Looking ahead to 2014

The 2012-2013 season came to a somewhat unceremonious end on Sunday night as Duke was blown out of the NCAA Tournament by Louisville. The Cardinals' speed and athleticism was too much for the Blue Devils, and so it's back to the drawing board in Durham. So what does next year look like? TDD investigates.

Players leaving: The Blue Devils will lose three seniors who spent their entire careers ranked among the top 10 teams in the country. Mason Plumlee, Ryan Kelly, and Seth Curry also were part of 124 victories over the last four years. This past season, the trio combined for 48 points, and 18 rebounds while shooting a combined 51 percent from the field. Despite injuries to Curry and Kelly, the trio averaged a combined 95 minutes per contest. In short, Duke loses quite a lot from the senior class.

Aside from Curry, Kelly, and Plumlee, the Blue Devils are not expected to lose any underclassmen to the NBA or transfer.

Duke will also be dealing with the loss of associate head coach Chris Collins, who leaves to take over the head job at Northwestern.

New Faces: Head coach Mike Krzyzewski adds two more McDonald's All-Americans to the roster next year in the form of Matt Jones, and Jabari Parker. Fellow five star prospect, Semi Ojeleye, is also ready to join the team in Durham after being inexplicably snubbed for the MDAA festivities. Additionally, Duke will welcome Rodney Hood, who earned all-freshman team honors last year in the SEC, and has routinely been described as this year's roster's most talented player. Hood is just the fourth transfer to play for Coach K in more than 30 years.

Jones has the reputation of a knock-down scorer from the perimeter, but has worked hard to expand his overall game throughout his senior season. The 6-foot-4, 185 pound Texan has become more and more confident taking players off the dribble and pulling up with the midrange game. When paired with Rasheed Sulaimon, it'll give Duke a pair of strong perimeter shooters who can go off the dribble and finish at the rim. Between the two, Sulaimon is probably the better slasher, while Jones is the better shooter.

The arrival of Ojeleye will give Duke a player who can not only shoot (well) from the perimeter, but a very strong and athletic wing who rebounds very well for his 6-foot-6 frame. Ojeleye will likely earn time with his defensive ability, as well as his college-game ready physique. Given Duke's lack of a post players, Ojeleye could certainly earn time as an undersized power forward.

Parker's arrival at Duke will come with tremendous expectations. At 6-foot-8, he's been described as a hybrid of Luol Deng and Grant Hill by those close to the program. He's also a player who Krzyzewski personally recruited for more than three years. He'll likely play the stretch four for Duke next year, and will be a matchup nightmare in Coach K's system. Currently Parker measures out at 6'8 and 235 pounds with a near seven foot wingspan.

The fourth "recruit", Rodney Hood, developed quite a reputation throughout this year. Despite being unable to play, Hood was routinely mentioned as one of the best players in the Duke program by players and coaches alike. At 6-foot-8 and 210 pounds, Hood has shown the ability to score off the bounce, in midrange, and from the perimeter. He's instantly one of, if not the top athlete on Duke's roster from the second the team returns from Indianapolis. At Mississippi State he averaged 10 points, five rebounds, and shot 44 percent from the field.

New(ish) Players: The Duke rotation was a seven man affair down the stretch with the three seniors joining Quinn Cook, Sulaimon, Tyler Thornton, and Josh Hairston. Not usually pictured was former McDonald's All-Americans Amile Jefferson and Marshall Plumlee, along with former four star small forward Alex Murphy. With so much playing time opening up, it's not unlikely that at least one of these (and likely two) players will challenge for playing time.

Plumlee was called one of Duke's six best players by Krzyzewski before a broken foot relegated him to the sideline for much of the season. In the limited (50) minutes he received, the youngest Plumlee brother seemed to be overmatched in most facets of the game. Still, next season he'll be the only player over 6'9 on the roster. If he adds another 10-15 pounds, he'll play at 6-foot-11 and 245 pounds. By measurements alone he's the penciled-in starting center, but it'll take a big off-season improvement to make that a lasting denotation.

Similarly, Alex Murphy has earned a starting spot in each of the last two seasons as Duke took the court for the preseason schedule (in 2012 he started in the China-Dubai games; this year he started the exhibition games). He was never heard from again in either year, redshirting in 2012 and playing less than seven minutes a game (and logging double-figure DNPs) in 2013. In the "odd off-season expectations" department, Rodney Hood famously noted that Murphy was the toughest defensive matchup he had in practices this year, but Will Murphy finally be ready as a third year sophomore?

The third new-ish face, actually contributed quite heavily throughout this season before losing his minutes after Kelly returned. Amile Jefferson started several times during Kelly's absence and proved himself capable of rebounding despite his lack of size and strength, recording either or more rebounds three times including the game against North Carolina in Cameron Indoor Stadium. Perhaps his best game was an 11 point, nine rebound showing against Maryland in late January. Next season, Jefferson will be asked to add some weight and mass to his frame, while attempting to maintain his speed and quickness. It's not an easy task as Jefferson noted earlier this season, but he did manage to add 16 pounds from the time he arrived to the time practice began. Another 10-15 pounds and he'll be around 6'8 and 220 pounds with a 7'2" wingspan.

Wildcard: With seven players being asked to improve and expand their games and roles to mesh with Cook, Sulaimon, Thornton, and Hairston, there's still room for another senior on the roster. It'll come down to whether or not potential fifth year senior Andre Dawkins decides to return or not. A season ago Dawkins averaged 8.4 points and 2.1 rebounds while shooting 40 percent from the perimeter. He appeared in all 34 games, starting 14 times. As of a few weeks ago, Dawkins had returned to private workouts away from Duke as he prepares to play next season. There has been no official word on whether or not the potential fifth year senior is planning to return, as of this point.

Returning Rotation Players: Duke will return starting point guard Quinn Cook, and starting shooting guard Rasheed Sulaimon. The Blue Devils also bring back reserve forward Josh Hairston, who played the majority of the reserve post-man minutes down the stretch, along with sixth man Tyler Thornton. Cook was significantly improved over his freshman season and will be spending the summer working with NBA guard Nolan Smith in hopes of continuing that improvement path. Sulaimon was terrific as a freshman, and with a complete off-season is expected to make a big push next year. Thornton and Hairston logged extended minutes this year, with Thornton being the team's +/- champion for much of the year. Hairston's improvement will be directly related to improving his footwork and lateral quickness. Despite playing a majority of the minutes as the reserve big, Hairston seemed to play a bit heavy this year and managed to secure more than four rebounds in just four contests.

Projected Starting Line:
PG - Quinn Cook
SG - Rasheed Sulaimon
SF - Rodney Hood
PF - Jabari Parker
PF - Amile Jefferson


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