I apologize if this is something that fits into one of the other threads -- I don't start many threads because I'm never quite sure of the protocol. If this is extraneous, please lock it or move it. But I thought that Brian Zoubek deserved his own, separate props for the brilliant career he's put together.
Have we seen a player in recent memory that improved as much in his senior year as Zoubek? I've been following Duke closely since I was admitted in 1996, and I would suggest that we haven't. Chris Carrawell went from a solid player to an excellent player. DeMarcus Nelson improved from a decent player to a very good player. Casey Sanders went from a below-average player to a viable player -- Nick Collison notwithstanding.
But for Zoubek, who was plagued with foul trouble, injuries and subsequent lack of conditioning, this is an incredible turnaround for a player that even as recently as January was not even close to a factor. Then he went for 16 and 17 against Maryland, looking like a transformed player in the process. He kept it up for the following few games, while I think we all waited for the other shoe to drop. But it didn't, and this iteration of Zoubek constitutes the best Duke big man since Shelden Williams, easily.
As great as Singler, Smith and Scheyer are, and as brilliantly as they feed off each other, Zoubek is truly at the heart of the team's endeavors. (I wrote a post recently about this topic if anyone's interested) He perfectly fits into what this team does -- using surprising athleticism to harass both on the post and in the perimeter. He has a nice soft touch around the basket and uses the glass well. And after his offensive rebounds, he's incredibly adept at seeing the entire floor and finding the open man for a three-pointer, quite different from earlier in his career, when he would go up with it and often get stripped or blocked.
To me, Zoubek typifies the way this team has developed this year and over the past several years into the efficient model of consistency we see now. He would have fit in better in other systems, but he fell in love with Duke -- the way we all did -- and it's finally clicking for him. And when I think about this team down the road, win or lose, I think Zoubek will be the guy I'm the most proud of.
Last edited by Starter; 04-04-2010 at 01:21 AM. Reason: Adding relevant link
Good post, and let's not forget Lance as well.
During their careers both Brian and Lance were subjected to criticisms in the harshest terms on this very board, which I at the time believed were both unfair on the substance and unduly pejorative.
I have seen recently a few posters here and there offer mea culpas, however.
This year has been the sweetest vindication for both of them. It is not often that such backbiting critics are so completely exposed as fools.
i hate to say i absolutely hated big z for his first 3 years on campus. This was probably unfair, because a lot of injuries really derailed his development. At the same time though, he had no offensive game, was weak with the ball getting blocked or stripped on nearly every shot attempt, and he was a turnover machine because he would travel 90% of the time.
Something clicked for him this year and he has been a pleasure to watch. He has played his role perfectly, becoming an excellent rebounder and above average passer. He is finishing around the basket much more often and nearly always makes the correct play. He has even shown that he has a nice hook shot on a couple of occasions. He has also developed into a positive emotional leader on this team. I never thought that i would say this, but it is going to be sad to see the brian zoubek era come to an end monday night. It was great to see him finally develop into a solid basketball player. I hope he can make it onto an NBA roster (if he wants to continue to pursue basketball as a career). Thanks for the 4 years BIG Z!!!!
IMO ... An appropriate thread.
I had some similar thoughts in that I hope the League will take a look at Z, because I was just imagining what a beast he would be if he'd had 4 healthy years of the type of development we've seen since G'town. He deserves all the props flowing his way.
The only thing I disagree with is Z as the one you're proudest of -- ONLY because there are so many kids to be proud of on this team. Jon transforming himself into one of the most effective PGs in the country ... Nolan waking up to realize his potential is off the charts ... Kyle being an absolute warrior who can score in every way imaginable ... LT being a beast on defense ... The Plums and Dre ... All amazing!!
So, no disagreement about the worth of Z, but this team is the epitome of the sum being much greater than the parts.
Agree with all replies thus far, so many great stories on this team. And for my own part, I can't say that I personally wasn't frustrated at various points with both Zoubek and Lance, viewing there to be so much untapped potential.
With Lance, I first watched him play as a sophomore for Danny Hurley at St. Benedict's, and loved his game. I'm glad to see him finally blending in perfectly, playing a pivotal role for a team doing great things.
