Countdown the Movie Premiere: A Fantastic Season Intro

It’s not the same, of course, but it’s pretty cool: Duke Basketball came out with a “Countdown: The Movie” substitute for the annual Countdown to Craziness pre-season hype scrimmage, and the outcome was fantastic.

It starts with a tribute to the qualities that make Duke Basketball so special, and to the social activism that players initiated in support of Black Lives Matter this summer. The videos’ beginning tied together beautifully how the players support one another on the court and off the court. It’s a wonderful picture of a team that’s really come together for a movement far more important than basketball.

Narrated by JJ Redick, the movie shows the new team while celebrating the Brotherhood’s history (JJ pokes fun at his own career starting around when the new players were born). It includes

The first segment shows the current players commentating on some of the all-time great Duke moments. Christian Laettner, Jayson Tatum, and Austin Rivers’ highlights were included, and Wendell Moore had the chance to relive his own buzzer beater at UNC last season.

Then some more team fun: the guys videoed themselves messing around Cameron, Wallace Wade, and the rest of the Duke campus, lip-syncing to “Laugh Now Cry Later” by Drake. It’s pretty much what you would expect if you put twelve nineteen-to-twenty year olds on a college campus with a camera and a soundtrack, with better camera operation. Coach K makes a cameo, too. We loved it.

Next, an animated video of some Duke greats was shown, from Grant Hill to Kyle Singler to Zion, while an art-form Coach K hoists trophies and Olympic medals. It’s a fitting (and funny) tribute

The photoshoot from a light-strip filled mirror room, with videos of the guys in uniform in the traditional preseason video. You can see the room itself in the video, but they each get the spotlight in the segment and you get to see some of their

Okay, now do you get why I had a tough time explaining what this room looked like???

Then, each player gets his own Countdown-style introduction within the light-bar scene. If you’ve never seen the traditional Countdown scene, each player is announce over the loudspeakers, has a walkout song, then dances and jumps around with the Crazies. They followed the same format (minus the Crazies, sadly), but instead of Cameron, they filmed in the same mirror-and-lights room. They added some photoshoot flicks, too, for each player. Jeremy Roach even wears the light-up horns that the Crazies wear every year. It’s a lot of fun.

The poster is introduced, but rather than the traditional team photo with a cool background, the players are animated again into superheroes. Matthew Hurt (Matty Ice) is Ice Man. Joey Baker is Bullzeye. Mike Buckmire is Professor B. It’s a fittingly unconventional poster, and it’s awesome.

Lastly, the Brotherhood alumni send a message to the new team: you can watch Tre Jones, Grayson Allen, Quinn Cook, Amile Jefferson, Jahlil Okafor, Carlos Boozer, Grant Hill, Mason Plumlee, Shelden Williams, Tyus Jones, and more in a sendoff before November 25.

It’s worth a watch and it’ll get you excited for the new season, which is just five days away. We’re headed toward a crazy year, but the guys in this movie are sure to make it a good time.

Bleed blue.

Jones, Stanley, and Carey to the NBA

Duke sent three more players to the NBA on Wednesday night in a draft where abnormal would be an understatement. The 2020 NBA Draft was about 5 months later than previously scheduled due to the hiatus from March to July and was held virtually, with players sitting in their homes as they waited to hear commissioner Adam Silver call their names. While it wasn’t the same, the draft is so special because it’s a literal dream come true for all of the guys selected. The virtual draft was different, but did not lack in emotion and whole-hearted joy. Congratulations to all of the NBA’s brand new rookies. The Blue Devil picks were as follows: Vernon Carey went 32nd to the Charlotte Hornets, Tre Jones 41st to the San Antonio Spurs, and Cassius Stanley 53rd to the Indiana Pacers.

Going into the draft was as strange as the draft itself mostly because none of us really had a clue what would play out. Especially compared to last year, the draft projections were further off. Outside of the top three (who went Anthony Edwards, James Wiseman, LaMelo Ball), whose order was highly debated, the rest of the draft was a wild card. Teams didn’t have the same access to player metrics, like a formal combine or easily scheduled workouts, as typically.

