The dust has finally settled on the 2019-20 basketball season and it is now time to reflect on what could have been. As some in the media, I took the trip up to Greensboro for the ACC Tournament and took my seat at courtside as I watched the unusual situation unfold.
It was surreal seeing just the bands from Clemson and Florida State making noise where no fans were in the stands. There were cheerleaders, essential coliseum personnel, some media members, and television crews as Clemson and Florida State took to the court to warm up.
Duke and N.C. State was to have played next, so I was dug in with my laptop ready to cover something like we had never witnessed. I was wondering which parent might make a name for themselves in support of their team for those who stood out would be getting plenty of camera time.
For a brief moment, it appeared the games would go on, but there was a problem, you see. That being something called the Coronavirus and it was at the forefront of everyone's mind, even fanatical fanbases desperate for life to go on as normal.
I could not help but think Duke did not get a good draw in the tournament. The Blue Devils would have likely gotten past the Wolfpack, but it would not have been easy. The draw came from finishing fourth in the standings and it was hard not to think about the collapse in Winston Salem, for a win against a so-so Wake Forest team would have put the Duke in the top spot.
There was also a late-season loss by a two points at Virginia which was costly as well, These two games kept Duke from winning the regular season.
So, when it became evident that the long-awaited ACC Tournament return to Greensboro was about to be canceled there was still not ample enough evidence that the season would end. I mean, no season had since the inception of the NCAA Tournament.
As it became clear that we had seen the last dribble of the ball this past season, you could not help but wonder many things. As Florida State was awarded the ACC Tournament Championship trophy in a way that was highly awkward, it just felt like Duke should have been there.
Yes, one could argue they stole a win at Chapel Hill over North Carolina but had Mike Krzyzewski known the season would end as it did, perhaps he would have coached a little differently.
While this may seem a controversial statement, some coaches are looking to teach lessons during the season. I am not saying Duke did not want to win those close or critical losses, but I am saying the staff never thought the win over North Carolina in Cameron Indoor Stadium would be the last game the team would play.
Some may have seen Duke collapsing a bit after the losses to Virginia and Wake Forest in the regular season, but I saw it as ongoing lessons for the upcoming NCAA Tournament. And I think this team was better built for the tournament than some think.
We will never know for sure how things may have fared, but the team had a solid year with some memorable wins. They owned a win over Kansas the nation's top-ranked team and they had a veteran point guard in Tre Jones ready to go for what would have been the sixth national championship.
Perhaps the Blue Devils would have hoisted the ACC Championship Trophy had the games been played, but the Seminoles had a much easier road to do so. So I am thinking the team was better built for the NCAA's and like many, I wanted to see how it played out.
Duke showed they could be caught off guard in some losses this past season, but the Blue Devils could have beaten any team on a given day. Trust me, it is all about matchups in the big tournament and so we will never know how things would fare, but the feeling here is that Duke would have gained some more wins and been a tough out for anyone they faced.
Duke had a good locker room this past season. Their players represented the brotherhood well. They were a likable bunch of young men where each brought something to the table.
Since my last article, Duke has seen Tre Jones, Vernon Carey Jr., and Cassius Stanley all enter the NBA Draft. It was fun watching those players.
Tre Jones returned to Duke to win a title. It is painful for many he never got that chance. But people will fondly remember what he and his brother Tyus, did for the program.
Vernon Carey Jr. was evidence that Duke does develop big men and he had a stellar season. He is a very underrated player going into the draft and will likely land with a winning team per source.
Cassius Stanley showed off some serious athleticism which will help him achieve his goals at the next level. Duke proved they do as well with west coast talent as any other part of the country.
Duke also says goodbye to Javin DeLaurier, Jack White, and Justin Robinson. These three young men as all destined for some great things in life.
So, if you haven't guessed yet, this is me closing the door on the 2019-20 season. It was not easy to do so for many reasons, but anyone reading this article likely lives for the basketball season and when it is cut short, there is a part of us seemingly missing,
While many are still dealing with the outbreak which has forever changed our lives, we still covet the constant success that has defined Duke Basketball.
A popular tagline is that "Duke Basketball Never Stops." While that statement has been challenged, it is clear to see via social media that the Brotherhood is still active.
I am a glass half full type. So, I think we will see the Blue Devils soon enough and the staff is hard at work even from home preparing for another season. Heck, they are recruiting for much more than next season, so it is time to start talking about that and in the coming days, Blue Devil Nation will start to cover what is to come next in our own way,
So, let us remember that amazing putback by Wendell Moore Jr. one last time But it is time to make some new memories and move on.
