Notes From Duke’s Closed Practice: Freshmen Shine, Veterans Lethargic

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on October 22nd, 2014

Duke opened it’s 11th practice of the year to media and guests from the Duke Children’s Hospital yesterday, and based on their performance during the semi-closed practice at Cameron Indoor Stadium, its highly regarded freshmen class may just live up to the hype. While far from finished products, each of Mike Krzyzewski‘s four newcomers showed enough positive play to suggest that they might make up the core of this year’s Blue Devils squad. ACC referees officiated the scrimmage portion of practice, which was broken into four 10-minute segments with limited rest between each session. Some players switched teams after the first two quarters but the last two sessions featured the same lineups. We will use this space to analyze the play of each of the new Blue Devils and make some other general observations about the team, knowing that this represents only a one-day snapshot and the start of the regular season is still three weeks away.

Freshman Jahlil Okafor has Great (Big) Hands (

Freshman Jahlil Okafor has Great (Big) Hands


  • Jahlil Okafor – Reports of Okafor’s improved body and conditioning appear to be true. His feet were quick; he ran the court well; and he did not noticeably tire during the entire 40 minutes of scrimmage play. The most impressive thing with him, though, is his hands, which he uses in a similar manner to the great Tim Duncan. Passes and rebounds stick to Okafor’s mitts like glue. While at the free throw line, it was especially noticeable that the ball looks like a grapefruit in his hands. He mostly had his way inside, but there were times when he struggled to finish at the rim with Marshall Plumlee bodied up against him.
  • Tyus Jones – The touted young point guard played almost exactly as his reputation indicated — he wasn’t flashy with the ball but he was very efficient in running the team. He will have to adjust to playing hard defense over extended periods of time, and like most youngsters, Jones will need to become more vocal on both ends of the floor. But the greatest measure of a point guard is always the scoreboard, and in that respect Jones was outstanding, with his team winning each 10 minute session by around 10 points.

  • Justise Winslow – The versatile Winslow worked effectively both inside and on the perimeter. For such a young player he shows good maturity, both in his physique and on-court demeanor. Much like his classmate Jones, Winslow developed a reputation as a winner while playing on USA Basketball National Junior teams. Tuesday’s scrimmage was more of the same, as Winslow found himself, like Jones, on all the winning teams.
  • Grayson Allen – If Tuesday’s play is any indication, the newcomer with the lowest expectations will probably surprise many by becoming a solid rotation player this season. We already knew that he was athletic, but he also showed a high skill level which includes a solid looking jump shot.
Mike Krzyzewski and His Assistants Meet Before Scrimmage Starts (

Mike Krzyzewski Meets With His Assistants Before Scrimmage Starts


  • Sophomore Matt Jones was very impressive yesterday. He was also on the winning side of all four sessions, and was a big reason why, looking so much more confident than he did at any point of his rookie campaign. The freshman Jones never lived up to his reputation as a good shooter last season, going 3-of-21 on threes, but he had easily passed that total by the mid-point of Tuesday’s scrimmage. Jones was also active defensively and helped out on the boards as part of a solid all-around performance.
  • Veteran guards Quinn Cook and Rasheed Sulaimon did not have good practice sessions on Tuesday. In the descriptions above we mentioned the perimeter players — Jones, Winslow and Jones — who were always on the winning side. Guess who they were always beating? While addressing the entire team after the last scrimmage, Krzyzewski didn’t call his veterans out by name, but he did so by circumstance. When he mentioned that a couple of players had lost by a total of 40 points over 40 minutes, he could only have been referring to Cook and Sulaimon. The Duke coach wasn’t the only observer who was unimpressed with the effort yesterday, as neither seemed energetic or vocal all afternoon. For Duke to compete for championships this year, the two most experienced members of the squad will need to pick up both their play and leadership. The freshmen are really good, but not good enough on their own to get to that level without the upperclassmen leading them.
Brad Jenkins (326 Posts)

Share this story

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *