SOUTH BEND – The final stat sheet showed a DNP – Coach’s Decision next to the name of Indiana Pacers’ rookie Miles Plumlee Friday night.
Though the former Warsaw Community High School standout did not play in the final exhibition game versus Chicago, it’s in no way how his new coach feels about him.
“He’s been the perfect rookie,” said Pacers coach Frank Vogel about Plumlee following the game played in the Purcell Pavilion on the Notre Dame campus. “He’s came in and worked hard, kept his mouth shut and is learning our system.”
Plumlee, a 6-11 forward from Duke, was the first round draft pick of the Pacers (the 26th overall pick) in the NBA Draft in June. Prior to Friday night, which was a 97-90 loss to the Bulls, Plumlee had averaged five points, 1.8 rebounds and 12.2 minutes per game in five appearances in the preseason.
Plumlee averaged 6.6 points and 7.1 rebounds per game his senior season at Duke, where he was a captain for the Blue Devils. The 24-year old, who helped Duke win a national title in 2010, says there have been no major surprises in adjusting to play in the NBA.
“It’s just a whole new level,” said Plumlee Friday night in the Pacers’ locker room. “There’s not one thing about it. There’s been no major surprises. It’s all new to me still and the big thing is probably just adjusting to the speed of the game.”
The Pacers, who lost to eventual NBA champion Miami in the playoffs last year, are a veteran team. Their starting forwards are Danny Granger and David West, while Gerald Green and Tyler Hansbrough were the first forwards off the bench Friday night. Plumlee is one of three rookies on the Indiana roster, along with former Notre Dame star guard Ben Hansbrough and Orlando Johnson, a guard from California-Santa Barbara.
“He’s on a veteran team that competing for a championship,” said Vogel of Plumlee. “We’re so deep that there is not going to be a lot of minutes for him. It’s a very difficult challenge for him to pick up the subtleties. He needs to learn from others and pick up the details of our system. He will play some in the D-League this season to stay sharp.
“But, we’ve been impressed with Miles and he has a bright future with us. He has a good, big body on the defensive end and he’s exceeded our expectations offensively.
“The thing too is that Miles is just a really nice guy. He’s a very genuine and sincere person.”
The 38-year old Vogel, the league’s second-youngest head coach, is in his second full season as the Pacers coach.
Plumlee, who played at WCHS before transferring to Christ School in Arden, North Carolina, knows it’s all about improving, earning the trust of his coaches and paying his dues.
“I just had to solidify my game and build the confidence of my coaches in me,” said Plumlee, who was All-State at Christ School and also cleared 6-9 as a prep high jumper. “I just have to be ready when they need me. I feel I’m on pace so far and I feel that I’m improved a lot individually. I just need to play aggressive when I get the opportunities. ”
Plumlee, who was born in Fort Wayne, has some kind of hoops background. His father Perky played at Tennessee Tech, while mother Leslie played at Purdue and his grandfather Albert “Bud” Schultz played for Michigan Tech. Younger brothers Marshall and Mason are both still playing at Duke. His parents were in attendance Friday night, among the sellout crowd of 9,149 in the Purcell Pavilion for what was technically a home game for the Bulls.
“It’s cool being back home and to have my parents here tonight,” said Plumlee. “It’s special. I love it.”
The Pacers finished the exhibition season at 4-3 with Friday night’s loss. Indiana opens the 2012-13 season Wednesday night at Toronto. The home opener is Saturday night versus Sacramento in Indianapolis.