Duke may have been able to play Zion Williamson during the regular season or before the ACC Tournament but elected to sit the National Player of the Year to be. The sacrifice was clearly worth it. A fresh fully healed Williamson seems poised to follow-up on his ACC Most Outstanding Player with even better play in his home state of South Carolina. So while Duke finished third in the ACC regular season, they cut down the nets when it counted for more. In doing so earned the number one seed and the number one ranking in the final polls.
Can youth handle being the favorite?
This year's Duke team does not have a senior team captain, Quin Cook running things nor a guy who has stepped up big time like the former Brian Zoubek and his former roommate Jon Scheyer. The aforementioned veteran players played vital roles in the 2010 and 2015 National Championships. This seasons team which is the fifth youngest group in the nation will depend more on some really talented youngsters. Despite the talent, how will they handle things when the games get close? Well, Mike Krzyzewski and his staff will fill some of the voids, but this group must take the games one at a time and tune out the hype as best they can. Fifteen of thirty ESPN experts have picked Duke to win it all. That fact epitomizes the media pressure.
Sooner rather than later for Bolden?
The news came out yesterday that Marques Bolden had returned to practice via Javin DeLaurier. It only makes sense that Duke puts him back into the rotation the second he is ready. The reason, of course, is to develop team chemistry and to quickly get him back into game shape over the next week. Duke will not need the junior center in their first outing in Columbia but seeing him by the Sunday game would be encouraging.
Focussing on what is in front of you
The staff will make sure that Duke takes it one game at a time in the tournament. The cold, harsh reality of one loss and done has entered the picture and that means you must focus on the job at hand. Duke cannot control whom they play, when, etc. The Friday-Sunday match up should work out well in that one your players have an extra day of rest. The team might see a higher seed go down the day before which emphasizes the importance of focus.
Enjoy the show
Fans will one day look back on this Duke team as a special one no matter what they do in the tournament. The reason being the collection of young talent. Zion Williamson and RJ Barrett are destined for greatness in the NBA. You just do not see two players of this caliber on the same team and likely never will again. At season's end, both players will have averaged over 20 ppg and no freshman duo has ever done such a thing.
Duke will be playing at Columbia Life Arena in Columbia, S.C. They will have an open practice for the media and public on Thursday starting at 3:25. Their first game on Friday will tip-off promptly at 7:10 and will be televised by CBS. Are you going to the games and looking for something to do on an off day? Try Riverbanks Zoo or Columbia Canal on the Riverpark or visit the South Carolina State Museum.
Coach K and #1 Ranking
Duke finishes the regular and conference tournament season ranked #1 in the nation. Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski had led Duke to that ranking 123 weeks which is the most of any coach in the history of the sport. Krzyzewski has an amazing 94-29 record in the NCAA Tournament.
Javin DeLaurier's on his two NCAA Tournament experiences and what he can pass on to the younger guys:
“My freshman year we lost in the first weekend and last year we lost in the Elite Eight so really just telling everyone you have to take it one game at a time. It’s got to be for the full 40 minutes and you can’t look ahead to the next opponent, because if you do that, you can slip up and lose. It’s March Madness for a reason and teams you never thought would lose go down all the time and we don’t want to be one of them.”
Tre Jones remembering the atmosphere during the 2015 NCAA Tournament when his older brother Tyus played:
“It’s definitely different. It’s different than a regular game, the atmosphere is different, the energy is different, guys are playing harder and everything is on the line and just being able to see that at a young age – I don’t really know how to say it but I was only a freshman in high school at the time and I put out a goal for myself that I wanted to be in that moment one day and not that I’m here and I’m in that moment is going to be
fun to partake in it.”
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A lot of the recruiting world was in mild shock when Bryan Antoine picked Villanova over Duke yesterday. Actually, I am not that surprised for recruiting is an inexact science when trying to read the tea leaves of the information which is available.
This one started to turn a little while back in that the Wildcats put on a full court press on Team Antoine. And let's face it, they have won two of the last three titles, so this is a hot school.
The surprise, however, is that Antoine did not even take his Duke visit. Hey, I thought he was a Duke lean, but there had been scuttlebutt coming from the Wildcats for the past two weeks where they were appeasing him by saying he could be close to his entire family.
Not to alarm you, but another player who is getting the full court press from Duke who is considered a strong lean, Isiah Stewart is also getting a monster push from Villanova and they have closed the gap to where his recruitment is in doubt.
