Tag Archives: Lance Thomas

Coach K On Duke’s Injuries

Mike Krzyzewski thinks Duke has the right combination of talent and experience to be a legitimate national championship contender. (Joe Lunardi, in a ridiculously early Bracketology, agrees.) But the defining factor of the Blue Devils’ season may not be Greg Paulus’ jump shot, Gerald Henderson’s rise to stardom or the development of an inside presence. Krzyzewski thinks it will be the team’s health.

“We’re really excited because we’re finally going to be old, and hopefully healthy,” Krzyzewski said in an exclusive interview with The Chronicle Tuesday.

Perhaps the two least documented injuries are those of Paulus and Henderson. Krzyzewski said Paulus was struggling with an injury a year after he had surgery on his broken left foot. Paulus sat out for more than two months after the season with a problem in his knee, namely the iliotibial (IT) band. Krzyzewski cited a chronic problem, and given some cursory research, it becomes clear that it was most likely iliotibial band syndrome (ITBS), a common injury sometimes referred to as runner’s knee. Paulus could have had surgery, but opted not to, Krzyzewski said. Some information about ITBS:

  • The IT band is a “thick band of tissue” that surrounds muscle.
  • Common symptoms of ITB pain include a “sharp or burning pain on the outside of the knee when running,” and “typically, an athlete is unable to ‘run through’ ITB pain.” There is little swelling, but the knee is often tender and pain usually persists.

Henderson, like Lance Thomas, had surgery April 1 to repair a torn ligament in his right wrist. He initially injured his shooting hand in Duke’s win over North Carolina Feb. 6, and then further hyperextended it March 15 in the ACC Tournament. He played with a brace after the UNC game. He was expected to be sidelined for 12 to 16 weeks, and is still two weeks away from playing with his right hand.

To compensate, Henderson has been doing everything with only his left hand, Krzyzewski said.

Center Brian Zoubek’s problems with health have been abundant. Zoubek had surgery on his left foot in April, less than one year after undergoing a procedure to repair a fracture in his left foot’s fifth metatarsal in July 2007. Henderson and Lance Thomas both had hand surgeries in April; Henderson was expected to be sidelined for 12 to 16 weeks, and Thomas’ prognosis called for eight to 10 weeks.

The Chronicle will publish excerpts from our exclusive interview with Krzyzewski starting Monday, so be sure to check back then for more about the Olympics, Duke’s prospects and more.

–by Ben Cohen


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Echenique to Rutgers

Highly-prized Greg Echenique, a 6-foot-9 center from Danny Hurley‘s St. Benedict’s Prep in Newark, N.J., spurned Duke and other traditional powerhouses for in-state Rutgers. He announced his decision to verbally commit to Fred Hill‘s program Monday after visiting Rutgers’ campus Thursday. Echenique was in Cameron Indoor Stadium for Duke’s March 8 loss to North Carolina.

Over the years, strangely enough, several coveted New Jersey recruits winded up at Duke instead of Rutgers. Jason Williams famously chose to become a Blue Devil after many had speculated he would remain in the Garden State. Dahntay Jones actually transferred to Duke to join Williams, his pal, after spending two seasons as a Scarlet Knight. Current forward Lance Thomas, another product of St. Benedict’s, prolonged his recruiting search until the final days, ultimately opting to travel down to Durham for his college years.

This does, however, continue a more troubling trend for Duke fans. In the last three recruiting cycles, Mike Krzyzewski swung and missed on perhaps the premier frontcourt players: first Brandan Wright (UNC for one season), then Greg Monroe (attending Georgetown next year) and now Echenique, a 5-star recruit.

Krzyzewski has already shored up one commitment for the class of 2009 in 6-foot-10 North Carolina native Mason Plumlee. Two recruits, Elliot Williams and Olek Czyz, will join the team next season.

–Ben Cohen

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SECOND HALF: Duke-Pitt Live Blog

16.6, Duke 58 Pitt 58: Young makes a 16-footer from the baseline to give Pitt a two-point advantage, which is quickly negated when Henderson makes an NBA-like turnaround fadeaway from the corner to tie the score. Finally, Duke gets a stop when Young misses a 3 off a feed from Fields with little time left on the shot clock. Scheyer grabs the rebound, Paulus dribbles up floor, Duke timeout with 16.6 left. Who gets the last shot? At this point, it looks like a Henderson or Paulus dribble drive and a kick to Paulus, Henderson or Singler. Our call? Henderson for the win.

