7"1' Center Brian Zoubek and 6"8' PF Lance Thomas are two players to watch during the Nets summer league season. Both of them are tough blue collar guys. Clearly, that's the new direction that the Nets are taking. Tough, bruising players who are willing to mix it up and leave the opposition in stiches (literally).
"The Blue Devils rarely run offensive plays for Zoubek or Thomas. If they get the ball, it's likely to draw the defense inside to open up a shooter. If they score, it's on a putback such as the Thomas dunk of a Scheyer miss that helped the Blue Devils beat Baylor in the Elite Eight. For the most part, the largest Blue Devils bide their time setting screens and scrapping for rebounds. That can lead to some banged-up big bodies.
After the Baylor win, Thomas sported a long gash across the middle of his forehead. Two nights earlier after a Sweet 16 win against Purdue, cuts and bruises covered Zoubek's arms. It might have been worse if Zoubek didn't wear so much armor -- including football-inspired thigh pads -- that he looks like he belongs on David Cutcliffe's team instead of Krzyzewski's. "I've got pads on my legs and my knees and arms," Zoubek said. "That's for the game, but I need them more in practice."
Of course, Duke's big men give as good as they get. Purdue guard Chris Kramer, the Big Ten's Defensive Player of the Year, fell to the floor after he slammed into a Zoubek screen during that Sweet 16 game. Kramer returned to the game after a brief respite. Some of Zoubek's teammates have received more permanent reminders of their collisions with the 260-pounder from Haddonfield, N.J.
"I actually have a couple of stitches on my face because of Brian," Singler said. Scheyer also has been slightly disfigured by a Zoubek pick. "I have some stitches too from Brian," he said. "He's such a big body. He's a player you love to play with, and you would hate to play against. He's really physical. Such a big body. Even if he doesn't mean to, when you run into him, you really feel it."
"All the Blue Devils have felt the effect of the new, improved Zoubek that emerged from that Maryland game. He has evolved into the linchpin of the four-man rotation. After failing to average more than four rebounds a game in his first three seasons, Zoubek turned into a fixture on the boards. In 14 games since he entered the starting lineup, he has grabbed at least 11 rebounds seven times."
Thomas, meanwhile, was a semi-regular starter his first three seasons before becoming a fixture in the lineup this season. Like Zoubek, Thomas specializes in the unspectacular, but without him, the Blue Devils never could have come this far. Thomas' shining moment in the tournament came in the middle of the lane with 3:36 remaining in Duke's Elite Eight win against Baylor. Smith made his first free throw to tie the score at 61. He missed his second badly. The ball ricocheted off the back iron and hung above the lane. If Baylor got the rebound, the Bears could have raced down the court and retaken the lead. Baylor forward Quincy Acy had position on Thomas. To make matters worse, Acy -- who once dunked 10 times in a game against Texas -- owned a far superior set of springs.
Still, Thomas refused to concede the rebound. "I just kept my eye on the target," Thomas said. "The rebound was in my reach. It was either me or him, and I wanted it. I wanted it bad." Thomas grabbed the rebound and handed the ball to Singler, who passed to Smith for an open three-pointer. When the Blue Devils followed a defensive stop with a Scheyer three-pointer, they essentially clinched a trip to the Final Four. "We have size, but we have to play a lot smarter. They had the athletes, clearly," Thomas said. "Those guys played way above the rim. But we use our talents. We use what we have."
Read more: http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2010/writers/andy_staples/03/31/duke.bigmen/index.html#ixzz0sBHvkp5d