If ever Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski and his staff needed some extra time with the the players, the summer of 2017 is certainly the time.
The Blue Devils lost eight players from last season’s ACC championship team and added six incoming freshmen to replace them.
Duke will have one senior and one junior on its roster. The rest of the scholarship players are are freshmen and sophomores.
So it makes sense that the Blue Devils, for the first time since August 2011, are planning to take an overseas trip. The NCAA allows teams to take such trips, which allow for offseason practices and exhibition games, once every four years.
Last time the Blue Devils went to China and United Arab Emirates. The Dominican Republic is this summer’s destination.
While the locale will be much closer, the work will be just as important as when Krzyzewski and his team circled the globe six years ago.
Last summer, 59 NCAA Division I men’s teams took a foreign tour, playing from faraway places like China and Australia to nearer destinations like Montreal and the Bahamas.
Sometimes the bonding sessions lead to long-term success, like with South Carolina. The Gamecocks went to Costa Rica last August and made the Final Four for the first time last spring -- beating Duke along the way in the tournament’s second round.
On the other hand, Washington took a trip to Australia and New Zealand and finished with a 9-22 record despite having Markelle Fultz, who just might be the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA Draft, as its leading scorer.
Duke’s last overseas trip was the first chance for its 2011-12 team to play together against outside competition. Freshmen guards Quinn Cook and Austin Rivers were on that team. So were juniors Seth Curry, Mason Plumlee and Ryan Kelly. Miles Plumlee was a senior.
All seven played in the NBA this season. That team went 27-7 yet lost to 15th-seeded Lehigh in the 2012 NCAA Tournament.
Everyone traveling to the Dominican Republic in August will be aiming for more success than that next season.
Duke went 28-9 and, after winning four games in four days to claim the ACC Tournament title, won only one NCAA Tournament game last season.
Grayson Allen is the lone returning player who played in 30 games. The only other player on the roster who started a game last season is sophomore center Marques Bolden, who played in 24 games with just one start and averaged just 6.5 minutes per game.
Incoming five-star freshmen Gary Trent (shooting guard), Trevon Duval (point guard) and Wendell Carter (power forward) are the highest-rated players at their positions in the Class of 2017.
Developing team chemistry will be of the utmost importance. NCAA rules allow for the team to have full practices in Durham prior to leaving to the Dominican Republic and important work will occur there.
The details of exactly when the Blue Devils will be in the Dominican Republic and who they will play haven’t been finalized yet. But there’s no doubt this trip will give Duke an important early start to the 2017-18 season.