Fun for all
Duke delights crowd in Countown to Craziness celebration
DURHAM, N.C. -- Freshman phenom Jabari Parker went coast-to-coast with rebounds, Rodney Hood slashed to the rim and Andre Dawkins knocked down 3-pointers.
During Duke's first public intrasquad scrimmage of the preseason, the up-tempo team barely resembled last year's group.
The scrimmage was the centerpiece of Duke's Countdown to Craziness celebration Friday -- an annual night of frivolity before head coach Mike Krzyzewski's team gets back to the serious business of preparing for the season.
Krzyzewski told the crowd during the scrimmage that ''we're trying to change the style of play'' and that ''we're going to play a lot faster.''
Parker had 16 points in one 15-minute scrimmage, then eight points, eight rebounds and a highlight-reel dunk in another one.
The first 10 points of the first game were scored by players who didn't see a minute of court time at Duke last season.
That includes two redshirts: Hood, who transferred from Mississippi State, and Dawkins, who sat out while continuing to deal with his sister's death when he was a freshman in 2009.
Dawkins received one of the louder ovations -- along with Parker -- during the one-at-a-time player introductions, and screamed ''I'm back, baby'' to the crowd.
Then, the first time he touched the ball, he buried a 3 over Rasheed Sulaimon on the right wing, prompting the Cameron Crazies to chant '''Dre all day.''
''It was cool to get that kind of reaction from the crowd -- a crowd I haven't been around for a year,'' Dawkins said, adding that his 3 ''felt pretty good. Wish I had hit a couple more.''
While the Blue Devils have been practicing for three weeks, this was the first chance for fans to get a look at the highly regarded freshman class -- Parker, Semi Ojeleye and Matt Jones -- in game situations.
Parker and Dawkins led the Blue team during the first scrimmage while Hood and Ojeleye were on White. Dawkins hit two free throws with 0.9 seconds left in Blue's 36-34 win.
Then they switched up the teams, with four probable starters -- Parker, Hood, Quinn Cook and Amile Jefferson -- plus Dawkins and Ojeleye on White. Parker had the move of the night, a reverse, one-handed slam that even had Krzyzewski hiding a smile in the White's 33-30 win.
''I fantasized about this in Chicago, like it was true, when I was hurt, and then after the season, I just anticipated being a Duke Blue Devil,'' Parker said. ''It's a very big blessing.''
Then, of his monster dunk, he said: ''You just want to get the crowd involved and not boast too much, but just have fun.''
Krzyzewski has said this team will revolve around Parker and Hood, and that's a noteworthy change for a program that almost always is as good -- or as bad -- as its seniors.
Gone are three from last year -- Mason Plumlee, Ryan Kelly and Seth Curry -- who all found spots in the NBA. They were the cornerstones of a team that finished 30-6 and reached the Midwest Regional final before losing to eventual national champion -- and future fellow ACC member -- Louisville.
These Blue Devils enter the season as one of the favorites to make it at least one step further -- to their 12th Final Four under Krzyzewski.
But there's plenty of time to worry about that.
For now, the focus was on having some fun before the games start counting.
As they do every year, the players entered the arena to the song of their choosing. Most opted for current R&B selections, but big man Marshall Plumlee went with Ain't Too Proud to Beg -- and performed a full Temptations-style dance.
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In other kickoff events for college hoops:
• John Calipari served as the opening act for Kentucky's banner recruiting class, and the veteran head coach knew exactly what to say.
Speaking at Big Blue Madness, Calipari delighted the capacity crowd at Rupp Arena with a rousing talk more reminiscent of a campaign stop than a basketball practice.
''The competition will be fierce, the road will be difficult,'' he said. ''Every team we play will be more experienced than us. But if we become one unit, play with one heartbeat and a love for each another, we will be unbreakable.''
After Calipari's talk, the Wildcats held a 20-minute scrimmage that showed off another heralded group of recruits that will comprise a good portion of their regular rotation this year. The seven-man class features Julius Randle, a possible No. 1 pick in the 2014 NBA draft.
• Tom Izzo made a mock cannon-shot entrance before a capacity crowd at Michigan State Madness, marking the beginning of his 19th year leading the program.
''These guys have given up a lot to play for you this year,'' Izzo told a packed house, referring to sophomore guard Gary Harris and senior forward Adreian Payne, who passed up chances to be first-round NBA draft picks to try to win the school's third national championship.
The Spartans are coming off a 27-9 season that included a runner-up finish in the Big Ten and a Sweet 16 run in the NCAA tournament. They open their season against McNeese State at home on Nov. 8.
• C.J. Fair scored 16 points in Syracuse's intrasquad scrimmage during Orange Madness, showing why he was voted the preseason Atlantic Coast Conference player of the year.
''Orange Madness is always fun, just letting you know the season's here,'' said Fair, who received one of the loudest ovations of the night when he was introduced at the Carrier Dome. ''It's go-time now.''
Despite being projected as a late first-round pick in the NBA draft, Fair decided instead to return to Syracuse for his senior season and the program's first year in the ACC.
''Just knowing that we're going into a new conference is a lot of excitement, something I wanted to be a part of,'' Fair said.