by Brian Horace
When the Blue Devils suit up this coming season all the attention will be focused on the players coming in that have never donned the uniform. In actuality the most important players on this team may be the 7 scholarship players that remained in Durham. It’s not to say the freshmen 5 aren’t bringing in a load of talent to Cameron but as we have seen in the past – experience is a trait that can take a talented team over the hump. Having those standard bearers for the program that can prepare the freshmen in terms of expectations as well as culture is invaluable.
Even beyond culture and expectation – expect several players to not only progress in terms of skillset but to play major roles in the success of this Duke team. Duke isn’t bringing a lights out shooter into the fold but they do have Alex O’Connell who has the ability to stroke it from distance. O’Connell did not get a significant amount of touches in his freshman season but when he was given the opportunity he did make the most of it shooting 48.9% from 3 point range and 54% in conference play.
Even with the small sample size of 22 of 45 O’Connell showed he has the ability to be the shooter that Duke needs. Duke does have other serviceable shooters, but freshmen Cam Reddish, Tre Jones and R.J. Barrett are still unknowns as far as how well they will be able to stretch the floor. Joey Baker comes in with the reputation for being a good shooter but freshmen are hard to quantify and rely upon but a player like Alex O’Connell could really earn significant time if he can improve on the other areas of his game.
If O’Connell can make strides defensively he could help to answer one of the biggest questions this season for Coach K’s young Blue Devils.