All of the Duke picks went in the second round. While there’s an expectation of Duke sending several players in the first round, these guys are absolute steals. It’s completely insane to me that the ACC Player of the Year and defensive Player of the Year in Tre Jones went second round, as well as the ACC Freshman of the Year. The NBA values the “ceiling” for these players a lot; execs look at how high the players can go. That’s pretty obvious in this draft. But it’s important to remember that the “floor” is how high they’re already at, and is also vital to NBA success. We know that Vernon and Tre are big-time players and they’ll show that in the next level. Every rookie is a rookie in the NBA and can make their way to the top. Draymond Green of the Warriors went second round. Quinn Cook, Duke’s 2015 championship team leader, went undrafted altogether and just earned his second NBA ring. Tre Jones, Vernon Carey, and Cassius Stanley have limitless potential and have already shown what incredible players and guys they are.

Tre Jones to the Spurs might just be the steal of the draft. At 41st, he’s headed to San Antonio to play under Gregg Popovich. Popovich is arguably the NBA’s Coach K, and similarly to Coach K he values hardworking players who go hard at the gritty details. Tre is a defensive monster (Cole Anthony would know and he was picked just outside of the lottery) and is rock solid in the clutch (Cole Anthony, and the rest of UNC, would know this one too). As a sophomore he was captain and the hands-down leader of the team last year. He knows how to accentuate the talents of NBA stars. As a point guard and a leader, he was the team operator behind the likes of, oh, I don’t know, Zion Williamson? He set up the fantastic plays of guys like Zion, Cam Reddish, RJ Barrett, Cassius Stanley, and Vernon Carey. He’s experienced and can go even higher from here. Also to note, he’ll join his brother Tyus in the NBA.

Vernon Carey is next up. He was one of the first second-round picks and won’t travel far from Durham. He’s the Hornets’ newest addition. He’ll play with #2 pick, LaMelo Ball (yes, the Ball family is coming to North Carolina). The Hornets are considered one of the biggest winners of this draft and Vernon is part of that. He has a monster frame and is versatile and quick around the rim on either end of the floor. He could see some improvement in FG%, at 57.7%, but that’s still pretty consistent. He can stretch the floor; his 3-point shooting improved over his short college career. The NBA is shifting away from bigger players, but that 3-point shooting will be a huge asset. This is a talented, underrated player.

Finally, we have Cassius Stanley to the Pacers at 54th. If Tre and Vernon are the guys with a high floor, Cassius is the guy whose ceiling is in outer space. As a recruit in high school his athleticism was unparalleled. He’s come even further since then, as his highlight reel from Duke would indicate. He was not the most consistent college player, but that doesn’t discount his potential and he still posted a good 13 points per game average. Cassius could really go places.

These guys will get their first go in the NBA starting around Christmas, at least tentatively. They won’t have the more typical lengthy offseason but they will be as resilient as any class of newcomers we’ve ever seen.

We’ll continue to follow our NBA Blue Devils (Seth Curry is a 76er and Luke Kennard is a Clipper now, by the way) but the new season of college basketball starts in less than one week and we’re beyond thrilled.

Bleed blue.

Tre Jones Hints At Return to Duke in Instagram Post

via instagram.com. https://www.instagram.com/p/Bv7_OnpHBNd/

If he’s teasing us I’m going to die. Tre Jones hinted at a return for his sophomore season with the very image that we’ve all been using to explain the magnificent talent that we got to watch this past year. The screenshot above is shown due to a technical difficulty but the link is in the caption.

Tre Jones’ possible decision has some recruiting implications as RJ Hampton could make his decision based on that factor. Technically speaking Hampton is a high school junior right now but has been hinting at reclassifying for a long time. The chances of that happening, though, are likely to go down if Tre were to return to Duke in the fall.

Oh, the dreaded uncertainty of post-basketball season. Bleed blue.

Season Ends In DC vs. MSU, 68-67

Instead of the season that would’ve been, this season is always going to have that part that could have been. An incredible season ended in heartbreak for the Duke Blue Devils of 2019 as a go-ahead three-pointer from Michigan State’s Kenny Goins put the Spartans ahead by two– for good. We’ve had an amazing time with this team and there will never, ever be anything else like them.

