Duke senior co-captain Tyler Thornton was open Wednesday about how much it bothers him that the Blue Devils haven’t won a championship over the last two seasons.
Duke, which won three consecutive ACC Tournaments from 2009-11, failed to claim either a regular-season or tournament championship in the two seasons since.
The Blue Devils were predicted to end that streak this season with two players the ACC has yet to see on its courts leading the way.
Sophomore Rodney Hood, a transfer from Mississippi State, and freshman Jabari Parker were picked to the preseason All-ACC team Wednesday in a poll of media attending the league’s Operation Basketball event at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel.
In the same poll, the Blue Devils were selected as the league favorite.
While sitting out last season under NCAA transfer rules, Hood had time to adjust to the higher expectations that come with playing for Hall of Fame coach Mike Krzyzewski, who has won four NCAA titles at Duke.
Wednesday’s poll offered another example of what that’s all about.
“It’s fun,” Hood said. “That’s the reason why I came to Duke as a player was to be under that pressure and to play for Coach. He’s been pushing me every single day. It’s been a learning experience but I’m ready for the challenge and the team is ready for the challenge.”
After Duke’s club counted on seniors Mason Plumlee, Seth Curry and Ryan Kelly to go 30-6 and reach the NCAA Tournament’s Elite Eight last season, this year’s team is all about new.
New style. New stars. New approach.
Both standing 6-8 and with versatile skills, Hood and Parker represent the core of the team for Duke even though they are new to the Blue Devils.
They, along with projected starters Quinn Cook, Rasheed Sulaimon and Amile Jefferson, will employ an aggressive defensive style that is designed to create turnovers and easy baskets.
That’s a sharp contrast to last season when the 6-10 Plumlee anchored the middle and Duke relied on a strong half-court game.
“Two of the things we have going for us are athleticism and depth,” Krzyzewski said. “The best way to use that is to extend your defense at different times, maybe not all the time, to really go after people. We would like to play a fast-paced game. We are trying to learn to do that without taking lower percentages shots or turning the ball over.”
Krzyzewski said it’s natural to expect a period of adjustment as the team falls into its roles.
To help aid that process, the Blue Devils took a team-bonding trip to New York from Friday-Tuesday while the school was closed for fall break. In between practicing, the Blue Devils went to the 105th floor of the rebuild World Trade Center, took in a Broadway show, visited the historic Apollo Theater in Harlem and toured the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.
Hood, from Meridian, Miss., called it the greatest experience of his life. Krzyzewski said it was important for the team to “feel” such experiences as opposed to learning about them in a book.
Improving team cohesiveness is important, but the importance of how Hood and Parker play remains tantamount.
Hood said they are working on plays to make things seamless between the two of them and the rest of the players.
“We’ve got different sets where me and him initiate,” Hood said. “But other guys can make plays too like Rasheed, Quinn, Amile. It will probably be initiated by us and go through us. But it’s an equal-opportunity offense.”
There may be opportunities for all, but the expectation is that Hood and Parker will help Duke return to the top of the ACC, and perhaps beyond on the national scene.
2013-14 DUKE BASKETBALL ROSTER
|Hometown (Prev School)|
|1||Jabari Parker||F||6-8||235||Fr.||Chicago, Ill. (Simeon Career Academy)|
|2||Quinn Cook||G||6-2||180||Jr.||Washington, D.C. (Oak Hill Academy [Va.])|
|3||Tyler Thornton||G||6-2||190||Sr.||Washington, D.C. (Gonzaga)|
|5||Rodney Hood||F||6-8||215||RSo.||Meridian, Miss. (Meridian)|
|12||Alex Murphy||F||6-9||230||RSo.||Wakefield, R.I. (South Kingstown)|
|13||Matt Jones||G||6-4||200||Fr.||DeSoto, Texas (DeSoto)|
|14||Rasheed Sulaimon||G||6-4||190||So.||Houston, Texas (Strake Jesuit College Prep)|
|15||Josh Hairston||F||6-8||235||Sr.||Fredericksburg, Va. (Montrose Christian [Md.])|
|20||Semi Ojeleye||F||6-7||230||Fr.||Ottawa, Kan. (Ottawa)|
|21||Amile Jefferson||F||6-9||210||So.||Philadelphia, Pa. (Friends Central School)|
|34||Andre Dawkins||G||6-5||215||Gr.||Chesapeake, Va. (Atlantic Shores Christian)|
|40||Marshall Plumlee||C||7-0||260||RSo.||Warsaw, Ind. (Christ School [N.C.])|
|45||Nick Pagliuca||G||6-3||175||Fr.||Weston, Mass. (Milton Academy)|
|52||Todd Zafirovski||F||6-9||245||Gr.||Lake Forest, Ill. (Lake Forest Academy)|