By Dave Glenn and staff
ACC Sports Journal
August 5, 2002 DURHAM - Mike Krzyzewski was neither blindsided nor unhappy when Mike Dunleavy elected to remain in the NBA draft. However, the veteran Duke coach was disappointed, for reasons you may not know.
He said recently that while he was recuperating from his second hip replacement, he was visited at home by the Dunleavys, Junior and Senior.
"They said they planned to investigate Mike's status with the NBA," Krzyzewski said, "and the early indications were that he might be returning (to school)."
That changed, however, as father and son learned that the 6-9 junior would be selected very high in the draft. He went No. 3, behind teammate Jason Williams. Krzyzewski did not find fault with the Dunleavy decision.
"If a kid goes early, how can that be wrong?" Coach K said. "The English department would love it if somebody left before graduation for a $3 million job. I just wish I had known about it a year ago. We weren't able to honor him at the banquet as we did with Carlos (Boozer) and Jason (Williams)."
Coach K said it was his objective to remind Dunleavy, and any who may follow him, of the amazing intangible rewards available if he had stayed: "We needed to make him aware of those things that were there for him."
With passion, Coach K said, "We need to place those kids in a place to make great decisions. Dunleavy, in every way, was in line to be forever. Forever! He hadn't dominated games for us, but he could have this season. He could have placed himself in a unique situation."
While Dunleavy needs just a few courses to graduate, and he has been a legitimate scholar, Williams already has his degree. He also will have his jersey retired this fall, and he was the unanimous national player of the year. All of that is bound to help his marketing as a pro.
"This just shows the courage Jason had," Coach K said. "He became much more mature. He prepared himself academically and athletically to end his Duke career in a beneficial way."
Krzyzewski also talked about what he would have done had Dunleavy said he was leaving before the past season began, instead of later. To do what the coach wanted would have required a change in NCAA rules, specifically the five/eight scholarship limit most coaches despise.
"If we had known Mike was going (and there was no scholarship limit), we would have recruited seven players," Coach K said. "There was a very good foreign player who wanted to come. We could have redshirted two of them. It would have given us the chance to (eventually) have some older guys."
As it was, Duke went after six players and got them all. Lee Melchionni, son of a former Blue Devil, will be a walk-on in 2002-03 and gain a scholarship the next season.
While seven players may sound like a lot, Coach K pointed out, "We've never had the maximum of 13. We lost three juniors. How do you make that up? Why shouldn't we have that flexibility to do something, if we knew in advance all three were leaving?"
Krzyzewski said he wasn't about to change his recruiting pattern because of the second significant loss of underclassmen in four years.
"We'll still go after great kids," he said. "Everybody we go after thinks they will remain at Duke for four years. (Dunleavy) is a good kid. His intentions and the intentions of the family are totally honorable. But, to predict the future, you can't. Anybody can go. With this five/eight thing, you just have to be prepared and do the best you can. But it's not a rule that is in the best interest of players or of the game."
Certainly, the Blue Devils appear to be setting the stage for another sensational recruiting campaign for 2003. Kris Humphries, a bullish 6-8 forward from Minnetonka, Minn., was highly rated even prior to the Nike camp, but his stock soared there. He was voted the top player by one publication and in the top three by another. A source close to Duke said Humphries, who committed during the winter after visiting campus, "was really terrific. He doesn't remind me of any former (Duke) players. He's just a tough guy who never stops working."
Duke also is considered the leader for 6-7 Luol Deng, considered by many to be the best high school player in the nation not named LeBron James, who is regarded as a cinch to jump immediately to the NBA. Deng is an intriguing story. He is a native of the Sudan whose family had to sneak out of the country when he was six. Deng's father was a minister in the Sudanese administration, but the country was in civil war. The father took the family to London. Deng plays in the USA at Blair Academy in Blairstown, N.J. He speaks three languages, including, according to reports, near-flawless English. He is an excellent student who says his goal is to get a college degree "because that would please my aunts."
