As per expectation, Duke swept its three games in Canada. While the wins are obviously nice, the trip was abundant with benefits that far exceed the score. From experience for freshmen to exposure for reserves, Coach Mike Krzyzewski declared the tour an absolute success, saying it was “unbelievable”.
But the best thing I learned? That I agree with this guy.
The Obvious One: Experience
Let’s get this cleared up: we’re young. Very, very young, but it’s not like Coach K is exactly new at this. He’s been dealing with young teams for years, and he’s done extremely well if you haven’t noticed. But this year, Duke got three. Whole. Games. Three whole games against guys who are way, way older and experienced (Alex Paquin of McGill, their best player, is 24!)- of extra practice two months before debuting. Unfortunately, Cam Reddish and Tre Jones didn’t get to play at all, and Alex O’Connell’s three minutes, while valuable, were not very significant. However, the chance for Zion Williamson, R.J. Barrett, and Joey Baker to integrate into this group and for the upperclassman to familiarize themselves in the atmosphere of a game with the young guys is absolutely indispensable.
Injuries to Cam Reddish, Tre Jones, and Alex O’Connell, unfortunate as they may have been, did open up minutes for other players to assert themselves and demonstrate their growth through the offseason, and how they could apply it in an actual competition. For example, with the three players out all being skilled ballhandlers, the position was thin. Jordan Goldwire stepped up big time, affirming his position as a reliable backup for Tre Jones. He can’t be counted out for major minutes next season.
Jack White is another example. White had some outbreaks where he was really good last season. This season will almost definitely be different, as he has supported his case for a backup forward. He’s a pretty big guy at 6’7″, 220, and he has athleticism like few others. White defends extremely well and plays good offense in the post.
Zion and RJ: The Definition of Dominance
This isn’t exactly a benefit for the team, but it sure was fun to watch. Even with Cam Reddish’s absence, Zion Williamson and RJ Barrett alone averaged only one point less than the opposing team altogether. Those numbers are mindblowing. It’s hard to believe that we actually missed out on seeing much of Duke’s recruiting class and Alex O’Connell. How. The. Heck.
Scoring Isn’t Everything
One great thing about this team is their “security”, according to Coach K, in that they don’t have to be the one to make the shot, make the dunk, or do a tomahawk. These players are as if not more exhilarated by their teammates’ success as their own, and it really shows. Their willingness to make an extra pass in a fast break or to pass up a perimeter shot for an even better one, or an open man in the post, creates scores of opportunities for this team to be much more efficient.
Bleed blue, Duke fans. The return from the Canada tour means that the freshmen have moved in! See below. #BestOfBothWorlds