Entering the 2012-13 college basketball season, the landscape will mostly be dominated by the talented incoming freshman class. Approaching the start of the upcoming season, you have already seen these names mentioned as being the top impact freshmen: Nerlens Noel, Shabazz Muhammad, Rodney Purvis, Marcus Smart, Alex Poythress and Yogi Ferrell to name a few. The one player that seems to be overlooked is Duke freshman Rasheed Sulaimon.
The 6-4 shooting guard out of Strake Jesuit High School (Texas) will enter his first year at Duke with a gigantic reputation. Sulaimon, the No. 12 ranked prospect and the No. 3 SG in the ESPN 100, is an elite level scorer who can score in a variety of ways and is an outstanding defender. He can play multiple positions on the floor and can handle and facilitate the basketball very well. Glancing at Duke’s roster, Sulaimon is arguably the best all-around player for the Blue Devils. With the early departure of last season’s ACC Freshman of the Year Austin Rivers and the sudden redshirt of SG Andre Dawkins, Sulaimon enters with a more than great chance to make a quick statement at Duke.
“What I feel I’ll be able to bring to Duke is, I’m a guy who can spread the court as well as get to the rim,” Sulaimon said. “I’m very comfortable shooting from all ranges, and I’m very comfortable creating for myself and for others.”
While Duke guard’s Quinn Cook and Tyler Thornton man the point guard position, Sulaimon will compete with redshirt freshman Alex Murphy for time at the small forward position and will rotate with senior Seth Curry at the SG position.
In what was the worst defensive year for a Duke team under head coach Mike Krzyzewski, Sulaimon brings a different type of intensity on the defensive end that Duke was not accustomed to seeing last season. At 6-4, he has good lateral quickness and length to go along with his great athleticism. The Blue Devils biggest issue on defense last season, as evidenced in an upset loss to Lehigh in the second round of the NCAA Tournament last season, was that they could not stop dribble penetration. Outside of Thornton, the team’s most effective defensive guard, Sulaimon will step in and provide great on-ball pressure against opposing players. With his length, he is able to force turnovers that will lead to transition points, something Duke lacked last season.
The comparions and contrasts have been mentioned leading into this season between Rivers and Sulaimon. Offensively, Sulaimon is as good as they come. Like Rivers, he can create for himself with a variety of moves and can consistently knock down well-defended shots with a quick release on his jump shot. Unlike Rivers, Sulaimon will not settle if shots don’t fall. Rivers had a common tendency to easily get frustrated with himself when he was having a bad offensive outing and it showed on the defensive end. I do not expect the same from Sulaimon at any point this season. Another facet of Rivers’ game is that he absolutely needed the ball in his hands. Of course, Rivers was Duke’s main option last season, however, when he did not get a touch, it showed in his body language. Sulaimon will not be asked to shoulder the load for the Blue Devils like Rivers did during his freshman season. He will be asked to be a consistent contributor, in a system that he should flourish in.
Although Sulaimon will not get the same amount of minutes as Rivers did last year, he will have a better all-around season for a Duke team that will advance further than the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Sulaimon will also be expected to be in the conversation for ACC Freshman of the Year, along with North Carolina State’s Rodney Purvis and North Carolina’s Marcus Paige.
To recap his senior campaign at Strake Jesuit, Sulaimon averaged 27.4 points shooting 57.3% from the field and 40.6% from three-point range, 6.4 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game while leading the Crusaders to a 26-4 record and their second straight District 19-5A title. Sulaimon was tabbed as a McDonald’s All-American and a Jordan Brand Classic selection. He also participated at the 2011 Nike Hoop Summit representing Team USA. To cap off an illustrious career at Strake Jesuit, Sulaimon was the receipient of the inaugural Guy V. Lewis Greater Houston Player of the Year.
By Chad Lykins
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