The 2012 basketball season is just around the corner and recently Devils Illustrated's Clint Jackson spoke to Duke associate head coach Chris Collins to find out how the team has improved over the summer months and what to expect from some of the younger players on the roster. Here's part two of Jackson's conversation.
Clint Jackson: Can you talk about Alex [Murphy] and Marshall [Plumlee]? Coming off their redshirt seasons, what can Duke fans expect to see from those two this year? And secondly, what is each ones best overall skill?
Chris Collins: "We have high hopes for both Alex and Marshall. Both of them did a great job of attacking their redshirt year and improving both physically and mentally, as well as getting more comfortable on the court. With both of them being able to practice and train all year, as well as travel with the team to get a feel for what a college season is like, we feel that it will give them a huge advantage as freshmen this season. Alex is a skilled, big wing that should give us a lot of versatility on the frontline. He is athletic and has a good feel for the game. He is very good in the open court, as well as cutting, slashing and attacking the offensive boards in the half court. We also feel he will be a good open shooter when playing off of the other guys. Alex was able to spend this past summer playing for Finland's Under-20 National Team, which game him a lot of game experience against good competition. Marshall is a high energy, athletic big man who has a tremendous motor. He plays extremely hard. He's not afraid to bang underneath and is relentless on the offensive boards. He prides himself on doing the dirty work and that is something that will be huge for us this season. He has improved greatly every year since we've known him and we feel he has a great future ahead of him."
Clint Jackson: Can you talk about Amile Jefferson and Rasheed Sulaimon a bit? Both come in with great reputations, how will they help on the court? And what are your general impressions of them off the court?
Chris Collins: "We feel great about what we have in Rasheed and Amile. Not only are they both talented basketball players, but they are both high character guys. They are very mature for their ages and have been well taught coming into college, so the learning curve won't be quite as steep for them to make the transition to college basketball. Rasheed is an athletic combo guard. Right away, he should help us tremendously on the defensive end of the floor. He can pressure the ball on defense and is big enough to guard scoring wing guys also. On the offensive end, Rasheed will give us another scoring threat on the perimeter. He shoots it well from the 3-point line, but also gives us a guy who can break defenses down and create for himself and others. Whether or not he starts or comes off the bench, he will have a key role on this year's team. Amile brings a very unique skillset to the table. He is a versatile forward who is very skilled. He handles and passes the ball great for his size and, even though it might not look pretty, he has a knack for putting the ball in the basket. He should be a great slasher and midrange player for us who should be very active on the offensive boards as well. We will also need him to be a presence defensively and be able to guard both the 3 and 4 position. Having a guy like Amile allows you to play different kinds of lineups on the court. He can be a wing in a really big lineup, and he can play some 4 when we want to switch it up and go to a more athletic team. Overall, both Rasheed and Amile are winners. They pride themselves on doing all the little things to help their team win, and that will make them great additions to our program."
Clint Jackson: And lastly, can you give us your pick for who might surprise some folks this year? It might be someone you have already mentioned or maybe it's a guy who you feel is ready to make a big jump this season. Who do you think might turn some heads this season and why?
Chris Collins: I think there are a few guys who may end up surprising this year, but the guy who fits that description more than anyone would be Quinn Cook. Quinn got off to such a late start last year dealing with his knee injury, and it was hard for him to ever catch up and have the consistency that he wanted. It was probably the first time in his life he had been knocked back like that on the basketball court, so he has been really motivated all spring and summer to come back better in every way. He's healthy, quicker and stronger than he was last year. He's had a great offseason and is playing with a lot of confidence. I have always felt that freshman to sophomore year tends to be a big jump for most players. You know what to expect and what the season will entail. I think Quinn is poised to have a really good year and we have been proud of the way he has improved during the offseason.