I had forgotten how loud Cameron can get.
It’s been 586 days since March 7, 2020 when Duke defeated North Carolina 89-76 in what turned out to be the final game of Duke’s 2019-’20 season. Wendell Moore is the only Blue Devil to appear in that game who is still in the program; Joey Baker was a DNP.
In other words, an almost complete roster overhaul full of players who have never played with fans in Cameron.
Mike Krzyzewski lauded the return of fans, saying “It’s huge. Our game is supposed to be played in front of fans.”
Sophomores Mark Williams and Jeremy Roach could hardly describe their glee at their first real Cameron experience.
“You can’t even put into perspective how loud the environment is,” Williams said. “You have to go out and experience it yourself.”
Roach agreed, calling the atmosphere “crazy,” without a hint of irony.
Some notes on format. The basketball portion had two 12-minute games. The first was balanced and ended with a 22-22 tie. The second was ones v twos and the starters won 34-14.
Stats quoted below are from the combined games.
It’s hard to put together a traditional narrative so I’ll just share some thoughts.
Basically, the people we expected to play well played well. Banchero said he was nervous and Krzyzewski said Banchero still puts too much pressure on himself. And Banchero did miss 4 of 5 from the line and all three 3-pointers.
But he also ran the floor the way no one his size should ever be able to run the floor. He can lead the break or finish the break. He had 11 points and six rebounds.
Wendell Moore was the experienced veteran leader we were hoping to see, 13 points and a couple of steals. Jeremy Roach was solid and Joey Baker knocked down two of five from beyond the arc.
But Mark Williams and Trevor Keels were the dominant players. Williams used his length and athleticism to grab 10 rebounds in 24 minutes, with a couple of blocks. He scored 15 points, making both foul shots and a three-pointer.
And he did all of this against grad-student Theo John, a tough, experienced defender who made him work for every inch of Cameron hard-court.
But Keels was the eye-opener. He’s built like a tight end but Krzyzewski said Keels had the best VO2 measurements on the team.
“He doesn’t get tired,” Krzyzewski said of Keels. “He’s an easy guy to play with. I think he’s a big-time player.”
Krzyzewski said his team was stronger and more physically mature than last year’s team was at any point. Banchero said “I can’t put a ceiling on our season.”
Duke does need to get A.J. Griffin back. Griffin did modestly participate in the pregame dance portion of the program, so maybe he’s not so far from returning. But Jaylen Blakes and Bates Jones looked over-matched, so right now Duke has a seven-player roster and a schedule with lots of early obstacles.
But the Crazies are back, Cameron is rocking and Duke is undefeated. All is right in the world, or at least trending in that direction.