by Jason Drucker
It’s not easy for Mike Krzyzewski to look out onto the hardwood of Cameron and see young faces who haven’t been displayed on SportsCenter for the past few years. It’s like waking up from a dream and wondering where you are. Or better yet, waking up from a nightmare and hoping it isn’t true; only it is.
The Blue Devils are without their former big three who have moved on to greener pastures. Jason Williams to Duke (no. 2 pick), Mike Dunleavy to Golden State (no. 3 pick), and Carlos Boozer to Cleveland (no. 35 pick). Though that is an impressive bunch to be without, don’t count Duke out just yet. Ranked down to number 6 by one certain poll, Duke still commands some respect, but it may only be thatâ€¦respect. Without its storied history, Krzyzewski’s squad may not have cracked the top 10, and just because Duke is there now doesn’t mean it’ll be there come March.
Fortunately, this writer thinks it will. Now that the big guns are gone, some of the younger guys can step up and take over the team like their predecessors before them. Chris Duhon, for starters, will make a great go-to guy. He can penetrate, command respect and attention from defenses, and will likely improve on his 6 or so assists from last year while also shooting enough to up his average from 9 points per game a year ago. As a junior, he’ll hopefully return to dazzle us for another year after this one, but that’s a discussion better left for another time.
Sophomore Daniel Ewing, who only saw 18 minutes of play per game last season, is likely to complement Duhon’s dishing with his shooting. Look for this kid to hit a lot from the outside as the Blue Devils will be looking to score any way they can. At only 6.5 points per game last year, Ewing will likely double that average in an effort to get Duke back on track.
A truly superior athlete, Dahntay Jones will cause difficulty for a lot of defenses. Though he saw big minutes last season, he was more of an X-factor than a key factor. Things will be different this year as he’ll look to break out of a shell and show the college world what he can really do.
Lastly, with the addition of freshmen J.J. Redick, Sean Dockery, and big men Shavlik Randolph, Michael Thompson, and Shelden Williams, the Blue Devils have an impressive nucleus for the future. In terms of the upcoming season, Duke knows it has players who can give the experienced players the breathers they’ll need, without causing Krzyzewski himself to hyperventilate.
All in all, this year’s Duke team is different from last year’s squad in that its players aren’t as revered or experienced. With both inside and outside players, strong freshmen, and a top-notch coach, Krzyzewski’s guys should have what it takes to compete come March.