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October 3, 2012

One on One with Chris Collins

It's that time of year again and Duke associate head coach Chris Collins sat down with Devils Illustrated's Clint Jackson to talk about all things Duke basketball.

Clint Jackson: Congrats on the USA Gold in London. I know there are a lot of stories and wonderful relationships that were formed, cultivated and maintained over there. I did hear, through the grapevine, of an instance where yourself and Steve Wojciechowski weren't able to get inside of a gym for a practice for some odd reason. I also heard that the team had a rather unique adjustment without the two of you there to run the drills. Can you tell us more about this story?

Chris Collins: "Being a part of the USA staff again this summer was an incredible experience. To be able to be around the coaches on that staff and learn different philosophies about the game was such a great learning experience for both Wojo and I. The two of us, along with Mike Hopkins from Syracuse, were the guys who were primarily in charge of all of the on-court drills during our practice sessions. We were the young legs so they needed us to make sure the guys were getting their work in. However, once we got to London, the Olympic security was extra tight. So the day before our first game, the team had the chance to practice at the arena where we were going to play, which would give the guys a good feel for the court. But since the 3 of us didn't have the credentials to be on the bench during the games, we weren't allowed to go to the practice that day. Coach K told us afterwards that the players got a real kick out of he, Coach Boeheim, Coach D'Antoni and Coach McMillan getting out on the court and trying to put them through all the shooting and defensive drills. He said that, finally, Lebron and Chris Paul just told them that they would take over and to step to the side. Obviously, we weren't there to witness it, but everyone got a good laugh out of it. I guess it was another example of how close of a group that was formed during the whole experience. We worked hard, but we all had a lot of fun along the way."

Clint Jackson: Switching gears to this upcoming team at Duke - you guys have Mason [Plumlee] back, Seth [Curry] back and a lot of the core guys. How will this team differ from last year's squad on the court?

Chris Collins: "We are definitely very excited about the potential of this year's team. Our team will be led by our 3 seniors in Mason, Ryan [Kelly] and Seth. They will be our go-to guys and the core of everything we do out on the court. It is a little different makeup from some of our previous teams, from the standpoint that we feel like we can have as good of a one-two punch on the frontline in the country with Mason and Ryan. Both of those guys are seniors, have played in a lot of big games and are ready to have great years. When you add in a 5th year senior in Seth, who can really score and has had a great summer, we feel that the experience and talent of our senior class is something that not a lot of teams possess. I think that the other thing that we tried to do with our team is to add to our versatility.

"The additions of Alex Murphy and Amile Jefferson will give us a couple of 6-8 versatile players that can match up with some of the bigger wings that gave us some problems last year. Overall, we feel good about our group. We have 10 guys who can all play, and give us the opportunity to have different kinds of lineups on the floor at different times. We can put big, physical lineups out there and also, when necessary, switch it up and go to a smaller, more athletic group. We really didn't have that luxury with last year's team."

Clint Jackson: What were the key areas of focus for the three seniors that you mentioned in Seth Curry, Ryan Kelly and Mason Plumlee? What do they want to improve and what have they worked on in the offseason?

Chris Collins: "For Mason, I think the thing he wanted to do more than anything is be more consistent in his production from game-to-game. We really felt like last year Mason made a big jump in his ability to score in the low post. The main areas he wanted to work on for this summer were to become a better FT shooter and also to be more consistent with his face-up jumpshot. Mason has also really stepped up in his leadership of the team. Mason was able to go to some of the skills academies with a lot of the other top college players this summer and fared very well.

"Both Ryan and Seth wanted to use the summer to get better physically. Obviously, Ryan was coming off of a broken foot that required surgery, so the first part of the summer was dedicated to getting back to 100-percent healthy. Once he was cleared to get back on the court, Ryan has really worked hard to compliment his great outside shooting with continuing to develop his low post game. With his ability to shoot FTs so well, we would like to be able to get him into the low post more often to allow him to score or draw fouls down there. For Seth, the main thing that he wanted to concentrate on was his strength and conditioning this summer. Seth has been disappointed in how he has finished the last couple of seasons and he has really focused on becoming more physical and durable. His body is noticeably different this year and we are excited about his possibilities. We want Seth to really concentrate on being a scorer this year and working to attack at every opportunity. To do that, you have to be in great physical condition and I think he's poised to have a big senior year."

** EDITORS NOTE: Check back Thursday for part two of Clint Jackson's conversation with Chris Collins.



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