After having seen the 2007-08 Blue Devils on a few occasions now including the Blue & White game and part of the Shaw University scrimmage, it is apparent that with this team, what is old is new. Coach K will not have to go too far to figure out how to coach this group as it is a true throw back to the Final Four teams between 1988-1992. Those teams featured a dual combination of point guards (Quin Snyder, Phil Henderson, Bobby Hurley), a number of wing players (Kevin Stickland, Billy King, Greg Koubeck, Marty Clark, Thomas Hill, Antonio Lang, Brian Davis), a non-traditional center (John Smith, Alaa Abelnabby) at least one true athletic leaper (Robert Brickey, Grant Hill) and an inside-outside power forward. (Danny Ferry, Christian Laettner). This was the prototypical Coach K team. These Duke finesse teams evolved to power offense with the introduction of Elton Brand and has continued on since 1998.
The 2007-2008 Duke squad returns to the traditional finesse team. Kyle Singler is the best all around inside/outside forward since Dunleavy. Candidly, he fulfills the promise never realized by Shav or McBob. He will be able to score from most anywhere on the floor, rebound and has a natural basketball instinct. Most importantly, he knows how to score and does not mind doing it. His points will be quiet, but by the end of the night, he will lead all scorers. Taylor King at 6ft 6inches is built like a linebacker, but shoots like Chip Englannd (for you old school Duke fans, he was the purest shooter in Duke history whose name is not Redick). He hit 5 three pointers in less than 10 minutes in the Blue-White game and muscled for rebounds on the other end. He will see quality minutes. Nolan Smith is the on the ball defender that has been lacking in recent years. He stole the ball from Paulus on three occasions in the Blue White game. Plus as evidenced in the Shaw game, can score at will. He will provide the relief that Paulus needs at the point that was clear with VCU last year.
Paulus has obviously lost some weight. This year, with the help of Nolan Smith, he will finally get the chance to be more of a shooting guard and less of the team quarterback. Hopefully he will average 30 minutes a game instead of 40. Scheyer should have the opportunity to come into games and play the “Rusty LaRue” role. Rusty LaRue was the wing forward from Wake that would come in and hit the big three just when it was necessary for Wake to win. With more bodies and more rest, Scheyer should be rested to fill that role. He still cannot create his own shot and will be limited in what he can do. There is a danger, however, that Scheyer will suffer that sophomore slump of Ricky Price and Chris Collins. Let’s hope we don’t cringe when he comes in like we did with Rev. Weldon Williams and Kevin Stickland (pre-87-88)
Gerald Henderson is showing signs of a breakout year. With the influx of additional people, he should not be winded as last year (he has asthma). He has obviously worked on his three point shooting over the summer and his basketball instinct is spot on. He is on his way to becoming “that special player.” Lance Thomas has added about 20 pounds. He will probably start at center and as long as he can produce 8 points, and 8 rebounds a night, he will have done his job. He is not going to change the nature of the opposing team offense with his blocks, but he will provide the speed for the run and gun speed that this team will employ. Demarcus Nelson will not be a candidate for the Naismith award or ACC Player of the year. He just does not have those skills. As the single captain on the team, the team will take on his personality. If he can develop a desire to fight like a Chris Carrawell, Nelson can push this team forward. This team will not depend on him for points. The will need him for leadership. His role will be to calm the freshmen, and find ways out of the holes that teams like the Twerps or the Tools put you in. He will be part of the equation, and could serve as a hatchet man on players like Handjob.
Both McClure and Pocius did not play in the games that I observed (or at the time that I observed them) but I understand that Pocius has improved on Defense and is back to his ACC Tournament scoring. Pocius is a kid that just needs minutes. He will have some tremendous games this year and will have the media asking who he is and where he has been hiding. As for the others, Zoubek has a long way to go. He is big and has gained maybe 20-25 pounds. His is much more muscular, but the foot injury will make it a slow comeback. As this is a run and gun team, he will see limited minutes
Overall, Coach K has the horses to run. If he will open the bench, this team will tire out almost everyone including the Tools. Not having a true back to basket center will not be an issue as long as they can rebound. Duke has not had a “fun” team in quite a long time. If we are lucky, this team will be like the 1987-88 team, tons of fun, tight defense and a Triple Crown.