Winslow & Duke: The Fit

Mike Krzyzewski's sensational week just got a little sweeter. This afternoon, prep All-American Justise Winslow committed to Duke over Arizona, UCLA and others.

Upon hearing the phrase "Duke wing commitment," no one could blame you for assuming the recruit was a pure shooter. The words practically roll right off the tongue.

The Blue Devils have reigned for years as a formidable three-point shooting club, and some of their greatest stars — including J.J. Redick and now Jabari Parker — have become legendary for long distance exploits.

But oddly enough, shooting is the one area where Justise Winslow doesn't excel. He's a fantastic player for myriad reasons — among them, his slashing, rebounding, finishing in traffic, defensive prowess, ability to play tall and intense style — but three-point shooting remains an aspect he must improve.

Despite the general reality and perception toward Duke's wing players, however, the Blue Devils have employed numerous wings over the years who lacked elite shooting ability. Gerald Henderson roamed the perimeter not too long ago, and the best pro ever to emerge from Coach K's program — Grant Hill — famously was a non-shooter for most of his college career.

Complaints have emerged from the Duke fanbase over the past few years that the Devils simply lack big-league athleticism on the wings. That issue has shown up at times in the NCAA Tournament when the Devils have encountered more athletic opponents such as Louisville (2013), Arizona (2011) or Villanova (2009).

That shortcoming has affected them on both ends of the court, as their pressure defensive has faltered against some elite squads and they've been bottled up on the perimeter.

But the program's athletic profile is changing. Freshman Semi Ojeleye hasn't played a lot this season but is a very athletic combo forward. And Winslow will give them another very gifted defender, transition scorer and general havoc-wreaker off the bounce.

One observation I find myself making repeatedly this season is that the NCAA's new officiating emphasis on cleaner play has made slashers more valuable. Players like Winslow with explosive first steps are drawing more trips to the free throw line and applying greater pressure to defenses.

Winslow not only creates his own opportunities off the dribble, he's an excellent passer who will be able to find spot-up shooters as well and, you guessed it, monster center Jahlil Okafor next season. In the event point guards Quinn Cook and Tyus Jones face a vexing matchup, Winslow might even be able to initiate halfcourt offense.

And I haven't yet touched on his most praised quality: a desire and ability to win. He performs so many unsung functions and fills what are quiet moments for other players into bursts of activity. The results frequently do show up in the box score, but stats don't adequately paint the picture. He simply knows how to win. And given that he'll be surrounded by elite talent in Durham, we'll see the very best of Winslow beginning next season.

Whether he starts and plays big minutes will depend on some NBA decisions, of course, mostly pertaining to Parker and Rodney Hood. If those players do depart for the professional ranks, Winslow should be able to step right in and produce.

And as Duke's class effectively locks up the No. 1 position this year, they'll likely enter the 2014-15 as the national favorite.

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