Article written by Rob Giannotti at www.inthegymrangecom
Last Season Record: (35-4) Won NCAA Division 1 Men’s National Championship: Beat Wisconsin 68-63
- Jahlil Okafor (3rd pick in NBA Draft, Philadephia 76ers (picture)
- Justice Winslow ( 10th pick in NBA Draft), Miami Heat
- Tyus Jones (24th pick in NBA Draft, Cleveland Cavaliers- Rights traded to Minnesota Timberwolves
Key Newcomers: rivals.com #1 ranked recruiting class in the country
- Brandon Ingram (Small Forward) rivals.com #4 ranked player in the country.
- Chase Jeter (Center) rivals.com #16 ranked player in the country.
- Derrick Thornton (Point Guard) rivals.com #14 ranked player in the country.
- Luke Kennard (Shooting Guard) rivals.com #25 ranked player in the country.
Key Returning players:
- Grayson Allen (Guard) Sophomore: Avg. 4.4 ppg.
- Amile Jefferson (Forward) Senior: Avg. 6.1 ppg. 5.8 reb.
- Marshall Plumlee (Center)Graduate Student: Avg. 2.2 ppg 2.4 reb.
- Matt Jones (Guard) Junior: Avg. 6 ppg. 2.3 reb.
With 2 future top 10 picks in the 2015 NBA Draft in serious foul trouble, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski had a serious dilemma on his hands. As has been the case in his 35 years of coaching, Coach K turned to the bench and inserted a sparingly used freshmen. Before you knew it, a national championship that was slipping out of the Blue Devil’s hands moments before, turned around in an instant. The reason, Grayson Allen. The 6’5″ shooting guard who averaged 4.4 ppg turned in a memorable performance with 16 points and led the charge and completed Duke’s eventual comeback win, which is title number 5 in it’s program’s illustrious history.
Now a sophomore, Allen will be one of the team’s leaders for a program that doesn’t rebuild, it just reloads. The number 1 recruiting class according to rivals.com heads to Durham this fall. As was the case last year, Coach K will rely on 4 freshmen High School Americans. The headliner of the group is 6’8″ small forward Brandon Ingram. Projected by numerous NBA mock drafts as a 2016 lottery pick, Ingram will be asked to fill the void left by do-everything small forward Justice Winslow, now with the Miami Heat. With last year’s Point Guard Quin Cook graduating, Freshmen PG Derryck Thornton will be taking over. Thornton is an explosive 6’1″ scoring point guard. If he can come close to matching Tyus Jones production from last season, the Dukie’s should be in good shape.
Freshmen 6’5″ Luke Kennard is a sweet shooting lefty and Freshmen center Chase Jeter is another highly touted big who is expected to be a starter from the beginning of the year, with very big shoes to fill with the departure of Jahlil Okafor. The Blue Devil’s welcome back 6’8″ Senior forward Amile Jefferson, a “Glue Guy” type of player that brings experience and stability to the rotation. Seldom used graduate player Marshall Plumlee (younger brother of NBA twins Marshall and Miles) will add minutes to the front-court.
FINAL FOUR IF:
They continue home-court dominance at Cameron Indoor Stadium (15-1 record last year). This will usually improve their seeding come selection Sunday. As usual, the non-conference schedule is loaded and will receive an early test with national power Kentucky (Nov. 17,2015– Neutral Site) This will provide valuable experience for the freshmen, win or lose. Derryck Thornton will have to be as good or better then Tyus Jones was last year. Chase Jeter will have to provide significant minutes. While nobody will expect Jahlil Okafor type numbers (17.3ppg, 8.5rbg, 1.3apg), Jeter must be able to be serviceable. As his rivals.com #16 freshmen ranking, it is imperative he does.
And my number 1 key for Duke to return to the Final Four. Brandon Ingram. Comparisons to Kevin Durant has only added to the hype for the ultra-talented Ingram. He looks to be a one-and-done player and if he lives up to the hype, the Duke Blue Devils just might find themselves heading to Houston, Texas and another FINAL FOUR.