Duke Countdown to Craziness 2014: Midnight Madness Recap and Twitter Reaction

If the entire Duke basketball team plays the way the White team did on Saturday night in the Countdown to Craziness scrimmage, the program might add to its national championship haul. 

The White team won both halves of play and top recruit Jahlil Okafor was the star. The 6’10″ freshman had double-digit scoring in both periods. Duke M. Basketball provided first-half stats:

Okafor led all scorers overall and quickly proved that the hype was real surrounding his mature low-post game.

After scoring 12 points in the first session, he topped off his night with 15 in the second half. He’s not known as a huge leaper, but after shining so brightly in the scrimmage, you had to wonder whether Okafor would get into the event’s dunk contest. Blue Devil Nation was impressed, and Duke Basketball felt “everyone in attendance” was impressed by Okafor’s performance: 

Let’s not get carried away.

The finals came down to Grayson Allen and Marshall Plumlee. These young men have the hops to buck a common stereotype. Adam Rowe of 247Sports.com highlighted the matchup:

Though Allen landed a 360 during his run, he had some issues completing dunks in the final, and that gave Plumlee the title, as Duke M. Basketball tweeted:

 

Close Call

While the scrimmage was all fun and games for the most part, there was one moment of concern. Justise Winslow went down with an injury, but it turned out to be a cramp. Stephen Wiseman of The Herald-Sun and Duke Basketball provided insight on Winslow’s injury:

Winslow is expected to be a major part of Duke’s success this year. Along with Okafor and point guard Tyus Jones, the 6’8″ freshman small forward is listed as a potential lottery selection by Draft Express.

The injury was obviously very minor because Winslow participated in the dunk contest. Still, the collective hearts of Duke nation had to skip a beat when Winslow went down. No team wants to lose a key player, but it would be especially tough to see a guy go down for an extended period in a scrimmage.

Head coach Mike Krzyzewski had to feel confident that Winslow was fine as he allowed him to compete in the dunking exhibition. 

 

Expectations are High

Clearly, Larry Winters enjoyed Countdown to Craziness:

Between the playmaking of Jones, the athleticism of Allen, Plumlee and Winslow, as well as the post presence of Okafor and the leadership of Rasheed Sulaimon, Duke looks every bit as stacked as its No. 3 preseason ranking in the USA Today poll would suggest.

If the team stays healthy and matures, it will be among the sport’s best teams all year.

 

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Okafor shines in Duke scrimmage

Freshman Jahlil Okafor shines in Duke scrimmage

      
 

 

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Okafor shines in Duke scrimmage (Yahoo Sports)

Duke's Jahlil Okafor drives to the basket in front of Rasheed Sulaimon as the team kicks off its NCAA college basketball season in a scrimmage during Countdown to Craziness at Cameron Indoor Stadium in Durham, N.C., Saturday, Oct. 25, 2014. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

Freshman Jahlil Okafor had 27 points and eight rebounds during a scrimmage for Duke’s ”Countdown to Craziness” event on Saturday night at a packed Cameron Indoor Stadium. Okafor is part of a touted recruiting class for the Blue Devils that also includes Tyus Jones and Justise Winslow. ”It was a lot of fun,” Okafor said. My teammates really encourage me to try to dominate every game, and it helps when the people around you really believe in you.” Okafor, Jones and Winslow played together for the White team in the first half, contributing to a 34-17 lead that featured 12 points for Okafor and 10 from Matt Jones.


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South Carolina freshman Blanton has hip surgery (Yahoo Sports)

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Ranking College Basketball’s 10 Most Scintillating Freshmen

With the college basketball season merely weeks away, here is a look at some of the most exciting freshmen to watch for during the 2014-15 season.

This year features one of the better classes in recent memory and one that’s filled with plenty of potential future pros. Many schools, such as Duke, North Carolina and Kansas, were even fortunate enough to snag multiple top recruits.

How long these talented freshmen will stay with their respective programs is as good as anyone’s guess, but in the meantime, here is a glimpse at what they may have in store for the upcoming season.

The list is compiled based on recruiting ranks, scouting reports and how much impact they may have for their new schools.

 

Honorable Mentions

  • D’Angelo Russell, Ohio State
  • Theo Pinson, North Carolina 
  • Daniel Hamilton, UConn
  • Isaiah Whitehead, Seton Hall
  • Kevon Looney, UCLA

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UNC beats Fayetteville State 111-58 in exhibition

Freshmen Jackson, Pinson lead Tar Heels in 111-58 exhibition win against Fayetteville State

      
 

 

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Will 5-Star Freshman Isaiah Whitehead Put Seton Hall Basketball Back on the Map?

NEW YORK — There was a time, not too long ago, when Seton Hall was a contender.

With P.J. Carlesimo at the helm in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, the Pirates made six consecutive NCAA tournaments from 1987 to 1994. In the season of 1988-89, Seton Hall made it all way to the National Championship but fell by a point to a Michigan team led by future NBA star Glen Rice.

When Carlesimo left to pursue a coaching career in the NBA, things went south in South Orange.

The Pirates have taken part in the Madness just three times since Carlesimo’s departure about 20 years ago. They’ve also earned seven sporadic appearances in the NIT.

Current coach Kevin Willard took over the program back in 2010, and has led the team to a .500 record of 66-66.

