The other day we listened to CBS’s Matt Norlander say something about Duke and list a couple of Krzyzewski era players and “some guy from the ‘70s.”
The guy was Gene Banks, who was a huge recruit and did a hell of a lot to revive Duke basketball in the late ‘70s.
It amused and bothered us because like a lot of people, Norlander had no idea that Duke basketball existed before Coach K got to Durham to supercharge it.
Well it did and Coach K would be the first to tell you.
Which brings us to this list of the best Duke small forwards of all time.
Here are their choices:
- Luol Deng - 5
- Jabari Parker - 4
- Kyle Singler - 3
- Art Heyman - 2
- Grant Hill - 1
Let’s consider first who's not listed:
- Kenny Dennard
- David Henderson
- Shane Battier
- Billy King
- Chris Carrawell
- Nate James
- Brian Davis
- Roshown McLeod
- Mike Dunleavy
- Dahntay Jones
- Dave McClure
There are few cons here. Battier wasn’t necessarily a small forward but he wasn’t really a big forward either. Billy King had no offensive game but was a defensive prodigy. We didn’t list Danny Ferry but was he a big forward? And how do you even categorize people in Duke’s system? Ferry was sort of a 6-10 point forward but his teammate Robert Brickey was a 6-5 guy who mostly played in the paint.
So how do you fit all this in?
Short answer - you don’t, not really. But if you want a list here we’d go with a pretty different list - no offense to the other guys who we didn’t pick.
First, it’s hard to argue that a one-and-done guy can be judged the same as a multi-year player so we’d kick Deng and Parker off the list (and all one-year players for that matter).
Our five would go like this and we kept one name off until the end for the suspense of it and in no particular order:
- Gene Banks
- Art Heyman
- Shane Battier
- Grant Hill
- Jack Marin
How could you have this list and not mention Marin? He was a brilliant talent in the Bubas era and had a long and highly successful NBA career. He was absolutely one of Duke’s all-time best players.
No matter how you slice it though, Duke’s history of small forwards is superb.
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