I have already heard that Antoine and other Nova recruits are on him hard to play with them, so this is one to watch closely. There are also rumors saying that negative recruiting is going on where some are saying Mike Krzyzewski will not be at Duke much longer and could ride into the sunset if his team won it all this coming season.
I cannot confirm or deny the rumors, but it is not a stretch to think some version of negative recruiting is going on. It has also been mentioned, mainly on Duke sites; that missing Jeff Capel is playing a role in recruiting. While this is true in some cases, Duke still has guys who Coach K trusts and they have Coach K. But Capel was one to speak his mind and relate to players which will serve him well at Pitt.
I do not completely buy that missing Capel is the cause of a slow recruiting start. I see it more as what players are available who grew up liking Duke to be lacking a tad this season. This means the staff has to sell them on what is best for their basketball future for their hearts do not necessarily make them want to automatically come to Duke.
There is actually more to the negative recruiting I am hearing but I am just not comfortable in speaking to unsubstantiated facts.
Let's face it, Duke cannot always pick and choose who it gets on campus and there will be off years. And it is also good to keep in perspective that the Blue Devils are riding high with a direct pipeline to the NBA of late.
That is why they hope the rest of the kids they're recruiting wait. The staff wants them to see this years team on campus and the success their alumni has on the NBS this coming season where they will have a record number of players on rosters,.
While there are not the sure things like in the past with concern to prospects, the Blue Devils are not dead in the water yet. They are still in the mix with some of the nations top rated players but each one presents a difficult challenge.
With the loss of Antoine, the Blue Devils will likely go all in on Josiah James now. They need some wings and he can play multiple guard spots. They could use an early commitment from James about now or any other player but we will likely have to sweat it out for a bit longer. James will visit the Duke campus on the 21st of this month and he will do so at the same time as Wendell Moore.
Not getting kids on campus like in the case of Antoine, could alter their plans. The bottom line is the staff felt it would get a visit before his decision and they were confident in what they had to offer.
I would imagine with the loss of Antoine, the phone calls will increase and that has to happen when you have a limited crop of kids left on the wish list.
In short, the phones and texts are going out and the staff is showing kids proper interest. They had an idea before we did that Antoine was being tugged to stay near home.
Also, let me interject here that we live in a world where Antoine can go to Villanova and Zion Williamson can pick Duke and nobody saw it coming. This is worth remembering when worried if Duke will get anybody as many are falling victim to.
Some seem to think Vernon Carey will be a tough get and I think he will, but Duke will need to get in his grill with reports that Villanova wants Stewart to round out their class. And I hate to say this, but the word is that Stewart is open to doing just that. Official visits to Kentucky on October 17, Duke October 19, Miami October 26, and UNC November 2.
Duke has to get one of Carey or Stewart in that they will only have Javin DeLaurier and Marques Bolden up front next season. And who is to say they will be here for sure?
I think Duke is strong with Isiah Stewart, but this one is not over and they have to close. There is a pile of unsubstantiated rumors going on with concern to where he leans, but it appears he will take his visits before doing anything, which means we'll sweat it out a bit, I sometimes cringe when people call kids a lock, but the truth of the matter is Duke let Armando Bacot go to UNC thinking this kid was in the bag. I think the thought process here was looking who we turned away from in favor of you but we will have to wait and see what that means to Stewart and Duke has yet to get any player out of the City Rocks AAU system.
The Blue Devils have gone all in on Matthew Hurt but so has every school on his list. He played for Bill Self with USA Basketball and he gets more calls than the hottest girl in school. Still, the word is that Mike Krzyzewski is building a good relationship with the standout player and he will have to stay on him hard and sweat it out should Duke win this one. As you saw in our earlier update, Duke will be in-home with him this Sunday as will Kansas and Kentucky. Whoo! UNC and Minnesota will visit shortly thereafter. I think Duke will have a better feel about where they stand after this visit and that Hurt will begin to make official visit plans. I think the three visitors on Sunday have the upper hand in this one and that it will be a race until the end. Some reports have him going to Kentucky's Big Blue Madness already but I have not confirmed that as of yet.
And it now looks like Duke will have to sweat it out with the aforementioned Carey and Stewart as well. But hold on before you jump off a bridge. Keep in mind that Duke will be able to offer immediate playing time and exposure and a tested method of getting players drafted in the lottery. That is why I may be a little worried in that there is no player in the fold just yet, but I also see the openings Duke will have to offer.
