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A Look Ahead

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With the commitment of Jabari Parker, the next question is: what does it mean?

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Well let's start by looking at the known players on next year's team Of course, no one can predict transfers or early entries., and we're assuming that Andre Dawkins returns. With that said, let's look:

  • Andre Dawkins
  • Tyler Thornton
  • Josh Hairston
  • Rodney Hood
  • Quinn Cook
  • Marshall Plumlee
  • Alex Murphy
  • Rasheed Sulaimon
  • Amile Jefferson
  • Matt Jones
  • Semi Ojeleye
  • Jabari Parker

Break that down by position:


  • Dawkins
  • Thornton
  • Cook
  • Sulaimon
  • Jones


  • Hood
  • Parker
  • Ojeleye
  • Murphy


  • Hood
  • Parker
  • Hairston
  • Murphy
  • Jefferson
  • Ojeleye



That's an immensely versatile group with the exception of Plumlee. Indeed, getting a second big man is likely a priority. If no one else is signed then Hairston will likely be the default backup. Hairston rarely gets a lot of praise, but he's a great teammate and a great team member because he's accepted that he's not the star and is willing to take whatever role he can to help the unit advance.

You might roll your eyes at that about a basketball player and want someone better, but if you were advancing through Normandy or Okinawa, you sure as hell want a guy like that on your team. His stats are never going to be eye popping, but he'll have your back.

We should add that despite the superb start by this year's team, there has been a steady buzz about Hood and Plumlee. Coach K said that Plumlee would have been the first off the bench if he had been healthy at the beginning of the season, and there has been a steady rumor that Hood has been the best player for Duke this year, although he's obviously limited to practice.

Like Parker, Hood is extremely versatile. There's really not much point in putting positions on players like this, but rather saying what they can't do. Neither will play point guard, except in a pinch, and neither is likely to spend much time in the post. Hood is a thin 6-8 and Parker, whatever his other virtues, is a freshman and not likely to come in at full strength physically.

If Jefferson, who generally prefers to operate near the basket, can gain significant muscle, he could have a quickly defined role. He's certainly not a center, but he has a real knack inside. You may have noticed that he's getting knocked down a lot: with an extra 20-30 pounds, that won't happen as often.

Murphy has shown some real flashes now and you can see why people are excited about him. He has rebounded, defended, shot deep, driven to the hoop and just generally shown that he's a potentially wonderful player. Hood said, apologetically, that he'd never seen a white guy as athletic as Murphy.

Ojeleye is also a gifted offensive player who averaged 33 ppg last year and recently topped 50 in a game. He's got seriously deep range but is athletic enough to drive on bigger players.

Cook has nailed down the point guard spot and it's hard to imagine him being dislodged. But it's nice to have Thornton around, because he's always been mentally tough, a superb defender, and a capable point.

Sulaimon is also going to be hard to move out: he's added hugely to this team, particularly as a defender.

But there will be times when Duke either can use a bigger defender or a hot outside shooter. That's not to knock Sulaimon's shot because the guy has a nice stroke. But Duke will have the option of running Ojeleye or Jones or Dawkins at that guard spot.

Chemistry is funny, and sometimes cold shooting is contagious, but you'd have to think the odds are that either Sulaimon, or Ojeleye, or Jones or Dawkins would be hitting.

And if they're not, Parker, Hood or Cook might be.

In fact, in certain situations, we could see Duke putting Jones, Sulaimon, Ojeleye, Parker and Hood or Dawkins out and just letting it fly.

If there's a need for rugged defense, we could see Cook, Sulaimon, Ojeleye, Thornton and a player to be named later.

But the straw that stirs the drink? It's likely to be character. There will be a lot of guys on that team who are superb students and relentless workers. Parker, Sulaimon and Ojeleye might get most of the attention this way, but first it's not just them (think Thornton for one). What's significant is the effect that has on the group. It's going to be an interesting thing to watch.

We realize we're getting ahead of ourselves. It's not even January and Duke is undefeated. We should of course enjoy this team, and what a team it's been. We should be thrilled to have such a team.

The goal for any individual or group is to come as close to full potential as possible. Duke's seen that in 1986, 1991-92, 2000, 2001, 2010 and a few under-appreciated seasons as well. Certainly we should never forget the 1978 team which was about as close to ecstatic as any Duke team has ever been.

This team has a long way to go, but to date, they are performing superbly.

It's hard, though, not be just as excited about the future.