When one mixes flour, sugar, and water, the result is glue. Every basketball teams needs its glue, if you will. The glue of Duke Basketball must not go unnoticed, and the purpose of this article is to prevent just that.
When most people think about last years National Championship team, they think about the heroics of Tyus Stones, Jah, Chief Justise, and Grayson Allen. What often goes overlooked is the little things, the intangibles on and off the court. I thought that appreciation was overdue for a group of players who will once again glue Duke Basketball together in the coming season.
The Flour: Amile Jefferson
Amile Jefferson is about as perfect a role player can be. His stout defense often gets overlooked when surrounded by freakish athletes that are often accompanying him. Amile’s strong defense and consistent rebounding will once again be critical for the Blue Devils. Jefferson makes very few mistakes, and is the type of player that every coach wants on the court. He may not be the biggest, fastest, strongest player, but he is extremely productive to the team with his fundamentals. The work he did against Frank Kaminsky in the National Championship was pure gold. It is not an easy task to guard the player of the year, but Jefferson got the job done, like he always does.
The Sugar: Marshall Plumlee
MP3 is another beautiful example of the glue that holds Duke Basketball together. Whether Coach calls his name in the first 5 minutes of the game or the last 5 minutes, he provides an instant spark with his endless energy. Marshall will once again provide a great source of rim protection and rebounding for this Duke team. Although it looks like Ingram will be playing at the guard position, if Duke ever decides to go small and move Ingram to the front court, Plumlee’s physicality could be a great compliment to Ingram’s quickness and athleticism. Despite Duke having lots of options in the front court, Plumlee is one of the few that has proven his physicality and hustle. Marshall’s leadership and energy will pay major dividends for this young Blue Devil roster.
The Water: Matt Jones
While Matt is not always a standout on the stat sheet, his on-ball defense cannot got unnoticed. Last season, he emerged as the best defensive option at the guard position and ended the season as a starter. With Grayson Allen emerging as a likely starter in the coming season, Matt’s defensive skills will compliment Allen’s explosion on the other end. Allen is extremely effective on offense, but at times has looked too aggressive on defense. The two completely different guards will blend perfectly together like peanut butter and jelly. Allen’s raw athleticism and play making ability will take offensive pressure off of Matt, while Matt’s quick hands and feet will take defensive pressure off of Allen. At the end of the day, Duke is not looking for 20 shots from Matt Jones. He is there for his defensive efforts, and some three point shooting. Questions remain on Allen and Kennard’s defense, but Matt has earned his minutes with his consistency on the defensive end, and will once again be a key piece to this Duke Basketball team.
The moral of the story is, don’t judge production from the stats. These players will not jump out at you on the stat sheet, but they are crucial to the success of the team. For all the Jabari Parkers and Jahlil Okafors out there, there must be an Amile Jefferson, Marshall Plumlee, or Matt Jones.