Last night the Duke Blue Devils presented for the fans in Cameron Indoor Stadium their version of Midnight Madness called Countdown to Craziness. It’s the time of year when Duke presents it’s roster to the fans and showcases the talent amassed and retained from the previous year. It also serves as an important recruiting tool for prospects visiting Duke. Last night the visitors included:
Duke also plays their Blue-White scrimmage where the coaches split the team in 2 and a 20 minute half of basketball ensues. The blue team consisted of Javin DeLaurier, Wendell Carter Jr, Antonio Vrankovic, Trecon Duval, Gary Trent Jr, Alex O’Connell, Justin Robinson and the White team consisted of Marvin Bagley III, Jack White, Marques Bolden, Grayson Allen, Jordan Goldwire and Jordan Tucker. The Blue team took the game 43 to 41 and here are the things I gleaned from the game:
1. This team is huge, it’s been a while since Duke has had this many serviceable big men - Marques Bolden, Wendell Carter Jr. and Marvin Bagley III will essentially be the main force down low. Oddly when you thrown Javin DeLaurier in this group they went a combined 2 for 6 from 3 point range. It’s hard to say if this was some anomaly or if these bigs have been given a green light to take open shots wherever they moralize. Marvin Bagley, at least to me, expects to get some shots from the perimeter as his game is a bit more positionless. If Duke struggles to rebound this season then it will definitely be a head scratcher. Each big possesses the skillset to be a force on the boards what isn’t immediately clear is how strong each will play. I saw several opportunities for the bigs to exert their strength and will on the others but it didn’t come to fruition. This just could be the atmosphere - being in their first real action. It could mean this is the early season, no one is expecting a full and polished product at this point.
2. The point guard position is going to be interesting. Their are 2 point guards on this roster currently in Trevon Duval and Jordan Goldwire. Both Duke point guards have different skills. Duval is ultra-aphetic, fast, strong and a beast in transition. Goldwire is crafty, a better shooter and patient. Defensively Goldwire could really help this team, despite what some have asserted I do not believe he is simply a walk-on type. I think he has a role on this team and I’m not basing that on the Blue-White game but over what I’ve seen, film I’ve seen, scouts and history. What could and should happen is that these guys make each other better. Duval seemed a bit frustrated at times and dribbled into trouble on several occasions hence his 4 turnovers. This seems to me a classic case of trying to do too much and also the fact that this is his first real showcase in front of fans. The point guard position is a hard one to adjust to from high school to college. I expect early season struggles as Duval adjusts to having so much talent around him, as well as playing against top notch competition on a daily basis. Goldwire has played on teams where he is not the focal point, he’s been the set up man and the role player. His adjustment in some ways may come easier than Duval.
3. Grayson Allen and Gary Trent are the most competitive players on this team. That may indeed be a hot take. The prevailing sentiment is that Duke will not be a very good 3 point shooting team. Grayson and Gary beg to differ. They went 4 for 9 and 3 for 5 respectively from beyond the arc going at each other and challenging each other on the court. This is the kind of thing that coaches can’t teach. Each of them play with a swagger and that swagger may very well be the x-factor for this team. Trent hadn’t been shooting well in practice from all accounts but the lights came on and the freshman did not disappoint.
Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski Quotes: Opening Statement: “Tonight was great. Actually my daughter, Debbie, was the one responsible for putting all of it together. The team, they did a marvelous job, and our crowd was packed. It was a good way to kick off the season. For our guys, we split up the team and we thought we split it up pretty equal. It turned out to be that way. In something like that, there’s good and there’s bad. The main thing is the guys got a chance to feel Cameron and nobody got hurt. We will get them in here tomorrow morning to practice. We are improving as a team and the kids are working real hard so we need to keep that going.”
On Grayson Allen and Gary Trent, Jr. matchup: “Gary [Trent, Jr.] is strong physically and just way ahead of a normal freshman as far as physical maturity. The fact of playing for the United States, he played away from home his senior year, going out on the west coast. That pays dividends. You’re much more ready to play. He is a good player. The two of them will probably play together, instead of playing against one another, but they gave us two really great guys on the wing.”
On Grayson Allen dunking over cheerleaders: “I was glad they were short. I have confidence in him. I’d have no confidence if it was me trying to jump over them, but it was fun. I think he wanted to make sure that it ended on a high note. I like the fact that his song was really the song of our students and of our team. I think that’s a great message. That’s the way he’s been practicing, playing and approaching the year, so that’s a very good thing.”
On Javin DeLaurier’s injury status: “The only thing that was wrong with Javin was a tight hamstring, so we kept him out. He wasn’t really banged up, but we didn’t want him to have a problem with the hamstring. Javin has been playing well the whole time. He is going to be a key player for us.”
On Trevon Duval’s contribution to the team: “He is a heck of an athlete, but he has to be more careful with the ball. He has to play with the athleticism and the verve where it is not a one for one, like I get a good pass and I get a turnover. He has the ability to do it and actually the last practice we had was a great practice in that regard, with assists and turnovers. He has a chance to be an outstanding, but he has to protect the ball more.”
Duke Player Postgame Quotes
Senior Grayson Allen: “It was a lot of fun. It was good to get out there in front of a crowd, especially for the freshman to start to feel a little bit of what Cameron’s going to be like during the year. And it’s also nice to get out there and play a game after we’ve been practicing and working out in the offseason so long. I think we’re ready for the season.”
On the close game tonight and how it compares to practices the team has had: “[Practices] are always like that, really no matter what the teams are. We have a really talented, deep team. I think it shows when the scores are even like that. We have battles every day, and they’re just like that. I think that’s what’s really making us good so fast. “I think guys were really comfortable out there. That first four minutes before the media [timeout] is always a little antsy and fast-paced, even for me and that’s my fourth time playing in a Countdown. I’ve had a couple of games out there in Cameron before and I was even nervous. I think it’s good to get those out, but once we settled in, everyone was really confident and really collected when they were playing. I thought Jordan Goldwire did a great job of running our team, the White Team, and Trevon [Duval] did a good job of running his team, the Blue Team. That’s two freshmen point guards out there and that’s an impressive thing to do.”
Freshman Marvin Bagley III:
On his first game experience in Cameron Indoor Stadium: “It was a fun experience. We’ve been practicing for a while now out there with nobody in [Cameron]. It was good to get out there with a lot of people supporting us and cheering us on. It was a great game. We were just having fun. It’s the start of the year. I’m really looking forward to the season. “I expected it to be intense. The Cameron Crazies, of course, are going to be intense every game. I expected that and they were tonight, even on a scrimmage, so I can’t even imagine what games will be like when we’re actually playing against other teams. It was exciting. Everything went as planned – I wish we would’ve gotten that win, but it is what it is.”
On how the transition from high school to college has gone for him so far: “It was tough at first, just getting used to the speed of the game and learning new things that I didn’t know in high school from Coach K and all the other coaches. I’m just learning a lot. I’m just having fun. I love it here. It was the best decision I ever made – to come here. I’m looking forward to the season.”