DURHAM, N.C. — Freshman Jabari Parker’s intro music on Duke’s Countdown to Craziness on Friday night was Kanye West’s “Dark Fantasy”, a song with an appropriate hook: “Can we get much higher?”
In Parker’s case … no.
In the second scrimmage of the night, Parker drove baseline and threw down a vicious, one-handed reverse slam. And the thing is, Parker’s athleticism is just a small sliver of what is going to make him such a good player for the Blue Devils this year.
When Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski announced last month that he wanted to run his team through the freshman phenom and redshirt sophomore Rodney Hood, it prompted some raised eyebrows. But the way Parker played in the scrimmages — 24 points (in 27 minutes) on 9-of-17 shooting to go with 14 rebounds — made it clear why the owner of 957 career wins believes in the Chicago product so much.
“Playing the center position when I was back in high school, it limited my versatility,” Parker said. “So now I’ve got to play a role of being everywhere on the floor just to fit my team, and then like I did in high school, fit a role so you can fit the style of play of the team.”
Hood had a pretty good night, too. He was second amongst all scorers with 17 points on 5-of-10 shooting, and he attacked the basket so effectively that he shot a team-high eight free throws.
Two 6-foot-8, athletic, versatile players who have a nice shooting touch but can also attack the basket, and both of whom see the floor very well? Yeah, seems like a pretty good idea to run a team through them.
Turns out that Krzyzewski guy knows what he’s doing.
Parker and Hood were on the same team once and on opposing teams once, which is something Parker said is relatively common in practice.
“No, surprisingly, (Krzyzewski) wants us to go at each other,” Parker said. “Like the first (scrimmage), he has us playing against each other, just having us being adjusted and put in simulations of tough defenders, tough guys that you have to play against defensively and offensively.”
If there was a surprise in the scrimmage, it was the play of Amile Jefferson. The lanky 6-foot-9 forward had his moments last year, but he was too skinny to be effective banging down low with other bigs and was still very raw in terms of his skill set.
He seems to have come a long way in the offseason, bulking up a bit perhaps, but really just honing his skills. He scored 16 points on 8-of-12 shooting, adding seven rebounds and a block. His moves around the basket were much better, and he has always had a knack for snaking around defenders for a lay-up.
Sophomore Rasheed Sulaimon finished with 16 points as well, but it took him awhile to get going. He was 0-of-4 in the first scrimmage and he still had to take 17 shots to get those 16 points. Either he or graduate student Andre Dawkins — playing for the first time in nearly two years — is going to be Duke’s best 3-point shooter, and one of them has to be consistent.
Dawkins got perhaps the second-biggest round of applause when he was introduced to the Cameron Crazies before the game began. After taking a year off to finally deal with the death of his sister, they were thrilled to see him again. And he basked in their adoration, stopping to scream, “I’m back, baby!”
He hit the first shot of the game (a 3-pointer) and finished with nine points.
Marshall Plumlee, the third in a seemingly endless line of Plumlees, had a rough start to his career in 2012-13, missing time with a foot injury and looking awkward and mechanical at times. He finished with nine points and eight rebounds in 22 minutes.
Point guard Quinn Cook had 16 points, while freshmen Matt Jones (nine points, three assists) and Semi Ojeleye (nine points, six rebounds and four steals) had nice games as well. Ojeleye won the Duke preseason award for his work in the weight room; no one except a Plumlee (first Miles, then Mason) had won it before.
Krzyzewski addressed the crowd between games, too. He has always thought of the Crazies as a part of the experience with him and the team, and he told them as much. He said he wanted them to bring their children back in here decades later and know that they played a part in all those wins.
He’s been coaching so long that he initially misspoke and said he’d been in it 35 years. It’s 34.
But perhaps he said it best: “Even after 34 years, it still feels damn good.”