Ten Days

Over the span of the next ten days, Duke fans will get a good idea of where the 2006-2007 preseason expectations will be for the Blue Devils. Between now and the end of April head coach Mike Krzyzewski and the program will have closure on two pressing issues – the respective decisions of Josh McRoberts and Lance Thomas.

As it stands right now Duke will have just one player taller than 6-foot-7 on the roster if Josh McRoberts opts for the NBA and Thomas decides to stay home and play for Rutgers.

That player, 7-foot-1 incoming freshman Brian Zoubek is considered as one of the top 30 incoming players in the country, and is considered to be better than many expect according to program insiders. However, Zoubek has yet to play a minute of college basketball, nor log his first afternoon in a collegiate weight program. Despite that, Zoubek is the default starter at the center spot based on need as much as anything else.

The second post position becomes a question of style more than personnel. Without an additional player measuring taller than rising sophomore Jamal Boykin (6'7), it's almost a certainty that the Blue Devils will utilize a lineup of two perimeter guards, two wings, and a post much as Villanova did last season, and Georgia Tech did in 2004.

Should that be the agreed upon strategy at least four starting spots would be likely spoken for with sophomore Greg Paulus at the point, junior DeMarcus Nelson and freshman Gerald Henderson at the wings, and Zoubek in the paint.

Nelson, who has battled injuries the past two seasons, has still be the team's second best rebounder when healthy, and has shown flashes of being a high level scoring threat. Henderson enters Duke with a rapidly developing floor game that will serve him on both ends of the court. After becoming just the fourth freshman in history to lead the ACC in assists, Paulus will once again be given the reigns and told to run the team.

The final starting spot would most likely be a revolving door between the other four scholarship players – Boykin, 6'4 Martynas Pocius, 6'6 redshirt sophomore David McClure, and 6'5 freshman Jon Scheyer. Throughout the course of the season it's likely that each of these four players would get the nod as the fifth starter based on match ups.

That potential eight man rotation features six former high school players of the year, and four former McDonalds All Americans, so the talent level will still be high in Durham. The backcourt and wings on the roster will certainly be the strength of the team, and will work well with the up-tempo, motion style attack that was so successful in the past.

There will still be major questions inside as Zoubek enters as an unknown, and the only other post player is Boykin, who logged just 25 total points a season ago. Should either get into foul trouble, Duke becomes very small and virtually nonexistent in the paint and on the boards.

Which is why the next 10 days are so important for Mike Krzyzewski's program as both Thomas and McRoberts would be virtual locks for spots in the rotation.

McRoberts spent last season teasing Duke fans with flashes of his incredible potential, but was also bogged down with inconsistency. The 6-foot-10 Indiana native was never more than an occasional third scoring option for the Blue Devils and finished the year averaging just under nine points to go along with five boards. Hardly the numbers conjured up when thinking of potential NBA lottery picks, but that is the decision McRoberts now faces as he's considered a lock for the Draft's first round, if not the lottery.

So where does McRoberts stand on the issue? It's hard to say because he isn't talking, and without any official commentary on the subject from the player himself, the rumor mill has begun to churn. And churn. And churn some more. And, by all accounts, it's been a roller coaster of a decision making process. Immediately following the season ending loss to LSU, sources close to the situation had indicated that McRoberts was set on returning. However, just a week later it seemed as though the decision had been made and Josh was off to the NBA. This was before the freshman had been able to attend his post season meeting with the coaching staff and begin gathering information on his draft status.

Over the past week sources close to the situation have indicated that the decision has yet to be made and that McRoberts is genuinely struggling with the pros and cons of returning for his sophomore season. Despite the various mock draft websites and projections, the buzz is that McRoberts would not be among the top 10 picks selected in June. However, with another season in college –as possibly the top option at Duke, he could cement himself among the top five picks in the 2007 draft. Of course that will depend on how much of a jump his numbers take as a sophomore.

As one source put it: "he's really confused at this point". In the meantime, McRoberts continues to workout with his teammates, participating in the team's weight and other various off season programs. The deadline to enter your name into the NBA Draft is April 29th.

Thomas will decide between Duke and Rutgers soon

Like McRoberts, currently undecided McDonalds All-American power forward Lance Thomas would certainly be very tough to keep out of the top of the rotation. At 6-foot-9 and 210 pounds, Thomas excels as both a rebounder and with his midrange game. He's also described by Scout.com's Dave Telep as having a terrific motor and someone who plays every minute as if it's his last, as well as a player who could develop into the kind of combo forward that has been a staple of the Duke program.

As with Zoubek, Thomas would enter college without the benefit of experience or an offseason in the weight room. Despite that, he'd most likely be penciled into the top of the rotation due to his skill set and the circumstances surrounding the roster. Of course that is predicated on the fact that Thomas accepts the Blue Devils' scholarship offer. Something he has yet to decide on.

Currently Thomas finds himself on spring break, and on vacation. He did make a small detour on the way from New Jersey to Durham for another unofficial visit to the Duke campus to meet with Krzyzewski and his staff. Following the meeting his uncle, Monty Montgomery said Lance was targeting a decision date near the end of the month and that the decision would come down to the Blue Devils and Rutgers. Just 10 days away.

No matter what McRoberts and Thomas ultimately decide, the Blue Devil program will no doubt endure. Should Josh end up in the NBA and Lance opt for the hometown Scarlet Knights, 2006-2007 may have more rough patches than any season this side 1994-1995. Then again, Duke has been the underdog before and has responded well. That unfamiliar role was relished this season just eight miles down the road, and would no doubt be a lot of fun in Durham next year. It may be a bit more fun with a pair of players the caliber of Thomas and McRoberts.

Either way, Blue Devil faithful will have a pretty good idea of what to expect in 2007 in just 10 days.


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