Duke came back from down 7 to go up 9 in the first half after a sluggish start. However, MSU went on a 13-0 run to end the first. These kinds of games are so difficult to swallow because any one play– any one– could’ve changed the outcome completely. It was back and forth to the very end from there. Cassius Winston, Michigan State’s veteran point guard, went off for 20 points and 10 assists. For Duke, Zion Williamson had 24 points and 14 rebounds while teammate and roommate RJ Barrett had 21. Tre Jones struggled offensively with 4 points and 5 assists.

I haven’t brought myself to watch it, but if you want to here it is. RJ Barrett consoles Tre Jones in the locker room after the game. Tre had Cassius Winston on the final inbound, who ultimately ended up running out the clock. Tre and his family have been through so much emotionally– his mother’s cancer diagnosis, primarily– and for it to end like this is just heart-wrenching.

Now, for the excruciating wait: Zion Williamson, RJ Barrett, Cam Reddish, and Tre Jones all have huge decisions to make. Two of them seem pretty straightforward as Zion and RJ could be the two first picks in the draft this year. Cam’s performance this year (love him, but it’s true) has been inconsistent but his potential puts him as even a possible lottery pick. He’s an underrated defender and has one of the most beautiful shots we’ve ever seen. Tre is projected in possibly even the first round but could return to work on his offensive skillset as a scorer, something he hasn’t done a lot this season though what his defense have done for us this season is inestimable.

Bleed blue. Thank you to all of our Blue Devils for making this season simply unforgettable.

Duke Survives Yet Again, Takes Out Scrappy Hokies, 75-73

I can’t breathe. Again.

Duke survived yet another nailbiter against another familiar, scrappy, and hot team with a Sweet Sixteen win over Virginia Tech, 75-73. Hats off to the Hokies for a game exceptionally well played. They were down 7 with 2:39 minutes to go, but battled back to contest it to the very end. However, the “will to win” for these young Blue Devils, as Coach K put it earlier this season, wouldn’t be defeated. Tre Jones had a career high 22 points on 5-7 shooting after going 1-10 in the previous two contests. With two points to go and 1.6 seconds remaining and Duke clinging to a two-point lead, Ahmed Hill missed the put-back layup off the lob from Justin Robinson that would’ve sent it to overtime. Duke is Elite Eight-bound.

Tre Jones was one of the biggest factors in this game, delivering with power. Tre is going through a difficult emotional time: Tre and Tyus’ mother, Mrs. Debbie Jones, was recently diagnosed with breast cancer just before the tournament. “I’m playing for my mama,” Tre said to CBS Sports’ Tracy Wolfson. Such an amazing performance for a guy who’s battling through the adversity alongside his mother. All the best to the Jones family; we know that fighters come from that family.

Zion Williamson had another great game with 23 points, 6 rebounds, and some huge blocks to lead all scorers. RJ Barrett struggled to score in the first half but had no trouble involving others, with 7 of his 11 assists coming in the opening period. He came storming back in the second, though, with 15 points towards a total of 18.

Cam Reddish was a sudden loss for this game; he’s dealing with a left leg issue. There’s no timetable for his return as the decision over his availability didn’t come until mid-first half.

Now approaches a matchup with Michigan State, who crushed a good but inconsistent LSU team. That game will be on Sunday, but the time for that game is yet to be announced.

Bleed blue. By the way? WASSUP WASSUP AYYY, ELITE EIGHT.

All-ACC and Awards

Nobody’s surprised here. With its high-performing freshmen, it was a Duke party at the ACC awards. All four were awarded in at least one category (five categories for Zion).

Let’s start with Tre. We all know the lockdown defense he’s played. Naturally, he made All-ACC Defensive team but was snubbed for DPOY. That instead went to UVA’s De’Andre Hunter, despite the number of nationally prominent point guards Tre Jones has shut down this season (Shamorie Ponds, Chris Lykes, literally all of Texas Tech because they didn’t want to face him but he figured it out). Despite the snub, Tre got All-ACC Defensive as well as All-Freshman.

This is the one I’m mad about. Cam Reddish was selected for NOTHING. Not even third team. Yes, he plays with the two best players in the country but that shouldn’t allow the omission of his name from these awards with all his accomplishments. Has anybody forgotten this?

https://twitter.com/espn/status1084199481774616577?s=21

Come on. Give him some respect.

