Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
USA Basketball Coach Says Duke Can Be ‘Scary’ Once the Freshmen Debut
NEW YORK — Don Showalter has coached Jayson Tatum, Harry Giles and Marques Bolden with various USA Basketball youth teams.
The 6-foot-8 Tatum and the 6-10 Giles each won three gold medals with USA Basketball, while the 6-11 Bolden played in the Hoop Summit last April that is associated with USA Basketball.
So Showalter knows all about the vast reservoirs of talent the three injured Duke freshmen forwards possess.
And he knows that Duke, which will likely lose its No. 1 ranking to Kentucky on Monday, figures to be a completely different team once the freshmen hit the court.
“Duke could be scary good provided they can share the ball and play unselfish,” Showalter, an eight-time USA Basketball gold medalist head coach, told ZAGSBLOG. “Those three are lottery picks.”
Tatum is currently projected as the No. 3 pick in the 2017 NBA Draft by DraftExpress.com, while Giles is listed at No. 5 and Bolden at No. 15.
As Duke heads into the Basketball Hall of Fame Tip-Off at the Mohegan Sun in Connecticut this weekend, it remains unclear when any of the freshmen will debut, or how the team will look once they do. Duke (2-1) meets Penn State (2-1) on Saturday, and will then play No. 21 Rhode Island or No. 24 Cincinnati on Sunday.
ESPN’s Jay Bilas said Duke is currently a “top-5 team in the country” without the freshman, and will be the clear No. 1 once they step on the court.
Meantime, ESPN’s Jay Williams, a former Duke point guard, has said Giles should sit the entire season in order to preserve his NBA Draft stock.
“I think Harry will be back this yer,” Showalter said. “Probably sooner than later.”
Without the freshmen trio, Duke lost to No. 7 Kansas on Tuesday night in the Champions Classic on a jumper by Frank Mason.
To his credit, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski didn’t blame the loss on the absence of the trio.
“We’ll see what will happen when we get guys back,” Krzyzewski said. “I think these experiences are good. We didn’t lose because we were short-handed tonight. We lost because Kansas played better than we did and Mason was a big-time winner.”
Still, Krzyzewski admitted his team is not currently what he imagined it would be when he signed Tatum, Giles and Bolden.
“We’re a limited team right now,” he said. “We’re not who we imagined ourselves to be but that’s not an excuse, that’s just the way it is.”
While Duke is missing three freshmen, Penn State head coach Pat Chambers is relying on a heavy dose of freshmen to play valuable minutes. Nazeer Bostick, Lamar Stevens, Tony Carr and Mike Watkins are playing 15 minutes a game and the Nittany Lions are without second-year guard Josh Reaves, who is out with a knee injury but could play this weekend.
“It presents a lot of challenges because at least Josh had played significant minutes last year,” Chambers said by phone. “He knows what he’s doing and not to have his energy, his juice, his fire, he really disrupts opponent offenses and then he rebounds really well. He makes plays for others. His speed, his athleticism. We really missed that the last three games, but other guys have to step up.”
He added: “The freshmen have been playing well. Tony Carr has been playing solid at the point guard, really taking care of the ball. Lamar’s been outstanding. He gave us 24 and 19 the last two games. Mike Watkins has been playing really well in spurts. When he’s engaged, he’s been one of the best big men in the Big Ten. It’s gotta get consistent. I can’t make freshmen sophomores, unfortunately, so there’s gotta be patience and persistence and you’ve gotta continue the mindset of just getting better.”
Duke figures to get much better when the freshmen debut. Whenever that day comes.
Photo: Blue Devil Nation
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Adam Zagoria is a New York Times contributor and Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.