1:31, Duke 56 Pitt 56: Fields makes two free throws, Henderson drives the lane from the top of the key for an uncontested slam, Young makes a banked jumper, then Henderson finds Singler for a wide-open 3-pointer from the top of the key. The freshman swishes it. Timeout Duke. What a game.

2:34, Duke 51 Pitt 52: If you’re not watching this game, put it on. Right now. And if you don’t have access to a television–well, I apologize, because this blog simply can’t capture in words the last four minutes. The Panthers have taken their first advantage since leading 2-0, but Duke has not gone down easily. Pitt has owned the offensive glass and even though Duke has missed too many shots, Henderson and Singler have stepped up and it’s clear they are not afraid to take clutch shots. Play is getting chippy, and substitutions have been a plenty, but the team’s final lineups seem to be clear. The game is fast-paced, the crowd is feeling the energy and thriving off of it, and the best players on both sides (Henderson, Singler, Paulus for Duke; Fields, Ramon, Blair for Pitt) are taking the key shots when they matter most. Folks, this one is going to come down to the wire. If you don’t have access to ESPN–well, find someone who does. Quickly.

7:49, Duke 48 Pitt 47: The classic game that seemed unlikely in the first half is becoming a reality in front of our eyes. Pitt has embarked on a 10-0 run to cut the deficit to one, and the Panthers had a chance to take the lead on their last possession before Paulus drew an offensive foul. Despite impressive play by Singler, who took an intentional foul, converted both free throws and then finished a tough inside basket with authority on the ensuing Duke possession, Pitt has gotten back into this game doing exactly what it did in the first half: playing more physical than Duke. The Blue Devils have missed their past few shots and Krzyzewski even called a timeout when Fields sunk a 3-pointer to slice the deficit to three. After a steal on the next possession, Blair made a tough layup to almost even the game. There is a buzz in the crowd now that hasn’t been heard since before tip. One thing’s for sure: we look to be primed for a great ending.

11:47, Duke 43 Pitt 35: Apparently, no one told Pitt that the game was over. The Panthers have mounted an impressive run, cutting Duke’s lead down to eight and the Panthers head to the line, shooting two. The momentum clearly lies in their favor right now, especially after King just missed a 3-pointer that would have given the Blue Devils an 11-point lead. Scheyer had a rough sretch, missing three straight shots, but made up for his last miss on a layup to steal a short pass in the backcourt when no one was looking and scored when his layup was illegally goaltended. We’ll see what Duke is made of the rest of this game, especially in this upcoming stretch. This is the team’s first true adversity since the Marquette game, and the Blue Devils clearly overcame that challenge.

15:51, Duke 39 Pitt 26: A rough stretch for the officials did not affect Duke’s double-digit lead. After the Panthers cut the lead to 10, Singler dished a beautiful pass to Thomas down low, after the freshman was double-teamed. He found the open man, and Thomas laid the basket home. A few plays later, Nelson drove the lane and made a layup but was called for a charge; that charge was quickly overturned by the officials and Nelson was credited with an and-1 and made the free throw. The next play, Dave McClure was whistled for a loose-ball foul, but the referees initially charged it to Henderson. It would have been his third foul, and the Duke coaching staff reacted in turn before the correct player was hit with the foul. During the last timeout, Duke legend and Pittsburgh native Dick Groat was serenaded with a nice applause for his career accomplishments. For those of you watching on ESPN, stay tuned as new head football coach David Cutcliffe will be interviewed on the worldwide leader soon, we’re told.

HALFTIME: Some interesting statistics from halftime:

  • Nelson, and not Paulus, leads Duke with six assists.
  • Paulus’ assist-to-turnover ratio is 0-to-4.
  • Duke and Pitt both have 19 rebounds.

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FIRST HALF: Duke-Pitt Live Blog

HALFTIME, Duke 34 Pitt 22: Pitt narrowed the margin at the end of the half, but if you’re a Duke fan, you have to be happy with that first half. Playing a high-quality opponent, a double-digit halftime lead is not something to frown on. Singler and Henderson lead Duke with eight points apiece, a number that’s even more significant for the latter, who was quickly saddled with two fouls. Fields leads the Panthers with nine. We’re off to the press room for some free snacks, but check back in the second half for more updates.

