to be able to speak with ESPN’s own Dave Telep for a few minutes. I’ve always been a big fan of not only his insight, but the advice he offers recurits. If he notices something, then you can be sure coaches see it too. He took time out of his very hectic schedule to speak with me via phone about recruiting and Duke Basketball. Here is my conversation with Dave:

Chris: Looking at the current Duke roster and future commitments, who do you feel is the one player Duke is currently recruiting that they cannot afford to miss out on in the next class or two?

Dave: I think the next the couple of years the guy Duke can’t miss on it Tyus Jones. I think Mike Krzyzewksi’s love affair with Tyus Jones is entering it’s third season. I think Coach wants nothing more than to hand the reins of this team over to that guy at some point and see how fast he can drive it. I think a guy like that is a great comfort to a head coach like Mike Krzyzewksi. I think to have a kid like that to have to continue the culture of the program and build a championship team with. I think Mike Krzyzewksi in his heart-of-hearts would be disappointed if he didn’t have a chance to coach Tyus Jones.

Chris: From this year’s freshmen class (including Alex Murphy and Marshall Plumlee), who do you think will have the greatest impact on the Duke program?

Dave: I don’t know the answer to that question, will makes it kind of an interesting season. I think that Sulaimon because of his skill as a shooter, and the value Duke places on that, and because of who I think he could be as a defensive player, I think has the chance to make some strides for Duke really quick. I would hedge my bets on Rasheed Sulaimon, but that’s one of the things with this early season coming up that Duke has to find out, which one of those guys is really ready to take on a larger role.

Chris: I know some people have compared Rasheed Sulaimon to Austin Rivers, which I think is an unfair comparison. Watching him in the exhibtion against Western Washington, he seems like a more complete player than Rivers. Maybe not necessarily the scorer, but he can handle the ball, he pass, defend, shoot, I was excited to see him in that exhibition.

Dave: I’m not sure who had compared Rasheed Sulaimon to Austin Rivers, but that’s an extraterrestrial comparison. That holds no weight. If you’re looking for a Duke mold as to who could be and might be, I think you have to start with Nolan Smith because at the end of the day, Mike Krzyzewksi wants Rasheed Sulaimon to be a two-way player. And I think that’s what Nolan evolved into over the course of his four years. I don’t think Sulaimon can’t drive the way Nolan did as a freshman, but Nolan couldn’t shoot like Sulaimon can. They can both be secondary handlers and I think Sulaimon should be a defensive player just like Nolan was. Austin Rivers comparison to Sulaimon was out there.

Chris: I think, from the people I’ve talked with, they’re looking more for that guy that can replace Austin Rivers and I think that’s an unfair comparison between those two.

Dave: I don’t think Duke wants to replace Austin Rivers. I think Duke wants to get back to a normal rhythm of Duke Basketball. I don’t think Duke Basketball functions when there’s one guy with the ultimate green light like that. I think that, although not nearly as talented, in many ways Sulaimon is more of a fit at Duke than Rivers was from a bunch of different angles. From the ability to play without the ball, from the ability to share the ball, and definitely on the defensive end. The Austin Rivers era was brief, and it’s over, but that’s not the guy Duke needs to replace. They need to replace Nolan Smith.

Chris: Who do you feel is the most important recruit in Duke has had in the Coach K era?

Dave: I think two guys stand out. I think Shane Battier is the gift that keeps on giving for Duke Basketball, but I think the most important recruit in the Coach K era has to be Johnny Dawkins. That’s the guy that gave Duke it’s street cred in Washington, DC. It gave Coach K a legitimate superstar to populate his roster around. Over 2,000 points didn’t hurt either. I think Johnny Dawkins got the ball rolling and I think you would be hard press to find a better choice than Johnny Dawkins.

Chris: If someone were to come to you and say they are interested in getting into recruiting, what would be the best piece of advice you could offer them?

Dave: There are a couple of things. First and foremost I think it has to start in college. You have to walk into the basketball office at your college and find a way to make yourself apart of that team because that’s the best place to learn about recruiting on a daily basis. And after that, everyone wants to be in college basketball recruiting. The reality is the only guys that stick around are the guys who truly find a way to make themselves indispensable. Provide a different window into a situation and are willing to start small. So many guys want to get in and bite off more than they can chew and they don’t really know what it means to put in a day’s work in a gym to get better at your job. You don’t get into this business if you think you’ve got all the answers. You have to get into this business to learn. I’m in my 17th year, and every day when I walk into my office or go into a gym, my job is to learn. And if you don’t approach your job that way, you’ll never be able to get into this business.

It was a real pleasure to speak with Dave. Make sure to follow him on Twitter, @DaveTelep, for all of his recruiting insight!