Saturday, January 27, 2007

An Ending Worthy of a Duke (Blue Devil That Is…)


Patrick Kendall

Coach K is the King of Duke and during his reign he has had some of the greatest warriors in college basketball fighting for him on the court. This year was NOT supposed to be one of those years. But something strange and wonderful has happened in the land of Kryzewskiville: the emergence of a surprise freshman stud shooter (sound familiar?) is turning this season into one of Coach K’s finest coaching jobs ever, capped off beautifully by Thursday’s win over Clemson. Let me put it into some perspective for you.

The ending to the Duke/Clemson game Thursday night was the best ending to a basketball game this season and here’s why: the play relied on said freshman moving past pressure on the inbounds, going to half-court, finding the open man streaking to the foul line and then making a perfect pass resulting in a tricky front-rim game winning shot as time expired (and never mind the shot clock because Duke had nothing to do with that).

Yessir, the best finish to a game all year orchestrated by the most important freshman in the ACC.

(Insert UNC groaning, whining and/or having a stroke here…go ahead…I’ll wait)

For Duke it did two important things in my mind: 1) it kept them in second place in the ACC, and 2) it validated Duke’s ranking becauseit was a big home win that many (including Bob the Terp at work) thought would be a sure loss.

More importantly, it showed off all the talents of Jon Scheyer and left me wondering if maybe he isn’t better than Redick (at this stage).

(Insert gasps from Duke fans this time here…once again…I’ll wait)

How can say such things, you ask?

Consider this: at this point in both their careers Redick was averaging 15 a game while Scheyer is averaging 12.5 (though his average is higher in ACC play and he is playing 3 fewer minutes a game), but Scheyer has already shown that he can run the point adequately, and I submit that so far he is a better on ball defender and passer at this stage. Plus, he is slightly taller than J.J., which presents nice match up problems as teams pay more attention to him.

Keep in mind, Redick was the first or second option on his Duke team from the get go, while Scheyer was considered a third option AT BEST, and that only if Paulus did not score while running the point. Some might argue (I certainly that Scheyer is the reason that Paulus is not scoring as much as anticipated.

Now we’ve seen that Scheyer can make a winning pass as well as hitting a big three (at the half and near the end of the game – something Paulus did as well) in the midst of an uncharacteristically bad shooting night to keep momentum from shifting.

But, better than Redick?

Not a better shooter, but maybe a better player anyway, especially if you take a quick look at stats across the board. Scheyer is averaging more rebounds and assists at this point, while his three point shooting average is respectable (38% but higher in ACC play) and he is an 86% free throw shooter so he compares favorably to Redick in those categories as well. My point? We’ve got someone to watch for the next three and a half years…that’s great news.

But just so Anyone (if Anyone is even still out there) doesn’t accuse me of bias, let me go on to say that for as good as Josh McRoberts played on the offensive end his inbound passing and passing out of the press as the game got tight nearly cost Duke a victory. McRoberts has got to learn how to keep his composure if he insists on being an integral part of the ball-handing for Duke as the season progresses. So, let me state that while I’m a fan of the idea of a ball-handling and passing big man, I’m a much bigger fan of an EFFECTIVE ball-handling and passing big man.


Though the schedule doesn’t get any easier this week, I now know that Duke is in good hands while Scheyer is on watch. Frankly, with McRoberts reluctant (or unable) to dominate games night in and night out, I’m making the prediction that this will BE Scheyer’s team by the time we’re done with Duke Basketball 06-07.

So I’m left to retract my statement that Scheyer is too young to lead this team. He is as tough a competitor as Coach K has had (as far as I can see anyway), which is saying something considering the long history Duke has had with outstanding freshmen talent.

And better yet, if his work ethic is anything like Redick’s was, I think we can look forward to many more endings, which will definitely make the King happy.

1 comment:

Riva said...

People should read this.