New year, same expectations at Duke. Despite losing Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood to the first round of the NBA Draft, this year’s squad enters the season with a higher pre-season ranking and a bit more experience. They also added the best freshman point guard in college basketball and the potential No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft in Tyus Jones and Jahlil Okafor, respectively.
“He has a great feel for the game and because he has such gigantic hands and has great feet, he needs to be able to have the ability to improvise. We want that,” Coach K said of his dominant near 7-footer. “There are going to be double teams, but we are going to surround him with people who can shoot the ball. This really is a special player and a great teammate.”
The ’14-15 Blue Devils have the potential to go 10 deep and showed that in throughout their Countdown To Craziness kick-off. A ridiculous video montage that projected onto the court preluded two 12-minute scrimmages that gave everyone a chance to take a look at this deep and talented group. There were athletes, there were future pros, and there were shooters. The blend left Coach K quite optimistic about what the season could hold.
“We have a really good group and they really like each other a lot. I’m glad they like to learn,” he said. “The major thing is if we can stay healthy and I think we’ll grow really well. The major thing for us is when we play someone because then I can see how we can sub and keep pressure on people.”
Here are a few of the guys who stood out from the scrimmage:
Jahlil Okafor, 6-11, C, Freshman
We’ve been watching ‘Jah’ since he was in the eighth grade and can surely say that this is the best shape that he’s ever been in. Always super nimble on his feet, he is now getting off the floor much better and we saw that with some of his explosive dunks. Another weapon that he has added is his ability to shoot the rock facing up, making him even more of a nightmare to guard in the pivot. While the Draft is still eight months away, it’s definitely Okafor’s top spot to lose.
Rasheed Sulaimon, 6-5, SG, Junior
Like many young players, there were times in which Rasheed Sulaimon struggled to find his identity at Duke. His role changed a few times, as did the supporting cast that was around him. Now a junior, ‘Sheed appears ready to take his game to another level. The deadly scorer is able to beat most 2-guards off of the bounce and keep the D honest with his ability to shoot it from deep. Sulaimon backed it up on Saturday too, leading all scorers with 16 points in the second half of the scrimmage.
Tyus Jones, 6-1, PG, Freshman
The best pure point guard in the class of 2014 lived up to the hype on Saturday. Doing a lot that didn’t show up in the box score, Tyus controlled the tempo of the game, made pinpoint passes, and showed the leadership that you hope to see out of an elite point guard.
Matt Jones, 6-5, SG, Sophomore
Coming into Duke with a reputation of being one of the best shooters in the country, Jones has re-branded himself into a straight up lockdown defender. While his 14 percentfrom beyond the arc doesn’t come close to representing his stroke, the Dallas product already looks much more comfy on the hardwood than he did during his freshman campaign. Jones is more vocal, doesn’t think twice about shooting when he’s open, and defended multiple slots for Coach K. Even though he’s probably not going to be a guy who puts up huge numbers this year, Matt is going to be essential in the squad’s success.