The expectations for the Duke 2013-2014 Blue Devils men’s basketball team are sky high, but their opportunity to meet those expectations could be limited.
The Blue Devils return a solid nucleus and will surround them with an exciting recruiting class, but as often is the case in this day and age it might be a little bit of the “you better strike while the iron is hot.”
Duke returns veteran guards Quinn Cook and Tyler Thornton and welcomes back Andre Dawkins from a year away from the program. A standout as a freshman, Rasheed Sulaimon will also be back and should be even better with a year under his belt. Duke also gets back post/wing players Josh Hairston, Alex Murphy, Amile Jefferson and Marshall Plumlee. While Hairston caught the bulk of the minutes last season, expect all four guys to be in the mix especially as thin as the Blue Devils will be in the front court.
The newcomers next season, however, might end up being the most exciting and the most important part of the team and their potential success.
Rodney Hood who sat out last season following his transfer from Mississippi State was said to have been the most talented player on Duke’s team last season. He will finally get the reins off and most are expecting him to be an immediate starter and impact player on the wing for the Blue Devils.
Incoming freshman Jabari Parker is the jewel of Duke’s 2013 recruiting class; the second rated player by most recruiting services in the country. Parker is an all around player who has drawn some comparisons to former Kansas and NBA standout Paul Pierce. If he is a fraction of that good, he will likely compete and win a starting position and could have as big an impact as a freshman as anyone since a healthy Kyrie Irving laced up for the Blue Devils.
Many project Parker to be a star and it is possible given his performance in high school but final judgment almost always should be saved for when he actually takes the court.
Other freshmen, Matt Jones and Semi Ojeleye should be in the mix for playing time. Jones is a sharp shooting guard who should fit right in with Duke’s offense’s propensity for shooting the three point shot. Ojeleye is a big, athletic wing player who could compete for time as well.
Ultimately though the two most anticipated players on next year’s team will be Parker and Hood, with Sulaimon rounding out the potential super stars of the team. If Duke is to be successful an even, as many are expecting, compete for a national championship they will need all three guys to have great season.
However, if that happens the opportunities for the Blue Devils to have success beyond next year may rely on a whole new team. Most expect Hood and Parker to leave for the NBA after next season, and that is even more likely if they have good to great seasons.
Sulaimon though is another player many don’t think about when it comes to early departures. If he has the kind of growth many expect from him next season he could be tempted by the NBA. Losing him would be huge and if Parker and Hood go as expected the Blue Devils will look entirely different the following season. Throw in the departures of Thornton and Hairston to graduation, the Blue Devils will need to rely heavily on a big class of 2014.
So while the excitement over next season is palpable, the realities of the new era of college hoops loom large and the opportunities for success must be seized immediately as there is little time to do so. Whether Duke seizes it next season remains to be seen but the clock is already ticking.
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