That would be a relatively typical statement from your average Duke recruit. Yet six have left early for the NBA since 1999, after nobody had departed before. But the Blue Devils have been proactive since that first group of defections, and they worked out an arrangement that allowed Williams to get his degree in June. Boozer worked under the same plan, but he still needs four courses.
The Blue Devils also are hot after 6-9 Ndudi Ebi of Houston, also a top-five prospect. While several schools are desperately seeking Ebi, Duke's strongest competition likely will be from Texas and coach Rick Barnes. Humphries, Deng and Ebi were voted the top three players at Nike, and one recruiting publication said it wouldn't be a surprise if all three went to Duke. If so, they would comprise the entire class. The Blue Devils plan to bring in three players from the Class of 2003.
The Devils already have a leg up on 2004, with a commitment from rising junior DeMarcus Nelson, a 6-3 Californian who made his decision after he and his father visited the school and talked with Coach K. It was the earliest Duke commitment ever. J.J. Redick, a member of this year's incoming class, picked Duke before his junior year at Roanoke (Va.) Cave Spring.
Duke recruiting presently is at the highest possible level. The coaching staff zeroes in on the players it wants and has had enormous success in signing them. Nelson and Redick represent a direction the Blue Devils never have taken before, but one that simply enhances their overall recruiting prowess.
Krzyzewski concedes that the upcoming season, in many respects, patterns itself after 1999. Then Duke finished the year No. 1, lost in the NCAA final, and four underclassmen left, with only player of the year Elton Brand departing with the coach's best wishes.
"There were a lot of doom and gloom predictions then," Coach K said. "We had the top recruiting class coming in, but we had just three veterans left - (Shane) Battier, (Chris) Carrawell and (Nate) James. Some people thought we wouldn't be very good. We won the regular season and the ACC Tournament. We finished No. 1 in the polls and were 29-5. Anybody would have been happy with that year."
Since 1999, Duke has gone 95-13. It had back-to-back national players of the year in Battier and Williams. The teams won a national championship, two regular-season ACC titles and three more tournament crowns. The Blue Devils finished No. 1 in the polls all three times. They had six lottery picks in four years. Nobody else had more than one. "It's been an unbelievable success story," Krzyzewski said.
The stunning thing is that the team could have been even stronger, if Krzyzewski had any idea that Corey Maggette would turn pro after his freshman year.
"We already had signed Dunleavy, but if we had known about Maggette, we would have brought in Casey Jacobsen, too," Coach K said. "He wanted to come. He was feisty. He would have fit right in."
Ironically, Jacobsen went to Stanford, made a basket that beat Duke in his freshman season, and turned pro at the same time as Dunleavy. He went 25th in the first round of this year's NBA draft.
Recruiting players is not a problem. The Duke program has elevated to the position where the Blue Devils have an excellent chance to get almost anyone they wish - within the limits of NCAA legislation. Figure Jacobsen would have played three years. Assume the foreign player would have been as talented as the coaching staff believed. Then marvel at what Duke has achieved and understand that it could have been better, and could be better yet in the future.
With or without Dunleavy, the program stands tall. It's just that Krzyzewski really, really wanted Dunleavy to get all he might have gotten out of Duke.
Dunleavy didn't make a mistake. He took the sure thing. But the superstars who stayed - Christian Laettner, Grant Hill, Shane Battier - didn't lose anything tangible by sticking around for four years. Three-year grad Jason Williams improved his status, too, even if he didn't improve his draft position.
So ponder the six Duke rookies. Do not try to guess how long each of them will stay. Just understand that the coach wants, for each of them, what he sees as the maximum experience. He knows how to provide it. It's just that sometimes outside influences get in the way.
UF-FSU: Kinder, Gentler Rivalry?
