Friday, October 30, 2009

Wall cleared to play at UK

Former Raleigh Word of God basketball star John Wall has been cleared to play this season -- after he sits out an exhibition game and regular season game, and pays back almost $800 in travel expenses "incurred during Wall's unofficial visits to various institutions during his junior year at Word of God Christian Academy."

Here's the full news release from Kentucky after the jump:

Lowe has mixed feelings about recruiting rules

N.C. State coach Sidney Lowe is glad to see the NCAA trying to clean up men’s basketball recruiting, but also is concerned that in some cases the college sports governing body is throwing out the baby with the bath water.

On Thursday, the Division I Board of Directors approved rules meant to stop college programs from funneling money to associates of recruits. College coaches who run afoul of the rules could be suspended from postseason or even regular-season games.

Here are some things the NCAA is targeting:

- Hiring associates of recruits to non-coaching staff positions at their schools, and employing them at camps and clinics.

- Donating to non-profits (Summer club basketball programs for top high school-aged players often are run as nonprofits.

- Subscribing to recruiting services that don’t provide much useful information (these services sometimes are run by club basketball coaches).

It appears the rules would have prevented Baylor, for example, from hiring Dwon Clifton to a director of player development position. Clifton was serving as the club coach for Greensboro-based D-One Sports, which had highly recruited guard John Wall of Raleigh on its roster.

Wall went to Kentucky despite Baylor’s hiring of Clifton.

"I think what they’re trying to do is eliminate any wrongdoing, and for that, it’s hard to question the NCAA and what they’re trying to do,” Lowe said. “There certainly needs to be something done to get a hold of it.”

At the same time, Lowe laments the loss of opportunities for high school or club coaches who are doing things the right way to get a foot in the door at college programs.

"That’s a tough deal because you do have some high school coaches and you do have some AAU guys who do a nice job with their program,” Lowe said. “A lot of them are striving to become college basketball coaches. If you, I guess, discriminate against them, how do they ever get an opportunity to move to the next level?”

Although some deserving, up-and-coming coaches might be adversely affected, conference commissioners, that Amateur Athletic Union and basketball coaches backed the proposal, according to the NCAA. Lowe understands, but he also has reservations.

"I think it’s tough,” he said. “I know what they’re trying to do, and definitely there needs to be something done about the stuff that’s going on, but I think. . .it would really impact some people that probably are unfairly judged.”

Ken Tysiac

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Who is Duke's best end-of-game option?

When Duke needed a basket in the closing minutes of a close game last season, there was no secret where the ball was going.

Duke's players knew it. Opponents knew it. Fans knew it.

Gerald Henderson was going to get the ball on the wing with an opportunity to drive off a ball screen. He was athletic enough to get to the rim when he saw even a crack of daylight.

He was a rare college player who can hit a pull-up, mid-range jumper. He won a lot of games for the Blue Devils as they finished 30-7 with an ACC Tournament championship and a berth in the Sweet 16 in the NCAA Tournament.

"We tried to put the ball in his hands as much as possible in tough situations, and he responded," coach Mike Krzyzewski said.

Now the Blue Devils have to come up with a different plan because Henderson left school after his junior season and was drafted by the Charlotte Bobcats. Duke doesn't have a player who's capable of scoring off the dribble as proficiently as Henderson did.

So now Duke will rely on three players rather than one on critical possessions. Senior Jon Scheyer (top) and juniors Kyle Singler (middle) and Nolan Smith (bottom) all will have opportunities to make winning plays late in games, but they will have to do it off the pass rather than the dribble.

"Now I think we can put the ball in the hands of three guys on the perimeter," Krzyzewski said. "We have more guys who are capable of doing that."

As N.C. State fans familiar with the Herb Sendek regime can attest, relying on a passing game and motion offense in a one-shot situation at the end of the game can be a dicey proposition. The dribble is a surest way to get your best player the best shot at the end of a close game.

There's a reason the Chicago Bulls with Michael Jordan and the Los Angeles Lakers with Kobe Bryant have won so many NBA championships. Those teams could count on highly skilled playmakers to create shots on their own in pressure situations.

Duke doesn't have a player in that mold. But Singler is the preseason ACC player of the year. Scheyer is as steady and heady as any guard in the ACC and Smith seems to be improving rapidly.

