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ACC Preview # 15 Duke - Part III

A look at the freshmen

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High School Basketball: 40th Annual McDonald's All-American Games
Mar 29, 2017; Chicago, IL, USA; McDonald's High School All-American players Wendell Carter Jr. (34) and Gary Trent Jr. (2) who will both be attending Duke University in the fall of 2017 pose for a group photo before the 40th Annual McDonald's High School All-American Game at the United Center.
Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Duke’s roster is a bit odd this year in that there is only one senior and one junior who has barely played. The sophomore class is largely untested too which means that the freshmen had better be productive.

As usual in recent years, Duke brings in a strong freshman class, but this one may be particularly strong. Even the walk-on is surprisingly accomplished.

That’d be Mike Buckmire out of Blue Bell, Pa. He scored 1,144 points at Germantown Friends School and averaged 22.1 ppg as a senior. He wasn’t heavily recruited but got some interest from Ivy League schools. His dad played on the ‘86 Duke soccer team, the first Duke team to win a national championship in any sport.

He has better potential than most walk-ons.

The other seven freshmen segment into two groups: the fast track and the longer term players. Let’s look at the longer term guys first.

That’d be Jordan Tucker, Jordan Goldwire and Alex O’ Connell.

Tucker was a major Syracuse target who ended up picking Duke and therefore is not going to be popular on trips to the Carrier Dome.

He is a native New Yorker who finished up high school ball in Georgia. Duke got in on him late after Kevin Knox surprised a lot of people and chose UK over Duke.

He’s not a bad backup plan. First he’s a solid three point shooter which is likely to win him minutes. More importantly, we like his attitude. He clearly wanted Duke - the Devils offered right after being jilted by Knox - and after a quick visit he committed. The whole business took less than a week.

We can’t find the link but he said at the time that he knew he wasn’t the first choice and didn't really care - you have to love that.

Tucker is seen as a 4-star recruit and was ranked #40 nationally. He’s still slender but time will fix that and Duke has plenty of beef this year anyway. They don’t need him to be powerful, they need him to be an effective and creative scorer.

What Duke doesn’t have is a lot at small forward - it’s basically Tucker and Jack White and possibly fellow freshman Gary Trent, Jr. who might be better suited to play in the backcourt.

Tucker’s offensive game could help loosen the inside for the bigs. We’ll be surprised if he doesn’t play a fair amount as a freshman.

Could he start? Yeah, possibly. Roles at Duke evolve during the year and if he fills a need he could certainly start. Either way he’ll be a factor.

Jordan Goldwire was a bit of a surprise. Eastern Kentucky had really worked him and planned on him to be a four-year point guard. Then Duke happened.

Colonel’s coach Dan McHale said this to after Goldwire chose Duke: “We recruited [him] hard for months. Duke recruited him for days, hours. But it was Duke. What are you going to do?”

As a Duke freshman, Goldwire is basically insurance. He’ll also run the second team in practice. He’ll spend his early years learning Duke basketball and could become a solid starter later in his career like Tyler Thornton or Sean Dockery.

The third guy in this group is Alex O’ Connell. Like Buckmire, his dad was a Duke athlete, Dave O’ Connell, a basketball player in the mid ‘70s.

O’ Connell came to Duke with rare athleticism. Unfortunately he also had balky knees and never came close to his potential. As a senior he finally got to play some and then had another issue. But in that brief time fans saw a superb athlete, a guy who was 6-4 who could really get off the ground, even with a heavy brace. It’s too bad that he didn’t have the benefits of modern arthroscopic surgery, rehab and training techniques.

His son is quite slender at 171 and a bit taller at 6-6. He’s an outstanding shooter and if he has any of his dad’s talent his future is bright. He’s already made an impression, having nailed the winning shot in the Countdown to Craziness scrimmage.

The other four players are very highly rated. Trevon Duval is seen as the best point guard in his class, Trent as the best shooting guard, Wendell Carter as the best center and Marvin Bagley as the best player overall.

