Random Ramblings Volume II

In the second installment of Random Ramblings, TDD's Clint Jackson reports on a pair of Blue Devils anxious to do more as sophomores thanks to intense off season training that had produced big results. Also who's the new recruit appearing on the radar in 2005? Clint tackles it all with a report from behind the scenes.

Redick leaner, quicker and ready to rock

Kevin Garnett pulled Wally Szczerbiak aside one day in the NBA and told the skilled forward that to be an elite member in the NBA -- he had to get in better shape. Garnett pressured the 6-8 forward from Miami, Ohio to trim body fat, increase muscle mass and to get as agile as he could to play small forward in the league.

Wally listened. Wally took his advice.

Szczerbiak is leaner, quicker and a better player overall after his dedication to intense conditioning. His numbers improved in all categories.

Watching J.J. Redick in action last season -- I kept thinking that Garnett's advice would work well for the 6-4 freshman as well.

After all, Redick, like Szczerbiak, is a tremendous offensive talent. He's arguably the best shooter in the nation. He's a tremendous passer. And he's full of basketball savvy.

And guess what? Redick is in better shape after a summer of intense conditioning.

"JJ benefited from taking some time off from school and joining the USA basketball team," said JJ's father, Ken. "He had worked his way into a starting role (on that team) before he injured his hamstring. The good news is he has lost some weight, regained his legs and is ready to go again."

Reports are in that the former Cave Spring HS standout has dropped body fat, increased his quickness and has improved his overall speed.

"JJ is very anxious to get back on the floor with his team," added Redick.

Big Mike ready to contribute more

Some folks want to knock Big Mike, don't they?

After an average freshman campaign, Michael Thompson went to work in the offseason. He worked out six days a week -- hitting the weights, the track and working hard on his flexibility and endurance.

"The staff has already commented about how great he looks heading into the season," said Elgin Thompson, Michael's older brother.

Sources have informed TDD that Thompson has lost body fat, gained about ten pounds of muscle and improved his fitness level overall. And after a week at the infamous Pete Newell Big Man Camp -- everyone thinks he's got an extra spring in his step in addition to being more patient with his offense.

Perhaps one of Thompson's biggest moments came in the NCAA tournament when Coach Mike Krzyzewski inserted him in the lineup to defend Chris Kaman of Central Michigan. The 7-0, 265 pound Kaman, who was a lottery pick in this year's NBA Draft, had been having his way with Shelden Williams and the rest of Duke's frontcourt. Krzyzewski knew Thompson had the strength to compete with Kaman.

Thompson checked in. He pushed Kaman further away from the basket than anyone else could. And he limited the big man's touches. And after Kaman had been carrying Central Michigan's hopes for a Sweet Sixteen berth, Thompson killed their hopes with old fashioned physical defense.

"Michael said he felt good before the game," said Thompson. "So I was not surprised at all by his performance against him. Kamen still had a nice game, but Michael took him out of his game when he played him."

"And without that effort Duke probably doesn't play Kansas in the Sweet Sixteen."

"Michael loves Duke," Thompson said. "He had a frustrating freshman year at times, but his feelings for Duke have not changed. He played for a team that was ranked number one in the nation for part of the season, won the ACC tourney. And played a meaningful role in the NCAA tourney. That and a very productive summer will help him this season."


With two commitments already in the bag for Duke from the 2005 class --Greg Paulus and Josh McRoberts -- the Blue Devil staff has made it quite clear that they'd like to add Tyler Hansbrough to the mix. But the scrappy power forward from Missouri has a list of suitors that includes Florida, North Carolina, Missouri, Kansas, Michigan State and others. Many programs are making the Poplar Bluff star their number one target from the class as well. So there's no guarantee that getting a commitment from the 6-8 junior is a sure thing. In fact it may be rather difficult for Duke according to sources.

Another name that may emerge on the Blue Devil radar for 2005 is Athens, Ala. center Richard Hendrix. Having seen Hendrix in action on several occasions -- it's easy to see why the Blue Devil staff likes the 6-8 255 pounder. First of all -- this kid is a beast in the paint. He's not as explosive as some of his peers but he compensates with brute strength, consistency and a nice array of offensive skills. This is a kid who wears a size 19 shoe and could be a tremendous defensive rebounder on the college level.

He's going to be tough to recruit considering that hometown Alabama seems to have the inside edge right now, but other schools who will recruit the wide shouldered center include Tennessee, North Carolina, Oklahoma and a handful of other SEC schools.

"He's probably the best rebounder of the bunch that I saw over the summer," said one SEC assistant coach. "He'll be tough to get but we're going to give him our best shot."

Whether Duke decides to put the full court press on Hendrix remains to be seen. But this is a kid who is on the radar and take it from me -- he's a beast.

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