Dawkins returns as Duke opens practice
A few notes from the first day of Duke’s basketball practice:
Welcome back, Andre – After redshirting last season under unusual circumstances, Andre Dawkins was back on the practice court Friday for the first time since March 2012.
Dawkins took a year away from basketball last season as he was still dealing with the grief over his sister’s death in a 2009 auto accident.
Dawkins said Friday that he is happier now and is ready to resume his basketball career.
“I had to take ownership of myself on the court and off the court of who I wanted to be as a basketball player, who I wanted to be as a person,” Dawkins said. “That’s why I took the year off. But I feel like I did a good job and I’m in a good place to be 100 percent focused on basketball this year.”
Duke’s coaching staff suggested that Dawkins take the year off following his up-and-down junior season. Dawkins remained on scholarship even though he didn’t practice with the Blue Devils. He completed his degree and is now taking classes at Duke Divinity School.
Last April, he approached the coaches about returning. He had three options to weigh: Skipping his final year of basketball to move on with his life, transferring to complete his career at another school or playing this season at Duke.
“He earned the right to make this decision,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “I would have been fine. I didn’t try to coax him into doing any one of those three. Once he said he wanted to come back. I said `Are you sure?’ Then I said `Ok. Clean Slate. Let’s go.’”
Good health – Krzyzewski said the team started practice on Friday with good health, something the Blue Devils didn’t have at all last season.
Despite Seth Curry being limited in practice with a stress fracture in his shin that required post-season surgery and Ryan Kelly breaking his foot in January, the Blue Devils went 30-6 and reached the NCAA Tournament’s Elite Eight.
So, when Krzyzewski announced that all players are healthy on Friday, he symbolically knocked on wood.
“We’ll start with everyone healthy which would be a cool thing to say for the entire year,” he said.
Rodney Hood has fully recovered from an Achilles’ tendon injury he suffered while practicing with Team USA in preparation for the World University Games last June. Hood left that team and returned to Durham before participating in a game, but Krzyzewski said Hood is completely recoverd.
Marshall Plumlee, a 7-0 redshirt sophomore, has battled foot problems for parts of two seasons.
“I don’t think he’s back to playing like he can,” Krzyzewski said. “When you’ve been out for as long as he’s been out, just the memory of what he used to do takes a little bit longer. But I’m happy with where he’s at.”
Open practice – Duke will hold a rare open practice at Cameron Indoor Stadium Saturday morning from 10 a.m.-noon. Admission is free. Parking will be available for $10.
Those in attendance will get an early glimpse of Duke’s team, which is filled with athletic players up and down the roster. Krzyzewski said this year’s Blue Devils will play an up-tempo style and will be unlike any team he’s coached at Duke in the past 10 years or so.
He said it reminds him of the Duke teams from the late 1990s and the early 2000s. That includes the 2001 NCAA champions.
“We were very athletic,” Krzyzewski said. “I like it. I’m anxious to see what the heck we’re going to do. And the kids are excited about it.”