There are two scholarship seniors on the 2013-14 Duke blue Devils, Tyler Thornton and Josh Hairston. While Thornton, now a captain, has firmly cemented himself as the backup point guard and a perimeter defensive specialist, Hairston has yet to claim a firm role at Duke, other than the guy fans beg not to shoot jumpers.
By Rowan Shiell
Hairston was ranked No.19 coming out of High School, by ESPN. In fact, if it wasn’t for Florida’s Patric Young (ranked No.13), Hairston would have the distinction of being the best recruit from his class left in college. His critics feel that he hasn’t produced at the level expected of a Top 20 ranked recruit.
Still, you have to figure that any frustrations aimed at Josh are misguided. There are many high school players, and occasionally a Recruiting Analyst gives a kid a boost due to the school recruiting him. This should not take away from what Josh brings to the table. He is, at this point, Duke’s best post defender, and also the leading Charge taker (with 21) from last season.
Duke’s mantra for the coming season is “versatility” according to Coach Krzyzewski.
“It’s not your conventional team of here are your two big guys, your wing, your shooter and your point guard. … It’s going to be a team that has I think very good versatility. Guys are going to have to be able to guard multiple positions,” Krzyzewski told Fox Sports. “And it’ll be a team that uses the full court, both offensively and defensively, a lot. I think it’ll be a team where we play more guys than we have usually played in a ballgame — in a regular game, not in a blowout, where either we’re blowing someone out or we’re getting blown out. A lot of guys get in in those games.”
On the face of it, this probably would not play to Hairston’s strength, but the 6-foot-7 forward has worked hard to transform himself into a slimmer more mobile big man, evident from a September Instagram photo he circulated widely. Coach K is willing to extend his playing rotation, which is more good news for the Senior.
“Quinn and Rasheed are the only two guys who played major minutes last year,” says redshirt sophomore and co-captain Rodney Hood, “ …guys want a bigger role than they had last year, so that‘s the thing, guys have to stay sharp all season.”
This is Hairston’s last stand. The last three years are in the past. This is his chance to make a difference. Whether it is mentoring his younger teammates off the court or on it, he doesn’t have to make the highlight play just the right one. Taking Charges, Boxing Out and grabbing Offensive Rebounds aren’t Sports Center worthy, but that’s how games are won.
The fans most likely won’t forget Hairston, but how he is remembered is all up to him.
“I like my seniors and most of it has been good. Every senior class wants its class to leave a really great mark on our program.” Coach K said, “ … you are kind of judged, ten years from now, what did you guys do? Well we left the program in good shape, we done that, we helped, one of the reasons they won it two years later is because of what we did then. That’s what this group has to look at.”
Bermuda Bob adds:
I have long believed that Josh was a victim of being in the wrong place at the wrong time during his stay at Duke. He was the wrong style of player when Coach K was using Mason and Miles Plumlee extensively. Then, when he was called upon to replace the injured Ryan Kelly – a player he was simply not equipped to replicate – he was lackluster at best. Each time, his playing time was not his own. Unfortunately, I don’t see this year as being any different.
When I saw photo of Josh that Ro refers to, I was somewhat surprised. I would have thought Josh was going be called upon to become the tougher, more physical presence Duke certainly does not enjoy this year. On the other hand, it was been a very long time since Duke had a player of that caliber. I’m speaking of Elton Brand and Carlos Boozer. Somehow, I’ve always thought that Josh was recruited to be a player like them, but it just never happened.
Some players come to Duke and are transformed, like Lance Thomas. Others have been asked to be something they are not, but I have never quite seen nor heard of what Coach K expected of Josh. He could be a presence under the boards, but he was short for his girth. He could be a prolific “put-back” artist but his offensive rebound stats are paltry at best. Inside 15 feet he has only shot 43%.
If Duke has an Achilles Heel this year, it will be for lack of hugely physical player down low, so maybe there’s the wisdom of Josh trying to become this team’s “STP” of yesteryear “Cooler, cleaner, quieter, longer” all the way to Arlington.
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