From The Stands: Blue-White

For many Blue Devil fans in attendance, Saturday provided a first look at five freshmen expected to help Duke challenge for a National Title in 2006. TDD was in attendance and offers overviews on some of the more notable performances from the annual Blue-White Game.

Starting Lineup:

F- Josh McRoberts- The headliner of the current freshman crop, McRoberts certainly passed the look test on his first public showcase in a Duke uniform. The 6-foot-10, 245 pound Indiana native did a little bit of everything on Saturday – hitting jumpers, blocking shots, grabbing rebounds, and moving the ball around. Despite the usual stereotype, Josh's athleticism allows him to go up strong on every attempt – a marked departure from Duke's second post option in the past. When on the floor with Williams, McRoberts can run the high low, or help out on the weak side for rebounds and shot blocking. His presence on the floor just makes the team better in so many facets of the game by taking pressure off Williams inside. Look for some highlight finishing from "McBobs". However he must either work on his conditioning or remain focused throughout the duration of his time on the court – as good as he is, there were times he looked a bit out of sync, as is the case with all freshmen.

F- Shelden Williams- Williams continues to rehab his injured foot, and seemed to lack some of his usual aggressive nature. The big guy seemed content to let the game flow around him while he picked his spots. There was really demand from him for entry passes, and he seemed to sort of coast through the afternoon. He's still a threat to block anything that comes near him as a number of teammates found out. Once the foot is completely healed, it's likely Williams will become a bigger part of the offense.

G- DeMarcus Nelson- Spending the summer retooling his shooting form has certainly paid off for California's all time scoring leader. Not only does his jumper look better, but Nelson's overall game looks much improved. That has a lot to do with where he's lining up on the floor as his sophomore campaign begins. No longer is Nelson asked to fill in as the team's second post option; instead he's lining up on the wing where he can attack the basket. On Saturday he showed why many expect him to have a break out season, beating defenders off the dribble on his way to the basket where he would either finish or be fouled in the process – only this year he's hitting his free throws (10-of-13 on the day for 77%). Defensively it's likely that Nelson will Duke's "stopper" thanks to his improved lateral quickness and strong body. Then there's his ability to play like a 6'8 power forward – as Jamal Boykin found out when Nelson jumped straight up to reject the freshman's lay-up attempt.

G- J.J. Redick- After losing nearly 15 pounds last season, Redick has slimmed down and appears to be in near "Lance Armstrong" shape for his final campaign in Durham. The senior never stops running, and his release appears quicker, if that's possible. The accuracy is still there and so is the range. He's also looking more efficient with his offense – hitting for 27 points on just 10 field goal attempts, while handing out eight assists. Redick seems like a lock for First Team All-ACC, All-America, among other awards.

G- Sean Dockery- The first thing you notice about #15 is that his jumper is no longer a liability to the team. In fact he's transformed himself into a very dangerous jump shooter. Coupled with his trademark on the ball defense and Dockery has the tools for a very solid campaign as the team's point guard. However there were some concerns that arose in the scrimmage as Dockery too often seemed to put his head down and drive himself into "no-win" situations in the paint. He also seemed content to step off the ball and allow others to run the point. For Duke to be successful throughout the season, it will be imperative for the Chicago native to start the offense and move the ball around more than he did on Saturday.



Second Team

F- Lee Melchionni- The senior, who has recently been named as a fourth captain, showed how effective he can be this season as a secondary option. While Melchionni isn't going to drive through or by anyone, when he's left open from the perimeter, he can rival Redick as one of the best shooters in the conference. The key for him is getting his feet set and waiting for the ball to rotate back to him, which it did on numerous occasions throughout the afternoon. There are likely to be some games that see the 6-foot-7 lefty score 15 points on five shots as defenders try to cheat down on Williams and McRoberts, leaving Melchionni open from the perimeter.

G- Greg Paulus- The freshman floor general didn't waste anytime ingratiating himself with the Cameron Crazies. Whether it was diving on the floor, making sensational no look passes, or trash talking his veteran teammates, Paulus just seems to the kind of player Duke fans will love and opposing fan bases will hate. As for his play, the offensive flow just seems much better when Paulus is running the offense. However, he's still got a lot of work to do on the defensive end before he can become a full timer for the Blue Devils.

G- Martynas Pocius- The last member of the class of 2005, Pocius sort of flew under the radar for much of the last year after not playing the AAU circuit in favor of competing for the Lithuanian national team. After Saturday, it's safe to say that he's generating a buzz around the Duke community. At 6-foot-5 he's a tremendous athlete, sporting one of the team's top vertical leaps, as well as a reliable shooter from the perimeter. He's not as polished as some of his European brethren have been, and he tends to rely on his athleticism to make up for that. Still, it's safe to say that he's going to challenge for minutes in an already loaded Duke backcourt with his skill set.

F- Eric Boateng- The comparisons to Casey Sanders couldn't be more incorrect at this point. For starters Boateng is already 20 pounds heavier than Sanders was as a senior (255lbs). Add in an unexpected nasty streak and the big man from across the pond has the tools to be a very good player for Duke down the road. He's still learning the game's finer points, but when he's out there he doesn't back down from a challenge. A good example was his willingness to post up and body up with Shelden Williams, who has three years and a good amount of strength on Eric. Still, Boateng was quick to grab anything near him and go up strong. Still, Boateng's role in 2005-2006 looks to be that of a garbage man inside. He'll help out on the boards, and on the defensive end and will be the benefactor of several easy put backs.

Jamal Boykin- For the last year those around the Duke program have been hyping Boykin up as a kid who is cut from the same mold as Steve Wojciechowski, Shane Battier, and Chris Duhon – all great players, but even better leaders who could pick up a team and lead them to victory. That's Boykin. On Saturday he showed why the buzz around him has been so positive – barking out defensive assignments, slapping the floor when a stand was needed, and doing all the little "blue collar" things that are needed for a team to win. Look for him to earn his way on the floor as a player who can lead his young classmates whenever times are rough. He's going to play hard nosed defense, but is a bit undersized at 6-foot-7.

F- Patrick Johnson- Johnson wasn't asked to do much and has likely seen the most his meaningful minutes during last season. Still he's a big body with ACC experience who will challenge his heralded freshman teammates every day in practice.


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