The one thing I want to disagree with just a little is the idea that Z was "not even close to a factor" before the Maryland game. His play and his per 40 stats were outstanding all year -- really the main difference between his play before and after moving into the starting lineup was his ability to stay on the floor for more minutes.
There is no doubt in my mind that the difference between earlier this year Duke being a pretty good team, to right now Duke is playing in the Championship game on Monday, is primarily the improvement of Zoubek into, dare I say it, a dominant presence in the post.
Yes, the Big 3 are great, but they were great earlier in the year too. But Zoubek's rebounding presence and post presence on defense has completely changed the make-up of this team.
I really hope he get's a look from the NBA, because you can't coach 7'1", and Zoubek is actually playing true to his size now.
good god i wish he had redshirted one of his injury years.
I watched Zoubek play in pickup games before the start of his freshman year. I thought he was going to be a strong player for us. He looked agile, confident, and seemed to possess a great feel for low post scoring. He did quite well in his first Blue and White game, and I thought we had found our next great big man.
Obviously, it took a lot longer than he or the team or us fans wanted. But in the last third of his senior year, he has become a great big man. I've never seen a player make such a huge difference on the offensive end with so little scoring. His picks and rebounds have been absolutely essential. He has totally disrupted his opponents' gameplans throughout this tourney.
The Maryland game is still a surreal transformation for me. It was like a switch was flipped, and Z suddenly started making plays he never even attempted one week earlier. And he hasn't stopped. It is just so remarkable. If he did not go through that metamorphasis, I guarantee you we would not be playing on Monday. We would probably not have won the 2010 ACC tourney. Obviously the Big 3 deserve a ton of credit and they are the foundation for this team. But Zoubek has taken this team's ceiling to an entirely different level.
Bless you Brian Zoubek.
Is there anyway that Z could get another year of eligibility? With all those injuries early on could he appeal the NCAA for another year.
best rebounder in college hoops
Yes, indeed. What a fine young men our seniors are. So happy for their growth and success. They hung in there when the going was tough. We're so lucky they chose Duke!
He can play a different sport for a year. I would like to suggest water polo.
Zou's your daddy!
Note: Minimum 40% minutes played to qualify.
1 Brian Zoubek, Duke21.2 7-1 260 Sr
2 DeMarcus Cousins, Kentucky 19.6 6-11 260 Fr
3 Justin Rutty, Quinnipiac 17.5 6-7 240 Jr
4 Anthony Johnson, Fairfield 16.9 6-8 245 Sr
5 Kevin Thompson, Morgan St. 16.6 6-8 240 So
6 Dexter Pittman, Texas 16.4 6-10 290 Sr
7 Alex Stepheson, Southern California 16.2 6-9 235 Jr
8 Kenneth Faried, Morehead St. 16.2 6-8 225 Jr
9 Alejo Rodriguez, Iona 15.7 6-8 235 Jr
10 Isaac Butts, Appalachian St. 15.6 6-10 285 Jr
I say this not looking ahead of tomorrow's gam but to keep my mind occupied. I am scared of losing Zoubek. His motor is incredible and he makes us such a better scoring team - law of averages when you get more attempts...
He and LT are just so incredibly tough an CONSISTENT definsively and on the boards that I am very nervous about a dropoff in our interior performance next year. But hey, it gives other guys a chance to step up and prove me wrong that same way these two have. The nerves are not a knock on the Plumlees or any of our recruits, but instead speak to how integral Z and LT have been to this team. I'll miss these guys but they know their work's not done yet! Have fun out their fellas and kick some tail! Let us see you smile one last game!
I hope this doesn't come off in a way of demeaning another kid, but here's my story.
For his first 3 years, I was far, far from a Z supporter. He wasn't mobile enough and couldn't finish underneath. And the travel calls killed him every time. And to top it off, he was injury plagued.
However, this year, he slowly transformed me. Nothing big happened until the Maryland game, as I'm sure for everyone else. Still, I wanted to see it on a consistent basis. And he kept providing it.
I don't like his continuos pump fakes underneath the rim or the fact he really dunks it, but he's convinced me. We couldn't have come anywhere close to this far without Brian Zoubek, so I think we all owe him a HUGE thank yout
Cream and Crimson on the outside.
Duke blue on the inside.