Even without Henderson on the floor, Duke will have more and better options than most of its opponents as the clock wanes in its tight games.

-- Ken Tysiac

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

UK president admits eligibility issue

Kentucky guard John Wall excites the crowd with some wicked dunks during Big Blue Madness at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Ky, on October 16. (Mark Cornelison/Lexington Herald-Leader/MCT)

Without ever saying John Wall's name, the Lexington Herald-Leader reports, University of Kentucky president Lee Todd acknowledged on Tuesday that one of the school's basketball players faces questions about his amateurism that could affect his eligibility.

Last week, Southeastern Conference Mike Slive last week told that the player was Wall, a heralded freshman point guard and former Raleigh Word of God star.

"I think the commissioner made his statement which I'm not sure he intended to make, but he made it," Todd told the paper after a meeting of UK's Board of Trustees.

Todd told the newspaper he felt "very comfortable" with no UK official admitting a question existed on a player's eligibility until Tuesday because "there's no reason to expose him to a whole lot of newspaper articles when it's not necessary till we get a final decision."

-- Robbi Pickeral

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Krzyzewski: New rule will become 'a joke'

GREENSBORO - Count Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski among the objectors to the new rule that specifies an unmarked zone under the basket where referees will call only blocks, not charges, on offensive players.

"It'll be a joke, because it will become a joke," Krzyzewski said at the ACC's Operation Basketball media event Sunday afternoon.

Krzyzewski agrees with the intent of the rule, because he believes players shouldn't be called for charging underneath the basket. But he said the no-charging zone - which extends from the backboard to the front of the rim - should be marked on the floor.

"It probably hasn't been taken to the step it should be taken to," Krzyzewski said. "If you can imagine it, you should do it."

Other critics of the rule have argued that without markings on the floor, referees will be forced to estimate whether players were in the no-charge zone at the time of contact.

"There are absolutes, and that's why boundaries are used (in sports)," Krzyzewski said. "You shouldn't approximate the distance from the pitcher's mound to home plate."

-- Ken Tysiac

Duke making substantial changes

GREENSBORO - Mike Krzyzewski said that because Duke is playing with one of the biggest lineups he has coached, he has made significant changes to how the Blue Devils will play.

At the ACC's Operation Basketball event on Sunday, Krzyzewski laid out two major changes:

- The Blue Devils will break down opponents with screens rather than the dribble. Duke has traditionally heavily emphasized penetration and kick-out passes to open 3-point shooters. But Nolan Smith is the team's only threat to penetrate, so Duke will rely on screening and will look for more post feeds. "We need to have more vision when we pass the ball," Krzyzewski said.

- Because it has size rather than quickness, Duke won't extend its defense or trap as much as in the past. There's been a lot of talk that the Blue Devils might play some zone defense, but the change will be obvious even when Duke is playing man to man. "You'll be able to see the zone principles in our man to man more," Krzyzewski said.

-- Ken Tysiac

Observations | ACC preseason poll

The tie atop the ACC preseason poll was the first in the 41-year history of voting, although if pressed to pick a winner, Duke had 25 first-place votes to North Carolina's 20.

Other observations on the poll:

1. This is the 19th time North Carolina has been picked to finish first. The Tar Heels won the league in 11 of the first 18 times they were picked. Duke has been picked to finish first 12 times before, winning in seven of those years.

2. Wake Forest, picked sixth overall, received one first-place vote. Georgia Tech, picked fourth, received two.

3. Four of the five returning members of the first, second and third ACC teams from last season were picked on the preseason all-conference team: Maryland's Greivis Vasquez (second team), Clemson's Trevor Booker (second team), Duke's Kyle Singler (second team) and Virginia Tech's Malcolm Delaney (third team).

North Carolina's Ed Davis moved past Georgia Tech's Gani Lawal (third team) and Virginia's Sylven Landesberg (honorable mention) to fill the fifth spot.

4. The 144-point gap between Duke and North Carolina and third selection Clemson is the largest gap between any spots in the poll. Clemson-Georgia Tech (third-fourth, 122 points) and Boston College-Miami (eighth-ninth, 116 points) are the other demarcation points.

5. Biggest jump: Georgia Tech, which finished 12th last year, was picked to finish fourth. Biggest fall: Boston College, which finished tied for fourth last year, was picked to finish ninth. The Eagles were picked to finish 11th last year.

