Scheyer's switch to point guard last season has paid off for Duke

April 01, 2010|By Chris Hine | Tribune reporter

HOUSTON - It was the middle of Jon Scheyer's junior season and Duke was reeling. The Blue Devils uncharacteristically had dropped four of six games in the ACC, sending the fan base into a tizzy.

That's when the Duke coaching staff decided before a non-conference road game to make some changes, chief among them handing the bulk of the point guard duties to Scheyer.

It was a move that helped salvage Duke's season - the Blue Devils won the ACC tournament - and paved the road for this year's trip to the Final Four, Duke's first since 2004.

"Even though he might not be this prototypical point guard, you feel good with him making decisions with your team," Duke associate head coach Chris Collins said Sunday.

"He plays at his pace. He keeps your team on an even keel."

Scheyer's wiry, 6-foot-5 frame isn't the look you would associate with an average point guard, and the switch required some adjustment from Scheyer. He said the change hasn't been too dramatic for him, except in one area.

"Different players are guarding me, so going into games, you don't know if they're going to have their point guard on me, or a bigger guard," Scheyer said.

To help in the transition, Scheyer attended the Deron Williams Skills Academy last summer, a camp for the top high school and college point guard prospects named for the Utah Jazz star. Joining him there were Kalin Lucas of Michigan State and Sherron Collins of Kansas, among others.

"I think what he learned most of all is how to play against certain quickness," Collins said.

At times, Collins said, Scheyer's duties at point guard can take away from his shooting. For the season, Scheyer is just below 40 percent, as he was his junior season. His sophomore year, he shot just above 44 percent. But Scheyer is averaging a career-high 18.2 points per game this season.

"Where you see him not shooting the ball as well, it's because he has so much on his plate to run our team, to play defense, to get us in sets," Collins said. "Guys are pressuring him, and all of a sudden sometimes your shot becomes an afterthought."

Scheyer has improved his efficiency at point guard. Last season, he was averaging 1.8 assists for every turnover. Now that number is 2.9.

Scheyer's biggest improvement was on display Sunday when Duke defeated Baylor to get to the Final Four. At one point, Duke center Brian Zoubek looked over at Scheyer and saw a look on his face that was mostly hidden until Scheyer took over as the floor general.

"At the end of the game, especially (Sunday), he just had this look on his face like we weren't losing this game," Zoubek said. "It's great to be able to look to somebody who has been through it - because he has been through it more than anybody."

chine@tribune.com

Duke at a glance
Record: 33-5.

How it got here: Defeated Arkansas Pine-Bluff 73-44, Cal 68-53, Purdue 70-57, Baylor 78-71.

Offense: 77.4 ppg.

Defense: 61.1 ppg.

Starters: Jon Scheyer (18.2 ppg, 4.8 apg), Kyle Singler (17.6 ppg, 6.9 rpg), Nolan Smith (17.4 ppg, 2.9 apg), Brian Zoubek (5.5 ppg, 7.6 rpg), Lance Thomas (4.8 ppg, 4.9 rpg). Key reserves: Miles Plumlee (5.4 ppg, 5.1 rpg), Andre Dawkins (4.7 ppg, 1.2 rpg), Mason Plumlee (3.8 ppg, 3.3 rpg), Ryan Keller (1.2 ppg, 1.1 rpg).

Blue Devils do: Hit their free throws. Duke is shooting 76.1 percent as a team from the line, sixth in the country.

Blue Devils don't: Allow many open 3-pointers. The Blue Devils are second in the NCAA in 3-point field goal percentage defense (27.8 percent).

Pedigree: Won three national championships under coach Mike Krzyzewski, the last in 2001.

Little-known fact: Kyle Singler likes to play Frisbee golf, or frolf, while Olek Czyz said his favorite athlete was North Carolina's Vince Carter.

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