The top-ranked team in the nation took the floor on Friday night as Duke held its annual Countdown to Craziness season-opening celebration.
Voted No. 1 in the nation in the preseason coaches poll one day earlier, the Blue Devils had a 20-minute Blue-White scrimmage to conclude Countdown to Craziness and give fans an introduction to the seven new freshman scholarship players on the roster.
Here’s what you need to know about the first look at the 2017-18 Blue Devils.
Gary Trent is ready for prime time
The five-star shooting guard tied senior Grayson Allen as the top scorer in the scrimmage with 13 points. He hit 3-for-5 on 3-pointers, matching Allen shot for shot late in the game, as the teams exchanged the lead repeatedly.
“Gary is strong physically and just way ahead of a normal freshman, as far as physical maturity,” coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “The two of them (Trent and Allen) will probably play together, instead of playing against one another, but they gave us two really great guys on the wing.”
The freshman bigs are as good as advertised
Wendell Carter Jr. and Marvin Bagley III matched up for much of the game and finished with 11 and 12 points, respectively. Bagley took a pair of lobs from Allen for dunks, a play that will likely be a common call in Duke’s offense. He also showed good touch and instincts around the basket for when to go up strong and when to lay up. Carter auditioned for the stretch-four role, hitting a 3-pointer early in the game.
Trevon Duval is a work in progress
The five-star point guard has immense talent and athleticism. He finished runner-up to Allen in the dunk contest and had a self-pass off the backboard for a dunk that left everyone in the building — except Coach K — cheering. He also had four turnovers, including getting stripped from behind by Jordan Goldwire on a dribble drive.
“He is a heck of an athlete, but he has to be more careful with the ball,” Krzyzewski said. “He has to play with the athleticism and the verve, where it’s not a one-for-one — like I get a good pass and I get a turnover.”
Alex O’Connell could be a surprise contributor
O’Connell is “only” a four-star recruit, but the rail-thin shooting guard showed that he could earn playing time this season. O’Connell scored eight points, hitting a pair of 3-pointers and making an acrobatic twisting layup in the paint. He also dove on the floor for loose balls and put on a dunking show in the pregame layup line.
Javin DeLaurier may be the most improved returning player
The team isn’t just Allen and the freshmen. If the team is going to succeed, several of the returning players will have to show they’ve improved in the offseason. DeLaurier, a little-used forward last season, made his case early in the scrimmage. He pulled down four rebounds in the first minute of the game and finished with a game-high nine boards. He also tied for the team lead with three assists. DeLaurier was held out late in the game, after his hamstring tightened up, but if he can stay healthy, he could become the Amile Jefferson type of dirty-work player the team needs.
More freshmen stars could be on the way
While assistant coaches Jeff Capel and Jon Scheyer coached the Blue and White teams in the scrimmage, Krzyzewski spent the game chatting with the half-dozen five-star prospects visiting campus for Countdown. Five-star small forward Zion Williamson, the No. 2 prospect in the 2018 class, was on his official visit. Williamson walked across the court to sit with the Cameron Crazies during a time out midway through the scrimmage.
Five-star 2019 prospects Armando Bacot (PF/C), Matthew Hurt (PF) and Joey Baker (SF) also visited the student section at the end of the scrimmage. Five-stars from the 2020 class in attendance included Isaiah Todd (PF) and R.J. Hampton (PG).