North Carolina had Brady Manek. Kansas has Remy Martin. And nearly every team that made it to the Sweet 16 or Elite Eight had at least one, and sometimes several key players contributing in key roles that began their careers at other schools.
As they did at the beginning of the one and done era, Duke has shied away from using the NCAA Transfer Portal for more than secondary parts, but this coming season will test that practice and should change the approach.
Unlike previous seasons when Duke pulled in Theo John, patrick tape, and other role players, there is a convergence of need and opportunity in Durham for a number of high level players. In the past Duke has only been able to offer the role of a projected reserve. Not since Seth Curry and Rodney Hood has there been an opening (and need) for a player who can come in and be one of the team’s top options.
And, as there are every year, there are players already reaching out to Duke to notify the Blue Devils of their interest in coming into the program and proving they can produce on college basketball’s biggest stage.
In looking at Duke’s projected roster at this very early point, the Blue Devils currently sit with the following projected depth chart:
PG- jeremy roach (Jr.), Jaylen Blakes (So.)
SG- jadeen schutt (Fr.)
SF- Dariq Whitehead (Fr.)
PF- Kyle Filipowski (Fr.), Mark Mitchell (Fr.)
C – Dereck Lively II (Fr.), Christian Reeves (Fr.)*
*- Reeves is expected to redshirt
That is a lot of talent on paper with five former five star prospects and two four star players, but also a roster that is woefully short on experience.
While Schutt is considered one of the nation’s top three-point shooters, there are questions as to how quickly he’ll be able to adapt to the rigors of ACC Basketball. The 6-foot-5 Illinois shooting guard could certainly surprise, but you’d be hard pressed to find any recruiting analyst who believes he’ll be ready for starter’s minutes at Duke come November.
Similarly, Christian Reeves is considered a long term project big man who could factor into the rotation in a year or two, but who is not expected to play during the 2022-23 season as a red shirt.
Those two situations leave Duke with a projected six man rotation led by Roach, four freshmen, and potential Blakes who, as noted above, didn’t play this season.
Considering the projections, Duke will most likely be in the market for at least two guards – one a starting caliber shooting guard and another being able to score and handle the ball in a combo guard role. Duke will also need to find at least one more post player who, like John this season, is willing to challenge the two freshman bigs on a daily basis and who could provide spot minutes within the rotation.
Finding those three players is easier said than done, of course. And Duke will have to balance the idea of short term and long term gain. Having already secured commitments from three five star recruits from 2023, Duke will likely be looking to find players who can come in and contribute, but who also slot into the program’s expected roster builds for future. An ideal transfer candidate would have multiple years of eligibility remaining but also be a high enough caliber player who can not only contribute, but become one of the team’s most reliable producers.
It’s going to be tough to find such pieces, but as we’ve seen around the college basketball universe this season…it’s completely possible. Duke (and Scheyer) just have to dive in.