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Getting to know: Duke basketball

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Duke's Frank Jackson (15) and Grayson Allen (3) guard Grand Canyon's Fiifi Aidoo (1) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Durham, N.C., Saturday, Nov. 12, 2016. Duke won 96-61.

Duke's Frank Jackson (15) and Grayson Allen (3) guard Grand Canyon's Fiifi Aidoo (1) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Durham, N.C., Saturday, Nov. 12, 2016. Duke won 96-61.

The Kansas Jayhawks certainly did themselves no favors with their schedule, traveling several time zones to play two top-10 teams in the nation within a span of five days.

The good news: There might not be a better time to play top-ranked Duke this season. The No. 7 Jayhawks will face a team that's at much less than full strength during the Champions Classic around 8:30 p.m. Tuesday at Madison Square Garden.

The Blue Devils are without three freshmen in their highly-regarded recruiting class because of injuries.

Of course, even with some injuries, Duke is still Duke. There’s a high-scoring backcourt led by All-American junior Grayson Allen, who is averaging more than 20 points per game. Along with Allen is emerging sophomore Luke Kennard, senior Matt Jones and freshman point guard Frank Jackson.

And then there's a guy in charge named Mike Krzyzewski, the winningest coach in NCAA history.

But if there's a good sign for the Jayhawks, Duke misses its three star freshmen in the frontcourt. The Blue Devils returned fifth-year senior Amile Jefferson, who missed 27 games last year with a broken foot and received a medical redshirt. After that, it’s a bunch of question marks. In the first two games, Duke leaned on sophomore Chase Jeter, who wasn’t strong enough to hold a steady spot in the rotation last year.

Plus, there's not many regular season events that can produce great matchups like the Champions Classic each year.

Interesting note: Duke has won 45 of its past 68 games (66 percent) when both teams have been ranked in the top 10.

Series history: Duke leads, 7-3. The last time these two schools met was in the Champions Classic in Chicago in 2013, which the Jayhawks won, 94-83. It was KU’s lone win in the history of the Champions Classic.

DUKE STARTERS

No. 5 — G Luke Kennard | 6-6, 202, soph.

  • One of the most improved players for the Blue Devils, Kennard is averaging 15 points, seven rebounds and four assists through two games. He’s shooting 57 percent from the floor (12-of-21) and is 4-of-8 from deep.

  • The left-handed sharpshooter connected on 52.8 percent of his shots from inside the three-point line last year (86 of 163). Plus he’s a phenomenal free-throw shooter, making 88.9 percent last year.

  • The Franklin, Ohio native had some shooting slumps during his freshman season, but averaged a strong 1.03 points per possessions, according to Synergy Sports Technology. He makes smart decisions with the ball and is equally strong with jump shots and driving to the rim.

  • Kennard ended his prep career as the second highest scorer in Ohio state history with 2,997 points, only trailing former Ohio State guard Jon Diebler.

  • QUOTE: “He doesn’t have to force me to play him,” coach Mike Krzyzewski said after the team’s first exhibition game. “He’s played great. I think, to be quite frank with it, he’s played the best overall since we started practice.”

No. 3 — G Grayson Allen | 6-5, 202, jr.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DIFf9c_Sc6g

  • Beloved by Duke fans and despised by opposing fan bases, Allen is one of the most prolific scorers in the country. He’s a preseason All-American and the preseason ACC Player of the Year.

  • Through two games, Allen has picked up where left off last season. He’s averaging 20.5 points, 7.0 rebounds and 3.5 assists.

  • A skilled driver, especially with his right hand, Allen took 32.6 percent of his shots at the rim last season, according to hoop-math.com. He’s only taken 14.3 percent of his shots at the rim in Duke’s two games.

  • He hasn’t shot the ball particularly well, 11 of 28 (39.3 percent), but knows how to earn trips to the free throw line, where he’s shooting 81.3 percent (13 of 16).

  • Highlighted Duke’s 2015 national championship with 16 points in 21 minutes.

