What if Duke has to Fight?

Sometimes in life, you have to be prepared.

Tomorrow morning, at 8am, Duke plays their third game against the U-23 Chinese national team. This one’s in Beijing, the site of the now-infamous Beijing Brawl between Georgetown and the Bayi Rockets. Painful as it is to admit, the Hoyas lost that fight convincingly. Bayi is a professional squad affiliated with the People’s Liberation Army, and this wasn’t their first rodeo. Also, they were older than Georgetown and presumably trained in hand-to-hand combat. Georgetown has a reputation as a tough Big East school who recruits from the inner cities, but their guys were plainly not prepared for what the Chinese Army was laying down.

Duke, on the other hand, has a reputation for recruiting kids from middle- and upper-class backgrounds; kids that grew up in less gritty environments, with presumably fewer opportunities to fight. One thing I couldn’t help thinking after watching Georgetown get battered was, ‘holy shit, thank God that wasn’t Duke.’ It would have been even more vicious, and I would have been even more angry afterward.

At this point, we’ve played two games against the U-23 team without incident. But this is the first game in Beijing, and blood in the Chinese capital may be boiling. Maybe after the Biden incident and the brawl, the fans and players will be ravenous for American shame. Maybe Team China will be resentful that they can’t beat an American college team with a lot of freshmen. Maybe the horribly biased refereeing will set off another donnybrook.

MAYBE, JUST MAYBE…the Dukies will have to fight. If that happens, we should know what to expect. Here then, just in case, is a look at the combat skills of our entire roster.

Austin Rivers. Fighting style: Fearless Capoeira

Rivers is the son of former NBA player and current Celtics coach Doc Rivers, and he grew up posh. But the dude has intensity and swagger. He looks like the kind of kid who gets pissed off really easily, and who values his reputation. If a brawl went down, I’d expect him to charge a huge crowd of Chinese players with such intensity that they beat a momentary retreat. Also, he has such great body control and quickness that he would be virtually unbeatable 1-on-1. Fighting is like a dance to him, hence the Brazilian capoeira reference above. I imagine he’d have a sweet move where he sort of rolled under a Chinese guy’s punch and popped up to rock his world with a back strike. I can’t find a good video of what I’m talking about, so I’ll just link this Achewood strip. The other team would be in awe of the moves he was making, momentarily stunned by the genius. In Chinese myths after the fight, he would be known as the Dark Angel of Music.

Quinn Cook. Fighting style: Alarmed Avoider

This is largely a guess on my part, but Cook, a D.C. native who played high school ball at DeMatha and then Oak Hill, has the look of that guy who would constantly be like, “whoa, wait, no, we’re fighting?! What? No!” You know the type. When shit goes down, they’re always hoping people will come to their senses and the whole situation can be reversed. They want to deny the chaos of the world and believe you can cool the hot blood. He’d be constantly talking to the Chinese and holding his hands out in an effort to calm them. We all know from experience that mobs don’t work that way, and violence has a mind of its own. But some dudes can’t flip the switch inside themselves. They’re meant for peace time.

Tyler Thornton. Fighting style: Sneaky Dangerous

If you’re China, this is the guy you don’t want to see in the fight. Thornton is a classic self-preserver, excelling despite his height and limited ability. When someone like him ends up at Duke, it really says something; he knows how to get shit done. So when the brawl started, he’d disappear. If you saw his initial movements, you’d think he was a coward. But he’d be circling around, waiting for the right moment, and then he’d become absolute hell for the enemy. The minute any Chinese player engaged a Dukie, he’d have like 5 seconds before Thornton hit him from behind in the balls or kidney. By the time they turned around, he’d be gone. He’d spend most of the fight crawling between people’s knees. At the end of the fight, Thornton would be the one guy with no bruises and who wasn’t having any kind of adrenaline rush. He’s the definition of a dude who can handle himself.

Mason Plumlee. Fighting style: Flailing Terror

I get the feeling Mason would go immediately into ‘OH FUCK!’ mode. He’d be backing up and swinging his arms wildly, but he wouldn’t be coordinated or fast enough to keep one of the Chinese players from spearing him down in a flying tackle. Then he’d frantically try to crawl backward while protecting his face, and it would just go downhill from there. Of all the people I don’t want to see in a fight, I think Mason is number one.

Alex Murphy. Fighting style: Fugue Insanity

Wikipedia defines a fugue state as “a rare psychiatric disorder characterized by amnesia. The state is usually short-lived (hours to days), but can last months or longer. Fugues are usually precipitated by a stressful episode.” Murphy has that quiet, disturbed bearing of a dude with some hidden demons waiting to emerge. If a fight broke out, I think he’d initially back up and look very surprised. Then, without warning, his eyes would glaze over and he’d get a strange grin on his face. Ten minutes later, he’d be covered with blood, holding an eyeball and trying to get the skin out of his teeth. He’s a good man to have during a fight, but at what cost? (Later in the year in a tight game against UNC, Coach K would try to get him to fugue again.)