TALLAHASSEE - Steve Spurrier's departure from Florida to the greener ($$$$) pastures of the National Football League's Washington Redskins apparently has brought a little detente to the Florida State-Florida rivalry.
Bobby Bowden and new Florida coach Ron Zook shared the stage, not to mention a handshake, pats on the back and kind words recently, when the state of Florida's 12 football coaches gathered in Orlando to address the media on the coming season.
It marked the first cordial public meeting between coaches from the rival schools since Spurrier raised Bowden's ire in 1996, claiming the Seminoles repeatedly hit then-quarterback Danny Wuerffel after the whistle in the regular-season meeting. Spurrier got a national forum for his cause when the two met again for the national championship at the Sugar Bowl, and their relationship was never the same.
Last season's brouhaha, over FSU defensive tackle Darnell Dockett's alleged twisting of tailback Earnest Graham's knee, brought emotions boiling over from both sides. Some suggested that the lack of administrative support in Gainesville may have even hastened Spurrier's departure to the NFL.
Zook, a former UF assistant under Spurrier, said he's hoping for a friendlier - read, healthier - rivalry. And, as the two greeted each other, there was no mistaking the healthy dose of respect Zook has for Bowden.
"I assume we'll have a cordial relationship," Zook said. "I think anybody in this profession knows what (Bowden) has done. He's one of the most successful coaches in college football."
To that end, Zook said he had no intention of engaging Bowden in the kind of banter Spurrier often seemed to promote.
"It will be different," Bowden said. "Steve had a way of stimulating that thing, irritating it, riling you up. Most coaches work differently than that. Ö I think most of those things will be handled behind closed doors now, at the administrative level. The dirty stuff, that will be missing now."
Count Zook, who as an Ohio State assistant in the 1980s visited with Bowden during spring practice, among that group of coaches.
"I've been away for five years," Zook said. "I know it was a big rivalry when I was at Florida (as an assistant). But rivalries like this can get out of hand."
While the natural course of questioning should have been on their respective teams, both of which figure to once again be in the national title race, Zook and Bowden answered more than a few inquiries about Spurrier's departure. Bowden, perhaps surprisingly to some, said "he wouldn't be surprised" if Spurrier succeeded with the Redskins.
"Am I going to miss him? In a way," Bowden said. "He's kind of an exciting guy to be around. I admire him. I admired him when he was a player at Florida and I was an assistant at Florida State.
"It'll be interesting to see what he can do. He's got a great defensive coordinator, and Steve's going to handle the offense as well as anyone. I think the question is whether he has the players or not. He's going to take two quarterbacks who were successful with him (at Florida) but haven't been successful in the NFL. If he pulls that off, he's the man."
Kind words aside, one couldn't help but think that personally Bowden will have a lot more respect for Zook, Florida's new man.
Amato Working Detours Well
RALEIGH - First, it was Kennie Covington. Then, Tramain Hall. This year, it's Elijah Dukes. Next year? Don't be surprised if it is somebody, because N.C. State football coach Chuck Amato is beginning to establish a pattern that looks something like this:
He lands a promising in-state prospect or dips into Florida for a stunning recruiting coup, then directs that player to the junior college of his choice, increasing the odds of that player eventually matriculating at N.C. State.
It worked with Covington, a SuperPrep All-American linebacker from North Carolina who was one of the top-ranked players in N.C. State's 2001 signing class. That group, Amato's first with a full recruiting cycle since taking the Wolfpack job, earned top-25 accolades nationally and launched the Pack's growing reputation as a recruiting force.
When Covington failed to qualify academically, the NCSU staff directed him to Jones County Junior College in Mississippi. There, he played last season under the watchful eye of veteran coach Parker Dykes, who has known Amato for more than 25 years. Now at defensive end after growing from a 6-2, 235-pound prep signee into a 6-3, 270-pound terror, Covington is expected to be one of the top prospects in the Mississippi juco ranks this fall. Most importantly, despite considerable attention from SEC schools and other heavyweights, he already has announced plans to re-sign with the Pack this year, and he hopes to enroll in Raleigh in January 2003.
