F- 21 Daresse Johnson (2.3 ppg, 2.5 rpg)
F- 34 Eric Mayo (9.9 ppg, 7.9 rpg)
C- 05 Christian Henry (8.1 ppg, 5.3 rpg)
G- 04 Eric DuBose (7.9 ppg, 2.2 apg)
?G- 14 Austin Harris (Freshman)
Wing Eric Mayo is the top returning player for the Blue Bears, bringing 9.9 points and 7.9 points into the season. He’s not your typical wing player either. Instead the 6-foot-4 Charlotte native plays as an undersized post. He shot 56 percent from the floor last season and led the team in rebounding and blocked shots. Coming back for another season, Mayo has been named to the preseason all-conference team.
The other key returner is former reserve guard Eric DuBose, a 6-foot-1 combo player who is the team’s best returning assist man, though he’s more a scoring guard than point guard.
Livingstone ran through the CIAA last season powered by the conference’s best backcourt. This season, however, the Blue Bears are without their both their point and shooting guards from a season ago. Accordingly the team will look to establish the post more than a season ago. It’s somewhat daunting task according to head coach James Stinson.
“I think our post play is going to have improve tremendously,” Stinson said. “If our post play can improve, maybe we can still be competitive.”
What better way to test your post players than to face the preseason National Player of the Year and likely top overall pick? That’s exactly what the Blue Bears will see when they face off against Duke and the Blue Devils’ prized freshman, Jahlil Okafor.
Okafor will have a massive size and quickness advantage over the entirety of the post roster for Livingstone and should post a big initial game just as he did at Countdown to Craziness where the 6-foot-11 Chicago native made his first five shots from the floor and went on to register 27 points on 12-of-16 shooting to go along with eight rebounds in 24 minutes of action.
The Blue Devils have nine McDonalds All-Americans on the roster this season, and 10 legitimate high major recruits available for the rotation. So who starts and plays the most? That’s been the question asked over and over as the preseason practice slate pressed on.
And now it seems there’s an answer as the White Team (essentially the 1’s) has remained the same over the last two public viewings of the team. The team will start three freshmen in the form of Tyus Jones, Justise Winslow, and Okafor at the point guard, small forward, and center positions. Joining the newcomers will be sophomore scoring guard Matt Jones and junior forward Amile Jefferson.
Quinn Cook and Rasheed Sulaimon are expected to be the first two guards off the bench with fourth year junior center Marshall Plumlee thought to be the top post reserve.
Will the team play “Duke Defense” this year? A season ago the defense was, to put it nicely, severely lacking. Early on the Blue Devil practices have shown a team willing to pick up full court or three-quarter court pressure off of dead balls, while even showcasing some moments of what looked like a zone.
While the aggressive man-to-man won’t go anywhere, Duke’s defense around the paint should be much improved with the arrival of a true center. Okafor’s size and quickness will allow the big man to help bother and clean up shots when penetration comes from opponents.
There’s also length on the wing with Jefferson, Winslow, Jones, and Rasheed Sulaimon -enough to disrupt passing lanes and challenge jumpers all over the court.
They Said It:
“There’s no question Duke is one of the perennial powerhouses in men’s college basketball, and I know playing them will be a challenge for us. But I also know we have a very talented squad and one of the best coaches in the CIAA, so I look forward to a competitive contest.” - Livingstone President Dr. Jimmy R. Jenkins, Sr.