Duke's Jefferson 'eating up' to prep for post duty
With Mason Plumlee and Ryan Kelly prepping for next month’s NBA Draft and Marshall Plumlee recovering from foot surgery, next season’s Duke basketball team appears rather soft in the middle.
The Blue Devils’ plan, though, is for none of that to matter.
On Wednesday, when the K Academy fantasy basketball camp opened on Duke’s campus, Mike Krzyzewski offered a glimpse of what he expects in his 34th season as Duke’s coach.
“We’re going to be very athletic,” Krzyzewski said. “Not knocking (redshirt sophomore center) Marshall (Plumlee), but he hasn’t played yet. He’s still in a boot. So our team is going to be built around versatility — guys in multiple positions, probably more pressing and up and down. Not that we haven’t gone up and down, but we haven’t created action with our defense. Although we were a very good defensive team (last year), next year we will try to create action defensively.”
The 6-11 Mason Plumlee earned second-team all-American and first-team all-ACC honors by averaging 17.1 points and 10 rebounds per game as Duke went 30-6 last season.
He and 6-11 forward Ryan Kelly were two of Duke’s seniors.
Marshall Plumlee, at 6-11, was limited to 19 games during his redshirt freshman season because of a stress fracture that required surgery in April.
This season, Duke will have plenty of athletic big men in 6-9 sophomore Amile Jefferson, 6-7 senior Josh Hairston, 6-8 redshirt sophomore Rodney Hood, 6-8 freshman Jabari Parker and 6-8 redshirt sophomore Alex Murphy.
Jefferson started seven games last season while Kelly was out with a broken foot. Playing at 195 pounds, he contributed. But his slender frame limited his effectiveness in the post.
He is spending the offseason attempting to remedy that problem. Jefferson is lifting heavier weights and eating — a lot.
“I eat at least six times a day,” Jefferson said Wednesday. “Really, just anytime I can eat, I eat.”
The goal is to get Jefferson up to 220 pounds while maintaining the stamina to allow him to get up and down the court in Duke’s up-tempo style. He’s already up to 214 pounds.
“I think Amile is a huge key for our team,” Duke associate head coach Steve Wojciechowski said. “Defensively, his rebounding and playmaking ability for a guy with size, his personality — he’s got a great voice and an upbeat personality — he’s got to use all those things and fit in with our other guys. He can be a tremendous asset.”
Krzyzewski said Jefferson’s length — his wingspan is 7-1 — is another strength.
“He’s going to keep getting bigger,” Krzyzewski said. “Not taller, but stronger. I think he can be an important piece for us because he’s a good basketball player.”
Hood will be an active player at Duke for the first time this season. He played as a freshman at Mississippi State in 2011-12 before transferring to Duke and sitting out last season per NCAA rules.
Duke fans can look for him to help in the post as well as on the perimeter. Expectations from the Duke coaching staff are high.
“Rodney’s got great size for a wing,” Wojciechowski said. “He has tremendous versatility. Rodney can guard any of the 1 through 4 (point guard through power forward) positions in the college game and I think he can do it very well. He wants to be a terrific defender. He’s got the athleticism and the strength to do it. He’s also got the smarts to do it. I think Rodney can be one of the best players in the United States.”
Having practiced with the Blue Devils all last season, Hood is confident about the success the team will have next season.
“It’s going to be exciting,” Hood said. “We are going to have mismatch problems all over the court. We are going to pressure the ball more. We have a lot more weapons.”
Krzyzewski said he hopes when Duke’s versatile lineup is announced players shouldn’t be tagged with positions like guard, forward or center.
“It’s just going to be the next player,” Krzyzewski said. “I don’t know how it will all turn out because it’s the end of May. These guys have a whole summer to work on their skills. (But) versatility will be the key phrase.”