Posted on: June 27, 2011 10:15 am
Edited on: June 27, 2011 10:24 am

Did the Timberwolves really reach out to Coach K?

By Matt Norlander

I haven’t gotten to do this on the blog yet, so is it cool if I do it, just this once? It’s a meme that’s sort of played out, but I have to try it just so I can say that I did.


Meh. That didn’t feel as good as I’d hoped. So few things live up to the build-up nowadays. But here’s why that exclamation was necessary: Mitch Lawrence of the New York Daily News reported Saturday that David Kahn, much-maligned, much-mocked general manager of the Minnesota Timberwolves, tried to pry Mike Krzyzewski away from Duke to coach the Timberwolves recently.

"He tried to get him," said one Kahn confidante.

Kahn was looking for a miracle or two. The other miracle is turning Ricky Rubio into a first-rate NBA point guard. As he showed over the last two seasons in Spain, the T-Wolves' No. 1 draft pick of 2009 can't shoot consistently or beat people off the dribble. That was versus inferior competition in Europe. Now he's supposed to be able to do those things against the top players in the world?

No wonder Krzyzewski isn't running to the Twin Cities anytime soon.

As if Derrick Williams and Ricky Rubio were the pieces that could lock and lure K in. Truly Kahn-esque in every sense of the term. Isiah Thomas is even laughing at that notion, David.

Krzyzewski, by way of Duke PR, came out and said he was never officially contacted by Minnesota management. Well, maybe he wasn't, but perhaps his agent was? That's how you obfuscate such contact claims these days. You're not technically lying if you do.

Those who are even decently versed in their Coach-K-in-the-NBA history know that the legendary Duke coach couldn’t be swayed by the Lakers back in 2004. (Though he’s admitted that’s as close as he’s ever come to leaving college.) There’s a difference between reaching for the stars and taking crazy pills. At this point, with Coach K only need three wins to usurp his mentor, Bob Knight, for all-time wins in college basketball, how did Kahn think he could sell K on leaving? And that upcoming achievement is only first on a laundry list of reasons why K will remain at Duke.

At this point, the age of 64, it’s clear Krzyzewski is never leaving Durham. If it were remotely possible, the Lakers or his hometown Bulls would be the only logistical choices — and neither of those are logistical in the here and now.

So, thank you, David Kahn, for infusing your ego into the college game ever so briefly. I think we needed that laugh on a Monday in the dead of late June.

Photo: AP

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: June 21, 2011 1:46 pm
Edited on: June 21, 2011 2:00 pm

A closer look at Duke players' NBA careers

By Matt Norlander

Used to be that Duke was seen as the school that got the most out of guys in college but couldn't prep prep stars for the NBA. Grant Hill was the exception; Christian Laettner also was exempted for those who didn't have their blinders on.

But beyond that? Nothing, really. A bunch of underachieving NBA afterthoughts, those Dookies. Or so many thought.

Since Coach K is putting three more proteges into the NBA this Thursday night -- Kyrie Irving, plus Nolan Smith (at left) and Kyle Singler (right) -- Dan Wiederer of the Fayetteville Observer did some fine research recently and looked at who Duke has put into the association in the past two decades.

His findings?

Duke is truly one of the most proficient schools at not only sending guys to the top level, but having many of its former players have a decent, if not exemplary, amount of success once they establish their NBA careers.

Wiederer points out that Krzyzewski has had 33 of his players drafted in his 31 years at Duke. Despite the fact that Hill, Laetnner, Carlos Boozer and Elton Brand are the only four players who've made an All-Star Game, that's mighty impressive. And the All-Star stat is a bit misleading, too.
For context, consider this breakdown. Since 1992, 147 different players have played in the NBA All-Star game. The school that has had the most all-stars in the last 20 years is North Carolina, proudly able to claim seven all-stars: James Worthy, Michael Jordan, Brad Daugherty, Jerry Stackhouse, Rasheed Wallace, Vince Carter and Antawn Jamison.

Sure, that gives Tar Heel fans some local bragging rights. But behind UNC, Duke is one of eight schools that has had four of its former players reach all-star status in the last 20 years. The other programs able to make that claim: Georgetown, Connecticut, Alabama, Kentucky, Georgia Tech, Michigan State and UCLA.
The Duke star ≠ NBA star issue stems from the fact so few Duke players that get drafted to lottery teams have come up short. Jason Williams' career abruptly ended because of a motorcycle accident; Cherokee Parks was considered a stiff of the highest order; Trajan Langdon could never develop his  shot in the NBA as he could in college; Shelden Williams clearly hit his peak while at Duke.

