FRONT COURT HAS EXPERIENCE AND POTENTIAL
The starting front court of Amile Jefferson and Marshall Plumlee looked solid for Duke. Granted, the seniors have a combined seven years of college basketball experience and were competing against players with virtually none, but they still took care of business and left little doubt as to their place in the rotation.
Despite not playing extensive minutes over the last four seasons, Marshall Plumlee displayed a poised and focused style of play on Saturday. The fifth year big man finished with 10 points and 8 rebounds. Not only did he display the ability to finish above and around the rim, the youngest Plumlee brother also showed off a baby hook that was surprisingly effective.
At the power forward position, Duke got 13 points and 7 rebounds out of Amile Jefferson, who converted well in traffic and showed the ability to take opponents off the dribble at times. Jefferson had shown a number of spin and up and under moves during his first three years at Duke, but it’s not been on a consistent basis. And while he may not be this team’s go-to scorer, it’s a safe bet that Jefferson will routinely be around double figures.
If experience is the most applicable word for the starting front court, potential may be the most appropriate description for the backups. Both Chase Jeter and Sean Obi showed a willingness to mix it up with their elder counterparts at times. Both are facing a steep learning curve, but the duo should be able to buy Duke some minutes in relief of the starters along with rebounding as the season moves along.
INGRAM IS THIS YEAR’S JABARI PARKER
The Kinston, NC product plays like a guard and handles the ball like a guard. But, he’s 6-foot-9 with a long wingspan that allows him to impact the game at both ends of the floor. On offense he can take opponents off the bounce and can finish at the rim in a number of ways. On Saturday he showed the ability to shoot over small defenders and, when a bigger opponent drew the assignment, Ingram simply went around them and either got to the basket or drew a foul.
Defensively he may struggle laterally at times with small, quicker guards and wings, but Ingram also showed the ability to sag off his opponent to cut angles to the basket. If the driver tried to pull up, Ingram was usually able to still impact the shot thanks to his length. Where he struggles is when a bigger opponent isolates him in the paint and can push him around a bit.
With so many assets at his disposal, it’s no wonder that Ingram will most likely be the player most featured in the Duke system for the 2015-2016 season. It’s very reminiscent of the way Duke used Jabari Parker two years ago with the featured player being free to go inside or stay on the perimeter depending on the match-up. They are certainly different players, but it’s a safe bet that Ingram is going to be used in much the same way (i.e. as a focal point).
KENNARD HAS STRONG DEBUT
Luke Kennard’s game is made for Coach K’s system. The 6-foot-5 left scoring guard looked like a natural when it came to coming off screens and curls to find a quick release jump shot opportunity. It’s what you saw Duke run with JJ Redick and even Kyle Singler at times. Instantly it appears as though the lefty is the team’s best shooter, which could require him to play heavy minutes this season. And early. Especially if the team is struggling with spacing on the offensive end of the floor.
A season ago a freshman point guard came in and was an instant starter and floor general. But Tyus Jones also had a lot of help with Quinn Cook on the roster. Derryck Thornton has arrived at Duke without the benefit of a senior mentor and some big shoes to fill after Jones left Durham for the NBA. For the second straight public viewing (the first being the public practice earlier this month), Thornton struggled at times on offense. For lack of a better term, he seems to be attempting to play too fast, and thusly committing a number of turnovers. We had him tallying seven turnovers on the night - many a product of trying to drive or force the action on the offensive end. It wasn’t all bad, however, as the freshman from Nevada showed flashes of being a very, very good defender early on. He’s got length and lateral quickness that hasn’t been seen in Durham since Chris Duhon at the lead guard spot.