Many have said that Cole Anthony will only come if Tre Jones goes pro. Well, if Jones goes pro, then Duke probably just won the title in the same way his brother left early. In short, just let this one play out for a lot can happen. It is a win-win here. If Jones goes pro, it gives Duke a chance to offer Anthony the ball. If Jones stays, we are still okay,
That brings us to Wendell Moore. I think Duke will get Moore but his camp is taking it slow and going through the motions. I just feel Duke has too much to offer for him to be swayed over to N.C. State or North Carolina. And the main thing Duke offers is playing time for a player like him. They are telling him he can be their Justise Winslow and he visits campus at the end of the month.
May I also remind you that Duke likely sees Joey Baker as a part of the incoming class as well. I am not sure if he will redshirt, but his impact is a year away, save some spot up shooting.
I know some players recently decided to stay in the 2020 class as in R.J. Hampton. But situations change things. And we have a summer to go with Hampton and other 2020 targets who may come out a year early and we are in good with some kids capable of that feat.
As for Nico Mannion, he too is getting a major push from Villanova and Duke is in contact. We will know this coming week if Duke will turn it up with his recruitment in that no official visit has been set up of late. It is time to make a move if they really like the kid and if they do not, they feel comfortable with Jones and other options including waiting it out with Anthony.
Duke may also get into the transfer market in that it is now like recruiting. In fact, I would be shocked if they didn't should they fall short a body or two on the recruiting front. It will have to be the right fit, but I can see this scenario playing out sooner rather than later.
The bottom line is Mike Krzyzewski will find a way to adjust to the situation presented. He will fill his roster, so no need to get overly worried as some are in the Blue Devil Nation.
We'll get into the upcoming visits next update and there will be a clearer picture with more information at that time. In the interim, I will check in with sources to see where we stand with the prospects as things progress. Until then, remember, do not believe everything you hear and crystal balls do not always work as they should.
Lastly, the word is that Tre Jones and Cam Reddish are doing more in workouts and that they will be ready to go once camp starts in less than three weeks. Alex O'Connell will be held out of contact drills for a bit but will be ready to go as well.
I am also working on my take on the Canadian and a preview for the season. Those of you remember last seasons 3200-word take and another one is coming.
We don't have the most active message board for our members seem to be readers. But you can ask questions there and get further updates and analogies. One more side note, the staff is in regular contact with Brandon Boston and Jalen Johnson and will be adding more names to their wishlist as time goes on for 2020.
If you have read some of the articles in the national media of late, you would think Duke Basketball was in trouble. In a Yahoo report released yesterday, there was tale of a ledger which said an agent had dinner with the Carters in 2016.
"I don't really know a lot about what happened. It really wasn't that much of a distraction because I know I haven't done anything wrong nor had my family," said Wendell Carter Jr. after his teams 70-54 win over Syracuse.
About that time, Trevon Duval yelled, "Yeah, man, he's good, right?" His teammate was looking to save Carter from what had been non stop questions on the Yahoo report and not his stellar game.
If Wendell Carter was bothered in any way by the minor accusation his numbers did not show it. In fact, he had the best stat line of any Duke player with 16 points, 10 rebounds, 4 assists, 4 steals and 2 blocked shots. He was also 6-6 from the free throw stripe.
"I just went out and played the game," said Carter. He continued, I am just a player who wants to win. I don't care if I score two points a game."
Carter also addressed the return of Marvin Bagley and that he thought the two would only get better as they played together. "it was great to have him back, he is a great player on both ends."
Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski cleared the matter with Carter up even more in his post game presser. Krzyzewski said he was out walking his dog "Blue," when he received a call from Kylia Carter, who is Wendell's mom.
"Kylia called me at home when I was walking Blue. And she said did you see the Yahoo report. I said, Kylia, I am walking Blue and I haven't seen the Yahoo report. And she was nervous about and I said tell me about it. And she said, Coach this is what happened. A couple of years ago through a friend we met this guy and we were suppose to get something to eat. As soon as Wendell's father sat down, he did not like the guy and he left. She said, you know, I am a good southern girl from Mississippi, so I just stayed there a little longer. We did not have anything to eat and we left and never had anything to do with them," said Krzyzewski.
The Duke coach then said, "Please don't be nervous. We met at 9:00 with our compliance and at 11:00 Kevin White (Duke Athletic Director) arranged for compliance to meet just with the Carters. Wendell has never... he didn't know anything about it. So, they went through with preparation just like you would do with the NCAA and they let them know about that. Our team here at Duke did a great job providing the help a player and parent would need. And I applaud the NCAA for working so swiftly. It is too bad every item mentioned (in the report) had the same magnitude. It was a little bit of a rush to judgement, but that is the world we live in today."
Krzyzewski said he felt comfortable in using Carter in the win over Syracuse in that there were no violations committed.