On to RJ Barrett. RJ got 21 votes for ROY and 16 votes for POY, though those numbers would have been much larger had Zion not been there. He obviously was on the All-ACC team (almost unanimously) and All-Rookie team.

Now to Zion. Zion Williamson was awarded in ALL of these categories:

1. All-Freshman Team.

2. All-Defensive Team.

3. All-ACC Team.

4. ACC Rookie of the Year

5. ACC Player of the Year

All deserved. All having missed 6 games (minus thirty-six seconds, but be honest with yourself). All rewarding one of the greatest college players of our time.

The ACC tournament begins today. The winner of today’s BC-Pitt game will go on to compete for a spot in the quarterfinal against Duke. Remember, anything can happen in this tourney as the 2017 Blue Devils, a five-seed team having to play four days in a row, won it all.

Some big news pertaining to Selection Sunday: #1 Gonzaga was shocked by St. Mary’s in the WCC Tournament. How far do they fall for the committee? It’s not as though St. Mary’s pulled a fluke as it was a gritty 60-47 win (yeah, the #1 team put up 47). If the committee puts them at a one-seed, though, that two-seed is the most jubilant in the history of this sport.

Bleed blue.

Duke Obliterates Miami, 87-57

No Zion? No problem, at least for today as Duke took care of business at home against the Miami Hurricanes. RJ Barrett and Cam Reddish led a rejuvenated Blue Devil squad with 19 apiece; however, it was a more balanced attack today as Marques Bolden continued his excellent play with 15. Alex O’Connell had 11 points on 30 minutes; he’s certainly performed exceptionally in Zion Williamson’s absence.

One of the biggest highlights of this game was Tre Jones. He’s struggled offensively of late and completely botched a dunk but he certainly made up for it with his defense. He skipped lunch and instead feasted on Chris Lykes, the 5-7 (not a typo) Miami guard. Despite what he lacks physically, Lykes is one of the best guards in the ACC and before the game averaged 17 PPG, making him a top-10 lead scorer. Not anymore. Lykes failed to score until almost halfway through the second period and finished with four to go along with 2 assists. Additionally, the Miami point guard turned the ball over four times, most of them having to do with Tre Jones’ career-high 6 steals.

Another big highlight? Jack White not only broke his streak (28 straight misses from deep); he went 3-for-3 and the Crazies went absolutely nuts. Jack has struggled tremendously but his teammates never left his side and that’s what counts. He’s due to get very hot currently.

Sadly, it’s looking less and less likely that Zion Williamson plays again in Cameron. With the final home matchup with Wake Forest approaching quickly (two days from now) and Zion having been “not close” to playing Miami according to Coach K, it feels very unlikely. However, take a look at this video:

RJ’s dancing, he’s having fun. Zion looks downright angry. We all know that he wants to play; he loves the game as much as life itself and he’s anxious to get back but it all has to do with how he progresses. I’m all for him suiting up to play the last minute for his last game in Cameron. Just an idea.

Bleed blue. I’m so, so sad that I have to say this, but I do: the 2018-2019 Duke Men’s Basketball team will play *one last time* in Cameron tomorrow.

You’re welcome, Queen Bee. (it’s a Hamilton thing, I’m a total Hamilton nerd)

Duke Annihilates St. John’s, 91-61

Duke fans knew coming into this game that St. John’s was dangerous. Shamorie Ponds, especially: last year, he put up 33 in an upset in MSG against the Blue Devils. Tre Jones decided that history would not repeat.

Zion Williamson had 29, Cam Reddish had 16, and Duke shut down St. John’s main offensive weapons to get a smashing win in Cameron over the St. John’s Red Storm, 91-61. Cam Reddish was the spark early on with 11 first half points, and especially as the game went on, Zion couldn’t be contained. He stuffed the stat sheet with 29 points on 13-17 shooting, 4 blocks, 5 steals, and 6 rebounds. Believe me, there are highlights to come. Good Gods of Basketball, this isn’t fair.

Also, he, by himself, beat all of NC State today. Just sayin’.

The anchor of this win, however amazing Zion was, had to have been Tre Jones’ lockdown defense. Shamorie Ponds, the dangerous point guard that dropped 33 last year against Duke in an upset in MSG, did not hit a shot in the first half. He finished the day 3-11 from the field. This is no knock on Ponds as we’ve seen the great scorer that he is; it was all Tre today and he set the standard for the rest of the team.

