Q&A: Duke sophomore Chase Jeter

After a tough freshman year, the big man is taking on a bigger role this season

Christine T. Nguyen—The North State Journal
Duke forward Chase Jeter (2) pulls down a rebound in front of Florida State guard Montay Brandon (32) and forward Jarquez Smith (23) during the first half of the college men's basketball game on Thursday

Chase Jeter is a throwback at Duke. In the one-and-done era, freshmen have arrived on campus as the Blue Devils’ best players.That wasn’t the case for Jeter. He arrived on campus as a five-star recruit and McDonald’s All-American, but while classmate Brandon Ingram prepared himself to be the second pick in the NBA Draft last season, Jeter struggled.Jeter didn’t start a single game and had four DNPs during his first season as a Blue Devil. He averaged just 1.9 points and 1.9 rebounds in just under eight minutes a contest. He struggled on defense, which cost him playing time and more than a few harsh rebukes from coach Mike Krzyzewski. He hit a low point in mid-January, when Jeter fouled out of a loss at Clemson in just four minutes of playing time.Jeter found his footing somewhat late in the season. He had season highs in points (7) and rebounds (6) in the ACC Tournament against Notre Dame and entered this season with high hopes for improvement. He had a double-double (15 points, 12 rebounds) in Duke’s second exhibition game, and, in the week of the season opener, he moved up in the rotation, thanks to an injury to freshman center Marques Bolden.Jeter took a few minutes to talk about last season and his hopes for this year the Wednesday before opening night.North State Journal: How has your confidence improved over last season at this time?Chase Jeter: Eons better. Just being able to really adjust last year to the speed of the game. I started to come on a little bit last year during the tournament and toward the end of the season. Even now, just being here in the summer and working hard, feeling my teammates and competing with those guys every day has made not only me better but made everybody better.NSJ: How have things changed with the injury to Bolden?CJ: It’s the same as always. With this group of guys, and with last year’s group of guys, we’ve dealt with injuries before. It’s the same as last year—next man up mentality. Guys have just got to be ready to play.NSJ: You struggled as a freshman last year. What did you learn from going through that?CJ: Yeah, it would have been a little diffcult for anybody, but you know going through that and having that year under my belt and knowing the ropes, knowing what to look for, knowing what to expect, I’m far better prepared than I was as an incoming freshman. Not knowing what I was getting myself into and not knowing the extent of the college game—now being a sophomore, I’m still young, but being able to have that youth and experience definitely helps me.NSJ: Did you see what happened to Bolden when he suffered the injury in practice?CJ: [Shakes head] There was no defining moment. It just happened.NSJ: What was your reaction?CJ: Just like I said before, being the next man up. It’s just one of the roles you have to fill, and everyone has to be ready for it.NSJ: Looking at this year’s team, what would you say are the strengths?CJ: The best thing would definitely be the leadership we have from our captains. Returning those three guys — Matt [Jones], Amile [Jefferson] and Grayson [Allen] — having those guys being able to lead us each day, set the example, set the tone for practice, games and even how we act off the court. Having those guys to lead us by example is great.NSJ: You and Amile were trapping more in the exhibition games. Is that something that will continue, or is that tougher with injuries limiting the depth of the big men?CJ: I wouldn’t relate that to injuries. I would say that’s more of a defensive game plan type of deal. It depends on who it is we’re playing, their style of offense and their style of play. That’s usually how we’ll dictate what we do defensively.NSJ: Duke seems to have the bullseye on it every season. How does the team handle that pressure?CJ: Being Duke basketball players, everybody’s going to give us their best game. I think that’s part of the reason why we go so hard here and practices are so intense. We’re competitive every day, and that’s just the part of the environment here at Duke. We embrace it and then go from there.NSJ: Based on the two exhibition games, it seems like Luke Kennard is going to have a big year. Is that something you saw coming in the offseason and practice?CJ: Luke’s always been that good to me. Nobody here’s ever seen Luke every day in practice, but Luke scores just as much as our leading scorers on the team in practice. That consistency from Luke has always been there, in terms of practice. Now that it’s happening in games, it’s no surprise.NSJ: Duke is the preseason No. 1. Is that something the team thinks about or pays any attention to?CJ: It’s an honor. We have a great squad, a great group of guys. With that being said, we just have to take Number One and just roll with it and own it. If we want to be Number One, we have to act like we’re No. 1 and go hard every game. We’ve got to win games. At the end of the day, that’s what it comes down to.