"Ledgers are ledgers. It is not the Ten Commandments. I think everybody should be careful on rushing to judgement with something like that. It was an alleged ledger entry," said Krzyzewski.
"We don't feel like we were taking any chances with that particular thing," added Krzyzewskl.
Welcome to Blue Devil Nation's annual Duke Basketball preview. You will find a recap on last seasons team, this years players and coaches and what to expect this coming season. With practice starting today, it is time to take a deep look at Duke hoops. If you like this article, please link for others to read.
2016-17 Season Recap
A season ago Duke Basketball was besieged by injuries and the team would in time fall short of lofty expectations. There were no games played when Duke had a completely healthy team and that led to an early exit in a game against South Carolina in the NCAA tournament.
Duke had players injured before the ball was even tipped in Jayson Tatum, Marques Bolden and Harry Giles Jr. was recovering from his second major surgery. Later in the season, Grayson Allen injured his ankle and he was never the same player after that happened. Even Frank Jackson played with injuries and Amile Jefferson who was one of the teams steadiest players went out in January with a foot injury.
What Duke did get right a season ago was get it together in time to win the ACC Tournament. The team was amazing when winning four consecutive games in Brooklyn. Three players would later go in the first round of the NBA Draft, including the team's top player in Luke Kennard.
Duke experienced an unexpected departure when Frank Jackson elected to leave. Jackson would have been a key cog for this seasons team, but he felt his decision was the right thing to do. Jackson went in the second round of the draft but signed a guaranteed contract.
If those were not enough players to lose, add Amile Jefferson and Matt Jones to the list. Jones was a steady defender and Jefferson was a program staple. Jefferson is currently expected to compete for a roster spot with the Minnesota Timberwolves where he would play alongside former Duke standout Tyus Jones. The Blue Devils also lost Chase Jeter, who transferred to Arizona.
On paper, Duke lost six players who played significant minutes and return a single starter. In a season where everybody anointed Duke the pre season pick as the national champion - everything went wrong at times.
Duke was not only hurt by injuries, but not having a true point guard came into play was well. Jackson was never able to fill the role as some expected and Grayson Allen played out of position and weighed down my the mental aspects of the position.
There is also the elephant in the room in Grayson Allen and his conduct. In short, the young man lost his composure and was the villan of college basketball. It got a bit ridiculous at times when ESPN had some announcers cross the line. But they were not the only ones.
As great as the ACC Tournament title run was for Duke, it became overshadowed by the NCAA loss to South Carolina. In a season where everything went wrong for Duke, HB-2 would send the higher seeded Blue Devils to play South Carolina in their backyard. It was the final blow for the team which did their best to run from the black cloud of bad luck that enveloped the team with lofty expectations all season long.
2017-18 Season Prospectus
Developing a New Roster
It didn't take Duke and Mike Krzyzewski long to reload. Recruiting started slowly as Alex O'Connell was the first player to commit to the Blue Devils. But in time the flood gate would open and the talent would come once again.
Duke signed the top recruiting class in the nation. Now they hope to blend those young men together with three other returning players expected to play key roles in Grayson Allen Marques Bolden and Javin DeLaurier.
Duke also returns Antonio Vrankovic, Jack White, Justin Robinson and Brennan Bresser.
Grayson Allen (Sr. 6-5, 205 lbs SG, Jacksonville, FL) - Few will ever forget how Grayson Allen burst onto the scene in the 2015 National Championship game. When Duke needed a mid game lift to defeat Wisconsin, Allen came to the rescue which helped his Duke team win the schools fifth national title.
A season ago, Allen tried to shoulder a lot of the weight for the team. In a sense that backfired on him as he fell victim to the stress of trying to play out of position and run the point. That combined with some ill-fated decisions made him a college basketball bad boy.
When a player plays with his tenacity, emotions can play a role. He was the pre season pick as the National Player of the Year, yet injuries set him back. He was viciously attacked by media and opposing fans alike in a way that has never been seen.
While some of the criticism was warranted, it would end up going too far. But that was a season ago. According to those close to the program, Allen is now rejuvenated. He will play a role on this team similar to that of Quinn Cook who helped a bunch of freshman win the Blue Devils last title.
According to those close to the situation, Allen had an ankle injury which hampered him all of last season. He could not do the things we have become accustomed to seeing him do. His lift was gone and that is a big part of his aggressive nature as a player.
Allen certainly helped the media crown him the bad boy of hoops, but those who have known him over the years saw how that took a toll. The truth of the matter is that as far back as high school, Allen loved playing the game with anyone. He was more than accepted when competing in dunk contests and his Duke teammates coming into this season seem in great spirits with him being their leader.
