Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Duke knows stopping Amida Brimah means stopping UConn's guards

The battle of big men Thursday night may disappoint. As great as Amida Brimah was on Sunday against Coppin State, it's hard to imagine he'll turn in anywhere near the same performance against Duke.

Fact is, Jahlil Okafor is so much more polished than Brimah right now. It's not hard to imagine Brimah being overanxious and picking up a couple of early fouls, and quickly turning the much-anticipated battle of red-hot big men into something different on Thursday night.

But then again, maybe not. Maybe the Coppin State game was Brimah's coming-out party, and he continues his dominant ways against the Blue Devils. It'll be fun to find out.

Anyway, here's what Mike Krzyzewski had to say to the media this week about the big UConn-Duke matchup:

Insightful, eh? Oh yeah, Coach K didn't do media this week. Wonderful. Well, here's what some of his coaching staff and players had to say:

Here's more of how UConn looks at Duke, and how Duke is looking at UConn:

NATE JAMES (Duke assistant coach)

(on Jahlil Okafor)

“He’s gifted, man. I wish I could take credit for the ability he has, but a lot of that is just from the good Lord above. The kid wants to get better, comes to practice and has the desire to learn the game. As a result, he’s been rewarded for his efforts.”

(on Amida Brimah)

“Brimah definitely has elite size and length. That’s gonna be a test for Jah to go up and say, ‘I’m ready for the challenge, I’m gonna play my game.’ One thing about the Brimah kid, I think his defense is definitely ahead of his offense. Watching the film and seeing how he gets those baskets, a big part of it is the guard play."

:Whenever you have dynamic guards, and UConn is notorious for having terrific guard play ... I don’t think it’s an issue where we have to worry about them consistently throwing the ball down in the post and letting Brimah go against Jah one-on-one. I think it’s gonna be a total team effort, and I think it starts with the guards, making sure they keep Boatright and the other guys out of the lane.”


(on memories of the UConn-Duke rivalry)

(on Duke's ability to run)

“I think it varies with them. They run off a lot of turnovers, they’re incredibly athletic, and when you get live turnovers taht we had against Coppin State, they’re gonna convert them. Which Coppin State did, too. We’ve got to limit the mistakes with the basketball, make sure we eliminate our turnovers. Of course they’re gonna try to pound it in there, but I saw Jahlil get a steal (Monday) night and go coast-to-coast, so they’re nto gonna take their foot off the accelarator. Jahlil is a big guy, but he can run the floor very, very well. I think they’re gonna pound it in, and then they’re gonna run when the opportunities present themselves.”

(on importance of boosting NCAA tourney stock with a win over Duke)

“That’s what we’re gonna have to do. It just gets you ready, hopefully, for March and April, when you’re on neutral sites and you have to play a formidable foe. Hopefully, we understand that. It’s about ‘now’ for us. We can’t look past anybody. We’ve got to get wins.”

“You need signature wins for the NCAA to build your resume. This is a great chance for us, a great opportunity. I just want our guys to seize it. That’s what we’ve been talking about the last couple of days in practice.”

(on Okafor)

“He can run the court, he’s got soft hands, he catches everything, outstanding rebounder. Just skilled. Can go over both shoulders, pivot in the post with both pivots. I mean, I could go on and on. He seems like a great teammate, a great person. He’s just the complete package. He’s a force to be reckoned with on a college game, and when he gets to the pros, he’s gonna be a force to be reckoned with, too. Because he seems like he loves the game and likes to get better. He’s someone we’re gonna have to pay great attention to. It can’t just be Amida guarding him, it’s got to be everybody on the court guarding him.”


(on Okafor)

“He’s really good. He’s young, really light on his feet. He’s just a really tough cover, so we’re gonna do our best to guard him. I feel like Amida has everything it takes to shut him down.”

“Playing against a team like Duke, they’re undefeated right now, we’re kind of getting back on the road. It’ll definitely be a great game.”

(on whether Brimah is primed for the challenge of battling Okafor)

“Oh yeah, definitely. I don’t know what kid wouldn’t be. I guess he’s projected as the No. 1 draft pick for the upcoming draft. This is a great game to boost your stock.”


“We’ve got to take it as another game that’s on our schedule. No matter who’s out there, we need to go out and compete.”

“Definitely, it would help us with our resume and our confidence. These big out-of-conference games, we’ve got to go out and take care of business.”

“It’s Duke. They’re on TV all the time. I’ve seen a few games they’ve played."

“We’re two tournament teams that are colliding early in the season. It’s a great test for both of us.”

(on being the underdogs on Thursday)

“We’re pretty used to that. Nobody gave us a chance last year. Nobody ever gives us a chance. As long as I’ve been here, we’ve always been big underdogs going into big games. It’s nothing new.”

(on whether Brimah is embracing the challenge of Okafor)

“He’s not scared of anybody. He’s extremely competive. He’s tired of hearing all this hoorah about Jahlil, he’s excited to get a shot at him. I tell him just be confident, go out there and play your game, and the game will take care of itself.”


“I’ve got to be aggressive when I come out, and I can’t let them punch first. I’ve got to punch first.”

“We’ve just got to stay composed and take care of the ball.”

“I’ve got to do my work early and run the floor.”

“Definitely. That’s an opportunity for our team. That’s gonna be a great win for us. We need that.”

“I’m always confident, but that (40-point game) helped me boost my confidence up.”

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December 18, 2014 at 4:05 AM 

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