The 2020-21 Duke men’s basketball team shared high’s and lows in a season that we’ve never seen before. The pandemic altered programs and tested the NCAA’s willingness to proceed with a season where we saw delays, hospitalizations, and cancellations week after week. For the Duke Blue-Devils, this was the first tournament missed in over 20 years – due to it’s own program being forced to withdraw from the ACC tournament for a positive Covid-19 case. That says a lot about the standard and excellence being held under Mike Krzyzewski at Duke University. This was not the most talented team on paper, and at times you wondered would the guys just quit, but they persevered and became reflections of the GOAT. The million-dollar question now is, what is next for Duke?
Senior Jordan Goldwire, who could return due to the NCAA granting all players an extra year of eligibility, will not exercise his extra year and will graduate from Duke. Something he announced days ago.
Sophomore, All-ACC First team Matthew Hurt, whose projected to be a first-round pick in this upcoming NBA draft, could test the waters and bounce, or get viable feedback from league executives on areas in his game that need improvement, such as strength, ball handling, and man defense. To his own credit, the vast majority of the season Hurt was forced to play out of position. At times he played center, being undersized and out weighed by 30+ pounds from opposing teams natural centers. This was, of course, before the emergence of 7-footer Mark Williams who is expected to return and be a complete force for Duke in the paint next season. A full offseason in the weight room to tack on at least 20-30 pounds, will make Mark a complete “Devil” in the paint. He has a chance to be the best true center since Sheldon Williams. Personally, I expect Matthew Hurt to at least test the waters, but not sign with an agent. Getting feedback from the NBA is a benefit implemented several years ago, which helps these athletes make the biggest decision of their lives on turning pro, or returning to school.
Freshman Jeremy Roach, and D.J. Steward are expected to return. For Roach, getting another year and a complete off season to learn the floor general system at Duke will be beneficial, specifically on the defense end in pick and roll situations, and learning from Goldwire on fighting over the screens (this past year) versus going underneath, which is a cardinal sin. D.J. Steward, who led all freshman in points, was a bonafide scorer who can light it up from any spot on the court. He should compete for All-ACC honors next season with potentially leading the conference in scoring.
Joey Baker’s best asset is shooting the rock from deep. What has kept him on the bench through much of this past season was his defense. He showed when he plays defense his minutes go up. He made late contributions this season, which earned him increased minutes due to him not only locking in on the defensive end, but making crucial hustle plays. Henry Coleman’s physicality and being Duke’s “glue-guy” was apparent in stretches this season, specifically against UNC. He does stuff that doesn’t necessarily get mentioned on the stat sheet (Calling out screens, communication on defense), but all attributes to playing winning basketball. That grit is needed on any team wanting to compete for a National title.
Incomers who will make immediate impacts
Duke is currently in the ESPN’s top 3 for the 2021 recruiting class, with some additions and late signings still on the table.
5- star and #3 overall player in 2021 Paolo Banchero, who draws comparisons to Chris Webber and Carlos Boozer, will be a complete stud next season to compliment Mark Williams. Banchero can handle the rock and stretch the floor with his shooting. He also has the foot speed to drive past defenders and is athletic enough to finish over them.
ESPN’s #14 overall player A.J. Griffin has the potential to be a one and done prospect at Duke. What separates Griffin from other prospects in his class is his physicality, transition game, and ability to shoot the rock. He’s a highlight waiting to happen.
Arguably the most sought after shooting guard in the entire ’21 class is Fairfax native Trevor Keels, who has received offers from every Blue-blood imaginable. Keels sharp shooting and ability to be a team’s primary scorer, regardless of class, makes him the most dynamic and pure scorer in this class, regardless of ranking. He has no weakness on the offensive end, with ability to finish with either hand. He’s the best 3-point shooting guard in the class. Trevor has a handle that will rock you to sleep. He will flourish under Coach K if he intends to sign at Duke. He’s set to announce April 4th where he will play ball next season. His final four include Kentucky, Duke, Villanova, and his hometown Virginia.
The NCAA granting players an extra year of eligibility gives players the freedom to transfer freely and play immediately. This is the sole reason why they are currently over 700 players who have listed their names on the NCAA transfer portal list and March Madness hasn’t even ended yet. Expect more players to enter their names. The ACC this past week also granted its own conference players to transfer within conference and eligible to play immediately. Expect Duke to at least take a look at transfers.