In a sense, it is good that Allen returned to Duke. This team needs a player who has been in the trenches and one who owns a national championship ring. Allen has been seen making loose videos with his teammates in the off-season and he is enjoying himself again.
Duke will use Allen as their shooting guard this season. He will team with newcomer point guard Trevon Duval to make up the teams starting backcourt. The key for Allen will be to allow others around him to be good as well and support their growth.
We should see a return to his natural game this season. He will slash down the lane for dunks, knock down the three and hustle after balls the coaches might not want him to. That is Allen's game. But the key for him to have a great year is to remain healthy and grounded, He is still one of the best college basketball players in the country and a very good guy off the court.
Marques Bolden (So. 6-11, 250 lbs. C, Houston, TX) - Many may not remember that Marques Bolden was tearing it up in the pre season a year ago. A sudden foot injury would set the former DeSoto player back where he never regained his original stride.
Bolden would go through another experience this summer where he was an early cut on Team USA. Sources say that worked as motivation for the big man and that he came back to Duke and decided to make it his mission to improve.
Before returning to Duke to train for what would be a canceled trip in the Dominican Republic, Bolden returned home to work out. There is reshaped his body, That led one Duke assistant coach to say, he was perhaps the teams best player in the few practices they got in.
I will go ahead and tell you that Duke will go big often this season. That comes from people in the know. And Bolden will be a big part of the plan. He will be asked to anchor the middle to allow his teammates to float in and out in the front court.
When Bolden is motivated, he is a force to be reckoned with. His mental and physical motor is the key for him having a great season for the Blue Devils. Look for Bolden to play faster and with more certainty.
Marvin Bagley III, (Fr, 6-11. 230 lbs, F. Phoenix, AZ) - One of the last players to come aboard for Duke this season was Marvin Bagley III. He reclassified and shocked many by picking Duke shortly thereafter. But the plan for Bagley was shared by the staff and in the end, he realized, Duke was the best fit.
Bagley has impressed everyone in practice per sources. He is fitting right in at Duke and enjoying himself and his teammates, This young man is a phenomenal talent who is versatile and driven. He is the kind of young man who never curses and has a focus on the court which cannot be taught.
Duke will allow Bagley to do his thing. What that means is he will be allowed to float out for the three-point shot and go inside where he can be dominant. He is a good rim protector and shot blocker who makes put back buckets seem easy.
Powerful is a word used to describe him and it fits. He can dominate a game but still must adjust to the stronger players he will face. In high school teams could double team him and play junk defenses. If they do that in college, other Duke players will eat defenses alive.
Bagley is a good team player that will be challenged in multiple ways by the staff. He is expected to be one of the top three players drafted in the next NBA Draft. He will enjoy a long basketball career and could be one of the best to ever play in the royal blue and white.
Wendell Carter Jr. (PF, 6-10, 260, Atlanta, GA) - It is likely frightening to opposing coaches when thinking how they will deal with Wendell Carter Jr. He is long, strong and determined on the basketball court. I list him as a power forward but he has worked on expanding his game to the outside as well and can also man the center spot.
Carter trimmed down in the off-season which will make for a quicker player -- not that he was slow to begin with. He will be part of what will make up a beastly front line at Duke and should flourish in that no one player can be left alone in the starting line up.
According to the staff, Carter always wants to get better. He asks questions and is attentive. The young man was one of the more dominant players on the Nike EYBL circuit and he always liked the Blue Devils.
Carter already has connection with other Duke freshman and that bond should enable him to be a solid contributor from day one. When playing alongside Bagley, the two will at times seem like bookends. Carter is a hustler whose long arms should disrupt the passing lanes.
Trevon Duval (Fr, 6-3, 185 lbs, PG, New Castle, DE) - The scary thing about Trvon Duval is that despite his immense talent, he is still developing. Duval is known for taking the ball down the lane and flushing it in a way that point guards usually cannot do.
Duval is a physically mature player for a freshman who relies on his strength to create difficult match ups on both ends of the court. He gives Duke a true point guard this season and he will have crazy talented teammates to dish the ball to.
The Blue Devils front court will allow for Duval to get out in the passing lanes where he will take advantage of his 6-9 wing span. He has the potential to be a dynamic defensive player with work.
Duval is still working on a more consistent outside shot, but he makes up for that by finding holes in defenses. He is a player who finishes well in contact and will likely get to the free throw stripe a lot via that skill.
