For Blue Devils, it’s full speed ahead
by Eric Prisbell, USA TODAY Sports
DURHAM, N.C. — One Duke freshman says he arrived on campus here this summer so ill-prepared for the Blue Devils’ intensified strength and conditioning program he could not lift 185 pounds one time off his chest.
He says he struggled initially with learning basketball plays, because few positions were defined and players were taught to operate as interchangeable pieces in a fast-paced chess match.
So even Jabari Parker, one of the nation’ s most celebrated prospects, acknowledges “confidence issues” as he adjusts to his new college team. At most schools, Parker would be the dominant headliner. At Duke, he is one more valuable and versatile entity on one of this season’ s most intriguing rosters.
As the curtain rises on a new-look Atlantic Coast Conference, a new-look Duke team is expected to be the team to beat. ACC newcomers Syracuse, Notre Dame and Pittsburgh — all likely to compete with North Carolina, Virginia and others for NCAA tournament berths — will find themselves trying to topple what is widely considered the most athletic Blue Devils team in more than a decade.
Despite losing its top three scorers — Seth Curry, Mason Plumlee and Ryan Kelly (all of whom averaged double figures) — these Blue Devils could be more dangerous than last season’ s team, which lost to eventual national champion Louisville in the Elite Eight. And this season, as much as any other, will illustrate coach Mike Krzyzewski’ sability to adapt his playing style to the uniqueness of his personnel.
With numerous multidimensional players between 6-4 and 6-9 — and a dearth of traditional post players — Duke will use speed, depth and athleticism as its most potent weapons. Expect a much faster tempo and full-court defensive pressure. Expect, as senior Tyler Thornton calls it, a drastic style adjustment on the “most unique” Duke team of his tenure.
“If we tried to force this team to do what last year’ s team did, then we wouldn’t be able to be successful, just because we don’t have those big frames to kind of slow the ball up,” Thornton says. “But last year’ s team couldn’t run like … [For more on For new-look Blue Devils, it's full speed ahead, click here.]