But for every one of those lottery busts, Wiederer correctly points out that second-round picks like Boozer and Chris Duhon have had buoyant NBA careers. And there's something to be said for a guy like Luol Deng, who so frequently gets forgotten in this conversation.

The other trump card Duke haters point to is undeniable -- Devils don't win NBA titles. But even if that's still the case now, Duke's winning ways have pretty clearly embedded themselves into a number of teams that made this year's playoffs.

Duke bashers often like to mention the manner in which NBA championship glory has evaded former Blue Devils. Of Krzyzewski's former stars, only Danny Ferry has won an NBA championship ring. And Ferry claimed his jewelry as a seldom-used reserve with the San Antonio Spurs in 2003. Meanwhile, since 1980, rival North Carolina has had 11 players combine to win 25 NBA championships. It's no wonder Tar Heel fans love to bring that trivia up as often as possible.

Looking at this past season's data, Duke has far more to boast about. The 2010-11 NBA season started with 12 former Blue Devils on active NBA rosters, putting Duke behind only UCLA (13) in that category.

A pretty great stat, and I wouldn't have guessed UCLA at the top of that list, though it's not surprising it's there.

As for this year's Draft, there's an interesting wrinkle with the Blue Devils. Ironically, Duke could become the first team in 23 years to not have a player from a national title-winning squad (2010) picked in the first round. If Smith and Singler get their names called by NBA deputy commissioner Adam Silver instead of the Almighty David Stern, that means it's the second round and Duke's 2010 title becomes all the more ... impressive?

Unlikely? Bolstering to Coach K's already-sterling legacy?

It's unlikely this year's triumvirate of Blue Devils will reach multiple All-Star games and change the casual basketball fan's perspective of Duke players in the NBA. But the ignorance to Duke alumni persevering with long careers at the NBA level speaks to just that -- the casual basketball fan's continued hatred and bias toward the most polarizing college basketball team. Long after the Duke jerseys are disposed of, the connotation still lingers, sometimes incorrectly.

Category: NCAAB
Tags: Duke, NBA
Posted on: June 20, 2011 4:37 pm
Edited on: June 20, 2011 4:57 pm

Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith favor Thornton at PG

By Jeff Goodman

With Kyrie Irving and Nolan Smith gone, the question becomes: Who will take over the point guard duties in Durham?

Incoming freshman Austin Rivers will have the ball in his hands plenty, but he’s a scorer and is better served as a two-guard.

Both Smith and Kyle Singler, shortly after a workout with the Boston Celtics, told me that they both expect Tyler Thornton to run the Duke team next season.

"He’s solid,” Smith said. "He’s a tough, tough kid. I told Quinn (Cook) that he’s not going to go in and take Tyler’s spot.”

Cook is a McDonald’s All-American and a consensus Top 50 recruit who will come in this season and try and earn the point guard's spot.

But Singler is going with Thornton, who he called a “great defender” and agreed with Smith that Thornton brings a toughness to the team.

"That might be his biggest strength,” Singler said.

"He’s not going to make many mistakes,” Smith added. "He’s real smart.”

The 6-foot-1, 185-pound Thornton came out of Gonzaga High in Washington, D.C., as a guy who didn’t crack most recruiting analysts’ Top 100.

A year ago, he averaged a shade under 10 minutes per game and 1.6 points and 1.0 assists per game, but he did see valuable minutes after Irving suffered a major toe injury in December.

Posted on: June 16, 2011 9:54 am

Rodney Purvis: Duke, N.C. State sit atop his list

By Jeff Goodman

Rodney Purvis has been busy since his de-commitment from Louisville last month.

The top-ranked shooting guard in the Class of 2012 spent last weekend at the Chris Paul Camp and followed it up with an unofficial visit to Missouri – where ex-Louisville assistant Tim Fuller is now on staff.

Purvis will also head to the NBA Camp this week and plans to attend LeBron James’ Skills Academy in early July.

``If Tim Fuller had stayed at Louisville, I’d still be committed,” the 6-foot-3 guard admitted.

Purvis said that he is in the process of compiling a definitive list, but he did admit that two schools that stand at the top right now are Duke and N.C. State.

``Those are probably the two that have been on me the hardest,” he said.

Purvis also told Scout.com recently that Kentucky, Louisville and Memphis comprised the remainder of his top five
Posted on: June 14, 2011 5:08 pm
Edited on: June 15, 2011 10:41 am

Tourney play inspired Kyrie Irving to leave Duke

By Matt Norlander

Duke fans aren't looking for or needing consolation over Kyrie Irving's departure to the NBA.