In short, Duval has the keys to run a talented bunch.
Gary Trent Jr. (Fr. 6-6, 205, SG, Columbus, OH) - You may have noticed that I have listed six players under the starters. Well, Duke will use two main line ups this season due to match ups. One will go big and one a tad smaller with Trent.
When you look for a hard-working young man with an ability to score points quickly, you might think of Gary Trent Jr. The staff knows Trent can provide instant offense, so a sixth man role would fit. However, he may be too good to keep out of the line up.
I have seen firsthand how hard Trent works when not playing while covering him on the Nike EYBL circuit. He is a driven young man who played alongside future Blue Devil Tre Jones. He is the perfect shooting guard type who can score in many ways.
The key for Trent will be to become a better defender. If he does that, he completes his game. He is already physically ready to play at the college level. He remains cool and focussed on the court.
The First Man off the Bench
Javin DeLaurier (So, 6-10, 230 lbs, F Shipman., VA) - The Duke staff feels DeLaurier can guard multiple positions and potentially be the teams best defender. That is saying a lot, but many feel the second year player will make a big jump this season.
When you have a top end motor are long and athletic, the staff will work you into the rotation. I feel he will be the seventh man on this seasons team after hard off-season work and a great attitude.
Look for him to guard wing players this season despite his height. He needs to improve his shooting, but should see action.
Who will Rise?
At some point, Duke will need more bodies to play. Early season games will give players a chance to define and prove their game.
Antonio Vrankovic (Jr, 7-0, 270 lbs. C Del Ray Beach, FL) - Vrankovic will help teach this team the Duke way. How nice is it to have a player who has had on court success at Duke on the bench? The big mans patience will lead to a role on this team this season and next. He has played well under the tutelage of Nat James and Jeff Capel and is capable of filling a role.
Jack White (So, 6-7, 225 lbs, F Taralgon, AS)- With a solid and improved physical presence from off-season work, White is a wing who could benefit from Duke needing a player at his position to play some minutes.
Jordan Tucker (Fr 6-6, 210 lbs, SF White Plains, NY) - Tucker can shoot, but will need to work on defense and knowing the system. Like White, he will compete for playing time at the wing where Duke is less deep than in the past.
Alex O'Connell (Fr, 6-6, 168 lbs, SF, Roswell, GA) - His Dad played for Duke under Bucky Waters. The staff feels he can be a solid player for Duke but must put on more weight which could mean his time will come in the future.
Justin Robinson (So, 6-9, 195 lbs, San Antonio, TX) - The son of David Robinson was awarded a scholarship this past summer. He will once again provide practice depth.
Jordan Goldwire (Fr, 6-2, 168 lbs, PG, Norcross, GA) Duke likes this young mans character and he will fill a key practice role in his first season at Duke. He has played with talented players in high school
Mike Buckmire (Fr, 6-2, 170, PG, Blue Bell, PA) - The last addition to the Duke roster also bolsters team practices where the team was depth shy at the guard spot. He put up some good high school numbers.
Brennan Bresser (Jr. 6-5, 190 lbs SG, Chicago, IL) - The Crazies love their hard-working walk on's and will chant for Bresser to see some late game action this season.
Mike Krzyzewski - After graduating from Army in 1969, Krzyzewski would later coach the Cadets. Duke Basketball was searching for a new coach after Bill Foster left for South Carolina. Krzyzewski came highly recommended by his mentor and then Indiana coach, Bobby Knight. The story goes that then athletic director Tom Butters sent former Vic Bubas era player, Steve Vacendak, to the airport to stop the man who would in time be known as Coach K from leaving. The job was his and the rest is history.
Duke has been blessed to have Krzyzewski in Durham and he is a living legend still doing what he loves to do best. The Chicago native has now won 1071 college basketball games and garnered every honor that can be bestowed on a coach. He has five national championships. His wins are the most in college basketball history.
Krzyzewski has led Team USA to six gold medals as the men's basketball coach. He took over the program when it had floundered and righted the ship.
Krzyzewski has also won the most regular season ACC championships in conference history as well as the most tournament wins. He has the most wins in NCAA Tournament history which currently stands at 91. His 23 NBA Draft lottery picks are the most in history as well and the list goes on.
The long time Duke coach will enter his 43rd season as a head basketball coach. He will hit another milestone early in the season when he wins his 1000th game at Duke University. He currently sits at 998 wins. The record will almost certainly be broken against Utah Valley State on November 11th.
Jeff Capel - Capel is not your typical second man in charge. He has been a head coach at Virginia Commonwealth and Oklahoma. He is 175-110 as a head coach. In the past few seasons, Capel has also had success when Mike Krzyzewski was out due to health reasons.
