THE EVENTDuke basketball hosted an open practice and autograph session for the public on Saturday, November 1st.
Fans began lining up for autographs as early as 6:30 AM according to those in attendance. The doors to Cameron opened at 9:00 AM before practice began shortly after 10:30 AM. The stadium provided a nice break from the blustery, wet weather and the team seemed generally pleased to be signing autographs for those in attendance for an hour.
Once the team entered the court area, fans were greeted by Head Coach Mike Krzyzewski as players skipped rope as a warm up. Those that had attended an open practice before recognized many of the drills the team participated in full court, five on none breaks and shooting drills.
PRACTICE NOTESCoach Krzyzewski explained this session would focus on game situations and simulations. The teams were split in two with the presumed starters in White and the backups in Blue.
The starting five from last week’s Countdown to Craziness have held onto their positions as we move towards the season opening exhibition game this week, leaving the White team with a roster of Tyus Jones, Matt Jones, Justise Winslow, Amile Jefferson, and Jahlil Okafor. The Blue team countered with Quinn Cook, Rasheed Sulaimon, Grayson Allen, Semi Ojeleye, and Marshall Plumlee.
The first situational scrimmage simulated a six minute end of game segment began with a tie score and a Blue Devils at the free throw line. The two teams battled with a simulated “TV timeout” around the halfway point of the clock. This session would be won by the White team.
Coach K would offer commentary for the crowd at different times. When the teams were competing against each other, he would have different sides of the upper bowl in Cameron cheer for a specific team. The crowd obliged but would slip at times and cheer for both teams anyway.
The loudest fan reaction of the day happened at the end of a special drill to end practice. In this drill, the team would race down the court with three players at a time, each with a basketball. Only one layup could be taken and the other two players had to take a jump shot. Once they were off and running down the court the next group would follow while the first group returned and shot at the other end. Coach K put 4:15 on the clock and set a goal for 120 made baskets by the entire team.
When the clock was down to a minute to go, the Blue Devils had made approximately 80 plus shots, making the goal of 120 unlikely. The crowd got louder and the team caught fire. An eruption equivalent of a big dunk in an ACC contest happened as Preseason ACC Rookie of the Year Jahlil Okafor dunked the 120th basket with 0.2 seconds on the clock. The team mobbed the big man as the crowd went crazy.
After Coach K debriefed the team, he thanked everyone for coming and mentioned that he would like to see this event continue in the years to come.
PLAYER OBSERVATIONSJahlil Okafor - “Big Jah” is special. He takes a beating in the drills against the other big men on the team and yet he still scores in every way possible. When asked what is he adjusting to and needing to improve the big man said he was adjusting to playing college basketball defense, especially in the interior (see video below). He also credited the other big men, Marshall Plumlee and Sean Obi, with helping his game improve as he competes with them every day.
Quinn Cook - was on the Blue team to begin the day but switched later in practice to the White team. He continues to pressure freshman Tyus Jones each time the rookie brings the ball up the court. Cook was able to get to the basket at times and hit open shots from the perimeter. The biggest change in the guard’s game appears to be his complete acceptance of his new role as a senior captain. He mentioned that he’s “grown up” at Duke and is honored to be the big brother to the new players. On the court he was very vocal and always seemed to be the first to interact with a teammates – for good or bad developments.
Tyus Jones - pressured Cook all day with relentless defense. Jones moves his feet well and understands how to jockey his opponent into smaller sections of the court, using teammates and sidelines as extra help defenders. On offense the new point guard makes eye opening passes look effortless. He said after practice that “maintaining sharpness” on the offensive and defensive end and communication are areas that he and the team need to work on.
Amile Jefferson - continues to be a vocal leader on the team. Something that every Coach K squad must learn is how to talk on defense and offense. Right now Amile leads in that category. He had a solid day and reminds you of Lance Thomas on the 2010 team in that he does the dirty work and is very opportunistic around the basket. With the attention Okafor is going to draw, Amile is going to have a very solid year.
Matt Jones - continues to start on the White team. He wasn’t as accurate from the field as he was at Countdown to Craziness, but still was not afraid to launch and hit 3’s and play good defense. Coach K said last week that Jones didn’t need the ball for very long and you can see that in the way the team is utilizing him. Whether it’s finding an open spot on the floor for a set jumper, or receiving the ball and quickly moving it along, the sophomore seems to make quick decisions and his teammates feed of that. Matt said his confidence is up this season.
Rasheed Sulaimon - is aggressive at all times. He stayed on the Blue team for the duration of this practice, and challenged the White team defenders on the wing. It seems as though he’ll be the designated sixth man who can provide a spark from the bench and/or play as a starter when called upon. He can play any position from point guard through small forward depending on the matchups and continued to show the ability to handle the ball.
Marshall Plumlee - his main role right now appears to be in helping Okafor prepare for what’s ahead. Marshall is very physical with Jahlil all practice. He can get in position for rebounds and uses his size to play good defense, often bothering shots if not outright altering them. He will provide valuable minutes off the bench when Okafor needs to rest or gets in foul trouble in that role, and will score the majority of his points off of offensive rebounds, and broken plays.
Justice Winslow, Grayson Allen, Semi Ojeleye - all had good days. Each player scored in the game situation drills. All three players can hit from the outside and get out on the fast break.
Tyus Jones, Jahlil Okafor, Matt Jones, and Quinn Cook discuss where the team is, what needs to improve, and the roles each will undertake this season