KANSAS CITY – Mason Plumlee has taken well to his new position – even though he basically took it from his older brother.
Everyone wants to talk about the two returning seniors and All-American candidates - Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith – as well as talented freshman Kyrie Irving.
But the middle Plumlee brother (the youngest brother, Marshall, will be a freshman at Duke next season) displayed why he could be drafted higher than both Singler and Smith when he decides to leave college.
Plumlee, who was a role guy last season, has moved into the center spot with his brother, Miles, now coming off the bench.
Without Miles on the court, its allowed Mason more room to operate in the paint.
``I think he works well by himself in there,” Singler said after Duke’s 82-77 win in the CBE Classic semifinals. ``When I’m at the four, it gives him a lot more space to work with.”
There was the rebound and kick out to Nolan Smith for a 3-pointer that broke a 57-57 tie midway through the second half.
Then the dunk moments later that extended the lead to 64-57.
Plumlee was just getting started. He missed the opportunity for a three-point play with 8:41 left, but his basket gave the top-ranked Blue Devils a nine-point lead.
He then backed down physical Marquette defender Jae Crowder in the post to make it double-digits.
There was a turnaround jumper just inside the foul line and another inside basket.
You get the picture.
``He basically won the game for us,” Singler said.
Plumlee finished with 25 points, a dozen boards (six offensive) and had five blocks and three assists.
He averaged just 3.7 points and 3.1 rebounds per game last season in 14.1 minutes - and reached double-digits just three times all year.
But Plumlee also made a few mistakes on Monday night against Marquette. He couldn’t handle a few passes underneath the basket and even air balled a free throw, but he’s established himself as a bona-fide weapon – and Duke has no shortage of those.
``Our depth is what separates us from the rest of the country,” said Irving, who finished with 11 points, seven assists and five turnovers.
Although Marquette played the defending national champs close, the Blue Devils will be difficult to contain for 40 minutes.
Singler can have an off-night. Smith can struggle. Even Irving can be mediocre. Andre Dawkins and Seth Curry can be off the mark from the perimeter.
Now the Blue Devils have yet another option and now it’s not just talk.
``I’ve been labeled as a guy with potential,” Mason said. ``It feels good to finally produce. Production is a lot better word than potential.”