Yes, he was one of the best point guards the school ever successfully lured to campus, but this is Duke. It hurts he's gone, there will always be a what-if feeling in regard the success and memorable performances he could've had in a Devils uniform, but the fan base, the program and its Hall of Fame coach will move on.

Still, get this: Had Irving's injury been more serious, he says he would've returned to Durham for his sophomore year. Those three NCAA tournament games -- a win over Hampton State; a win over Michigan; a loss to Arizona -- are apparently what convinced Irving he should head to the NBA. Had the toe been too tender to play on, he wouldn't have given it a go in the Big Dance and come back for 2011-12.

Irving told FOXSportsOhio.com the first eight games of his college career (before he injured the toe) were not a sufficient barometer on his ability to play at the next level.
Irving insisted his toe is now “100 percent healthy.” That’s a lot different than the NCAA tournament in March, when he estimated it was only about 70 percent. Had Irving not been able to play in the tournament, he said he would have returned to Duke for his sophomore season.

“Those eight games (before the injury) just weren’t enough,” he said. “But playing in the tournament gave me a chance to prove something to all the naysayers about my durability.”
That's a heck of an alternate-universe scenario to let hang out in the wind. (Duke fans, have fun with that.) Now, a few things to address. First, it's easy for Irving to say this stuff now, but we'll never truly know. He was considered top-three material before the NCAA tournament; his performance in it (17.6 points, two assists per game) wasn't so revelatory that his draft stock saw an uptick immediately afterward. It's conceivable -- and likely -- that he'd still have opted for the NBA after the season. Not calling the kid a liar, simply saying it's easy to the scenario in which he was seen as a topflight pick and chose to enter the NBA Draft.

There was something else that was revealed in Irving comments that I finding interesting. Remember how Irving, his father, Duke, Coach K -- they were all insistent Irving wouldn't play against last season unless he was completely healthy? I don't know if anyone ever bought into that, even when he dressed for the tournament, but 70 percent is still far from all the way back. Was Irving nudged back into playing? If so, by who? It's always intriguing to have players address injuries after the fact, when they can tell reporters the truth. And Irving at 70 percent is better than 95 percent of college players at full value.

Ultimately, we're left with a season in which a top-ranked prospect missed out on, meaning we missed on him, too. I suppose it remains intriguing because we've never had an elite player with an injury/NBA Draft situation like Irving's before. If only he hadn't played in March.

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: June 2, 2011 12:39 pm

Coach K hopes China trip will set Duke rotation

Posted by Eric Angevine

After a season in which the starting rotation was pretty much a foregone conclusion (barring Kyrie Irving's toe injury), it's odd to hear Mike Krzyzewski say that he's not entirely certain about which players will fill roles in his system next season. Not only that, but he's not entirely certain what that system will be, according to the Charlotte Observer.

Instead, he will wait until after the team's trip to play exhibitions in China and Dubai in August to form a rotation and a system of play after the Blue Devils lost first-team All-ACC seniors Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler from last season's team.

"We have so many new guys," Krzyzewski said Wednesday during a media opportunity at the beginning of his yearly K Academy fantasy camp.

There's little doubt that Duke has a very talented roster, but lacks a clear leadership structure. Overseas trips are beneficial for teams attempting to gel for many reasons, the primary plus being that the NCAA allows for early practice sessions that would not otherwise be permitted. Miles Plumlee will have time to figure out some of the tricks of senior leadership, and Seth Curry and Andre Dawkins will have time to adjust to the arrival of Austin Rivers and four other top recruits who will bear much of the onus of keeping the Blue Devil train on track.

This could be a tough year for Duke, but don't bet against Coach K with this much extra time on his side.

Photo: US Presswire
Category: NCAAB
Tags: Coach K, Duke
Posted on: May 26, 2011 11:43 am
Edited on: May 26, 2011 11:58 am

Shabazz Muhammad continues to protect his turf


Posted by Jeff Borzello

Rankings of the top prospects in the country have different impacts on different players. Some don’t pay attention to them; some live and die by their ranking. Others are cognizant of where they stand and know opponents are gunning for them.

Shabazz Muhammad, one of the top three players in the class of 2012, is in the latter group.

“I think everyone thinks they’re the number one player, but I don’t worry about that,” Muhammad said in a phone interview. “But it affects the way I play, big-time. Having a target on my back, it’s a great opportunity for me.”

The 6-foot-5 swingman from Bishop Gorman (Nev.) has been ranked near the top of his class since he was a freshman in high school. Every game, camp or tournament, Muhammad has had to stand his ground to retain his stature.

Unlike many players who drop in the rankings as their high school careers progress, Muhammad is still in the mix for the top spot.

