Mason Plumlee said all year he made the right decision to come back to school. Now, everyone can see that. Credit: CHUCK LIDDY
Earlier this week, Mason Plumlee won the Pete Newell award, given annually to the best big man in the country. He was also a consensus second-team All-American Tuesday.
What a difference a year makes.
Last April, Plumlee was deciding between returning to Duke for his senior year or going pro and entering the NBA draft. There was great debate between outsiders about what he should do, and even his high school coach, David Gaines, spoke out in favor of Plumlee leaving.
Moments after Duke's season ended with the loss to Louisville in the Elite Eight, Plumlee reiterated what he had said all season one final time.
"I have no regrets."
"I’ve loved my teammates this year," Plumlee said. "I’ve loved everybody. They made it great for me."
Gaines, who said this to the Asheville Citizen Times last year—"I disagree with how (Duke) is using him as a screen-setter, shot blocker and rebounder…If they are not going to develop him more as a total player, I think he should go to the NBA and learn that as a pro.”—agrees, in retrospect that Plumlee made the right decision.
"I think his going back has turned out to be very fitting for a guy who cared about the team so much," Gaines said last week before the Michigan State game. "And good for him and good for the team.
Gaines added that he made that statement last year to support Plumlee, and, as soon has he announced he was returning to Duke, Gaines rallied around that decision.
"From my perspective, I’m supportive of Mason Plumlee first, but if that’s 1A, 1B would be my support of what they’re doing there at Duke," Gaines said. "Because, like I said, if I had a low opinion of Duke basketball, not that I ever try to influence where any of my kids go, but, my goodness, I’ve had three go there."
The decision paid off not just for Duke, but for Plumlee's draft stock, too. Plumlee is projected as a sure first-round pick, possibly late in the lottery.