Last season, Seton Hall finished 17-17. More importantly, the team was 6-12 in the Big East. Somehow, though, the eighth-seeded Pirates won two thrillers in the conference tournament before getting bounced by the eventual champion, Providence, in the semis.

Despite being located in the heart of one of basketball’s best breeding grounds—the New York/New Jersey area—the Pirates have failed to create any sort of substantial buzz in recent memory.

But change is coming.

And his name is Isaiah Whitehead.

The incoming freshman was one of the most sought-after recruits in the nation before he decided to come to the Hall last summer.

ESPN ranked the 6’4”, 195-pound Whitehead as the No. 2 shooting guard in the nation, and the 14th overall prospect out of the Top 100.

Whitehead, a native of Brooklyn, is not alone in his quest to put Seton Hall back into contention. Angel Delgado (No. 48 in the Top 100), Desi Rodriguez (Whitehead’s high school co-star), Khadeen Carrington and Ismael Sanogo will also don the Blue and White in 2014-15.

This is Seton Hall’s best freshmen class since landing the No. 1 recruit, Eddie Griffin, back in 2000.

But in the end, it’ll be Whitehead who ultimately controls how things turn out in New Jersey.

 

The New Face of Seton Hall

When asked where Seton Hall’s recruiting class ranks—in both the conference and the nation—at Big East Media Day, the soft-spoken Whitehead didn’t even blink.

“I think we have the best one,” he told B/R.

By the end of the year, the freshman’s claim may ring true. But for now, scouting service Rivals.com has the Pirates’ class ranked at 13, with Duke and Kentucky filling the top spots.

“We’re all complete players in our group,” the McDonald’s All-American said. “We all had the attitude that everyone came in and worked so hard over the summer, and now we’re in shape and ready for the season.”

Whitehead was named as New York’s Mr. Basketball, an award for the state’s top senior player, last season. During his four years at Lincoln High School in Brooklyn—yes, the same one that Stephon Marbury, Sebastian Telfair and Lance Stephenson attended—Whitehead shined.

“It’s great,” Whitehead said of playing so close to home. “That’s one of the reasons I picked Seton Hall, so all my family and friends could watch me play.”

In his senior year, Whitehead put up 23.5 points, 6.7 boards and 5.4 assists on a nightly basis. When it came time for Lincoln to start chasing a state title, his points stayed constant at 23, but his rebounds and assists climbed to 9.8 and 6.2, respectively.

The kid is big-time.

Whitehead can get to the rim at will. The Brooklyn native has the ability to dish with either hand if the defense collapses on him, or, if he’s left in isolation, can use his Kyrie Irving-like touch around the rim. Whitehead also has great range and can knock down shots from all over the floor.

While he’ll probably start in a three-guard set alongside returning players Sterling Gibbs and Jaren Sina, the freshman star is likely to become Seton Hall’s offensive focal point, especially now that Fuquan Edwin has graduated.

The Pirates do have some talent coming back, including 6’9″ forward Brandon Mobley, who noted that the star-studded newcomers have been humble and hard-working so far.

Whitehead is going to be a star for Seton Hall this year. But what if he’s too good—as in, you know, one-and-done? Would an early exit diminish the impact he could have on the program?

 Gulp.

 

How Whitehead Affects SHU‘s Future

Here’s a plot twist: Willard wants Whitehead to leave for the NBA.

Generally, coaches who want what’s best for their players—and have a proven track record of it—are better recruiters.

“The window is this year and I’m focused on this year, I’m not worried about next year,” the coach told Adam Zagoria of SNY.

“If he does as well as I think he can and if he’s going to be drafted next year, then we’re going to have a very good year. It’s going to go hand-in-hand. You look at all the guys who get drafted, very rarely do they get drafted and their teams don’t have a good year. If he’s going to have that year, which I think he has the ability to, then we’re going to have a good year.”

Willard knows that 2014-15 could be a make-or-break campaign for him. That’s why he gave Whitehead’s high school coach, Dwayne “Tiny” Morton, a spot on the Pirates’ bench as an assistant before landing the standout guard.

Let’s say that Seton Hall doesn’t win the Big East, finishes with a mediocre record and watches Whitehead bolt. All are far-from-unlikely scenarios.

Sounds like a nightmare, right? Not exactly.

If the Pirates are able to make some serious noise this year, they’ll have succeeded—regardless of what Whitehead decides to do after the season.

And making the NCAA tournament is an immensely important part of that.

“This is the year, man,” senior forward Haralds Karlis said of making the tourney. “It has to be. It’s very important for us, for the program, for the fans, for everyone right now.”

For far too long, the school has failed to capitalize on its location. Whitehead said it himself: He chose Seton Hall in part because it’s close to his home.

But why haven’t others done the same?

Look at Kentucky—the team has different players every year, but is always in national contention. High-profile HS prospects want to win and, more importantly, they want to move on the pros.

Therein lies the problem. Seton Hall’s last player to be drafted was Samuel Dalembert 13 years ago, one of two SHU players to have been drafted in the past two decades.

If other New York/New Jersey prospects—and there are tons of them—watch Whitehead rise to stardom, Seton Hall suddenly becomes a desired destination.

That’s why Whitehead could realistically turn the Pirates’ tide for years to come, even if he leaves after this season.

Or rather, especially if he leaves after this season.

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