2:35, Duke 31 Pitt 18: All of a sudden, the Blue Devils have broken this game wide-open and have earned the first standing ovation of the night. Paulus hit his favorite type of shot (a 3-pointer fading to the left) before the Duke defense forced three consecutive turnovers. Then Singler sunk a pretty 8-foot, turnaround, fadeaway jumper, and Henderson followed that with a gorgeous fadeaway of his own. The sophomore forward followed that jumper with a steal and fast-break layup to bring the crowd to its feet. Duke fans stayed up when King sunk a deep 3-pointer from the corner, which, we’ve been told, Jay Bilas called “a layup” for him. Dixon called a 30-second timeout and Levance Fields canned a 3-pointer to break Pitt’s dry spell. Still, Duke leads by 13, thanks in part to Pitt’s 14 turnovers. Does anyone else think Singler and Henderson look a little bit too comfortable making NBA-like jumpers in the home of the NBA’s worst franchise?

7:46, Duke 19 Pitt 13: The Blue Devils have come alive, thriving despite Pitt’s physical challenge. The defense has clamped down, resulting in only one Panthers bucket since the last media break, and has forced a bevy of turnovers, as well. Thomas shows no sign of a lingering ankle injury, getting great position in the post two possessions in a row, one resulting in two free throws and the other winding up with an attempt at an old-fashioned three-point play after the forward made a layup and was fouled. Credit Paulus for LT‘s first three throw attempt, as the savvy point guard worked a beautiful pick-and-roll and found Thomas with just three seconds remaining on the shot clock. One more note: Singler just reeks of more offensive confidence, and despite a recent air-ball, he looks as good as he has been since winning MVP honors at the Maui Invitational over Thanksgiving break.

11:35, Duke 14 Pitt 11: Scheyer promptly proceeded to be knocked down on consecutive 3-point attempts, but only the second foul was called. The Scheyer tackles seem to be a part of Pittsburgh’s game plan: play more physical than Duke, and see what happens. Given Duke’s small lineup, it might not be the worst approach. The referees have let a lot of the rough play go so far, much to the chagrin of the Duke coaching staff, especially Krzyzewski, who has been off the bench for a good portion of the first eight minutes. Even though he has been more animated tonight, Krzyzewski looks calm compared to Pitt head coach Jamie Dixon, who has been clapping and pacing the sidelines all half. Henderson is about to check back into the game, even with two fouls.

15:05, Duke 7 Pitt 5: Henderson has already been relegated to the bench with two fouls, one trying to block a dunk attempt and another on a player-control offensive foul. For the first time in a few games, Singler looks to be shouldering the scoring load for Duke. The freshman already has four points, both on tough inside finishes, and the Duke defense has forced a few turnovers with its trademark, tight man-to-man defense. The Panthers have missed two dunks, too, putting them on pace to miss about 20. Good times. Reserves Jon Scheyer and Taylor King are already in the game, giving the Blue Devils a more guard-oriented lineup. We’ll see if King’s sniping ability translates well to a venue other than Cameron Indoor Stadium.

Spotted here in the last 30 seconds: former standout point guard Jason Williams, looking dapper in a dark suit, and reigning Tewaaraton Trophy winner Matt Danowski, in a more casual outfit.

Just saw a sign that says: “Welcome to Cameron Square Garden.” That distinction doesn’t seem like such a stretch, given the decidedly pro-Duke crowd here in New York.

Starting Lineups:

Pittsburgh: Sam Young, Mike Cook, DeJuan Blair, Levance Fields, Ronald Ramon; Duke: Kyle Singler, Lance Thomas, Greg Paulus, Gerald Henderson, DeMarcus Nelson

For all the talk about Thomas being questionable with an injured ankle tonight, it’s interesting to see that the forward from nearby Scotch Plains, N.J. is playing.

Greetings from Madison Square Garden, the World’s Most Famous Arena, for tonight’s marquee matchup between No. 6 Duke and No. 11 Pittsburgh. The reportedly sell-out crowd is slowly filing in, and there is a strong Duke contingent, as expected. My co-writer, Lauren Kobylarz, estimates that for every Pittsburgh fan, there are at least three Duke fans. Lauren also tells me that she learned in Statistics that such a statistic implies that the crowd is 75% Duke, which the rousing cheers the Blue Devils just received for running on to the floor seems to corroborate.

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