In the hours before Mason Plumlee finalized his decision Monday to come back to Duke, the junior forward sat down with Blue Devils coach Mike Krzyzewski for something of a heart-to-heart discussion.
The specifics of what the two talked about remain confined to Krzyzewskis office. Yet its not hard to guess some of the substance.
Strictly from a business standpoint, Masons walking away from a very attractive business opportunity, said Perky Plumlee, Masons father. We were naturally very curious to hear Coach Ks vision for Masons senior year and for the team.
And while Perky Plumlee stressed that his son wants his opportunities to remain in the context of the team, Krzyzewski illuminated part of his vision for Masons senior season in Dukes press release announcing Tuesday that Mason would forgo the opportunity to enter the NBA draft and return for his senior season.
Mason has the ability to contend for ACC player of the year and All-America honors next season, Krzyzewski said.
Plumlee flashed that potential at different points of a junior year when he averaged 11.1 points and 9.2 rebounds per game. A third-team All-ACC selection, he made 57.2 percent of his field-goal attempts, and his free-throw shooting long a source of frustration improved dramatically toward the end of last season. Over Plumlees last eight games, he made 74.1 percent of his shots from the line.
One of his strongest efforts came in Dukes season-ending loss to Lehigh in the NCAA tournament. Mason made all nine of his field-goal attempts as he tried to help the Blue Devils fend off the Mountain Hawks upset bid with a 19-point, 12-rebound performance.
With Duke not returning much experience in the post fellow senior forward Ryan Kelly gravitates toward the perimeter Plumlee should have plenty of chances to repeat that effort.
He is a terrific talent that has improved every year, Krzyzewski said. We look forward to watching him continue to grow and develop as a player and as a leader.
Not everyone thinks Duke is the best place for the Warsaw, Ind., native to develop.
David Gaines, Plumlees high school coach at Christ School in Arden, told the Asheville Citizen-Times that he told Plumlee last year he shouldnt enter the NBA draft.
... (But) in my opinion, he should go now, Gaines said Tuesday. I disagree with how (Duke) is using him as a screen-setter, shot blocker and rebounder. If they are not going to develop him more as a total player, I think he should go to the NBA and learn that as a pro.
Told of Gaines comments, Perky Plumlee said, Mason recognizes there are aspects of his game that need to be developed, but he wants to do it at Duke. Hes not coming to back to Duke to stay the same.
Now, hes going to have to make it happen, but the coaches have pledged to us that they support his goals.
Duke still recruiting
Plumlees news is a boost for Duke as it waits to hear whether its recruiting efforts of Shabazz Muhammad, Tony Parker and Amile Jefferson will bear fruit.
Muhammad, a 6-foot-6 small forward, is considered by most recruiting experts to be one of the top two or three high school seniors in the country. After whittling his final list down to UCLA, Kentucky and Duke, Muhammad is set to announce his college decision Wednesday on ESPNU.
I think realistically theyd have to come from behind in a short period of time, said Dave Telep, ESPN.coms recruiting analyst, of Dukes chances to land Muhammad. Ive said since about the McDonalds game that I thought UCLA and Kentucky had the greater chance there.
Other recruiting analysts think the Blue Devils may be closing strong.
I wouldve said up until the last week or so that it was Kentucky or UCLA, said Jeff Borzello, the recruiting analyst for CBSSports.com. Duke wasnt really in the picture a distant third kind of thing. But there are a lot of people saying now that Duke has a realistic chance. I still dont think theyll get him, but it wouldnt shock me.
Right now, the Blue Devils only committed recruit for next season is Rasheed Sulaimon, a 6-foot-3 guard out of Houston ranked by ESPN.com as the 12th best recruit in the country. With Rivers departure, the best guess for Dukes starting lineup is Plumlee, Kelly, Sulaimon, Curry and either Tyler Thornton or Quinn Cook at the point.
Duke would love to add some size and is among the final schools for Parker, a 6-foot-9 center, and Jefferson, a 6-foot-7 power forward. Parker originally said hed announce his college destination today, but the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported Monday that Parker likely would postpone his decision.
Telep doesnt think Masons choice will effect Parker, who ESPN.com ranks as the 26th-best prospect in the class.
I think Parker while one of his parents likes Duke, I think theyre on complete opposite ends, Telep said of Parker. Theyre not on the game page, and thats why its taking them so long to make this decision.
Regardless of what happens in the days and weeks ahead, the Blue Devils are pleased to have Mason back in the fold.
The same goes for Plumlee.
I am really excited about my decision to come back, he said. What it came down to was the people here and the relationships I have developed. I feel like this is the best place for me to improve and that is one of the most important things to me.