Blue Team Player Notes:
Lee Melchionni – 21 points – Lee started the night going strong to the basket along the baseline, earning four straight dunks off assists from Duhon. However later on his usual husstle earned him garbage points, and a much-improved perimeter shot kept defenders honest.
Based on the early results, it could be argued that Melchionni will earn a spot in the rotation backing up the small forward slot.
Shavlik Randolph – 23 points, 10 rebounds, 3 blocks – The added weight may be the catalyst for a big year from the Raleigh native. By tipping the scales at 240 pounds, Randolph seems to have new found confidence when operating in the paint against bigger and bulkier players.
Tonight Shavlik was nearly unstoppable inside with a huge array of post moves and ball fakes before finished with either hand inside. Perhaps the best move of the night was receiving the ball after posting up before spinning off his man and using an up and under move that left his defender on the other side of the basket.
Randolph also battled to earn a number of rebounds in traffic over taller players thanks to his unusual instinct for judging the ball off the rim. On the defensive side of the ball he refused to bite on the same kind of fakes that he utilizes so well, though he did get caught going over the back a few times while battling for a rebound.
Michael Thompson – 15 points, 8 rebounds – Thompson looked like a completely different player early on. Rather than looking unsure when he received the ball in the paint, he would turn and go straight to the basket, simply overpowering his defender. Once a few shots fell for him, Big Mike began to really play with a confidence that was lacking during his freshman campaign.
Defensively he held position well, and didn’t allow anything easy around the Blue team’s basket. Ran the floor extremely well, and showed off a 12-foot jumper and baby hook after facing up to the basket.
Chris Duhon – 12 points, 10 assists, 7 rebounds – He’s apparently on a mission to silence the critics after last year’s performance. This year Duhon looks to have dropped 10 or 15 pounds and is much sleeker when running the point. Instead of looking whom not to hit with a pass, this season he’s finding a number of weapons both inside and out, which allows him to see the lanes and take the ball right into the heart of the defense.
Defensively his lateral movement and overall footwork seems to be improved (perhaps the weight loss). The seven rebounds, and even the 12 points were very quiet, which is when he’s most effective it seems. If the other players on the roster continue to prove themselves as effective offensive options, Duhon could have his best year as a senior.
J.J. Redick – 9 points, 4 assists, 3 rebounds – last year Redick would have been content to stay on the perimeter and launch threes instead of attacking the basket. Tonight he seemed more willing to do a number of things aside from that. He played solid defense on Deng and made a number of nice drives to the basket after forcing the defense to play tight.
Always seemed to be in the right place at the right time to slap the ball out of an opponent’s hand on rebounds, or flying in from no where to get in the passing lanes only to tip the loose ball to a teammate. He was bothered by Deng’s defense, probably due to the incredible wing span that kept coming at him, but as soon as he realized his shot wasn’t going to come easily or within the flow the offense, he looked for other ways for his team to score.
White Team Player Notes:
Shelden Williams – 16 points, 13 rebounds, 3 blocks – Williams continues to progress as a legitimate post player in the Blue Devil system. He showed the ability to knock down the perimeter jumper, but was most effective after receiving the ball and going up strong. However eight of his points came from put backs and tip-ins thanks to his rebounding ability.
Williams still needs some more polish on his post game, but he’s improved his footwork and seems less likely to bull his way through defenders, picking up the kind of offensive fouls that hindered him as a freshman.
Nick Horvath – 17 points, 4 rebounds – Despite being the biggest player on the team, Horvath still has a tendency to fall in love with the perimeter jumper. On Saturday it was falling (3 of 4 from beyond the arc), though you have to think the coaching staff would like to see Nick use his newly bulked frame to battle in the paint.
Luol Deng – 18 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists – While he had a number of good looking drives to the basket, Deng seems to methodically carry out his assignments on the court. Many in the stands were left wondering when he logged those 18 points and grabbed those handful of rebounds, but that’s just the kind of game Luol is likely to play this season for the Devils.
Perhaps the first thing people notice when they first get a look at the newest Blue Devil is just how long and lanky he is. His arms are as long enough to allow him to play much taller than his 6-foot-8 frame, yet he’s got the coordination of a guard. A good example would be a drive in the second half where he led the break then, in full stride, dribbles through his legs, spins and finds an open teammate on the wing for the open look.
He still seems unsure of his place in the offense, partly because he’s too unselfish at times – giving it up when he should just attack the basket, but that’s probably a good problem to have.
Daniel Ewing – 13 points, 3 assists – Ewing and Redick really started to go after one another in the second half, something that will likely happen all season long as the pair of talented guards battle for the starting shooting guard position. Daniel also showed the ability to handle the ball and run his team’s offense, which is likely something he’ll need at the next level.
On this night his shot fell early, but left him late (perhaps a conditioning problem) as he only converted 5-of-17 shot attempts. Still Ewing looks to be one of the more complete players on the roster, on both ends of the floor. Defensively he checked Redick, Melchionni, and Duhon and managed to stay in front of all three.
Sean Dockery – 9 points, 2 assists, 2 steals – Dockery looks like a completely different player this year. Instead of dribbling at full speed with his head down, the Chicago floor general seems more in control of his team and the offense. There’s also a noticeable difference on his jumpshot’s form, which now looks more textbook than it did last season. Dockery’s handle is also probably, at least from where we sat, the best on the team.