NCAA TOURNAMENT | Raleigh

Duke freshman Jabari Parker in Mercer's sights

Macon (Ga.) TelegraphMarch 19, 2014 

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Dan Belue attaches a camera support to one of the goals during set up at the PNC Arena for the Second and Third Rounds of the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament in Raleigh, N.C. Wednesday, March 19, 2014. Belue and Ben Lynn operate the overhead "Slam Cams" for CBS.

CHUCK LIDDY — cliddy@newsobserver.com Buy Photo

  • Talking about practice

    All eight teams in Raleigh for the NCAA tournament will hold a free practice Thursday at PNC Arena. Parking is free as well. Here is the schedule:

    Mercer: Noon-12:40 p.m.

    George Washington: 12:45-1:25 p.m.

    Duke: 1:30-2:10 p.m.

    Massachusetts: 2:15-2:55 p.m.

    Memphis: 4:25-5:05 p.m.

    Virginia: 5:10-5:50 pm.

    Iowa/Tennessee: 5:55-6:35 p.m.

    Coastal Carolina: 6:40-7:20 p.m.

    Friday’s games

    Session I (Midwest Region pod)

    12:15 p.m.: Duke (3) vs. Mercer (14)

    2:45 p.m.: UMass (6) vs. IowaTennessee (11) winner

    Session II (East Region pod)

    6:55 p.m.: Memphis (8) vs. George Washington (9)

    9:25 p.m.: Virginia (1) vs. Coastal Carolina (16)

    Sunday’s games (times TBA)

    Midwest Region pod winners play

    East Region pod winners play

— Texas had Jonathan Holmes, a second-team All-Big 12 pick.

Oklahoma had Buddy Hield and Cameron Clark, second- and third-team selections in that same conference

Seton Hall had Fuquan Edwin, the Big East’s defensive player of the year and a second-team all-conference honoree.

Holmes stands 6-foot-8 and weighs 240 pounds, 4 inches and 20 pounds heavier than Hield. Edwin is 6-6, 215.

So Mercer battled some top-flight players at power-conference programs this season.

None of them can match Duke’s Jabari Parker, whom the 14th-seeded Bears will try to slow during their NCAA tournament second-round game at 12:15 p.m. Friday at PNC Arena.

“He’s a freak,” Mercer senior forward Bud Thomas said of Parker, the 6-8, 235-pound national freshman of the year. “That’s essentially the bottom line.”

Thomas, Jake Gollon and Darious Moten will be the primary defenders on Parker.

“We’ve got a lot of different schemes we’re going to throw at him, a lot of different defenses that we’re going to throw at Duke in general, because he’s obviously one of their best players,” Gollon said. “They’ve got a bunch of guys that are really good.

“We’ve got some different stuff we’re going to throw at them, but more than anything, we’ve just got to lock down and play good team defense. We’ve always been a good defensive team.”

Mercer has become more diverse on defense, playing more zone and using an occasional triangle-and-two and other hybrid schemes. The Bears also change defenses more during possessions.

Friday’s plan is based on denying and helping.

“More help than anything,” Moten said. “As far as the post goes, our post defense is always try to keep it out. As far as when he drives, we’re helping really hard to get the ball out of his hands.

“When he drives, he’s driving to either finish or get fouled.”

Parker has 72 more free-throw attempts than any of his teammates.

Thomas said players like Parker present two primary problems.

“If you pressure up on them, they’re going to go right by you,” Thomas said. “If you step off, they’ll hit a 3 in your face.”

Moten likens Parker to Carmelo Anthony of the New York Knicks.

“He’s got the same build and everything and very similar game,” Moten said. “He’s probably the best player we’ve played against.”

Thomas thought back to his freshman season when the Bears played Georgia Tech and 6-5, 215-pound Iman Shumpert. He had 15 points and seven rebounds in the Yellow Jackets’ 87-78 win on New Year’s Eve in 2010.

“I remember just thinking how advanced he was,” Thomas said. “He was skying above our bigs and his own bigs for the rebound and pushing it in transition.”

Parker averages 19.3 points and shoots 47.8 percent. He was held to single digits by only Notre Dame (seven in a 79-77 loss) and Virginia (eight in a 69-65 win) but shot worse than 40 percent in 11 games since the new year began.

“It’s definitely going to be a team effort on stopping him,” Thomas said. “Not too many teams in the nation have figured out how to do that yet.”

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