6. Good news for N.C. State: The team picked to finish 12th hasn't actually finished last since expansion. (Clemson was correctly picked to finish last in 2004, the last year of the nine-team ACC.) The average finish of teams picked to finish last since 2006, the first year with 12 teams, is eighth.

7. Even though Duke had the edge on North Carolina in first-place votes, Atlantic Coast Sports Media Association director Rob Daniels said the two teams share first place.

"It's like the AP poll or any poll. It's by points and the ties aren't broken," Daniels said.

-- Luke DeCock

Duke, UNC tied in ACC preseason media poll

GREENSBORO - Media members at the ACC's Operation Basketball event on Sunday placed their votes for the conference's 2009-10 predicted order of finish, and it was the first time in 41 years there's ever been a tie for first place. Duke and North Carolina both received 545 points.

Here's the predicted order of finish, with first-place votes and total points:

1. Duke (25), 545
1. UNC (20), 545
3. Clemson, 409
4. Georgia Tech (2), 387
5. Maryland, 378
6. Wake Forest (1), 315
7. Florida State, 314
8. Virginia Tech, 273
9. Boston College, 251
10. Miami, 135
11. Virginia, 116
12. N.C. State, 76

2009 ACC pre-season all-conference team

Greivis Vasquez, Maryland, 45
Trevor Booker, Clemson, 44
Kyle Singler, Duke, 43
Malcolm Delaney, Virginia Tech, 24
Ed Davis, North Carolina, 21

Player of the year:

Kyle Singler, Duke, 19
Greivis Vasquez, Maryland, 15
Trevor Booker, Clemson, 8

Rookie of the year:

Derrick Favors, Georgia Tech, 40
John Henson, North Carolina, 8

-- Edward G. Robinson III

ACC Tournament downsized in 2012

GREENSBORO -- The ACC Tournament set attendance records in its last two visits to Atlanta, but at the occasional expense of early round atmosphere in the cavernous spaces of the Georgia Dome.

Sunday, the ACC announced that in the tournament's next trip to Atlanta, in 2012, the event will be held at Philips Arena, where the NBA Hawks and NHL Thrashers play, instead of the Georgia Dome.

ACC commissioner John Swofford said the league decided to move to the smaller venue, which will seat about 20,000 fans for the tournament, "to protect the tournament's brand and atmosphere."

"This was a visceral kind of decision collectively with our schools and our staff," Swofford said. "We thought this was the right place to be in Atlanta for the future."

The 2001 tournament at the Georgia Dome set a conference-tournament record with 182,525 total fans and an average of 36,505 per session. Last March, the numbers were down to 158,112 total and 26,352 per session -- still the second-most in NCAA history, but the crowds were swallowed up by the dome's open spaces.

"With 40,000 people in there, it was pretty phenomenal," ACC associate commissioner Karl Hicks said. "The ADs thought, 'If we can't get that many people in the dome, what's in the best interest of the league?' "

The Georgia Dome already had been announced as the host site for 2012, but the league never had a contract with the venue, Hicks said.

The ACC Tournament was held at The Omni, Atlanta's old basketball arena, in 1983, 1985 and 1989 before moving to the dome. After visiting four other cities over the past five years, the 2012 tournament is the only one in the next six years that will be held somewhere other than Greensboro.

Originally, the 2015 tournament had been a possibility for somewhere other than Greensboro, but that site has been confirmed. Hicks said the league would likely consider sites for 2016 and beyond after the 2012 tournament in Atlanta.

-- Luke DeCock

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Barnes watches Duke thump Pfeiffer

DURHAM – Before Duke’s exhibition opener even started, a security guard ordered students to hand down the signs they’d brought to Cameron Indoor Stadium.

Harrison Barnes, a 6-foot-6 forward from Ames, Iowa, who’s rated the top high school senior in the nation, was about to enter the arena to watch Duke’s 128-70 pasting Pfeiffer in its exhibition opener Saturday.

The signs were photocopies with Barnes’ head superimposed on the body of a Duke player in uniform. NCAA rules prohibit students from participating in organized wooing of prospects on their campus visits, so the signs were collected and taken away.

“If you’ve got one of these, I’ve got to have it,” the security man said. “I’ve got to have all of them.”

