Blue Devils relying on returning veterans for next season

Duke's Tre Jones, Javin DeLaurier turn down temptation of NBA riches

Duke's Tre Jones and Javin DeLaurier both opted against going pro and decided to come back for another year in Durham. (Gerry Broome / AP Photo)

DURHAM — More than two months after the season ended, Duke now has a good idea of its roster for the 2019-20 season.

As usual, coach Mike Krzyzewski will have a new class of freshmen stars ready to replace the group of one-and-dones that are preparing for this month’s NBA Draft.

One key member of last year’s freshman class bucked the recent trend, however. Point guard Tre Jones opted to stay at Duke for another year, rather than test the draft waters.

“I feel like I was still wanting to accomplish more here,” he told the media at last week’s K Academy, the weeklong fantasy camp and Duke basketball alumni reunion. “I still had a lot of things to work on and improve on. There are still a lot of steps I can make here at the college level.”

The season-ending loss to Michigan State, which cost Duke a Final Four berth, was a key factor in Jones’ decision.

“I had no intention of leaving,” he said. “My main goal coming in was to win a national championship. Not winning that definitely had an impact on me.”

Krzyzewski called Jones’ return “huge,” even though much of Jones’ last two months have been devoted to recovering from several procedures.

“He’s had a couple surgeries since then,” Krzyzewski said. “The same procedure that was done on his left hip before he got here was done on his right hip. He was able to play real well, but it’s a corrective thing, and he did that about a month ago now. And last Friday he had hernia surgery. He’s good and he’ll be here during the camp and doing his rehab.”

Jones is ready to get back on the court.

“I had a couple things done, but I’m feeling (better),” he said. “I’m back working out, getting going now, spending time down at Duke. I’m living here for the summer.”

While Jones didn’t go through the draft evaluation process, he still has a list of things to improve on. The top item will be to take the reins of the team.

“The main thing for me is for him to be a more vocal leader,” Krzyzewski said. “I think as a freshman, that’s hard, and he was good. He understood what was out there and obviously had a heck of a year. I need him to be more verbal and more vocal in running group and also demanding in how certain things are run.”

Jones is willing to accept the leadership role.

“It comes a little natural to me, but as with everything, you have got to work on it,” he said. “Coming here, being with Coach for a year now, I’ve learned things on how to be a better leader, like the leader he is. With the things he’s been able to teach me, I think I can continue to take steps forward.”

Jones’ first act of leadership for the new season was announcing his decision to stay without first taking a look at the draft process.

“I didn’t even test the waters,” he said. “I knew I wanted to stay for my second year right away. It would have been no harm. I definitely could have tested, but I had no intention of leaving. I didn’t want my draft stock to affect whether I was leaving or not. If I was ready to leave, I would just go. I wasn’t looking at draft stock. I was just looking at myself and where I am as a player.”

Jones’ decision came as a pleasant surprise to five-star forward Wendell Moore, a key member of the incoming freshman class.

“When I first found out, I was excited for him,” Moore said. “He did what was best for him. But him coming back is also a huge piece for us. We think we can make a lot of noise this year.”

While Jones didn’t even choose to enter the draft process, Duke got good news from another veteran player who did. Forward Javin DeLaurier, a rising senior, chose to return to school after going through the pro evaluations. Classmate Marques Bolden remained in the draft, along with one-and-dones Zion Williamson, Cam Reddish and RJ Barrett.

“It is huge,” Krzyzewski said. “We are really happy with Marques staying in, as he got some good, positive feedback. We will have an older upper class, which is something we need. Jack (White), Javin (are seniors). Justin Robinson will be in graduate school. Alex (O’Connell) and Jordan (Goldwire) are juniors — hard to believe — and they have learned a lot. We didn’t look at any transfers or grad transfers. We thought that we just wanted to stick with the guys we have, and we didn’t try to get any additional kids in recruiting. We felt let’s go with the group that we have and be committed to them, and hopefully, it works out well.”