I still remember watching the 2009 McDonald’s All-American Dunk Contest. I was sitting on the couch with a friend, readying ourselves for a game of Madden, when I turned on the TV to find a man by the name of Mason Plumlee about to attempt a dunk.
Plumlee?, I thought, He has to be Miles’ brother, right? How many Plumlees are there? How many of those Plumlees are almost seven feet tall?
I didn’t make much of it as I had never before seen a high school dunk contest and figured they were, at the most, mildly exciting. Figuring our game of Madden could wait, my friend urged me to keep the television on the channel, wanting to see if anything exciting would happen.
By the end of it, I loved everything about Mason Plumlee, specifically the fact that he would be attending Duke in the fall.
That man is the next Shelden Williams!, my ill-informed seventeen year old self cried out.
Oh, how cruel a mistress reality has turned out to be.
While he has performed well and managed to make the All-ACC third-team last season, Plumlee has yet to entirely live up to the hype that surrounded him as a Top-20 player coming out of Warsaw, Indiana over three years ago. He has shown steady and consistent improvement, but just hasn’t been able to bring everything together, yet.
So will the 2012-13 season be the year where all the pieces fall in place and Plumlee takes his place as one of the premiere big men in the nation?
First off, let’s look at his offense:
Last year, Plumlee began to quickly develop a back-to-the-basket post game that he lacked his first two seasons. It wasn’t always pretty, but Plumlee rode this shot (along with a barrage of dunks and quick cuts) to a 57.2% shooting percentage, which, while down from the 59% mark he posted the year before, is still promising. Along with his improved scoring abilities, Mason brings to the table above-average passing skills for a Power Forward, along with athleticism that can create problems for opposing defenses.
Defense is an aspect where Plumlee has struggled to put things together. His awareness, consistency, and play recognition were lacking last season. While his athleticism and energy was able to make up for his mental errors at times, he struggled to put together a strong defense effort throughout the entirety of a game.
How much improvement Plumlee will show in the area is entirely up to him. When players increase their size or strength, we can immediately look at them and think, yeah, that man has improved his game tremendously over the off season. If Mason Plumlee was struggling with his strength and he showed up this season with a new set of biceps, we could easily infer that he has improved in an area of need.
However, his area which needs improvement is entirely mental and, since one’s head doesn’t grow when he becomes stronger mentally, we are going to have to wait a few weeks into the season before we can adequately measure the growth of Plumlee’s defense. With an early season contest against Kentucky coming up in two weeks, though, we can only hope that Plumlee comes out of the gates strong.
So, while the 22-year old certainly has the talent to be an All-American player, I don’t see him bringing it all together this season and finally fulfilling all of his golden potential. His lack of perimeter skills, an inability to convert free throws, and a lack of awareness on the defensive end must be overcome before he can achieve an ‘elite’ status. This potential may not be realized at Duke, as he may not fully develop until he leaves for the NBA after this season.
However, his quickly developing post game, his shot blocking and rebounding abilities, and his surprisingly adequate passing skills make him still one of Duke’s bigger threats on both sides of the ball and certainly gives him a shot at making the All-ACC first team.
Now, go prove me wrong and win a few All-American awards, Mason.