Barnes walked into the arena along with Duke’s players, taking a seat behind the bench with his sister and mother on his right. Junior forward Kyle Singler made two 3-pointers in the first two minutes on a 21-point evening as senior Lance Thomas missed the game while recovering from an illness.

But Barnes’ mere presence was bigger news than a game against an NCAA Division II opponent that didn’t count toward Duke’s record.

Duke freshman forward Ryan Kelly, meanwhile, was on the periphery of some different news at week’s end. Kelly, who’s from Raleigh, formerly played on the D-One club team that made headlines last week.

SEC commissioner Mike Slive told on Thursday that the NCAA is looking into the eligibility of Kentucky freshman guard John Wall of Raleigh.

Wall was a teammate of Kelly’s on D-One. The club’s founder and CEO, Brian Clifton, was a certified agent from 2007-08 according to, and NCAA eligibility rules prevent players from receiving transportation or other benefits from agents.

But Kelly’s mother, Doreen, and Duke have said the NCAA has approved Kelly’s eligibility. He provided a spark for the Blue Devils off the bench Saturday with 18 points.

Afterward, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said “there’s nothing there” in terms of an eligibility issue with Kelly and Clifton.

“They’re looking at an association between a coach and a player, not a coach and a team,” Krzyzewski said. “At least, that’s my indicator on it.”

Barnes, meanwhile, is heading back to Iowa with plans to visit UCLA and Iowa State before announcing his school choice by the time practice starts in mid-November. He’s also considering North Carolina, Kansas and Oklahoma.

For the most part, Barnes sat poker faced as security officers tried to keep the Duke students’ enthusiasm in check. But Barnes cracked a smile before guards removed a giant cardboard cutout of his head on top of the body of a Duke player in uniform.

You can read something into that if you like. But with the disciplined, guarded way Barnes is handling his recruiting, it would seem foolish to view a simple grin as confirmation of anything.

Ken Tysiac

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Krzyzewski respects UNC, touts Duke's success

One of the most interesting discussions of the pre-practice basketball media events in North Carolina last season struck at the heart of the sport’s best rivalry with a big recruiting battle looming in the background.

At his preseason news conference, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski was asked about the effect of North Carolina’s 2009 NCAA championship. The Tar Heels have won twice in the last five years.

“First of all, I respect that,” Krzyzewski said. “I’ve respected Carolina’s program from the day I got here. I think overall that’s great for our conference. We’ve won four national championships in this decade from our conference. So as far as our motivation, we don’t need North Carolina or Maryland or anybody to motivate us. We’re motivated by trying to win a championship.”

Krzyzewski also was eager, though, to make sure Duke’s accomplishments are recognized. He has won three NCAA titles with the Blue Devils.

“We’ve had excellence of our own,” he said. “When this decade is done we’ll end up being the winningest program of this decade in college basketball, or of any decade in college basketball.

“People have things to hang their hats on. The thing you’d like to hang your hat on the most is the national championship. Because that’s the ultimate. And they deserve it. So I think they’ve set the bar high.”

The discussion was particularly relevant as highly regarded forward Harrison Barnes of Ames, Iowa, gets set to visit Duke this weekend. North Carolina and Duke are among the final suitors for Barnes, who’s 6-foot-6 and regarded by many as the top player in the Class of 2010.

Whichever team lands him will take a huge step forward, even if he’s there for just one season. Duke, which hasn’t been to a Final Four since 2004, would instantly be among the NCAA championship favorites in 2011.

If North Carolina lands Barnes, Roy Williams’ train would be likely to just keep rolling and mowing down everybody in its path. If Kansas, Oklahoma or UCLA get him, Duke and North Carolina both will miss out on a big opportunity.

Against that backdrop, Krzyzewski made sure last week that the media didn’t forget Duke’s accomplishments.

“Last year, Carolina had great team ego and great team talent,” he said. “That’s the ultimate. And we’ve had that here. So I understand how they feel. But it doesn’t last forever, and that’s why they play seasons. We start it over and they don’t bring any records along with it.”

Ken Tysiac

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Plumlee, Devils add size, speed

Duke sophomore forward Miles Plumlee exudes a lot of confidence for a guy who averaged just 1.8 points and 1.4 rebounds and didn’t even play in 13 games last season.

“I know there’s no one faster than me at my size,” said Plumlee, who has undergone a significant offseason transformation.