Michael Gbinije. Fighting style: Strategic Planner

His bio on GoDuke says that he’s “an avid gamer and fan of all Call of Duty games.” I think he’d be running around trying to coordinate everyone, a little bit excited that he finally had a chance to put his hours of study into practice. I bet he plays video games and thinks, “man, I would kill in a real fight. I’m too smart.” This would be pretty useless in a brawl, though, and he’d eventually get kicked from behind and have trouble adjusting to the lack of separation between himself and the conflict. In panic, he’d revert to Cook’s ‘alarmed avoider’ strategy.

Josh Hairston. Fighting style: Thornton’s Dumb Muscle

Every great diminutive evil genius needs a big guy to do the heavy lifting for him, and Tyler Thornton is no exception. At this point, he’s surely earned the undying loyalty of his fellow sophomore (probably by keeping him from flunking out of class), and Hairston will do whatever he says. Those two will be the ones scavenging on the outside of the fight. Sometimes Hairston will have the instinct to run up and join the main body of the fight, but Thornton will hiss at him. “Joshua, no!” And a second later, he points to an unsuspecting Chinese assistant coach who’s screaming at Coach K, and without thinking twice, Hairston runs up from behind and knocks him out cold with a brick. The injury might be fatal, but Hairston would be totally unaffected.

Andre Dawkins. Fighting style: Unhinged Anger

There are two rules in any basically even fight. The first is that the guy who lands the first blow usually wins. The second is that there’s a huge advantage to being the angrier man. When you’re pissed off, you tend to be less afraid, and less conscious of pain and consequence. This is why drunks are so good at fighting; it’s easy to get furious, and you lose those protective impulses coded in you by evolution. Survival doesn’t matter. And let’s face it, Dawkins is an angry dude. I’m not even sure how they got him to smile for the picture above. He’s either sulking or scowling whenever he’s on the floor, and if he does grin, it’s one of those cold little numbers after he just dogged someone. In a fight, he’d be right with Rivers in the initial assault. And while the Chinese were awe-struck by Rivers’ crouching tiger/hidden dragon routine, Dawkins would be the guy shouting “motherfucker” and flooring them with a roundhouse right.

Miles Plumlee. Fighting style: Old School Brutality

Whereas Marshall and Mason Plumlee have a kind of soft kindness on their faces, where you feel like they’re a little goofy and easygoing, there’s some tension in Miles. I feel like he’s got his share of anger and a good-sized chip on his shoulder. Maybe it’s having to compete against a younger brother all the time. Maybe it’s genetics. Either way, I think he’d be down for a good brawl. He wouldn’t be the quickest or most agile dude on the court, but if he landed a punch, the other dude would be well and truly fucked. His slowness, on the other hand, would make him vulnerable to a flurry attack by one of the Chinese. Still, he could do some damage if he followed Rivers and Dawkins and picked his spots. And he’s also got a rough kind of intelligence. He reminds me of Magnus Buchan from Rushmore; a wise savage.

Seth Curry. Fighting style: The Cool Assassin

I know he doesn’t necessarily look the part, but is there any doubt that the Curry family could whoop some serious ass if called upon? Show me a situation he and Stephen aren’t ready for. Seriously, show me one situation in life they couldn’t handle. If you attached a heart rate monitor to the Koala Kid during the fight, it wouldn’t break fifty beats per minute. He’s the kind of dude who would let the guy come on at him, and just lightly touch him in the jugular with the tip of his pinky finger. The Chinese guy would clutch at his neck, surprised, and then slowly fall asleep. And God help that sleeping enemy if Alex Murphy spots him.

Ryan Kelly. Fighting style: The White Surprise

White Raven’s style can best be described by this video.

Marshall Plumlee. Fighting style: Instant Death

The best that Duke can hope for from Marshall is that he serves as sort of a rallying cry for the rest of the team. After his immediate and unavoidable demise at the hands of the Chinese, perhaps the memory of his loss would spur Duke on to a greater victory. Remember the Marshall!

Todd Zafirovski. Fighting style: Haymaking Farmboy

I don’t know where the Zaf is from, but judging from that photo it’s someplace like Nebraska or…Nebraska. Where he comes from, this is how fights work: each dude uses his left hand to grab the other one by the shoulder, and then they take turns punching each other in the face with the right hand until someone gives up. He’d be a little like Miles in a fight; a connected punch would be devastating, but he’d be very vulnerable to any kind of quick moves or mass attack. I bet he’s wrestled before, though, so if he could get someone on the ground he’d probably be able to pin them until Thornton could come around and pierce his eardrum with a needle he keeps in his sock.

Back with more thoughts on the final Duke-China game Monday afternoon.

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3 Responses to What if Duke has to Fight?

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  1. Iheartduke says:

    Man… these were a joy to read! I laughed ’til I almost cried. Good stuff. I could almost see the players’ “fight” play out just the way you describe it. Alas… poor Marshall. We hardly knew you.

  2. sanfransoxfan says:

    Embarrassing to find that non-Duke (at least non-ACC) fans don’t get it when uncontrolled laughter draws them over. Heck with ’em. This being the Tobacco Road Blues site, the next post should be about fighting styles of Tar Heels. There’s great potential for this team as well (special emphasis on how fighting style led to transfers for Wears and LDXXIII?). Anyhow, best post yet!

  3. Dreamhost says:

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