Honestly, we thought it would be McCain.
After the Arizona game, we thought, man, if someone lights it up from outside, Duke is a different team. And while we expected it to be McCain, as it happened, it was Caleb Foster.
And no matter who it is, as we thought, a solid outside shooting performance changes things for this team.
Every coach has strengths and weaknesses, and their teams reflect those. As a player, Duke’s Jon Scheyer combined a very high basketball IQ, an intense competitive drive and outstanding three point shooting and we’ve been fascinated to watch him gather players who share those traits.
As a taller guard, the 6-5 Foster is capable of things that the other guards in Duke’s deep backcourt - Jeremy Roach and Jaylen Blakes, both 6-2 and McCain, who is 6-3, can’t do. Only Tyrese Proctor, also 6-5, can match his height, but as point guard, he has other responsibilities.
What we saw Tuesday night was the unveiling of a seriously dangerous offensive weapon. If he’s capable of that on a regular basis, he’ll open up the inside for Kyle Filipowski, Mark Mitchell, Ryan Young and the guards who are almost all willing to drive when the opportunity presents itself.
Foster gets the raves and deserves them, but now we invite you to consider this: McCain, clearly, has not yet arrived. But he will.
It’s a bizarre comparison, but we think of McCain as sort of a hybrid of Kobe Bryant and Jose Alvarado.
Because he has an immense work ethic and he’s unbelievably crafty.
We haven’t seen him explode like Foster did, and it’s not like both have to erupt during the same game...but what if they do? What do you do with Duke if Scheyer can put out Foster - and you saw how dangerous he can be - and McCain at the same time?
There are some very cool things about Jared McCain.
First, he really works hard. Second, he really works on defense. And third, from what we’ve seen, he has a rare knack of being able to operate in traffic. He’s really smart. Not a little bit smart - really smart. We’ve seen clips where he is in the middle of traffic, dealing with much bigger guys in the lane, and he just gets it. Not many players can operate with the level of confidence he has when very large guys are constantly in motion. We’ve seen flashes but not consistently yet.
Freshmen grow at their own pace and Foster made a statement Tuesday night that we thought McCain would make.
But don’t worry.
That’s coming too.