Open Practice Report

The Blue Devils welcomed nearly 1300 fans to Cameron Indoor Stadium Friday afternoon for a look into their practice routine before the season kicks off tomorrow night with the annual Blue-White Game. <I>TheDevilsDen.com</I> was in the house to report on a number of things that caught our team's eye.

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The Rotation:

Take it for what you will, but the Devils separated into a Blue team and a white team to start the full court scrimmage and drill portion of the afternoon. The first white team on the floor consisted of Shelden Williams, Shavlik Randolph, Luol Deng, JJ Redick, and Chris Duhon. Junior sharpshooter Daniel Ewing began as the sixth man before rotating in for Duhon.

The focus seemed to be establishing Shavlik and Shelden on the interior before looking for the perimeter jumper. Today Randolph returned to the form of his junior year in high school. The 6-foot-10 forward used a plethora of head fakes and ball fakes to score almost at will inside. He's obvious weight gain allowed him to hold position and explode to the basket.

Perhaps the biggest surprise to many in attendance was Luol Deng's ability to slash and make quick decisions with the ball. The 6-foot-8 freshman forward's biggest flaw at this point seems to be his over willingness to pass at times. Friday Deng did manage to put together a number of nice drives complete with soft layups off the glass. His wingspan and leaping ability also figure to make him a very good rebounder from the small forward position.

After starting on the sideline, Ewing subbed in for Duhon and showed that a summer spent working on becoming more capable as a point guard has begun to pay off. Daniel looked comfortable dealing with full court presses and seemed to shy away from more aggressive and sometimes foolish openings in favor more conservative passes. After distributing the ball, Ewing returned to moving without the ball, knocking down the perimeter jumper routinely after being freed up.

Physical Developments:

Shavlik has indeed bulked up and filled out his 6'10 frame, making him look more like Christian Laettner than Casey Sanders.

Senior Chris Duhon has gone the opposite way, slimming down considerably and seemingly regaining some of his fluidity and quickness.

Fifth year senior Nick Horvath is by far the biggest player on the team. Informed speculation holds that he's doing three sets of 50 push ups each morning before heading to school or practice. That shows as he's a beast.

Notable plays:

Michael Thompson refused to put the ball on the floor when he received it in traffic today. Instead he kept the ball high and routinely fisnished strong against Randolph, Horvath, and Williams. Thompson also showed a nice drop step and soft baby hook.

Deng's all around ability is always mentioned, yet rarely understood. One series saw him grab the rebound off the defensive glass, and start the break before finding Duhon slashing to the basket with a on the money pass. However the lay up was challenged by Horvath and rolled off the rim until Luol used his huge wingspan to tip the ball to himself, dribble out of traffic only to zip a pass to a wide open Ewing in the corner for the open three.

In addition to his rediscovered offensive arsenal of post moves, Shavlik is also back to being a solid rebounder who simply out judges his opponents and always seems to come up with the ball in a crowd. His newly added bulk prevents him from being tossed out of said scrum.

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