Whispers From Cameron: Q&A

With the start of the 2006-2007 hoops season still nearly two months away, there are several mysteries surrounding the approaching campaign after the departure of Shelden Williams and J.J. Redick. TDD spent the Labor Day weekend checking in with several inside sources for answers to some of our premium subscribers' most pressing questions.

With Coach K's obligations to Team USA, what has been the impact on the Duke program?

Actually, given the time of year in which the Olympic program is taking place, Krzyzewski hasn't missed all that much. The coaches weren't able to be out the last part of the month of July. School began on August 24th, meaning that there were no players on campus during that time. Assistant coaches Steve Wojciechowski and Chris Collins are the only ones on Campus until later this week and will spend most of their time helping the players get acclimated to being back at school (or in school for the first time) as well as making sure all attend their workouts, while also staying on top of recruiting. Collins and Wojo will have a good amount of contact with the players to make sure everyone is on the same page.

What, if any changes are likely to be implemented this season with the departure of Redick and Williams?

As happens every year, the Blue Devils will cater their offense towards the players on the roster. While there were some loud critics of last year's offensive system (especially late in the year), Duke was still among the top 10 teams in the country when it came to offensive output. Unlike last year there won't be two players who are clearly on another level from their teammates -- thusly the offense will no doubt be much more balanced in terms of number of shots.

How did rising sophomore Martynas Pocius' summer go?

He played with the Lithuanian junior national team this summer in the European Junior Championships where he was his country's leading scorer. From his performance in that tournament, he was invited to train with the Senior National Team that played in Japan. He returned at the start of school and immediately returned to pickup action where he seems to be an even better scorer. Pocius also believes the experience helped him work on other aspects of his game -- namely defensively.

How is Josh McRoberts' rehabilitaion going?

THe 6-foot-10 sophomore is doing as well as can be expected. The rehab is going to plan. Duke will take a conservative approach with his preseason conditioning to ensure he is ready to go for the start of the season (which is nearly six weeks away). A good deal of his preseason approach will be determined by his day-to-day progress with the training staff. As of today he is walking around regularly and doing his daily rehab training.

Have there been any interesting strength and conditioning developments?

Sadly the preseason physical tests are being done this week, so there are no solid numbers to report as of yet. However, Coach Stephens (strength and conditioning) has reported positive improvements from each player. Perhaps the more important thing is that each player (aside from McRoberts) appears to be not only fitter, but also healthy.

What are the impressions of the freshmen to date?

Several of the older players have reported their beliefs that all four newcomers will be ready to play on a high level when the season starts. The individual workouts will begin this week, and that is where Lance Thomas, Brian Zoubek, Gerald Henderson, and Jon Scheyer have a chance to really earn an inside track of cracking the rotation. Still, some of one sentence reports to escape out of Cameron include Scheyer's basketball IQ (i.e. he's effective and doesn't need the ball all the time to be so); Thomas' motor being as strong as advertised; Henderson's athleticism is too; and Brian Zoubek is every bit of 7'2 and understands how to play at that height.

What are the expectations for the elder players? How have they changed?

The main thing expected from third year players David McClure and DeMarcus Nelson is leadership. Both have been extremely vocal with the young players to date. Aside from leadership, the drive to stay healthy is also something that is wishlist. Neither McClure nor Nelson has made it through an entire season without some form of injury taking hold -- and thus neither is a proven or known commodity at this point in their career.

What is coming up on the recruiting calendar for Duke?

The coaching staff will travel to West Virginia on September 12th for an in-home visit with Patrick Patterson. The next day (Sept. 13) they will head to Oregon to meet Kyle Singler in home. That weekend (September 15th-17th) Taylor King will be making his official visit to Durham. The following weekend (Sept 22-24) Duke will host Singler for his official. Patrick Patterson will conclude the official visit parade on Sept 29th (through October 1). Future Blue Devil Nolan Smith is still in the process of settting up his official visit.

Who is really on the recruiting radar in 2008?

Right now it is a wait and see game for the Blue Devils in the crop of rising juniors. Guys like Samardo Samuels, Greg Monroe, Drew Gordon, Luke Babbitt, Anthony Crater, and Travis Releford were all players that caught the Duke staff's eyes and are all being actively recruited at this early stage. Depending on the outcome of Singler and Patterson, Duke will be looking to add between one and three additional players in 2008 - though nothing is likely to be set in stone until this time next season.

What is with the new look Nike uniforms that are being released?

Just like last year with the silver (duct tape) on the upper shoulder, the new look uniforms will be nothing more than an alternate uniform. Just like those uniforms from last year, they are likely to be worn sparingly (between 1 and 3 times). The primary uniforms will still be the standard Duke jerseys worn throughout last season. It's a simple marketting game - the more uniforms that are in the maket - the more Nike sells.

What is the status of departed seniors Sean Dockery and Lee Melchionni?

Melchionni has signed to play for a team in the Italian second division. He was able to obtain an Italian passport which makes him a valuable commodity in that league. Best guess is that he'll spend a few years in Europe making a good amount of Euros before heading into "the real world". It would appear that Dockey will also be heading overseas. He played for Portland in the summer league but didn't earn a domestic (NBA) contract offer. However his play did earn him several offers in Europe that he is currently weighing.

What is a typical day in the life of a Duke basketball player during this preseason time?

The NCAA has specific rules about the amount of interaction a coaching staff can have with players. Namely the coaches are only allowed to work with players on the court for two hours a week per player. The groups can be no bigger than groups of four. So Duke does the allotted individual workouts with the players while mixing in with other forms of training. Players will lift weights three times per week and do conditioning twice a week in the mornings. Aside from that, they will play pick up games on their own on days they are not doing individual workouts. Throw in a full class schedule, and the players are usually booked up from early Monday until late Friday. During the preseason they do, however, have their weekends free.

What are the benefits from the work the entire Duke coaching staff has done with Team USA?

Overall it has been a very positive experience for the entire staff. All of whom had the chance to work with some of the best players in the world, and to be around some of the top coaches in the game. It also reaffirmed with the current players the level of respect the NBA guys have for Coach K, and how even they could buy into his message and what he is trying to accomplish with them. It will certainly help him get the attention of such a young team.

Who will be this year's team captains?

No captains have yet been named. The preseason training ground will also be an open audition for players to step up and take on those responsibilites. If you want the opinion of TDD's staff, then our guess is that DeMarcus Nelson, Greg Paulus, and David McClure will eventually take the role as tri-captains this season.

Coach Krzyzewski is notoriously demanding of his point guards. What changes has Greg Paulus made on and off the floor to help him advance his career as a sophomore floor general?

Paulus has actually had one of the better offseasons on the team. He had his wrist repaired in the spring, which is now healed up (and has been since the middle of July). He has been pain free since that time, which has allowed him to focus his energies on improving. When he reported back for the fall semester his improved fitness level was noticable - after working all summer to better condition himself. As with most point guards, there is usually a big improvement from freshman to sophomore year as the player becomes more comfortable with everything around him as well as the level of competition. The hope is that Paulus will take his already improved physical repitrore and translate that into an even better sophomore year, after leading the ACC in assists as a freshman.

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