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We are two and a half months away from the annual “kick-off” to the 2012-2013 Duke Men’s Basketball Season. Countdown to Craziness is right around the corner (October 16th; check out the countdown clock at dukeblueplanet.com), and Duke fans are awaiting in anticipation for this season to commence, especially because of last years bitter and abrupt ending in the NCAA Tournament.
There is no question this year’s team will look much different than the previous team, not only because of the departures, but also because of the arrivals and their roles they can play this season. Duke lost two first round talents to the NBA this past June (Austin Rivers and Miles Plumlee) and a talented wing player in Michael Gbinije (who transferred to Syracuse). But the focus is no longer on what Duke lost, but what Duke has obtained, and at first Duke didn’t obtain much (in regards to the 2012 recruiting class, in terms of quantity).
It was looking like Rasheed Sulaimon was going be the lone member of the 2012 class, but things changed quickly. Starting on May 15th, Amile Jefferson, the highly touted forward, chose Duke over ACC rival, NC State, and less than two months later, Duke received news that freshmen guard-forward, Rodney Hood, out of Mississippi State, would transfer to Durham (he is eligible starting in the 2013-14 season). Now it’s time to get to know the two freshmen will who suit up for Duke this fall.
Let’s start with the aforementioned “lone member” of the Duke 2012 class, Rasheed Sulaimon, who’s commitment to Duke seems like it was year’s ago, and in reality, it was over a year ago (committed on 2/10/2011). Sulaimon is the headline player for Coach K’s incoming class, and rightfully so. The 6-4, 180 pounder is from Houston, TX and played his high school basketball at Strake Jesuit College Prep in Texas. He is ranked as the number one shooting guard by all the major recruiting/scouting sites, and was a 2012 McDonald’s All-American and also participated in the 2012 Jordan Brand Classic Game. He also was the three-point shooting champion at the McDonald’s All-American event.
Sulaimon is the prototypical Coach K recruit. He is an intelligent, high energy player, who will make an immediate impact on day one. I can tell you about his huge numbers he put up on the AAU circuit, with his team in Houston, TX, the Houston Hoops. I could share with you that he averaged nearly 28 points per game his senior season, but I believe the most important stat is found in this number: 3.8. That was his GPA during high school, which landed him on the National Honor’s Society his senior year. Sulaimon is a bright young man, who has on the court smarts, and off the court as well (his interviews I have seen have been impressive). Now onto his strengths and areas of improvement on the court.
Sulaimon is one of the best, if not the best pure scorers in the 2012 class, and I don’t only mean his three-point shooting, his mid-range game is consistent and effective.
Sulaimon can score in a bunch of different ways. He has an effective 10-15 foot jump shot, and he also has the ability to slash into the lane, and score at the rim. Not to mention his quick trigger on his jump shot.
Some scouts believe his ball-handling is a weakness, but the videos I have watched say the complete opposite. It seemed like in high school he was the guy to bring the ball up on most possessions. He has a quick, concise and smooth cross-over (especially going right to left).
As mentioned above, Sulaimon is an extremely intelligent player, and that attribute goes a long way, and is the main reason why he will see playing time right away.
Like most high school students entering their first year in college, the biggest improvement is in the weight room. Sulaimon is slender at his size and position (weighing in at 180 pounds), will need to continue to grow into his body, and build more muscle mass.
Left Handed Finisher
Of all the videos I reviewed on Sulaimon, I can only remember a hand full of times where he finished effectively with his left. He definitely favors going right, but using his left seems nonexistent. He will need to develop a stronger move and finish to his left.
Movement Without the Ball
With Andre Dawkins redshirting this season, that opened up minutes at shooting guard, and Sulaimon will take those minutes. He will need to adjust to not having the ball as often as he did in high school, and learn to continually be moving without the ball, and how to set up his screen man for an effective pick.
Daniel Ewing and Nolan Smith
Now onto the late signing freshmen, Amile Jefferson. This 6-9, 200 pound forward is from Wynnewood, PA and played at Friend’s Central High School in Pennsylvania. Jefferson averaged over 19 points and ten rebounds per game his senior year in high school. He is ranked by most scouts between 3rtd and 5th at his position (power forward), and is ranked nationally between 22nd and 25th.
He was one of the most highly touted players in the nation to sign late (committed on May 15th, 2012), but his signing was critical for Duke. With the loss of Gbinjie and Miles Plumlee, Duke desperately needed to sign a versatile forward, who could play multiple positions, and they got that in Jefferson. He is listed as a power forward, but I see Coach K using the McDonald’s All-American in a variety of ways this season. The video I’ve seen on Jefferson was encouraging, in the sense that he spent most of his time in the post offensively. He is a high energy player, fundamentally sound, and will be able to defend multiple positions at the collegiate level. Next, we’ll take a look at the positives and negatives of his game.
I was expecting, due to his lack of strength, to see a player on video who would rely on a jump shot, but that was not the case. Jefferson has a good feel for his back to the basket, and has an effective up-and-under move in the paint.
Jefferson is very aggressive and always seem to be in attack mode, both on offense and defense. He is scrappy, and willing to throw his body around.
As mentioned above, Jefferson’s main quality is his versatility. He will be able to guard up to three positions and will be a mismatch for defenders on offense. He will be bigger than most wing players, and has the ability to be quicker than some of the post-players that will defend him.
Like Sulaimon, Jefferson lacks strength and muscle. Most websites have him listed at 200 pounds, and they may be generous there. He looks like he’s more 180-190 pounds. This may be the only reason why he doesn’t see consistent minutes this season.
I love Jefferson’s low post moves, but he lacks a consistent 10-15 foot jump shot, he will need to be able to have that, especially in a Duke offense that is predicated on the perimeter and stretching the floor.
Now I don’t expect him to have handles like a guard, but his ball-handling is poor. He is not confident with the ball in his hands at the wing, and that area will need improvement.