Thursday, July 21, 2011

Q&A with Duke Freshman Austin Rivers

By Mark Carroll - Blog Coordinator

After Austin Rivers' 30 point performance in Team Hendrick's win over Triangle G, the incoming Duke guard stopped by and talked about his summer.

Q: What has your experience been like so far at the Pro AM?
A: Oh it's been great. Just getting to come out here and play against the top players in the state of North Carolina and all around the United States is just fun to get to come out here and play.

Q: Is there any particular aspect of your game that you're looking to improve right now?
A: Just basically a little bit of everything. Tonight I was finishing with my left a little bit more and just trying to get after it a little bit, and we ended up winning so it was all good.

Q: You've got Kyrie (Irving) and Jay (Williams) out here also. Do you feel like you've got some shoes to fill out here or any pressure like that?
A: I mean I just don't look at it like that. Those are two great players that played here at Duke, you know, legendary players at Duke. They both dominated their freshman seasons, so hopefully I can do that, but right now I'm just concentrating on doing everything I can do to win.

Q: Austin, I see your family here. That's kind of cool playing in front of them, right?
A: Yeah it's always nice, my family is real busy, so just to have them come down here and be with me means a lot to me. My best friend and my whole family, and for everybody to come down really means something.

Big 12 Transfers to Give Eagles a Boost

By Mark Carroll - Blog Coordinator

North Carolina Central's transition to Division I college basketball could get a lot smoother this year, thanks to a couple transfers from the Big 12. Forwards Dominique Sutton and Ray Willis will be eligible to play in the 2011-2012 season, and fans can definitely expect a boost for this year's Eagles team.

The two teamed up Wednesday night to lead Team Jamison to a 105-64 victory over 751 South in dominating fashion. During the rout, the two new faces for NCCU made their presence known.

Sutton, formerly of Kansas State, had 14 points at the break, but showed off his versatility in a second half performance that included a four-point play after he was fouled on a deep 3-pointer. The Durham native, primarily known for his defensive and rebounding skills, drew the loudest cheers on the offensive end with his explosive dunks and long-range ability.

Oklahoma transfer Willis was also a fan favorite, blowing away the opposition with his exceptional ability in transition. The redshirt junior is a tremendous scorer, and his athletic ability makes him tough to stop when playing up-tempo basketball.

After last year's .500 season, Sutton and Willis will be stepping in to lead the Eagles into MEAC play.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Old Face and Young Star Compete in Tight Game

By Mark Carroll - Blog Coordinator

Former NC State great Julius Hodge may be remembered as much for his playful personality as he is for the talent he showed off throughout an exceptional college career.

Fans had an opportunity to see both at the NC Pro-Am on Tuesday night as the 2004 ACC Player of the Year squared off against Washington Wizard point guard John Wall.

Hodge got started early in the first half, finishing a bucket through a foul and doing the "John Wall Dance" in the face of the top overall pick in the 2010 NBA draft. The fun taunting continued throughout the night between both players, but Wall ultimately got the last laugh.

With time winding down, Wall brought the ball up the floor for his team's final possession with the score tied 71-71. He then drove to his right, getting a shot off as he was fouled by Hodge with .9 seconds remaining. Hodge finished with a game-high 20 points, but Wall got it done from the charity stripe to lead Triangle Gastroenterology to a two-point lead over 751 South that stood after incoming Duke freshman Quinn Cook's desperation 3-pointer fell short.

Wall (12 points) got some help in the victory from Tar Heel newcomer PJ Hairston, who contributed 18 points, including multiple eye-opening slams. Hairston used his athleticism to get to the basket, as he was guarded throughout the night by bigger defenders such as former UNC star Jawad Williams (10 points), and Duke big man Miles Plumlee (10 points).

Monday, July 11, 2011

Heels, Devils Guards Shine at Pro-Am

By Mark Carroll - Blog Coordinator

Duke lost two of the best guards in the country after its Sweet 16 loss in March, as Nolan Smith wrapped up his senior year and Kyrie Irving declared for the NBA Draft.

If Thursday night was any indication, the Blue Devils will be just fine with the next wave of talent at the guard position. Andre Dawkins made his presence known with 16 points, helping Sheraton Imperial to a victory over Hendrick of Durham.

Although their team came up on the losing end, a couple other Duke guards kept the game from getting out of hand. Junior Seth Curry (17 points) dialed in from long range several times to establish himself as a perimeter threat, while incoming freshman Austin Rivers (15 points) showed off incredible athleticism with three crowd-pleasing dunks and three trey balls.

Smith, now a Portland Trail Blazer, demonstrated the tremendous scoring ability that made him such an excellent collegiate player as he contributed 29 points in the losing effort. Despite his departure, the remaining Duke guards will have no trouble running up and down the floor with anyone, and will definitely be a threat to score quickly this season.

Several Tar Heel fans were in the crowd at McDougald-McLendon Gymnasium, and had great reason for optimism after the showings from Dexter Strickland and Leslie McDonald. The two juniors teamed up with Dawkins in Sheraton Imperial's win.

McDonald had a game-high 30 points, and while deadly from 3-point range, the Memphis native also put on a show with an impressive floor game. Strickland (24 points) was also instrumental, pushing the ball up the court and finishing strong through contact. Rivers may have been the flashiest player in the gym with the highlight dunks, but his Tar Heel rivals didn't hold back from running with him.

With the upcoming college basketball season still months away, it is already clear that fans on Tobacco Road can look forward to some up-tempo basketball. Duke will reload the back court with depth and talent, but they only need to look eight miles down the road to find another elite program with guards who can score, as North Carolina could be this year's favorite to win a national title.