With an 86-67 victory, Duke Basketball’s new lineup looked very impressive in their debut exhibition game against Ryerson on Wednesday. The jitters were there, especially in the first quarter, but the veterans and the rookies got themselves together and paced themselves to a good rout. It was the freshmen show, as Zion Williamson, with 29 points and 13 rebounds, and hometown man R.J. Barrett, with 34 points, combined for over 73% of the team’s overall scoring.
The Injury Factor
Ballhandling was especially thin today as Duke’s Cam Reddish and Tre Jones were both sidelined. Alex O’Connell took a knock to the eye pretty early on and did not return (another ballhandler!). Jack White had a groin injury later in the game but was able to return. It looked like one of those injuries where the shock gives the most damage. However, from there forth the lineup was very thin and players started to seem pretty tired, but they fought through and that’s what really counted. Also, Jordan Goldwire played the point well for a lot of the game. He’s shown improvement as the backup for Tre now after being backup for Trevon Duval.
Zion Williamson Silences Doubters
This is what I was waiting to see: what’s behind the fame of the Instagram star? A player of the likes that we’ve never seen before if you ask anyone who watched that game. Zion Williamson danced through the lane, hit seventy-five percent on threes, and passed with skill like it was nobody’s business. He’s a spectacular athlete, of course, and showed it off, but plays with grace and intelligence. I love this guy thus far. And by the way, is it just me, or did he get his whole forearm in the rim?
R.J. Barrett, playing just a few miles from where he grew up, was very solid in his debut, scoring 34 points. His field goal average is not super great, but that’s completely understandable in his first game. He got the crowd to their feet with some electrifying dunks and terrific plays. He’ll develop over the course of the season and we’re excited to see where that will take him!
Javin DeLaurier Looks Impressive
Javin DeLaurier, who worked out with Justin Robinson and his father, “The Admiral” David Robinson over the summer, looked significantly improved. He only had two fouls, and while he’s a good defensive player, fouls were often an issue for him. He turned that around, and his offense also looked improved, scoring eight points and snagging eleven rebounds. Kudos to him. He’s one of the most athletically inclined guys we have, so we hope he can keep it up. He’s sent some balls into the stands with his blocks at Cameron. In addition to his improvement in the mechanics of his game, he’s really started to take over the role of the veteran. He’s a junior now (how the heck did that happen?), and while everybody says Duke is super young, we have a lot of guys like Antonio Vrankovic, Justin Robinson, Jack White, and Javin who despite not having the publicity of guys like Grayson Allen, they are the core of this group.
Room for Improvement
Overall, it was a solid debut for this stacked team. The team is promising, defensively, and the talent level is obviously through the roof. The turnovers were an issue early on, but as it was the first game as a team, that’s nothing to worry about quite yet. Not to mention the injury to Tre Jones, primary ballhandler. There was a good bit of fouling going on, as well, but it was an overall good game for the very first exhibition game.
Alex O’Connell Injured
Alex O’Connell was knocked out early, and Coach K mentioned his hospitalization during his press conference, apparently getting his eye and socket checked out after getting hit during the first quarter. We hope it’s not too serious an injury and the best to him.
*** UPDATE: Alex O’Connell suffers orbital bone fracture, will miss the rest of the tour ***
Glad he’ll be okay but it’s unfortunate that he’ll have to miss time. Wishing him well.