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Balanced Blue Devils roster still a threat nationally

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CHARLOTTE – Duke’s basketball roster is obviously less talented this season than a year ago. The Zion Williamson Show was a mega-talented roster with Williamson among three one-and-done, first-round NBA draft picks.

But Javin DeLaurier and Jack White, two Duke seniors that accompanied head coach Mike Krzyzewski to the ACC media day on Tuesday at the Marriott City Center, aren’t shy about chasing a national title. And Coach K encourages them, saying he’s excited about this year’s balance.

Are they saying “less (talent) is more?” 

If so, Duke can still compete for a national title.

In 2010, the Blue Devils won the NCAA title with seniors Jon Scheyer and Brian Zoubek and juniors Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith. The only first-round pick was Smith a year later as the No. 21 selection.

“Our team this year is very balanced, so we’re going to need not just balance in whatever the starting five would be, but really from 1 through 10,” Krzyzewski said. “We can play that many guys. I think you can get greater consistency then because you have more guys playing.”

Duke’s first test as a national contender is Nov. 5 against Kansas in the Champions Classic in New York. DeLaurier and White, who were seated alongside Coach K, all but nodded their heads in agreement with his assessment.

“I think because we’re balanced, guys look to one another to challenge them,” White said. “I really think it puts a bit more ownership on us as players to really control our destiny.”

Duke has its usual cast of top recruits, but only Vernon Carey, a 6-foot-10, 260-pounder, is projected as a one-and-done in early 2020 mock drafts. The other freshmen are 5-star Matthew Hurt (6-foot 9, 200 pounds), 5-star Wendell Moore (6-4, 214) and 4-star Cassius Stanley (6-5, 185).

A more balanced lineup requires more influence from point guard Tre Jones, who opted to return for his sophomore year.

“Tre is a key guy for us because he’s going to have the ball most of the time,” Krzyzewski said. “Last year he got the ball especially for Zion and R.J. Now he’s going to have to distribute it to a number of guys. His ball pressure gets things going.”


Krzyzewski also commented on the new California Fair Pay to Play legislation, saying the NCAA needs to adjust to the times. The law allows college athletes to profit from their name, image and likeness beginning in 2023 and is expected to spread to other states.

“We need to stay current with what’s happening; I’m glad it was passed,” Krzyzewksi said. “It has pushed the issue. I say let’s look at all the things. I’d like to see a bunch of people get together over a period of time and see what changes we can make that we should have been making in the past decade or two.”


Duke (4-2, 1-1 ACC Coastal) plays Georgia Tech (1-4, 0-2 ACC Coastal) at 12:30 p.m. Saturday at Wallace Wade Stadium, needing to recover from a slow start last week that resulted in a 33-30 loss to Pitt. Blue Devils head coach David Cutcliffe accepted blame for mixing too many wrinkles into the game plan for quarterback Quentin Harris.

“You can wrinkle things, but you can’t just wholesale put a bunch of new things in,” Cutcliffe said. “I had to relearn that lesson.”

Harris, a fifth-year senior but first-year starter, was 18-of-43 passing for 165 yards with one TD pass and two interceptions, adding 18 rushes for 39 yards with two fumbles. A week earlier, in a 45-10 win at Virginia Tech, he was 20-of-27 passing for 163 yards and two TDs, adding 100 yards on the ground with another score.

Tom Shanahan is a freelance writer based in Cary and author of Raye of Light, a book featuring Fayetteville’s Jimmy Raye as a pioneering black quarterback for College Football Hall of Fame coach Duffy Daugherty on Michigan State’s Underground Railroad football teams of the 1960s.