St. John’s came in with an aggressive mentality, which showed during the game. In the first half, a flagrant 1 was actually assessed to St. John’s Marvin Clark and the physicality continued throughout the game, but the team handled it well, an important experience come late February and March.

The highlights (still to come) were great and all, but my favorite play of the game was when the ball went loose and every player on the court wearing blue and white dove to the ground at some point to get it. The call did not end up going in our favor as the referee called a held ball, mostly in order to keep the play under control. What are likely to be the #1 and #2 picks in the draft don’t care about getting the next highlight play or 40 point game: they care about the team win, even when it gets gritty, and that’s what makes them great.

Now, finally, for the highlights:

Duke Cruises by Notre Dame, 83-61

Zion Williamson scored 26 along with 9 rebounds and 4 blocks, RJ Barrett had 17, and Duke cruised by Notre Dame in South Bend without too much trouble. The Blue Devils garnered a 17-2 lead early and never really looked back. Notre Dame did fight the whole game, an admirable show of perseverance.

A lot of the news in college basketball this week were about how Duke was unable to shoot the three; Duke came out of the bat with 2 shots from distance, making both, an continued to shoot well and intelligently with well-placed shots on a 52.6% mark overall (10-19). Tre Jones shot well and very efficiently, his mark at 9 points on 4-6. Alex O’Connell played well, getting 7 points in 9 minutes of play. Both players made at least one three pointer.

The defensive effort was impressive as Notre Dame, a generally good shooting team with a lane presence in double-double machine John Mooney, shot just above 34% overall and 33.3% from beyond the arc. Mooney had a good game but shot a low 4-15, like many of his teammates that scored on the higher end.

Notre Dame tried to stay in it and even got it to 32-23 at one point but that hope was all but squashed by a Zion Williamson 3-pointer. From that point the lead stayed in the 20 range and didn’t move much.

Now, we get to the highlights! Zion had a Superman-like block (okay, it was technically goaltending, but it didn’t get called).

Bleed blue. Duke returns to Cameron next weekend to take on St. John’s.

Duke Comes Back to Beat Gritty Ga. Tech, 66-53

The score doesn’t tell the story of a game that was truly two in one this Saturday afternoon. Duke defeated Georgia Tech 66-53 after trailing by as many as eight in the second half. Zion and RJ yet again combined for over 40 points. In the first half, especially towards the end, the shots just weren’t falling. You can credit Tech’s defense: they defended the basket well and it took Duke a little bit to figure out a type of zone of the likes they hadn’t seen. They weren’t going to let RJ and Zion bully them in the paint and were willing to sacrifice some outside defense. After a timeout taken by Coach K and a Zion Williamson dunk, however, you could tell that the Jackets’ lead wouldn’t last and the momentum switched remarkably.

With 18 minutes to go in the second half, Duke trailed by 8 and took a timeout. After that timeout, Duke outscored Georgia Tech 39-18. Zion Williamson had some SportsCenter-worthy dunks (as per usual) to get the crowd into it and in just those 18 minutes Duke was able to rout the Yellow Jackets. We do need to remember, though, that

The big storyline today was the return of Tre Jones. We’re very happy to see that Tre was comfortable and even started and played 35 minutes. His shoulder didn’t seem to affect him. It was certainly Duke’s worst offensive outing of the season as the connection wasn’t automatic but it got going in the final minutes with a 26-point turnaround after falling behind by 8 (Tech scored the last 5 points of the game; the lead was, until then, 18).

The three-point shooting continues to be a big issue for the Blue Devils. Jack White has not produced of late and Cam Reddish hasn’t been as effective as we’d like him to be. RJ Barrett’s shot is still a work in progress, as versatile as he is. As long as the production on the defensive end is still high I see it as a smaller issue, but that’s something that needs to change come March. We’re getting in the the thick of the season and the two guys that we will look to are Jack White and Cam Reddish to knock those down.

I’d like to give a shoutout to our coaching staff today for supporting Coaches vs. Cancer’s Suits and Sneakers Week Campaign. Coach K himself wore the off-white Air Force 1’s while the assistant coaches repped Brotherhood member Kyrie.

Bleed blue.