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Looking Ahead: Next Year’s Bigs

Unlike last year, Duke is going to be loaded inside

High School Basketball: NOV 08 Pangos All-American Festival
CHANDLER, AZ - NOVEMBER 08: Paolo Banchero, from O’Dea High School, goes up for a shot over Jabari Smith, from Sandy Creek High School, during the Pangos All-American Festival on November 8, 2020 at AZ Compass Prep in Chandler, AZ.
Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Last year, Duke was worried enough about front court depth to bring in Patrick Tapé, who, as it turns out, was far out of his depth. Despite a stellar Ivy League career, Tapé barely got on the court and will take his bonus year elsewhere.

This year?

It’s not going to be like that.

Duke has multiple bigs and all of them are going to see time.

Start with Mark Williams. The 7-0 rising sophomore came on like gangbusters and the end of the season, proving to be an absolute problem inside. He wasn’t just a potent inside force; he was also a very skilled all-round player and an outstanding passer.

As we’ve said before, he needs to put on some weight, but that’s about all that’s keeping him from greatness. He got pushed around a lot last season. If he works hard this summer, that won’t happen anymore.

One other thing he needs to work on: rebounding. Williams only averaged 4.5 boards last season, good for just fourth on the team.

He’ll get plenty of help there though, starting with Theo John.

The Marquette transfer averaged 26.3 mpg, 8.0 ppg, 5.0 rpg and 1.5 blocks. Moreover, he’s 6-9 and pushing 260. He’s a grown man. He’ll be a defense-first guy and, importantly, he’ll bring power to the lineup. If Williams isn’t ready to bang inside, John has made a career of it.

Then there’s ace recruit Paolo Banchero. When he signed with Duke, he was listed at 6-8. We understand he’s grown since then and is now closer to 6-11 than 6-8 and solidly built.

He’s shown a superb all-around game that will fit into today’s NBA nicely whenever he gets there.

And like John, he can provide raw power if Williams isn’t bulked up by fall.

No matter how you look at it, the three give Duke a massive front line with a lot of options. They won’t all start - they might not even ever be on the floor at the same time - but to have that many quality big men is a rare luxury and it will be an immense help to the Blue Devils.