Duke does not always bring in a mammoth recruting class like some other schools, but Mike Krzyzewski usually tends to get some bang for his buck on who he does bring in.
Such is the case with the Blue Devils latest incoming group of true freshmen, Rasheed Sulaimon and Amile Jefferson. While both were highly touted recruits in high school and were members of of the McDonald’s All-American team, there were perhaps some doubts as to how impactful they might be at the next level, at least this early.
It is clear to see from their performances in the first two exhibitions that both seem poised to contribute, and in the case of Sulaimon he has been good enough to potentially start the first game of the season on Friday. The early achievesments haven’t been lost on at least two of the team’s veterans.
“In both games our freshman showed us what they are capable of. Rasheed, espesically offenively will help us a lot. Amile brings a lot of energy,” senior Mason Plumlee said. ”You never really know with freshman until you get into a game situation and I thought they both played terrific.”
“We had two, not suprises, but guys have really stepped up in our freshmen,” Ryan Kelly said. “Their energy level and things have been unbelievable.”
Obviously Sulaimon’s preseson efforts have impressed the coaching staff to the point where he as of Wednesday, was listed as a probable starter and that is something Sulaimon couldn’t be more excited about.
“It is very exciting. It is a great honor given to me by coach,” Sulaimon said. “I’ve worked pretty hard. Its a lot of responsiblity that comes with it. I just got to go in there and play my best and do what ever we need as a team to be successful.”
Both Sulaimon and Jefferson played more than perhaps initially planned in those exhibitions games, thanks in part to injuries to senior Seth Curry, and redshirt freshman Marshall Plumee. The two freshmen also talked about just the emotions of getting into real game action.
“It is going to be an exciting time especially for me and Amile and the redshirt freshman,” Sulaimon said. ”We just got to go out there like we did in the first two exhibitions.”
“I’ve been thinking about this for a long time now. You are always thinking about where you’re going to be and where you’re going to play and now that I’m finally here that is all I’ve been thinking about,” Jefferson said. “But I was also thinking about getting better, moving forward.”
And moving forward hasn’t always been easy as both have had to adjust to the pressures, expectations and the demands of playing Division I basketball and especially at a high profile program like Duke.
“There have been a lot of bumps in the road. A lot of setbacks but one thing that a lot of the veterans have done is tell me that you can’t get too high or too low,” Sulaimon said.
“College is a different game. Everyone is bigger, faster, stronger, and even smarter. I’ve made a lot of mental mistakes and I’m still playing on the high school level and when you look to a high/major level program like Duke you have to step up the level of your game.”
That was a sentiment echoed by his fellow freshman who came into Duke at about 195 pounds and has to work to get stronger and put on weight.
“The game is so much faster. The speed in all facets, in all parts of the game, is just so much (more) elevated,” Jefferson said. “And the physicality. Everyone is physical. Everyone’s going to bump you. Everyone is going to bruise you.”
Jefferson will get most of his minutes playing in the post where the improvements in strength and weight are needed but you can expect to see him guarding guys all over the court on the defensive end and doing whatever the coaches ask of him. He is an athletic guy who could end up guarding smaller players with his length.
“Right now I’m just being a basketball player. If it is locking someone down on defense I’m doing that. If its rebounding; if its brining energy. I’m just trying to be a complete player,” Jefferson said. “(I don’t ) really have a position. Not really having one certain thing I do. Just being able to coach needs me to.”
Both guys are going to contribute, and again, perhaps more than some originially thought. But neither are resting on the laurels and both know that the season is long and getting better will be a priority if the team is to get better as a whole.
“You just got to be like a spongue. You’ve got to be coachable,” Jefferson said. “They (the coaches) work with the best, and to be quite frank, they are the best. I just want to learn all I can from all the coaches here.”Follow us on Twitter @DukeBlogMKline and visit our Facebook page-Duke Sports Blog. Got questions? E-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org