Here we are on the cusp of Countdown to Craziness, the unofficial start to the season. We talked about the players that Duke has returning from last years squad and what they mean to the team overall and their individual goals. Next up are the newcomers, the freshmen class that will benefit from a team with a lot more experience. Oftentimes in the one and done era it's hard to maintain any semblance of identity - with players really only being on campus for a matter of months culture is something that can get lost. Duke, Coach K and staff have done a superb job of maintaining that culture, that which makes Duke, well Duke.
The brotherhood aspect of Duke Basketball is often seen as a marketing ploy and in some ways it is but with players returning to campus for classes, individual workouts, some returning as speakers some for K Academy it's a ploy for culture preservation as well. The freshman class that the Blue Devils are bringing in this season will benefit from that. This article is about how the team will benefit from these talented freshmen and how their talents can help this Blue Devil team succeed despite the huge loss of dynamism that was Duke's BIG 3.
We'll start with Wendell Moore, a 6'6 versatile forward out of Charlotte, NC. Moore is a do everything type of player who can effect the game in a multitude of ways. Moore is thought to be a good defender, rebounds well for his position and, falling in line with recruiting strategies over the past few seasons, he has the ability to grab a rebound and bring the ball up the court. It would not surprise me to see him handle the point guard spot in some rare occasions. I see Moore as a guard / forward hybrid because of his ability to not only handle but pass the ball effectively. Being able to have a plug and play guy like Moore who's only real goal aside from making the league is to win is exactly what this team needs.
The big unknown is how reliable his jumper is. It's an emerging part of his game but he is not "known" as a shooter but the ability to hit the open shot is there.
Vernon Carey comes in to Duke as a top 10 player in his class. The 6'10 center is remarkably agile for a guy pushing 270lbs and should be a monster in the low post for the Blue Devils. Obviously a great finisher when he's dunking, Carey also has good touch around the rim. Carey has the two things you want your post player to have, good hands and good feet. He uses his well to get himself into position. There has been talk, some of it from Carey himself, of his abilities to knock down shots from the outside. While he does possess that ability and it's an emerging skillset it will be interesting to see if he is utilized in that way. If as advertised, his perimeter skills could create some matchup issues for opposing 5's. Carey has spent extensive amounts of time in the offseason working on his perimeter and mid-range game. It will be an interesting storyline seeing how it translates at this level.
While I can't see him garnering many minutes outside of the paint the ability to knock down an open jumpshot is a lost art and one the Blue Devils are always in the market for.
Cassius Stanley could be the x-factor for this Duke team. He brings in some known qualities. Stanley is ultra-athletic, we've all seen the record-breaking leaping ability as he took the title from Zion in pre-season Duke combine testing - in fact if he was taking that test at an official NBA combine his vertical would have been tied for the highest ever recorded by the league (46inches). Pair his leaping ability and his quickness and you have a player born to get into the passing lanes and disrupt. Stanley has the potential to be a very good perimeter defender for the Blue Devils and once he gets out in transition - it's a wrap.
There are some unknowns about Stanley as well. Beyond the mix-tapes and hype associated with being a product of Sierra Canyon is the reality that we don't know a whole lot about his ability as a shooter. If Cassius can do all of the other things at a level that he is projected to be able to then it may not matter if he's not a knock down shooter. We know he's worked throughout the last year on that shot and as we know reps are important. We should know very soon if that work has paid off in the short-term. There will be a fight for the position of 2-guard with this Duke team with each participant having a different strength. Junior Alex O'Connell is looking to solidify himself as a starter and if his ability to shoot the 3 is as good as it was his freshmen season and at times last year he may very well lay claim to it. Wendell Moore will also take some of those minutes and push whomever does gain the nod to start. Regardless there will be minutes to be had and that versatility of position should have the coaches mouths watering. Stanley should provide some "OMG" moments for the fans this season - he's going to be very fun to watch.