What most people watching the Blue-White came to see is how the Duke freshmen would perform under their first real test and in front of their first real crowd at Cameron. Granted it’s hard to simulate actual game pressure in a scrimmage but it’s also probably hard not to be nervous with a packed raucous crowd, after those intros and the emotion of the start of the season. I expected tightness, turnovers and more miscues than highlights – it was a mixed bag, but overall I think the freshmen represented themselves well.
The Blue Team featured freshmen Trevon Duval, Wendell Carter Jr., Alex O’Connell and Gary Trent Jr. They each shot well from the floor with Duval going 2-3, Carter 4-7, O’Connell shooting 3-6 and Trent Jr shooting 5-10. Digging a little deeper Carter in 17 minutes pulled down 3 offensive rebound and added an assist and a block- he also had one turnover and surprisingly was 1-2 from beyond the arc. Carter is a BIG guy and he has transformed his body from high school to now and definitely looks a lot leaner-he looks like he’s ready to run the floor and with Duval at the point that is going to be a necessity. This team should be able really cook in transition. I’d like to see Carter establish himself more on the defensive end because I think he has the skill set to do so. He definitely changed a few shots but considering that the White team shot under 46% I’d like to see him clean up a few more boards (again just a scrimmage). I mentioned in part 1 that Duval did struggle at times but did show off his athletic prowess on a chase down block of fellow point guard Jordan Goldwire and an off the backboard pass to himself for a dunk. It’s clear that there is rawness to his game that the brain-trust in Durham will have to refine, the hope is that as they try to polish him they don’t destroy his instincts.
Alex O’Connell had one of the more surprising efforts shooting 2-4 from beyond the arc including what turned out to be the game winning corner three to push the score to 43-41. It’s pretty apparent the kid isn’t scared and is not going to shy away from the big shot should it come his way. What is intriguing about him and what makes him, in my opinion, a K player is his versatility. He has the ability to grab a rebound, even more so one he fills out a bit, and push the ball up the court. These versatile guards / small forwards give Duke the ability to get favorable matchups in transition and to keep Duke from playing against set defenses. It also allows the coaches to alter lineups and move players around to exploit a particular advantage. Considering this is not supposed to be a traditional perimeter oriented team with a ton of 3 point shooting available, O’Connell just may find his niche in that role. I will be interested to see how he fares in Dukes first preseason game. I wrote about Gary Trent Jr in Part 1 but it bears repeating how he took the matchup with Grayson Allen as a challenge and held his own against the senior. Already sporting an NBA body Trent Jr., like Allen is going to be a designates scorer his ability to hit the outside shot should open up plenty of driving lanes for he and his teammates. His ability to square his shoulders and take the bump could be an invaluable asset to Duke and should be the impetus for many a traditional 3-point play.
The White Team boasted freshman Marvin Bagley III, Jordan Goldwire and Jordan Tucker. Bagley was the most dynamic of the White Team freshmen with his 6-10 shooting and alley pop dunk, he was second on the team in scoring notching 12 points to Grayson Allen’s 13. He also pulled down 4 boards. Clearly Duke is going to use the talented freshmen all over the floor on offense and utilize his versatility. I’m sure that was a huge part of the recruiting pitch. A lot of coaches preach positionless basketball but K has been able to actually employ it and isn’t afraid of playing to strengths rather than positional norms. Jordan Goldwire was a steady presence for the White team. Shooting 3 of 6, he just looks comfortable on the floor rather than just happy to be there. If he can continue to be a pesky perimeter defender and keep knocking down long-range shots he’ll be a valuable asset to this team. Tucker didn’t play a ton in this game but did hit on 1 of 2 of his 3 point shots – will definitely need a larger sample size of his play to make any kind of determination.
Also noted that this is just a scrimmage, a snapshot and what we say Friday will not be what we see in the first game. What we saw were early glimpses of instinctual basketball as these kids learn each others tendencies and habits. Each day of practice is learning and with freshmen making up the bulk of this team there is going to be a huge learning curve but hey – It’s basketball and we’ve been starving so pardon the over analysis!