"I came this close to working with Chuck back in 1975, and we've been good friends ever since," Dykes said. "He was working under Lou Holtz (at N.C. State), and they offered me a chance to be their defensive line coach. Chuck was the coordinator. But Lou left the next day to take the New York Jets job, and that was the end of that. Ö Chuck knows me. If he sends me a player, he knows I'm going to take care of him."
A similar plan worked with Hall, a tremendously talented receiver/tailback from the Sunshine State whose ineligibility at N.C. State has been thoroughly explained only by the Sports Journal. (Short version: The Wolfpack inexplicably botched his eligibility by allowing him to enroll as a full-time student out of high school without having proof that he had met the most basic NCAA academic standards.) Hall is on campus this fall, though he's not eligible for reasons largely beyond his control, and figures to become a major contributor to the Wolfpack as a 21-year-old sophomore in 2003.
Dukes, an elite linebacker from Florida, recently said he would like to join Hall on the N.C. State campus in 2003. However, under the NCAA rules that govern juco transfers, he won't be eligible to play for the Wolfpack until 2004. If Dukes ever suits up for N.C. State, even two years down the road, Amato surely will consider the entire ordeal a success.
Amato directed Hall across the country, to LAVC, in part because of an established relationship with LAVC coach Ron Ponciano. Indeed, just the previous spring, Amato had signed both of Ponciano's starting defensive ends, Shawn Price and Terrance Chapman. Both players performed well for the surging Wolfpack last year and, if Chapman can get his academics in order by mid-August, both are expected to be key defenders this fall.
"Chuck and I go way back," Ponciano said. "If he's interested in one of my players, I'm going to tell him he should at least listen to what Chuck has to say. If Chuck sends me a player, there are no guarantees in these things, but I'm going to make sure (the player) doesn't forget where he came from."
After Hall's early admission to N.C. State became a nightmare, when it was discovered that he hadn't passed the state of Florida's high school exit exam prior to his enrollment in Raleigh, he was shipped to LAVC in part to keep opposing recruiters away. The tactic worked well. Ponciano told the Sports Journal that he shielded Hall from most recruiters, including Miami and Tennessee, because Hall already had committed to N.C. State. The juco coach also talked Hall out of going home and/or giving up football on more than one occasion. In the end, even though Hall would have been eligible in any conference but the ACC this season, he reaffirmed his commitment to the Wolfpack.
"Tramain eventually began to see the potential benefits of sitting out a year," Ponciano said. "He didn't like the idea at all at first, but he eventually came around."
Sending Dukes to Louisburg - he called the school "Louisville" in an interview with the Sports Journal - was another smart but risky move by Amato. Smart, in that Louisburg is closer to NCSU than 99 percent of jucos out there, and it doesn't even have a football program. What better way for Dukes to fall off the recruiting radar? Risky, in that Louisburg is a junior college baseball power, and Dukes is a stud on the diamond. He'll be eligible for the Major League Baseball draft after his freshman and sophomore seasons, and that's relevant because Dukes was a second-round pick this summer by Tampa Bay.
If it weren't for the Devil Rays' well-documented financial problems, Dukes probably would have received a signing bonus in the high six figures and would be playing rookie ball right now. Many SEC schools and other major programs loved his obvious football potential last year, but his impressive baseball credentials and shaky academic status combined to scare most recruiters away. That allowed the Pack to swoop in very late for a surprise signing, but nobody in the NCSU camp really expected to see him end up in Raleigh. Most still don't see it happening, but it doesn't hurt to try, right?
Considering Dukes' options, there was no ideal junior college for him, at least not from N.C. State's point of view. If he stars at a football factory, the NCAA powerhouses will notice and come calling. If he stars in baseball, the professional teams will see it.
