Five questions and answers on Duke prospects for 2013-14
Duke completed a basketball season last Sunday which, while lacking the usual accomplishments, is considered strong even by the program’s lofty standards.
The Blue Devils finished 30-6, notching the 13th 30-win season of Mike Krzyzewski’s tenure as their coach. They also reached the NCAA Tournament’s Elite Eight for the 13th time under Krzyzewski and the 19th time in program history.
While Duke didn’t win an ACC championship (regular season or tournament) and fell one win short of the Final Four, Krzyzewski called it a great season anyway.
Now, the preparation begins for Krzyzewski’s 34th season as Duke’s head coach. The Blue Devils will have to replace senior starters Mason Plumlee, Seth Curry and Ryan Kelly, who all averaged double-figures in scoring. Plumlee and Curry combined to score 35 points a game and both were all-ACC picks.
In their place, Duke has an outstanding recruiting class that’s ranked No. 6 in the country by ESPN.
Athletic 6-8 forward Jabari Parker of Chicago is considered one of the nation’s best incoming freshmen and will have an immediate impact. Duke will have 6-8 forward Rodney Hood, who sat out last season after transferring from Mississippi State, eligible for games.
Guards Quinn Cook and Rasheed Sulaimon, regulars in the starting backcourt this season, will be counted on for major contributions.
Still, there are plenty of questions about next year’s team. Here are some answers.
Q. The leadership provided by Kelly, Curry and Mason Plumlee was a major factor in this season’s success. Will there will a leadership void with their departures?
A. The leadership won’t be as plentiful because the situation will be different. But the potential for strong leadership remains.
Plumlee, Kelly and Curry were all established starters as juniors and their voices were respected as the team prepped for their senior season. Tyler Thornton, Josh Hairston and, perhaps, Andre Dawkins won’t have that luxury.
Thornton and Hairston started games on a part-time basis last season while Dawkins took a redshirt season.
That said, Thornton and Hairston played important roles for Duke. When they didn’t start, they were the first two players off the bench. Thornton, in particular, is a player whose voice is heard and respected within the Duke locker room.
The hard work the Blue Devils put in last off season following the NCAA Tournament loss to Lehigh was spurred by Plumlee, Kelly and Curry.
Thornton and Hairston have the respect of the younger players to make it happen again this offseason.
Q. With no established post players returning, what kind of team will Duke have next season?
A. Duke will be far different than this season, but still be able to compete for a national championship.
The expectation is Duke will utilize a high-pressure defensive system to take advantage of the athleticism and length the 2013-14 team will possess. Transition baskets should come in bunches for the Blue Devils.
Unlike last season, when the plan was to feed the 6-10 Mason Plumlee in the post, Duke’s offense should be more open due to its personnel.
Cook’s ability to dribble and dish in traffic makes him suited to run the offense in such an attack. Thornton will also see minutes and his decision-making will be important.
Duke will have Parker, a two-time Mr. Basketball in Illinois, and Hood manning the forward positions. Amile Jefferson will have the chance to see his role become more important.
Hairston and Marshall Plumlee will provide traditional post options as depth off the bench.
Q. Who will help replace the perimeter scoring provided by Curry and Kelly?
A. Sulaimon and Cook showed the ability to score via drives or 3-point shots this season and Jones will bolster that attack for next season.
Sulaimon entered Duke with the reputation as a solid outside shooter and backed it up with his 11.6 scoring averaged. Sulaimon made 42.4 percent of his shots, including 37.1 percent of his 3-pointers. The coaches want those numbers to improve for his sophomore season.
Cook, in his first season as Duke’s starting point guard, scored 11.7 points per game while making 39.3 percent of his 3-pointers and 41.6 percent of his shots overall.
At 6-4, Jones has the size and shooting ability to at least provide what Sulaimon did during his freshman year.
Q. After seeing Louisville’s Russ Smith and Peyton Siva get easy drives to the basket in the NCAA Tournament loss, will Duke be a better perimeter defensive team next season?
A. Sulaimon and Cook will play a major role here as well as Thornton.
Sulaimon showed he has the willingness and the talent to be a lock-down perimeter defender. His offseason work toward becoming one of the ACC’s top defenders will be critical to Duke’s ACC and national championship chances.
Cook led the Blue Devils with 1.4 steals per game this season while Thornton was next at 1.3. Sometimes Thornton subbed for Cook and other times they were on the court together.
At times, as in the NCAA Tournament win over Creighton, Duke’s perimeter defense shut down the opposition. Other times, like in the two losses to Maryland or the Louisville loss, opposing teams found it far too easy to dribble into the lane for high-percentage scoring chances.
Parker and Hood are athletic enough to help on the perimeter as well this season.
Q. What role will Andre Dawkins play with the Blue Devils next season?
A. The answer to this question has yet to be determined. Dawkins sat out this season as a redshirt after an unimpressive junior season in which he lacked consistency. The plan was for him to take a mental break from basketball to properly deal with the lingering grief and stress from his sister’s death in a 2009 car accident.
Dawkins attended most home games, sitting behind the Blue Devil bench. But he didn’t practice with the team. Instead, he worked out with a personal trainer on his own off campus.
Dawkins is set to graduate from Duke next month and has one year of eligibility remaining. While he hasn’t commented publicly on his future, his family members have said he is loyal to Duke and wants to finish his career with the Blue Devils.
If Dawkins comes back, he should provide Duke with another outstanding perimeter scoring threat. His ability to play defense would determine the extent of his playing time.
Duke 2013-14 Roster
Tyler Thornton, G, 6-1, Sr.
Josh Hairston, F, 6-7, Sr.
Andre Dawkins, G, 6-4, Sr.
Todd Zafirovski, F, 6-9, Sr.
Quinn Cook, G, 6-1, Jr.
Rasheed Sulaimon, G, 6-4, So.
Rodney Hood, F, 6-8, So.
Amile Jefferson, F, 6-8, So.
Alex Murphy, F, 6-8, So.
Marshall Plumlee, C, 6-11, So.
Jabari Parker, F, 6-8, Fr.
Semi Ojeleye, F, 6-6, Fr.
Matt Jones, G, 6-4, Fr.
Projected Starting Lineup
Quinn Cook, PG
Rasheed Sulaimon, G
Matt Jones, G
Rodney Hood, F
Jabari Parker, F