Year in and year out, the dominant Blue Devils have come to be known for their electric perennial success in both the ACC and NCAA Tournaments. Despite Duke’s heartbreaking loss to Virginia in the conference finals, the Blue Devils were still a resurgent collegiate program that was capable of going the distance. However, even with a talented young roster that was loaded with prolific shooters, an offensively underestimated Mercer Bears squad stunned the Blue Devils. As was the case in the Devils head scratching losses throughout the season, they failed to shoot the ball with a modicum of consistency while relinquishing crucial rebounds that were vital to the Bears eventual triumphs over the favorite juggernauts. However, despite Duke’s early tournament dismissal by another sub par conference programs (Duke lost to 15th seeded Lehigh in 2012), this iconic college basketball team has a lot to look forward to come next season.
Although it seemed fairly obvious that ACC Freshman of the Year Jabari Parker would make his inevitable pro debut after only one season at Duke, the Blue Devils’ untimely loss to Mercer has caused the exceptional forward to rethink his ambitions going forward. “I don’t know what I’m going to do,” said Parker to his hometown newspaper the Chicago Tribune. “Don’t know what I’m going to do.” While Parker’s vague uncertainties can’t be relied upon as a sure fire indicator of his willingness to stay for one more year, the fact that he is even questioning his future is a sign that Parker would like to go out on top before he displays his multifaceted talents in the NBA.
And why wouldn’t he? Throughout Duke’s roller coaster season, Parker was far and away Duke’s best defensive player and avid scorer especially in monumental victories over Syracuse (19 points and 10 rebounds) and North Carolina (30 points and 11 rebounds). From his tenacious abilities as a pure scorer to his intriguing development into one of the best defensive rebounders in the ACC, Parker appeared to just hit his athletic stride before Duke was ejected from the NCAA Tournament in the first round. Although Parker may be one of the more reserved players in the game when it comes to his demeanor off the court, on the court, Parker transforms into a Michael Jordan-esque leader who can take over a game when his team is in an athletic funk.
Of course, while the ever competitive Blue Devils would love to have Parker back as their unquestionable veteran going into next season, this team also has an intriguing contingency plan in place should Parker decide to set his sights on an early professional career. Before the regular season started, Duke proved to be one of the more tenacious recruiting classes in college basketball as they acquired top prospect center Jahil Okafor from Chicago, Illinois along with point guard Tyus Jones from Apple Valley, Minnesota. Not only are both of these signings sensational because of how successful these two young athletes have been throughout their high school years, but also because they fill two vital needs for the Blue Devils going into next season.
While unsung defensive hero Marshall Plumlee stepped up has a vital piece for Duke’s defensive repertoire during the latter part of the regular season, Jahil Okafor brings both an awe-inspiring defensive game as well as a potent scoring skill set that will compliment Duke’s high octane offensive schemes. However, while the acquisition of Okafor is a wise addition for this developing Blue Devils squad, having a patient and talented point guard such as Tyus Jones can’t be underestimated. Like with Jabari Parker, point guard Rodney Hood has likewise been projected as a first round draft pick in the NBA and will have a critical decision to make about his impending future as a successful basketball star. Until that time, Jones will be Duke’s next promising ball facilitator that can effectively handle the ball with ease while taking high percentage shots at the basket. Simply put, Duke’s incoming freshman class has the potential to be one of best that has graced Cameron Indoor Stadium in years and could effectively put Duke on the map as the #1 team in the preseason rankings.
In the end, while die hard Blue Devil fans may be devastated by Dukes unfortunate transgressions as of recently, this devoted fan base should look to the future with anxious anticipation as their team will undoubtedly have the athletes to carry to this team father than they were able to go this year. While the future of Jabari Parker still remains a mystery, the Blue Devils appear to be confident in their future successes going into next season even if Parker and Hood are absent from the roster. Although it may be hard to rejoice this early because of Duke’s disappointing shortcomings, any college basketball fanatic can look at Duke’s recent history to ascertain just how quickly this program can bounce back from their devastating failures.