By having Dukes nearby, however, Amato is hoping the same family atmosphere that enticed Hall to stick it out with the Wolfpack will do the same for Dukes. To the extent that his baseball schedule allows it, expect to see Dukes on the sideline at most N.C. State home football games this fall. And if Amato has any old friends on Louisburg's baseball staff - don't laugh - everything should once again come together perfectly for the Pack in the long run.
For Terps, Bowers Makes Sense
COLLEGE PARK - There was much consternation and hand-wringing among diehard Maryland basketball fans when coach Gary Williams offered a scholarship to developing seven-footer Will Bowers.
Things got downright ugly after the youngster from nearby Archbishop Spalding in Severn, Md., committed to the Terps as expected. An army of internet posters - some nicknaming the program's latest pickup "Blowers" - questioned why Maryland would "waste" one of four (or five) valuable scholarships on a project. Many fans equated Bowers to former center Mike Mardesich, a plodding reserve, and wondered why a program that has been to consecutive Final Fours would still be recruiting at such a level.
It was all quite amusing and, as usual, based on little or no knowledge of Bowers' ability or the coaching staff's recruiting strategy. Gotta love those message boards.
First, nobody really knows how Bowers ultimately will turn out, but he's definitely not another Mardesich. Those who have seen him play several times, including several writers from this magazine and PrepStars.com, recognize that Bowers has far greater upside and potential to become a quality ACC center than Big Mike ever did.
A 235-pounder who clearly needs to improve his strength and aggressiveness, Bowers has above-average skills and athleticism for a seven-footer. He has soft hands, is a strong passer and possesses a nice jumper out to about 15 feet.
Mardesich had none of the above, even as a senior at Maryland. While Bowers was good for at least one two-handed dunk per game last season, Mardesich barely could dunk in warm-ups as a freshman with the Terps. Even as a senior, he couldn't be counted on for productive minutes in important games.
Bowers averaged 12.2 points per game in the highly competitive Baltimore Catholic League. He has outplayed Towson (Md.) Catholic center Byron Joynes, a top-100 prospect and one-time Maryland target, on several occasions. Joynes, a 6-8, 245-pounder, had trouble getting off an inside shot against Bowers, whose height and long arms truly make him a defensive presence.
The final and most decisive evidence that Bowers is no Mardesich came in the form of scholarship offers. Bowers had about a dozen from major schools and ultimately chose Maryland over Notre Dame and Stanford. Ohio State, Pittsburgh, Providence and St. Joseph's also offered grants. Mardesich was headed to Harvard before getting a last-minute opportunity to play in the ACC.
Clearly, Bowers is not an immediate-impact player. He admittedly needs to improve his conditioning and agility, although the early word is that he probably won't redshirt as a freshman.
Ultimately, Maryland had no reason not to offer Bowers. When you have a legitimate Division I seven-footer sitting in the backyard, and he's an outstanding (1,300-plus SAT!) student and solid citizen, and he really, really wants to come to your school, it's really a no-brainer. Willliams would have looked bad had Bowers gone elsewhere (ACC rival Florida State also offered) and blossomed into a productive player.
Some questioned why Maryland would take Bowers before landing a higher-rated and more accomplished center. That argument also didn't make much sense.
Maryland intends to sign two centers as part of the 2003 recruiting class, with Courtney Sims and Hassan Fofana the top targets at this point. It's highly unlikely that the Terps (or any other program) could convince two top-100 centers to come as part of the same class. It just doesn't happen very often.
In other words, had Sims or Fofana committed early, the other almost definitely would have gone elsewhere. Maryland would have been coming back to Bowers, who was willing to be the secondary center prospect but wouldn't wait forever, anyway. So what difference did it make whether Bowers committed early or late?
If he can play, he can play. If he can't, he can't. If the Terps were going to sign only one big man this season, the wild screams of panic may have been justified. Under the circumstances, however, Williams deserves the benefit of the doubt.