  • QUOTE: “I feel quicker,” Allen told Sports Illustrated, noting he dropped 10 pounds in the offseason. “I’m not walking into the gym feeling sluggish. That’s going to be big — if I’m able to stay fresh game to game.”

No. 13 — G Matt Jones | 6-5, 204, sr.

None by Duke Basketball

  • His hamstring tightened up in Duke’s first exhibition game, but there hasn’t been any lingering effects. In two games, he’s averaged 11 points, 4.5 rebounds, three assists and three steals.

  • Jones, who has a slower release compared to most shooters, shot 41.5 percent from behind the three-point line last year (76-of-183). He’s started slow this season at 28.6 percent (4-of-14).

  • Duke’s best on-ball defender, Jones usually draws the assignment of the opposing team’s top guard. He’s a big reason the Blue Devils held their first two opponents to an average of 55 points on 16.2 percent shooting from deep.

  • Jones only played four minutes when the Blue Devils played Kansas in the 2013 Champions Classic. He was scoreless, missing a three-pointer and two free throws.

  • QUOTE: I’m really excited about my growth,” Jones said. “I feel like I’ve became a man just through all the ups and downs that I’ve been through. As far as my game goes, I’m more confident than ever but mentally I feel like that’s where I’ve had my biggest growth spurt and that’s what I hang my hat on.”

No. 2 — F Chase Jeter | 6-10, 230, soph.

Duke forward Chase Jeter (2) blocks a shot by Marist guard Brian Parker, lower left, as Marist center Kentrall Brooks (1) and forward Isaiah Lamb (4) watch during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Durham, N.C., Friday, Nov. 11, 2016.

Duke forward Chase Jeter (2) blocks a shot by Marist guard Brian Parker, lower left, as Marist center Kentrall Brooks (1) and forward Isaiah Lamb (4) watch during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Durham, N.C., Friday, Nov. 11, 2016.

  • Jeter earned his first two career starts this season, averaging seven points, five rebounds, 2.5 blocks and 1.5 steals. He set career highs with 11 points and eight rebounds in the season opener against Marist.

  • He was at the bottom of Duke’s rotation last season. He didn’t have enough strength necessary to battle inside for layups or play strong post defense without fouling.

  • The Las Vegas native took 73.7 percent of his shots at the rim last year, but only had a 60.7 field goal percentage on those shots, per hoop-math.com. This season, he’s improved those numbers to 83.3 percent shots at the rim and he’s made 80 percent.

  • His father, Chris, played basketball at UNLV and was a reserve big man on the 1989-90 national championship team.

  • QUOTE: “I’m finally coming into my own here at Duke,” Jeter said. “I always knew I could do this and it’s just finally happening for me now. It’s much different than last year for me, being able to get in and be composed and have that type of mindset to be relaxed out there on the court.”

No. 21 — F Amile Jefferson | 6-9, 224, r-sr.

None by FOX Sports South

  • Jefferson is Duke’s glue guy that does the dirty work, is an extra coach’s voice on the court and helps all of his teammates play better. He missed the final 27 games last year with a right foot fracture and the Blue Devils certainly missed his presence.

  • Back on the court following a medical redshirt season, Jefferson is averaging 10 points, eight rebounds, and four blocks per game. He’s shot 7-for-11 from the floor.

  • One of the best offensive rebounders in school history, Jefferson entered this season ranked sixth on Duke’s all-time career list with 277 offensive boards.

  • An efficient scorer in the post with a steady dose of dunks and layups, he ranks second in Duke history in field goal percentage (.624). He only trails Carlos Boozer, who shot .631 from the floor.

  • When Duke played Kansas in the Champions Classic in 2013, Jefferson scored 17 points in 26 minutes, making 7 of his 9 shots. He added two rebounds, one assist and one turnover.

  • QUOTE: “He’s just evolving. He’s a really good basketball player, and he doesn’t have a position,” Krzyzewski said at the team’s media day. “If he gets a rebound, he can bring it up the court and he’d be our so-called point guard. He can make really good decisions and he can defend multiple positions, and he’s a great guy to lead our full-court pressure.”

