Observations from Duke basketball’s open practice

lkeeley@newsobserver.comSeptember 28, 2013 

— On Friday, we the media got to speak with the 2013-14 Blue Devils for the first time. And on Saturday, we had the opportunity to see them for the first time, as Mike Krzyzewski decided to open the second official practice of the year to the public.

It’s hard – impossible, actually – to get a real feel for a team after just one two-hour session. Rodney Hood, for instance, sat out of most of the scrimmage portion with cramps. But I did come away with a few concrete observations.

• No, Hood didn’t look seriously hurt. He just looked uncomfortable, and trainer Jose Fonseca stretched out his hamstrings and generally kept an eye on him. He seemed to have discomfort in his lower back. No reason to be alarmed. Carry on.

• At this point, it appears like Andre Dawkins will be the sixth man, as he was with the white team even before Hood left the scrimmage. In Hood’s absence, Dawkins played extensively, along with the other presumed starters, who were in white: Quinn Cook, Jabari Parker, Amile Jefferson and Rasheed Sulaimon.

And even though Krzyzewski didn’t publicly name Sulaimon a starter, as he did with Duke’s other four, Sulaimon was with the first team whenever it was assembled. He, like the rest of his teammates, ran up and down the floor and flashed his length with a few blocked shots.

• Early in the scrimmage, Semi Ojeleye guarded Parker, Josh Hairston took on Hood, Matt Jones had Sulaimon and Alex Murphy was on Amile Jefferson. The match-ups were fairly fluid, depending on who was in the game.

• Literally every scholarship player had at least one stand-out moment: Marshall Plumlee (who began on the bench for the blue team), took a nice feed and finished with a dunk, Murphy had a nice spin move from the elbow that ended with a lay-up, Ojeleye hit a catch-and-shoot 3 in an early drill and Jones reversed under the basket to finish a lay-up and manage to knock a ball loose from Hood (he was promptly blocked at the other end by Sulaimon). And it wasn’t like I was looking for something nice to say about everyone, those plays just happened through the course of the practice.

• There were two notable end-of-game situations that played out in the scrimmage. With the White team up 22-21 and less than a minute remaining, Cook brought the ball down the floor and looked to set something up (Hood was out at this point). Jefferson ran up in attempts to set a screen, which didn’t really work, and Cook settled for a long 2 that didn’t go in. Not exactly how coach Steve Wojciechowski drew it up.

After the Blue team scored to go ahead 23-22 with 16.8 seconds to play, the white team got another shot. This time, Cook drove the lane and finished the lay-up in traffic, ending up in the ground in a heap. Both Jeff Capel and Tyler Thornton would tell you Cook committed a charge, but Krzyzewski stepped in and said Cook was fouled.

The Blue team was given one last shot with the score set to 23-23. Murphy went in for a lay-up, but it was blocked by Parker. That wasn’t his most “wow” block of the day – that came earlier in the practice, when he blocked a shot on the defensive end, ran the floor, and took a pass from Cook and finished with a slam.

• About Parker, Krzyzewski had this to say yesterday:

“He still has a huge growth process to go through, I think. He’s not a finished product, but he’s a good product and a great, great kid ... But who he is right now will not be who he is a month from now and a month from that and hopefully a month from that. He has a chance to get better.”

Early on, Parker didn’t have his best shooting day. On one play, he took too long on a dunk, and Plumlee was able to block it. Later, though, when given another look at a dunk, Parker moved to finish much quicker. He’s learning.

“If he’s healthy, then he’s going to keep getting better,” Krzyzewski said. “There’s no way that that won’t happen. He’s too good of a kid. He’s too coachable.”

Keeley: 919-829-4556; Twitter: @laurakeeley

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