With the chaos of the transfer portal winding down, mid-summer quickly becomes a content desert for the college basketball fan. Duke’s social media team doesn’t use that as an excuse for some downtime, though, as evidenced by a recently released 9 minute clip of a 5 on 5 scrimmage.
As with most of these practice videos, it’s heavily edited, and thus must be taken with a grain of salt. Still, this offers perhaps the clearest insight yet into what the 2023-24 squad will look like, albeit without expected star Kyle Filipowski (still recovering from hip surgery). So, what reasonable conclusions can we draw?
- Duke’s returning depth players look much more confident. The footage shows both Jaden Schutt and Christian Reeves much more involved in the offense than in any footage we saw during their freshman campaigns. With four incoming 5* freshman expected to earn minutes alongside Duke’s five returning rotation players, the Blue Devils should easily be able to go 8 or 9 men deep this season. Development from Schutt and Reeves (and one can add Jaylen Blakes into this mix) could give Duke the option of going 10+ deep, a major luxury.
- Ryan Young is trying to add a three point shot to his arsenal. We don’t know how many shots Ryan is missing in these practices, but this is now the third straight release of footage that conspicuously includes a confident-looking Young nailing a shot from beyond the arc. If Young can add even a 30% deep shot on low volume to his arsenal, that will make it much more difficult to guard him when he sets screens for Duke’s dynamic guards.
- Jared McCain has point guard skills. Early in his recruitment, McCain was projected as a college 2-guard given his plus shooting ability, with his development as a playmaker being a question mark. But more recent scouting reports highlighted those playmaking skills, and they were on display in this footage. If McCain can handle the offense and create for others, coupled with his shooting stroke, he’ll become much more interesting to NBA teams despite his smaller stature.
- Sean Stewart looks like a prototypical modern big man. At this stage, asking Stewart to guard the Hunter Dickinson’s and Zach Edey’s of the world would be ambitious. But those behemoths are few and far between in the modern game. Stewart’s activity and athleticism shined even in this limited footage, especially a mobility that should allow him to guard the pick and roll well. Combine that with solid dexterity with the ball in his hands, and it appears he could claim significant minutes at the 5 in the right matchups as soon as this season.
- TJ Power’s absence was conspicuous. Power has looked good in early practice footage this summer, leading to much speculation that he could slot into the starting lineup as a “stretch-4” alongside Kyle Filipowski and Mark Mitchell. But Power was largely absent from this new footage outside of a couple missed shots. It’s much too early to make any judgements about the freshmen (lest we forget, at this point last year Duke fans were anxious about reports of Filipowski’s struggles), but it may be time to readjust the expectations for Power in the early season.
- Mark Mitchell has worked on his shot. Mitchell only took one three in this footage, but the difference from last year was clear. The shot was much more smooth and had a better arc than what we saw last season. If Mitchell can up his accuracy from deep, he’ll be a surefire first round pick as a valuable 3-and-D wing.