By Jack Drapkin
If the Duke Blue Devils were to succeed this year, it was to be on the backs of senior guard Grayson Allen, point guard Trevon Duval and/or the freshman frontcourt tandem of Marvin Bagley III and Wendell Carter Jr. Gary Trent Jr., was expected to have a prominent role, however there were no guarantees that he would even start at the beginning of the season. While everyone has had the spotlight at times, Trent Jr. has been bringing his lunch pale to work and getting it done while no one is watching.
I’ll be the first to admit, I was worried about Gary. After a promising exhibition campaign and first two games of the season, Trent Jr. could not buy a bucket from the outside. However, despite his shooting struggles he remained active and engaged on the defensive end of the court. He seems to be okay doing his work out of the spotlight and is comfortable not receiving the credit. Not only does this help tremendously with this Duke team, but it also allows Gary to show NBA teams that he can do the same things for them too.
As a defender, Gary Trent Jr. moves his feet well and has active hands. It’s not as though Gary has had a tremendous number of steals or blocks either. He just is always in the right spots on the court, and that kind of accountability is what a coach is looking for. This is part of the reason why Trent Jr. is averaging over 31 minutes a game for Duke, Coach K can trust him.
On offense, Gary Trent Jr. has a diverse repertoire of moves and can score from all three levels of the court when he has it going. He has a great three-point stroke and will need to knock them down more consistently in ACC play. While not the most explosive athlete, his heady play allows him to find openings in the defense and get a step on defenders, like his game-tying and-one drive against Texas.
Look for Trent Jr. to be wearing his hard hat all season long, doing the dirty work while no one is watching.
By Jack Drapkin
If I were to tell you at the beginning of the season that a returning Duke guard would be leading the team in scoring while shooting at a ridiculously efficient rate, you would have most likely said that’s Grayson Allen. Instead as you’re aware of by now, that player is Luke Kennard who is averaging a cool 18 points a game while shooting (.55/.88/.52), (field goal, free throw, three point percentages). In many ways he looks like a completely different basketball player than he was a season ago. Yes, the shots from deep are now falling but that was always the book on him as a player even if he did struggle from outside as a freshman. Instead however, he is simply a much more confident player, able to attack the rim with better finishing ability this season, and convert from the line when fouled. Kennard has emerged as the go-to scorer the Blue Devils have needed this season with Allen struggling from the field.
And boy is he struggling…The raw stats are actually quite similar between the two of them. 18ppg/6rpg/3.6apg for Kennard while Allen is at 15ppg/6rpg/3.4apg. The difference becomes quite clear when you look at the way Allen has been shooting. He is now 22-64 from the field and 8-35 from deep. Yuck!
Now Coach K has offered up the excuse that he is only playing at 50% right now and therefore should be given some slack. Now, since I am not in that locker room we’ll have to take the GOAT at his word and I’ll just discuss what can be seen on the court. For one, this is easily the most passive Grayson Allen has ever been. He’s passing in transition, never done that before, on drives to the basket he’s looking for kick outs. Now, I’m not saying he never passed before, it’s just clear that the aggression in his drives and the score first, score second mentality is not there like it used to be.
Hopefully Grayson can find his groove in the non-conference slate, because it is scary to imagine how could this team could be with a good Grayson Allen and the return of the walking wounded.
By John Scott
Coach K played everyone last night. Maybe that was Coach J. Or Is it a whole new Coach K. After two seasons of having so few players to get on the court, Coach K has a bench but is he determined to learn how to use everyone? Last night yes; this evening no. Again way too early to tell what K is thinking as he needs to integrate the three super freshman and prepare for Kansas on Tuesday. Grand Canyon kept it competitive for most of first half and then Duke slipped it into another gear. Frank Jackson, the remaining super frosh, needs to show he can handle the point.That will keep G Allen at the two. Both can score. Synergy will be interesting especially when you throw in Kennard and Matty Jones. They are certainly hoping Jackson matures this way as there is not an obvious point guard.
Ten minute mark of first half Duke 20-19. 14 minute mark in second half Duke up by 27. Game finishes with Duke winning by 35. Look for the bursts as Dukies can apply full court pressure and hit lots of three point shooters. Not certain yet how to look at this game. Not great start to this game. But just too much talent and Grand Canyon not enough horses. So early questions. One, who is the point guard in tough games? Two, Did K have to play Kennard and G Allen nearly the whole game? It took a long time to see the bench this evening and it seems he wastes opportunities to learn about other players who have talent. Three, where do the three injured fresh fit in? Good that we can watch real basketball. It is off to the Garden for Tuesday against Kansas. Not to mention Kentucky versus Mich St.
By John Scott
Well the real season started tonight.The Dukies…this year’s national champions had their typical easy season opener opponent as they won by about 50 (94-49). But they did it without three lottery picks – Giles, Bolden and Tatum – all injured. Yikes. How good are they? With a team that has more haters than Trump, it is so much fun to watch them play at this level. Did we learn anything? Maybe, as it is hard to tell without the mighty three playing. So who was the leading scorer? The remaining freshman Frank Jackson with 18. Coach K played everyone, even Pags got in. Best thing of the night Chase Jeter’s points and rebounds. And looking comfortable doing it. Amile “Flex” Jefferson looks like he put on 20 lbs of muscle. This blogger is going to stop here. Tomorrow is another powder puff. So let’s wait til Tuesday’s matchup against Kansas to see where we are starting from
By Jack Drapkin
Duke has added another commitment in the 2017 class, interestingly enough on the same day as Kentucky no less. Gary Trent Jr., rated as a top-15 player by ESPN is the latest high profile recruit to commit to Duke. Formerly of the same school that produced Tyus Jones, Apple Valley High School, Trent Jr. has transferred to Prolific Prep in an attempt to face more high-quality competition.
This was a big get for Coach K and his staff as the only other commitment until this point was fellow shooting guard Alex O’Connell. Trent Jr. however, is a much more complete and dynamic player and with his size at 6’5″ 205 lbs, should be entertaining to watch in the college game (most likely one season). His power and defense will be enjoyable for Duke fans to watch even if his jumper is not going down. And anyways, who knows who this guy will be playing with when the ball rolls out at the start of next season!