Nelson Ready For The Challenge

He committed way back during the summer of his sophomore season. At that time DeMarcus Nelson was ranked as one of the top ten players in the class of 2004. Now, over two years later, the state of California's all time leading scorer is ready to become a Blue Devil.

Since committing a lot has changed for Nelson. For starters Duke added David McClure and then there was the whole Shaun Livingston saga that played out. Factor in a trip to the Final Four and the drama of another rash of early entries to the NBA Draft and you've got the recipe for Nelson to become a ‘forgotten recruit' of sorts.

And that's just fine with him.

"It's kind of like motivation for me," said DeMarcus Nelson of the lack of media attention and hype. "At the same time while those other players have had to deal with the media and everything else in the recruiting process, I've been able to concentrate on working and getting better every day so I can be prepared for next season. So I guess in that sense it's kind of a relief."

Preparing is a bit of an understatement for Nelson when you consider his daily routine, which has included training with the Sacramento Kings' trainer and working out with some of teams' roster an average of three times per week.

"That's been really good for me. I've spent a bunch of time with them working on getting stronger and quicker. We also do a bunch of plyometrics and other kinds of drills. I'm probably in the best shape of my life at this point."

That's a scary thought when you consider Nelson has long been considered one of the most physically imposing guards in the country for a while now thanks to his 6-foot-3, 212-pound frame.

"I've actually been able to tone up a little bit more thanks to my workouts. My conditioning has also gotten a lot better, and I've really been working on sharpening my skill set too. I think I've improved all around."

The improvement has been noticed by any number of observers as Nelson has begun to participate in more and more open gyms to get a feel of where he stands early on in his college career.

"With all the workouts and drills, I needed to play a lot more to get into game situations. You can look great in drills, but if you can't do it in a game then what's the point of it? I'm really starting to play a lot more in order to get myself in game shape in terms of my skills."

Those games have included a number of big performances including running one on one drills with the likes of Sacramento's Bobby Jackson, and former All-ACC performer Edward Scott at the Kings' workout facility.

Against the former Clemson star Nelson was matched up for a series of one on one drills that included five half court and two full court exercises that were essentially high level games of "21". The future Blue Devil routinely got to the rack for powerful dunks before stepping outside to knock down long threes while leaving Scott winless in seven attempts.

That's good news for Duke fans, who are looking at the 2004-2005 season with a roster of just eight scholarship players including a pair of freshmen thanks to the departures of Deng and Livingston. That could mean a bigger role for Nelson, but then again it may not.

"I really don't think my role has changed all that much. Maybe now there's more pressure for me to perform though, or maybe it'll be more visible."

"We've only got two big guys so it becomes more important for me to mix it up and try to rebound, but I was going to do that anyway. That's just my game. I'm going down there to bust my tail in practice to be ready to earn my spot so that I can perform."

Heading into the ACC Nelson knows that performing on the same level he did in high school will be much more difficult, and yet he appears to have it all in perspective.

"The ACC is going to be its strongest ever next year, certainly the best conference in the country. I mean we've probably got the best point guards in the nation all in the same conference. To have a chance to go in and compete against the best night in and night out is something I'm certainly looking forward to. That's the only way you get better."

And is there any particular experience he's looking forward to the most?

"Obviously I can't wait to play in Cameron, but after that I'd have to say playing in the Dean Dome. Besides Cameron it's probably got the most history, so it'll be a neat experience to play there, but I'm mainly looking forward to playing at home in that atmosphere."

Nelson will head to Duke for summer school on the 25th of this month. He will wear #21 during his time in Durham.

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