As a freshman there was no doubting the elder Plumlee's athleticism. There were flashes of it everywhere from authoritative dunks to shots blocked almost - and sometimes - illegally from high above the rim. However when push came to shove - especially in the paint - Plumlee struggled to adapt to the college game and the bigger, stronger collegiate opponents. After his post-season exit interview with the coaching staff, it was time for a change.
"I set some goals. It had to a lot to do with looking at what I needed to do in order to get better. Strength was one of those things. I can't say I was frustrated with the way the team did last year, but individually I thought I should be out there contributing more, and I knew I had the potential to do that. So I wanted to make it happen."
So instead of returning home to Indiana, Miles spent most of the summer in Durham on a regimented schedule that balanced weights, diet, agility, and other methods of physical training. It has paid off as the 6'10 sophomore has added between 12 and 15 pounds of muscle while maintaining his quickness and leaping ability.
"I worked all summer on those things, and I think it's really paid off. I worked on my strength and conditioning. I don't think I did the best job last year of keeping my body in shape, but this year I'm in the best shape I've ever been in. That's big for me because being able to make athletic plays as a big guy takes a lot of conditioning."
As with any freshman who sees his playing time dwindle, there was certainly a reason for Plumlee to lose some confidence along the way last year. However, with the improved strength, it would appear as though a byproduct has been a surge in confidence. Of course there's also some motivation for Miles as his younger brother, Mason Plumlee, arrived in Durham this summer as a freshman. Considered the "better" prospect of the two, has Mason's presence rekindled any kind of competitive sibling rivalry?
"Probably. It was really impressive to see Mason come in as a freshman and do as well as he did. It was kind of a reality check for me. I saw what he's doing and I know what I can do because we've been playing together our whole lives. I knew I could be doing the same things. I think we really push each other and raise each other's games, so it's been good for both of us."
The byproduct of that competition has allowed both brothers to leap frog more experienced players in the early starting lineup as indicated by head coach Mike Krzyzewski. In their first organized Duke competition, the Plumlees lined up with the Blue Devils' first team with Miles at the five and Mason at the four. Their presence allowed junior All-American Kyle Singler to slide over to a more natural wing forward position - giving Duke, perhaps, the biggest front court in the Krzyzewski era with the three positions being filled by players who stand 6'10, 6'10, and 6'9.
And while other teams may match that kind of size, Duke is banking on very few opponents being able to match the frontcourt's combination of athleticism, size, and speed. Much of which begins with the two Plumlees. One who is a headline grabbing new comer, and one that's looking to build on his first collegiate season. For Miles it comes down to setting new goals and building on his experiences.
"I know what I'm capable of. For me it comes down to playing strong and playing to the skillet I have and using it to my advantage. I think this year I will be able to play more at my own pace. Not hurrying so much and getting into a rush. I think that overall is going to help me be successful."