DUKE BENCH

No. 15 — G Frank Jackson | 6-3, 205, fr.

  • After Derryck Thornton transferred at the end of last season, Jackson became the de facto point guard — though he’s played off of the bench in the first two games and he’s more of a scoring guard.

  • In his first two collegiate games, Jackson has shown the same level of scoring that made him so successful in high school. He’s averaging 19.5 points per game in 25 minutes, adding a total of five rebounds, six assists, four steals and five turnovers. He was named the ACC Freshman of the Week.

  • Jackson is shooting 50 percent from deep, making 5 of his first 10 attempts this year.

  • His father, Al, was appointed to state senator in Utah. He resigned in July to move to Virginia for a new job.

  • QUOTE: “Frank did a great job of that tonight coming off the bench and playing with a verve, lifting our team up,” Jefferson said after Saturday’s game. “He’s crafty, he’s quick and he understands the spacing of the floor for where he needs to be to be most advantageous.”

No. 12 — F Javin DeLaurier | 6-10, 220, fr.

  • Quietly hiding in Duke’s star-studded freshmen recruiting class, DeLaurier impresses with his athleticism.

  • In Duke’s first two games, he was the second player off of the bench. But he only played a few seconds in the first half against Grand Canyon, so it’s really a six-man rotation.

  • The Shipman, Va., native has scored eight points in 23 minutes, shooting 4-of-4 from the floor. He’s added nine rebounds and six fouls.

  • His mother, C’ta, earned Atlantic 10 Tournament MVP honors in 1993 while playing for Rutgers.

No. 30 — C Antonio Vrankovic | 7-0, 261, soph.

Marist guard Khallid Hart (5) drives past Duke center Antonio Vrankovic (30) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Durham, N.C., Friday, Nov. 11, 2016. Duke won 94-49.

Marist guard Khallid Hart (5) drives past Duke center Antonio Vrankovic (30) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Durham, N.C., Friday, Nov. 11, 2016. Duke won 94-49.

  • He appeared in five games last year, only in blowouts. But injuries have forced him into the front-court rotation. He doesn’t have a polished offensive game, but can use his height to grab rebounds.

  • A Delray Beach, Fla., native, Vrankovic has scored seven points in 24 minutes during Duke’s first two games, grabbing 12 rebounds and dishing two assists. He’s only made 40 percent of his shots at the rim, according to hoop-math.com.

  • His father, Stojiko, played five seasons in the NBA and won Olympic silver medals in 1988 and 1992 with Yugoslavia.

No. 41 — F Jack White | 6-7, 215, fr.

  • From Australia, White made a name for himself during international play. He averaged 8.3 points and 3.9 rebounds in 11 games at the FIBA U-19 World Championships.

  • During the first two games of the season, White has played sparingly. He’s scored eight points in 16 minutes, make six of his eight free throws.

No. 0 — F Jayson Tatum | 6-8, 205, fr.

  • Out with a sprained foot that he suffered in a preseason practice/showcase for NBA scouts.

  • "We've got to be careful not to get these guys coming back too soon," Krzyzewski said. "Jayson was doing great. I think we put him in practice a little too soon, and I think that hurt him. We're just going to shut those guys down for a while."

No. 20 — C Marques Bolden | 6-11, 245, fr.

  • Out with a lower-leg injury that Krzyzewski said was “too difficult to explain. … There wasn’t an event (that caused it). Sometimes you wake up, and it's something you didn't notice."

No. 1 — F Harry Giles | 6-10, 240, fr.

  • After suffering two major knee injuries during high school, Giles underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left knee in October. It’s expected he will take the longest to return to the court among the three injured freshmen.

  • In a nice story by ESPN’s Dana O’Neil, Giles is hoping to play in his friend’s memory.

Comments

Dirk Medema 4 years ago

It's important to realize that the stats that are listed for this year were on par with our exhibition competition.

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