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This Year’s Blue Devils Are Banging Down Low

Duke is rebounding historically well this year

Countdown to Craziness
DURHAM, NC - OCTOBER 21: Kyle Filipowski #30 of the Duke Blue Devils gets a defensive rebound during Countdown to Craziness at Cameron Indoor Stadium on October 21, 2022 in Durham, North Carolina.
Photo by Lance King/Getty Images

Duke basketball is known for many things. Dominating the boards is not one of them.

This season, though, as 2022 faded into the past, shouldered aside by 2023, the Blue Devils found themselves in the uncommon position of leading the ACC in rebound margin. Through 14 games, a bit more than a one-third slice of the season, Jon Scheyer’s crew averaged a 9.36-rebound edge, best at the school since their rookie coach was born.

Pacing the Devils on the boards in 2022-23 has been Kyle Filipowski, a freshman in the familiar mode of a solidly built, mobile, resolute big white guy with multiple skills inside and on the perimeter. The 7-footer had double-doubles in points and rebounds in nearly half of Duke’s early games. Only UNC senior Armond Bacot had more double-doubles of the point-rebound variety.

Duke graduate transfer Ryan Young, formerly of Chris Collins’ Northwestern club, also ranked among the ACC’s top-10 rebounders with 7.1.

Duke was third as the year turned in offensive rebounds, first in defensive rebounds. The last time the Devils were in a comparable situation statistically, their Filipowski-type big man was Danny Ferry, the two-time ACC player of the year in 1988 and 1989 and a prototype of the point forward.

In the ACC’s first 69 seasons Duke topped the league in rebound margin nine times (13 percent of the seasons, about one in eight). Only three of those instances came with Mike Krzyzewski as head coach. Four came under Vic Bubas. None came in the last 33 years.

At no time has Duke finished with a margin on the boards that matched this year’s.

Duke commanded the boards three times in Coach K’s first decade, and that was it. Included was 1986, Krzyzewski’s breakthrough year, with the largely forgotten Ferry, a dominating force as the ‘80s ended.

Overall, in the nine years when it paced the conference in rebound margin Duke went to five Final Fours and captured five ACC titles.

Not many Blue Devils ever topped ACC rebounders. Five, to be exact, on seven different occasions: Mike Lewis in 1966 and 1968, Mike Gminski in 1980, Shelden Williams in 2005 and 2006, Jabari Parker in 2014 (8.7), and Marvin Bagley III (11.1) in 2018.

Bernie Janicki was Duke’s best single-season rebounder with 15.9 in 1952, his sophomore year. Providing a surfeit of boards, the squad hit a lowly .380 of its shots.

Lewis stands second all-time at the school with a 14.4 average as a senior in ’68, when the Devils made just .458 from the floor. NC State’s Ron Shavlik set the ACC standard with 19.5 rebounds per game in 1956 as the league champs converted a measly .406 of their field goal tries.

Seasons In Which Duke Led ACC In Rebound Margin
(2023 Through Games of January 4, 2023)
Year Reb Margin Record Coach Reb Leader
1966 12.8 26-4, Final Four Bubas M. Lewis (11.0)
1962 12.2 20-5 Bubas A. Heyman (11.2)
1963 11.3 27-3, Final Four Bubas A. Heyman (10.8)
1968 10.6 22-6 Bubas M. Lewis (14.4)
2023 9.4 11-3 Scheyer K. Filipowski (8.6)
1971 6.2 20-10 Waters R. Denton (12.8)
1986 5.9 37-3, Final Four Krzyzewski M. Alarie (6.2)
1989 5.4 28-8, Final Four Krzyzewski D. Ferry (7.4)
1979 4.3 22-8 Foster M. Gminski (9.2)
1988 4.2 28-7, Final Four Krzyzewski D. Ferry (7.6)