Preseason Thoughts Part 1: Veteran Leadership

In General Information, Results/Thoughts by Brian HoraceLeave a Comment

Trying to retaining talent at a big time hoops program is generally fighting a losing battle. With the eyes of every talented high school baller fixed on being the next one-and-done we've had to redefine what a veteran team is. In the past a team of seniors with a few newbies infused was the norm around Durham, Lexington, Chapel HillĀ  etc. The only blue blood team that has consistently been able to retain top talent has been North Carolina. Say what you will about the reasons why but the return on that investment has been as clear as day with 2 straight trips to the finals and just this past year a National Title for Coach Roy Williams. Duke, with all it's talent, with arguably the best recruiting class Coach K has ever assembled puttered out in the second game of the tournament. I'm not arguing as to the reasons why but it was a disastrous seasons in terms of injury which played a huge part in the stunted development of a squad who should have accomplished more. Even with that lack of continuity, the team managed to become ACC Champions. One of Duke's youngest teams on record still was able to capture a banner with all of the distractions, frustrations and injuries that plagued the season. Not the banner they sought but had they been healthy one has to wonder what could have been.

Cut to this year -

Coach K, Capel and crew have once again assembled a stellar class, one that may rival last years in terms of sheer talent up and down the roster. It's a team that has the similar features of one-and-done talent of last year but does lack the experience of an Amile Jefferson or a Matt Jones. The lone senior on this Duke team is shooting guard Grayson Allen. Allen's troubles have been written about ad nauseam. What hasn't been talked about enough is what he does on the court, with the ball in his hands. In an age where it's much more beneficial for writers to focus on the negative, the headline seems to matters more than the context - they bury the lead of a player who even in his down years has produced.

Can Grayson Lead

Duke yet again is a very young team and with teams this young the timeline for learning and cohesion has to be sped up. This group of freshmen have to learn what players like Grant Hill, Christian Laettner and Bobby Hurly learned over the course of multiple seasons. Coaches are hoping that Grayson Allen can be the voice on the floor, in the huddle and in the locker room that can bridge that gap. He is a National Champion and a candidate for Player of the Year. Last season didn't go as Allen would've liked. Obviously, his very public meltdown against Elon last season, the dips in his play, injuries and the way the entire season unfolded in general had some writing him off completely. Allen is as healthy now as he has been in some time. His athleticism has returned and he trusts in his body and in what it can do. Grayson Allen is capable of doing anything on the court he wants. Touting above average athletic ability and a feathery and accurate jump shot, Grayson is a threat from anywhere on the court. Some see him as a lost cause, as a fading talent but looking behind the numbers, Allen has been remarkably consistent when he is on the court. He is a good assist man and rebounds well for his position.

Per 40 Minutes Table

The question for Grayson Allen is: can he lead? As a 22 year old man, Grayson will have to prove that he can block out the noise. As one of the most hated players in college basketball Grayson will have to focus his energy, his angst and whatever fuels him on not just winning but teaching. He will have his hands full as young eyes will look to him in times of strife.

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