College Basketball

Duke trio has NBA teams in a tanking kind of mood . . . and Celtics hoping for a Kings collapse

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USA Today Photo

Duke trio has NBA teams in a tanking kind of mood . . . and Celtics hoping for a Kings collapse

R.J. Barrett, Zion Williamson and Cam Reddish came into Duke as highly touted as freshmen can be -- all ranked in the top 5 in the country across all publications. The three were expected to showcase their skills for a very young Duke team and show what type of potential the Blue Devils possess against the second-ranked team in the country in their first game as collegians.

They weren’t supposed to be this good.

On Tuesday night, the Duke trio put up a combined 83 points (one less than the entire Kentucky team) while shooting 57 percent from the field and 44 percent from 3-point range while turning the ball over a shockingly low three times — carrying Duke to a 118-84 laugher of a victory.

And you better believe the NBA was watching.

Barrett (No. 5, USA Today Sports photo) showed everyone why he was the consensus top player in the class. The lean 6-foot-7 guard was completely unguardable in transition, showing he can both drive and finish with either hand. When the defense backed off him, he was stroking jumpers with no hitch in his shot.

Reddish was equally as impressive. The 6-8 super-long guard showed off a motor that many thought could be his Achilles heel. He was impressive from long range and showed off his skills on the defensive end with four steals. Oh, and he was a perfect 7-for-7 from the line.

Then comes Williamson (right, USA Today Sports photo). He's been rated by some as Duke’s third-best freshman, but without question is the most hyped. In fact, it’s been bashed into our heads that he has 1.8 million Instagram followers. (Slightly more than my 400.)  But the hype was real. All of it. Williamson not only showed off the crazy physical skills that only a 6-6, 285-pound man with a 45-inch vertical has, but he also showed an incredible knack for the game. His jumper was pure, his ball-handling beyond his years, and his passing was pinpoint. Again, these guys have no weaknesses.

Which brings us to the NBA. The Celtics currently have that Sacramento Kings' pick in their back pocket. And after last night’s Champions Classic, you better believe Danny Ainge looked at the standings and said to himself “6-and-4? The Kings gotta come back down to Earth, right?”

If you haven’t been paying attention, the upstart Kings won five straight games prior to being blown out of Milwaukee and sit squarely in the middle of the Western Conference playoff picture in the infancy of this NBA season. The glass-half-empty Celtics fan is probably thinking the idea of getting one of these studs is out of the question. The glass-half-full Celtics fan is probably noticing that the Kings are padding their record with wins over the likes of the Hawks, Grizzlies, and the suddenly imploding Wizards. They will eventually have to face the muscle of the West.

Of course, there’s also a handful of hopeless NBA teams who’s GMs were also likely licking their chops last night as they watched Williamson palm a block and seamlessly turn into a transition opportunity, weaving a seeing-eye pass through traffic to Barrett, who turned it into an acrobatic And-1 finish. And as Duke celebrated what had turned into a 30-point lead, the race to the bottom of the NBA standings was suddenly on.

So for now, we wait for the final 72 games to be played and hope the Kings fall into their normal Sacramento tradition of losing basketball games by the truckload.  But until that happens, there’s a large group of failing teams who have their excavators already out as they begin the race to rock bottom . . . or maybe even lower. To the depths of he . . . nah, I won’t even say it.

Anything to get a date with a Blue Devil.

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Q&A with @_Jamaad, Boston native, Emmanuel College student-athlete

Q&A with @_Jamaad, Boston native, Emmanuel College student-athlete

In our first installment of “NBC Sports Boston social media takeovers,” (say that three times fast), I spoke with @_Jamaad, a junior guard for the Emmanuel College women's basketball team. The Boston native continues to amaze the Instagram world by showing off her ball-handling while crossing up all the dudes who dare to challenge her, all while casually rocking her hijab. We even got her sending Enes Kanter to the ground once: 

@KwaniALunis: Recount the day your first basketball video went viral:

@_Jamaad: This was when I was obsessed with Twitter and usually people wish you “Happy Birthday” and they just tag you in stuff but I wasn’t really getting that much love [that day]. I told my cousin, who was really poppin’, “post this for my birthday and wish me happy birthday.” Once he did it, mad people retweeted it. I was just confused because it was just a little video, left-handed video. It [started] in our little Somali Twitter community but then when it got to #BlackTwitter [and beyond] that’s when it went crazy.