“That’s the first thing that comes to mind,” he said. “I’m the best player on the court and I have to prove it.”

Muhammad is a lefty scoring machine, using his strength to simply overpower most of his opponents when driving to the rim. He is an excellent finisher in the paint and is deadly in the mid-range. Once he improves his outside shooting, Muhammad could be unstoppable on the wing.

At the high school level, Muhammad can get away with playing inside the arc, but he knows he has to improve his guard skill set at the next level.

“Schools are recruiting me as a shooting guard,” he said. “So I’m working on handling the ball. Schools like Kentucky, Duke, Arizona, they have their shooting guards handle the ball a lot. And the most important thing is my perimeter shooting. The athleticism is already there.”

Muhammad has offers from dozens of schools, but he has trimmed some of the fat and is focusing on seven schools: Kentucky, Duke, UCLA, UNLV, Arizona, Kansas and Texas.

While he says he has no favorites, he did go through each school to discuss what he liked about each one.

Many people think UCLA is the frontrunner for Muhammad, but he denied it.

“It was a great experience,” he said about UCLA. “I’ve been to California and I love the weather. Coach [Ben] Howland is a great guy; I talked to him for a couple of hours. I got to see how it is to be a Bruin.”

Not surprisingly, Kentucky is also on Muhammad’s list. He said it’s different than the other schools on his list because of the location.

“I can be very focused there, since it’s not a city,” Muhammad said. “It’s a good place for a person who is serious about basketball. There are no distractions.”

UNLV is the closest school to Muhammad’s Las Vegas home and high school, and is therefore still in the mix. Proximity could play a factor.

“It’s a local school, and they have really good match-ups every year,” he said. “It’s only 10 minutes away.”

Early in May, Muhammad and his Dream Vision AAU team took a trip to the Jayhawk Invitational in Kansas. While there, he got a chance to check out the Kansas campus.

“Coach [Bill] Self is a nice guy,” Muhammad said. “I took a visit up there a couple weeks ago.”

What impressed Muhammad the most about Duke was head coach Mike Krzyzewski, but it wasn’t his charm or recruiting pitch that opened Muhammad’s eyes.

“Coach K, I talked to him a lot,” he said. “He’s very intellectual, he know what he’s doing. The guy is just smart. It’s a great place to be at.”

The most recent trip Muhammad took was to Arizona, ironically taking place the day after head coach Sean Miller spurned Maryland to stay in Tucson.

“I’ve been talking to them a lot,” Muhammad said. “They have a great coach and a great team. And their system is running, getting up and down.”

He plans on taking a trip to Texas sometime in June; at that point, Muhammad will have taken unofficial visits to all seven schools.

Still, no particular school is standing out.

“Everyone I named is coming at me the hardest,” Muhammad said. “They’re all great [coaches]. I can’t really compare one, two, three.”

Nearly every school on his list is a perennial Final Four contender, making Muhammad’s decision even harder. The main factor in his decision will be program success, both past and future.

“The school’s tradition,” Muhammad said. “I’m looking for the school that has the best opportunity for me to win a national championship.”

Despite going on plenty of unofficial visits and knowing exactly what he is looking for in a school, he has no plans to make a decision anytime soon.

Muhammad doesn’t want to rush into anything.

“I’m taking the process slowly. I probably will take all five of my visits,” he said. “I want to make sure I make the right choice.”

Photos: Wildcat Blue Nation, Lawrence Journal-World

Posted on: May 24, 2011 11:59 am
Edited on: May 24, 2011 12:00 pm

Conference Catch-ups: The ACC

Posted by Jeff Borzello

It may still feel like the Final Four just ended, but for most schools, the offseason is now more than two months old. With that in mind, all of us at the blog are going to take this week to give you what we’re calling “Conference Catch-Ups.” The motive is to recap the biggest storylines in college basketball’s offseason so far, plus keep your appetite whetted in what is the longest offseason in major American sports.

Previous Conference Catch-ups: Big East, Pac-12 

The Big Stories

New faces on the sidelines: The ACC took more turns in the coaching carousel than any major conference in the country. It started before the season ended, when Georgia Tech and Paul Hewitt parted ways after 11 seasons. Dayton’s Brian Gregory was hired to replace him. Frank Haith left Miami (Fl.) for the Missouri job, with the Hurricanes reaching into the CAA for George Mason’s Jim Larranaga. North Carolina State wasn’t lucky with their search, getting turned down by multiple coaches before going with former Alabama head man Mark Gottfried to replace Sidney Lowe. Obviously the most high-profile of the changes came at Maryland, where Gary Williams abruptly retired after 22 seasons in College Park. Mark Turgeon came over from Texas A&M to replace Williams. Overall, one-third of the programs in the conference will have a new face at the helm.

