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Marvin Bagley, the ACC’s Player of the Year, consensus All-American, Freshman of the Year — you name it, he won the award — was the first Duke player to announce he was putting his name into the NBA Draft. Trevon Duval would follow a day later. If any player on Duke’s roster embodied the up-and-down nature of the season, it was Duval, who lost his starting job over halfway through the year only to regain it as he led Duke to its one win over North Carolina on Grayson Allen’s senior night in Cameron Indoor Stadium. Wendell Carter Jr. and Gary Trent, though they haven’t announced yet, will be just behind their two classmates in putting their names into the NBA Draft and moving on to play professional ball before they ever moved from the freshman dorms of East Campus to the upperclassman dorms of West Campus.
Rough ending to an up-and-down season
If only. If only Grayson Allen’s final shot, which bounced around the rim nearly 10 times before falling in front of the basket as the buzzer sounded. If only Duke had guarded Kansas’ Svi Mykhailiuk a little tighter as he hoisted up a 3-pointer on the other end of the court with 26 seconds left to tie the game at 72. If only Carter hadn’t missed a short jumper with 36 seconds left that would’ve put the game out of reach. If only Carter had gotten the charge call he deserved in overtime, instead of fouling out of the game with 2:49 to play in the extra period.
If only Duke had beaten Kansas in a game it fought back from being down seven with 16 minutes to play to take control, the narratives would be so much different. Head coach Mike Krzyzewski would be given the new one-and-done crown, taking the Blue Devils to two Final Fours in four seasons and poised to win the program’s sixth national title, tying North Carolina for third-most all-time. Alas, that is the nature of the win-or-go-home scenario of March Madness, where fortunes are made and legends are born based on one shot going in or rimming out, one ill-advised timeout, or a turnover late in the game. Being on the winning end of that twist of fate is what makes being a fan so much fun. Being on the losing end is what makes being a fan so painful.
This year, it was Duke’s turn to feel the pain, to hang its heads walking off the court. Everyone watching knew it was the final game in a Duke uniform for the entire starting five of Allen, Bagley, Carter, Duval and Trent. I hope I’m not spoiling anyone’s moment here, but it’s been pretty obvious all along that each of the four members of Duke’s top-ranked recruiting class would be spending just one year in college before rightfully getting paid to play the game they love at the next level.
ALLEN WILL BE MISSED
For all the hate Grayson Allen received from opposing fanbases, he was equally and oppositely revered and loved by the Duke fanbase. A working class kid from Jacksonvillle, Florida, Allen literally had to duct tape his shoes together to earn a scholarship to play for Duke, his childhood favorite team. The least-heralded member of the “Four Quarters” recruiting class of he, Tyus Jones, Justise Winslow and Jahlil Okafor, Allen played a pivotal role in the program’s fifth national title in 2015 and leaves Duke as just the 12th player to score 2,000 points in his career. Allen’s impact will be felt for years, as he was the bridge between a longevity program that had few players leave early to the NBA to the preeminent NBA factory.
Capel to Pitt
Jeff Capel was integral in helping Coach K land the most elite talent in high school, playing pivotal roles in the recruitments of numerous top-five recruits over his years as associate head coach at his alma mater. As important as he was on the recruiting trail, Capel contributed even more in game planning, scheming, in-game adjustments and player development. His contributions to the program will be sorely missed, but it was rightfully Capel’s time to have another crack at running his own show, like he did at VCU and Oklahoma early in his career. Coach K hired former player Chris Carrawell, who was displaced from the staff when Capel returned home, as assistant coach and promoted Nate James and Jon Scheyer to associate head coaches to replace Capel.
Football winning in recruiting
Duke opened spring practice in March, and the team has looked like a cohesive unit with third-year starter Daniel Jones under center and numerous starters back on one of the program’s best defensive units since the Iron Dukes of the 1960’s. At the same time, the coaching staff is doing incredible work on the recruiting trail, with the No. 10 recruiting class in the country, and No. 2 class in the ACC with seven commitments already in the truck. The group already boasts two four-star players, wide receiver Donovan Greene and Southern Nash High running back Zonovan Knight, and looks to be poised to add even more talent as the spring official visit period is just about to get underway.