K: How did you eventually get that same viral reaction on Instagram?

J: Once I started seeing it blow up on Twitter, I posted it to my Instagram. Kid Ink reposted it and added his song to the background. I barely remember that video, it’s like three years ago almost.

K: When you’re not busy being IG famous (I hate that term btw) what are you doing?

J: I go to school [at Emmanuel College] and people don’t know, but I play college basketball and then I’m always studying or at practice.

 
K: The glorious life of an NCAA athlete…amirite?…Where did you develop your ball-handling skills? 

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who got next🤷🏽‍♀️🤣

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J: I used to wake up, this was 9th, 10th and 11th grade, actually, this was all of high school. I used to wake up early in the morning, 5 a.m., my dad would drive me to the YMCA and then I would literally practice for an hour, take a shower and get ready and then go to school. Every single morning. I only liked playing in gyms that were empty so nobody would watch me

K: Why was that?

J: I just felt shy, weird playing around people watching me. I wouldn’t try as hard.

K: As a female baller, do you feel empowered by the fact that you’ve set an example for other young girls to play basketball unapologetically?

J: Yes I am. Some of the girls that are Muslim growing up, they don’t think they can play on the college level because most of them stop playing after high school. I feel like if they see me playing on the college level they’ll understand, “yeah, I can do it too”

K: Favorite basketball player and why?

J: Jaylen Brown. I just like how he’s a very smart person, not just with basketball…He’s not just a ballplayer, he’s a vice-president for the NBA Players Association and a big leader in our [Boston] community now.

K: Your favorite account to follow on IG: (other than NBCSBoston, of course)?

J: Overtime, they kind of gave me my clout [laughs]. Especially their women’s page, they really advocate for women’s basketball as well.

K: Favorite artists or song to listen to before a game:

J: @lilbaby_1 or @liltjay

Check out @NBCSBoston on Instagram to follow her experience at the Celtics/Bucks game tonight. 

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.

Buckets' Bracketology: Here's what's coming

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NBC Sports Boston illustration

Buckets' Bracketology: Here's what's coming

Each week, our own Robbie Buckets -- known in some circles as Rob Snyder, producer at  NBC Sports Boston -- looks at the world of college basketball. Here's what he thinks we'll see when the brackets are announced tonight.

EAST

1. Virginia
16. Farleigh Dickinson/NC Central

8. Seton Hall
9. VCU

5. Iowa St.
12. Murray St.

4. Purdue
13. Saint Louis

6. Wofford
11. Ohio St./St. John’s

3. LSU
14. Northern Kentucky

7. Maryland
10. Oklahoma

2. Tennessee
15. Gardner-Webb

MIDWEST

1. North Carolina
16. Iona

8. Baylor
9. Iowa

5. Buffalo
12. Indiana/TCU

4. Kansas
13. Old Dominion

6. Marquette
11. Oregon

3. Texas Tech
14. Yale

7. Nevada
10. Syracuse

2. Kentucky
15. Texas St.

SOUTH

1. Duke
16. Abilene Christian/Prairie View A&M

8. Utah St.
9. UCF

5. Villanova
12. Liberty

4. Florida St.
13. Northeastern

6. Cincinnati
11. Arizona St.

3. Texas Tech
14. Vermont

7. Louisville
10. Florida

2. Michigan
15. Bradley

WEST

1. Gonzaga
16. Montana

8. Washington
9. Ole Miss

5. Auburn
12. New Mexico St.

4. Kansas St.
13. UC Irvine

6. Virginia Tech
11. Saint Mary’s

3. Houston
14. Colgate

7. Mississippi St.
10. Minnesota

2. Michigan St.
15. North Dakota St.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device