North Carolina is preseason No. 1: With Kentucky losing Brandon Knight and DeAndre Liggins to the NBA, the clear-cut favorite going into the preseason should be North Carolina. The Tar Heels return Harrison Barnes, who came on strong in the latter half of the season. John Henson and Tyler Zeller also come back in the frontcourt, while Kendall Marshall will get a chance to run the show for a full season. Five-star recruits James McAdoo and P.J. Hairston will get a chance to make an impact off the bench.

Duke loses top three players, needs to reload: When Kyrie Irving, Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith were healthy and hitting on all cylinders, Duke was the best team in the country. Now, all three are gone and Mike Krzyzewski is left with . . . well, a pretty good team. Coach K brings in a tremendous recruiting class, led by top-three prospect Austin Rivers, McDonald’s All-Americans Quinn Cook and Marshall Plumlee, as well as top-30 recruit Michael Gbinije. Seth Curry and Andre Dawkins will still snipe from 3-point range, while Ryan Kelly and Mason and Miles Plumlee return down low. Don’t cry for the Dukies.

Where did everyone go? Despite North Carolina’s frontcourt trio all returning, the ACC was hit hard by graduation and the NBA draft. All five players on the all-ACC first team will be gone, as well as two players on the second team and three players on the third team. Including the top five honorable mention vote-getters, only seven of the top 20 players in the conference are returning next season.

The Great Unknown

What does the future hold for Maryland? Under Gary Williams, the Terrapins were widely-regarded as one of the top programs in college basketball but never consistently made deep runs in the NCAA tournament. They had not reached the Sweet 16 since 2003 after winning a national championship in 2002. With Williams retiring and Mark Turgeon taking over, it will be interesting to see what happens in College Park. Maryland is considered one of the best jobs in the country due to its fertile recruiting base. Turgeon has already made a splash in that regard, hiring Kansas State assistant Dalonte Hill for Washington D.C. and keeping Bino Ransom for Baltimore. 

NBA Draft report

The ACC had its wins and losses when it came to early-entries and the NBA draft. It did take some serious hits, with Duke’s Kyrie Irving, Florida State’s Chris Singleton and Boston College’s Reggie Jackson all leaving early with near-guarantees that they will each be drafted in the first round. Moreover, Maryland’s Jordan Williams and Georgia Tech’s Iman Shumpert also made the leap to the NBA draft.

While the conference certainly had headline departures, plenty of talent also made the decision to return. As mentioned earlier, North Carolina’s frontcourt trio of Harrison Barnes, John Henson and Tyler Zeller are all coming back to college despite being projected as first-round picks. Reggie Johnson of Miami (Fl.) entered his name into the draft pool without an agent, but pulled out at the last minute to return to South Beach.



- Alex Johnson (from Cal State Bakersfield) to North Carolina State


- Dallas Elmore (from Boston College)

- Ryan Harrow (from North Carolina State)

- Will Regan (from Virginia)

- Ari Stewart (from Wake Forest) to USC

- Manny Atkins (from Virginia Tech) to Georgia State

My commentary in 20 words or less

Boston College: Steve Donahue will have his hands full next season, as he brings back just 7.9 points and three returnees.

Clemson: Brad Brownell surprised many in his first season, but Milton Jennings and Devin Booker have to take a step forward.

Duke: The Blue Devils lose plenty, but freshman Austin Rivers will immediately be one of the top scorers in the country.

Florida State: When a team as bad offensively as FSU loses its top two scorers, returning to the Sweet 16 seems ambitious.

Georgia Tech: Brian Gregory could hit speed bumps in his first year; the Jackets are going to get dominated in the paint.

Maryland: The Terrapins will be fun to watch as a program in the next few years; next season’s a stepping stone.

Miami: The move by Jim Larranaga to Miami raised some eyebrows, but Durand Scott and Reggie Johnson are a formidable duo.

North Carolina: The preseason No. 1 team in the country, the Tar Heels will make headlines for the right reasons next season.

North Carolina State: Another program that will be fun to keep an eye on – Mark Gottfried is making his mark on Tobacco Road.

Virginia: Tony Bennett has this team on the precipice of a big year, but it’s still unclear when exactly that’s happening.

Virginia Tech: Next season, the Hokies won’t be good enough to be disappointed on Selection Sunday yet again.

Wake Forest: Coming off a one-win ACC season, there’s nowhere to go but up. We think.

Photos: US Presswire

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com