Capel has been instrumental in both player development and recruiting. He has helped Duke land some of the nation's top prospects while developing the likes of Brandon Ingram and Jayson Tatum,
A graduate of the Class of 1997, Capel has seen the inner workings of Duke Basketball from both a player and coach standpoint. In fact, all of the Duke assistants have this going for them. Many think that Capel will one day be handed the reigns to the program in Durham.
Perhaps no assistant in the country has the respect Capel does as Krzzyewski's right hand man.
Nate James - As the eldest assistant, Nate James has been coaching at Duke for 11 seasons. James has played a role in national championships as a player and coach.
He once went to Mike Krzysewski's house after the 1999-2000 season with Chris Carrawell and Shane Battier to reassure head man that they would be just fine. The reason is that Elton Brand, William Avery and Corey Maggette had all turned pro.
James would later become a veteran leader on the 2001 National Championship team. James also won the three-point shooting contest in the McDonald's All American game.
Jon Scheyer - An unfortunate eye injury cut short Jon Scheyer's career as a player, but not in basketball. Scheyer seems to be a natural at coaching.
He brings to Duke the knowledge of a player who won a national title recently or in 2010. His youth and maturity helps him to communicate with players.
Scheyer was also a decorated player who took on the challenge of running the point guard spot. Duke would go on to win the title game over Butler.
Nolan Smith - Well, Nolan just has that personality which makes one smile. Always positive, Smith, like Scheyer, saw his career cut short due to injuries.
Smith has been yet another key addition to the Duke program in the role of special assistant. That title means he is an assistant coach in waiting.
The D.C. native played a key role on the 2010 National Championship team and enjoyed a solid career at Duke.
Overview - Mike Krzyzewski has put together many great Duke staffs over the years. But the current one is likely the best. The Blue Devils feature a tangible strength in that this bunch has been together for a good while. That shows in their chemistry where they work on the court or the recruiting trail with a defined plan.
What to Expect
Duke will not hesitate to go big this season. I jokingly asked one assistant where would the rebounds come from? He laughed for the Blue Devils have perhaps their best front court talent in the teams illustrious history. Duke should be close to the top of rebounding stats in the nation.
Expect the Blue Devils to use two main starting line ups and most know that the sixth man at Duke is like a starter. I see a seven man rotation at crunch time but the staff will seek to develop other players in case of injuries.
Look for Duke to experiment a lot early in the season before settling in on a true strategy. The team may have actually benefitted from not taking the trip to the Dominican Republic in that they were still able to work on campus and get closer.
Duke may allow for Allen, Duval and Trent to be active with pressing and passing lanes, The reason is they have rim protectors like never before.
There will be times when Duke bruises the rims. They have players capable of throwing down terrific dunks and should feed off each other in that they will dare teams to double team starters,
A more known or expected rotation should allow for quick team chemistry, but chemistry will as always be the key to success.
This team will get to the free throw stripe a lot and will need to work on this in practice. With so many bigs, they are likely to see a lot of fouls.
Duke may not be as strong as they have in the past beyond the three-point stripe. Grayson Allen and Gary Trent Jr. will be depended on the most and they will allow Bagley freedom from there as well. It will be imperative for Duval to make teams come out on him to loosen up the many zone defenses they will face.
Having their staff together for a long time should help. Mike Krzyzewski is expected to be healthy and ready as practice begins today. I feel they have a chip on their shoulder and want to see an injury free season and nothing less than a national title.
Duke will almost certainly be picked to win the ACC, but the conference will be tough as always. As we all know, there is news which could change the landscape rocking the sport right now.
This is a super talented bunch of young men. But they are indeed young men, Thankfully, they are better prepared than ever coming into college to play big roles.
Duke recruited some of the best players at their position and Krzyzewski always comes back strong when his teams have gone out earlier than expected the season before.
There are many good teams in the land which can beat Duke on a given day. They are not so good as to go through the season without some adversity.
They are however, as good as anyone and better than most talent wise. I think the staff will bring this team together quickly and establish roles early on. This team should have fun playing the game while learning and have a veteran leader in Grayson Allen to turn to for his experience.
Go ahead and mark your calendars for Saturday, September 11th. For that will be the day Mike Krzyzewski wins his 1000th game at Duke. But he could care less about that and simply wants this team to live up to its potential.
If Duke stays healthy, they can do great things this season. If that happens they should make it to San Antonio for the Final Four where they have a chance to win the schools sixth national title.