Along with his brother, freshman Mason Plumlee, Miles was named as a likely frontcourt starter for Duke on Thursday by coach Mike Krzyzewski. Miles has added about 15 pounds to his 6-foot-10 frame and increased his standing vertical jump from 32 inches to 36 inches.

He now has the highest vertical jump on the team. He also said that along with his brother and senior Lance Thomas, he gives Duke unusual speed at the forward positions.

“I don’t think people realize how fast we are,” Plumlee said. “We’re going to be able to keep up with everyone in the open court. We’re big, long and athletic.”

The starting lineup Krzyzewski described has the Plumlees at 6-10 apiece and 6-8 Kyle Singler on the floor in an unusually big alignment for the Blue Devils.

Duke also has just three guards on scholarship. But Krzyzewki said the Blue Devils still are going to try to push the ball up the floor to get easy baskets more often than last season.
Senior guard Jon Scheyer sounds optimistic that it will work.

“Even though we’re a bigger team, we can really run,” Scheyer said. “With Miles and Mason inside, they can really run the floor. They can jump. They’re long. So even though we’re bigger, we’re just as athletic.”

Ken Tysiac

Plumlees to play big role for Duke

DURHAM - Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said that if he had to name a starting lineup at the beginning of preseason practice, brothers Mason and Miles Plumlee would be in the frontcourt.

Veterans Nolan Smith, Jon Scheyer and Kyle Singler would work in the backcourt, with senior forward Lance Thomas playing a significant role off the bench.

Mason Plumlee is a freshman, and Miles is a sophomore who Krzyzewski said has improved significantly in the offseason, putting 18 pounds on his 6-foot-10 frame. He now weighs about 240 pounds.

"He's really a good athlete, and he's gotten bigger, stronger," Krzyzewski said Thursday during his news conference to preview Duke's Countdown to Craziness practice-opening event.

Here are more notes from Krzyzewski's news conference:

- Krzyzewski had freshman Ryan Kelly of Raleigh work exclusively on the perimeter for much of the offseason so he could develop his footwork.

"He'll help us right away," Krzyzewski said. "He can really shoot the ball."

- Seth Curry, a Charlotte native, who's transferred from Liberty, will make his only public appearance during the blue-white scrimmage at Countdown to Craziness.

Curry has to sit out the season under NCAA transfer rules.

"Seth is really good," Krzyzewski said. "I wish we could go back to high school and have him come in early."

Ken Tysiac

Monday, October 12, 2009

Duke to hold basketball open house

Duke's men's basketball team will hold an open house for fans beginning at 11 a.m. Saturday at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

Players and coaches will be available for autographs (but not photographs) from 11 to 12:30. During the autograph session, fans will be able to take their photos with Duke's 1991, 1992 and 2001 NCAA championship trophies.

Fans will be allowed to watch practice from 1 to 3 p.m. Doors to the arena will open at 10 a.m., and admission is free.

Ken Tysiac

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Ellington, Williams to have jerseys honored, too

CHAPEL HILL — North Carolina four-time All-America Tyler Hansbrough was already scheduled to have his jersey retired, and former teammate Ty Lawson, a first-team All-America, was already scheduled to have his jersey honored.

But two additional jerseys -- those of Wayne Ellington and Donald Williams -- will soon be hung in the Smith Center rafters, as well.

UNC officials recently decided to add "Final Four Most Outstanding Player" and "ACC Player of the Year" to the qualifications that allow numbers to be honored. Formerly, a player had to a first- or second-team All-America, an Olympic gold medalist, or the MVP of a national championship team (as voted on by the squad).

Ellington was the MOP of UNC national title team last April; Williams was MOP in 1993.

Dates have not yet been set for the jersey-raising ceremonies.

– Robbi Pickeral, News & Observer

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Scheyer, Thomas named Duke captains

Seniors Jon Scheyer and Lance Thomas have been named co-captains of Duke's basketball team, coach Mike Krzyzewski announced Thursday.

Scheyer, a starting guard who was the most valuable player of the 2009 ACC Tournament, also served as a captain last season. Thomas is a forward who has started 62 of the 100 games he has played during his career.

"Jon and Lance have both been great leaders on and off the court for our program," Krzyzewski said in a statement released by the school. "Jon has a great approach to the game and is one of the most consistent performers in practice and during games. Lance brings a work ethic and fiery competitiveness that teammates rally around."

Ken Tysiac