Getting Duval is a big deal. Last year Duke lacked a solid distributor and Duval is going to solve that problem. Duke has a history of great point guards - Tommy Amaker, Bobby Hurley and Tyus Jones among others - but it’s possible that Duval could be the most athletic point guard Duke has ever had. We’ve heard comparisons to a young (and healthy) Derrick Rose.

That doesn’t always translate into great basketball but it sure doesn’t hurt. He’ll get the ball from Day One and he’ll run the team.

Trent is going to play too though it’s not clear yet where or how much. Grayson Allen will start the season alongside Duval and it’s his position to lose. Trent could start on the wing but might be at a disadvantage defensively when he sees guys like, say, Notre Dame’s Bonzie Colson, much less bigger players.

Still, like Tucker, Trent’s scoring ability and range will get him on the court.

Trent came to Duke with his buddy Carter as the two had long talked of a package deal.

Carter is an impressive recruit. He’s 6-10 and 259 and for a guy that size he’s agile. His build immediately recalls Jahlil Okafor but Okafor only recently got into tip-top shape with the 76ers. Carter is pretty solid right now. He’s a powerful inside presence and gives Duke a rebounder that Lefty Driesell would have loved back in the day. From what we’ve seen so far he is a power player, yes, but one with some subtlety to his game that you don’t always see from a power player.

He’s also an outstanding student who seriously considered Amaker’s Harvard program over Duke (his mom really pushed that idea).

You may have noticed that Carter spent a good bit of last year doing various exuberant things with his hair, including at different times sporting shades of blue and yellow. Like Daniel Ewing’s high school braids, that was left at home.

Duke’s class was already tremendous when, quite late in the summer, when Bagley decided to reclassify.

Bagley is the great prize, not just in this class but possibly for quite some time.

He showed his potential earlier in the summer in Drew League play where he completely outplayed Golden State’s JaVale McGee.

Cam Smith said this about that in USA Today: "Bagley’s footwork is so impressive, it’s almost dizzying. He lures McGee into a carry, winning L.A. United back the ball in a critical spot. That’s not to say that McGee didn’t occasionally end up on top. At one point he swatted a Bagley turnaround that never really had a chance itself. Still, for a soon-to-be high school senior — or, potentially, a college freshman — to hold his own so decisively in a high profile matchup against a contributor to the NBA champions provides power testament to Bagley’s bona fides as a future NBA star. Sure, much still needs to happen before then, but for now, Bagley sure looks like the player everyone has long claimed he would become."

That really excited people, understandably. He’s got range and skill and athleticism. It’s not an every day combination.

Bagley, who has family in the area, is going to start obviously, as is Carter. His presence has led a lot of people to anoint Duke as the champs to be. That’s a fool’s game but it’s something to do until we get later in the season.

The freshmen are going to be a major factor and the big guys will change the way Duke plays, at least for this season: Coach K plans to run more zone than he typically would to accommodate the size.

No Name Pos Ht Wt CL Hometown
1 Trevon Duval G 6-3 186 Fr. New Castle, Del. (IMG Academy [Fla.])
2 Gary Trent, Jr. G 6-6 209 Fr. Columbus, Ohio (Prolific Prep [Calif.])
5 Jordan Tucker F 6-7 212 Fr. White Plains, N.Y. (Wheeler [Ga.])
14 Jordan Goldwire G 6-2 172 Fr. Norcross, Ga. (Norcross)
15 Alex O'Connell G 6-6 171 Fr. Roswell, Ga. (Milton)
34 Wendell Carter, Jr. F 6-10 259 Fr. Atlanta, Ga. (Pace Academy)
35 Marvin Bagley III F 6-11 234 Fr. Phoenix, Ariz. (Sierra Canyon [Calif.])
51 Mike Buckmire G 6-2 172 Fr. Blue Bell, Pa. (Germantown Friends School)

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