By Jeremy Fitch
Saturday morning at open practice Duke showed why they should be considered title contenders in just day two of practice on the season.
Hearing about the freshman class all summer long, they did not disappoint as Jayson Tatum, Marques Bolden and Frank Jackson showed why although young, their maturity will bode well for the Blue Devils this season.
To begin practice head coach Mike Krzyzewski addressed the crowd, mentioning that stars Harry Giles and Grayson Allen would not practice, but would come out after getting treatment.
Many players stood out, here are some of my impressions after seeing arguably the preseason number one team in the nation suit up
Jayson Tatum shows off his jumper and physicality
Tatum showed why he was the number two player coming out of high school behind now teammate Harry Giles. The freshman arguably was the most impressive player on Saturday morning. Duke ran many plays for Tatum and he handled it well, from step back jumpers from midrange and from beyond the arc.
His jump shot, as many will see in his first game action is silky smooth. Honestly was one of the purest jump shots I have ever seen. I stand by my prediction in the Beyond the Key Podcast that he is my early freshman of the year candidate.
Marques Bolden proves he may be the most underrated freshman on the roster
Bolden comes in as a true center at 6-foot-11, with a dominate paint presence. On one occasion, while in a stop and go five on five drill, Bolden got the ball in the post, while being guarded by Chase Jeter, dropped stepped right into a two handed dunk over Jeter.
Proving he has great foot work and more than one move off of the block, it is clear that on the offensive and defensive side of the ball he will be a major presence for Coach K.
Expect Bolden to start the season coming off of the bench, but come midseason, I could see him and the other freshman cracking the starting lineup. I was impressed as Bolden stayed after practice with some assistants working on a three-point jump shot for around 20 minutes.
Frank Jackson proves he could be the defensive anchor:
Duke may have just found their next pure point guard that can also anchor the defense. Jackson impressed with his jump shot as well, as he is very consistent and can go get his own shot. He was not scared to go into the paint a get hit, and he proved he could finish on many situations after contact.
What stood out though was that he proved he can lockdown some of the most talents one and two guards from full court and in the half court.
Frank Jackson by midseason could certainly prove that he may be a one and done type of freshman. He Reminds me of a more highly recruited Tyus Jones, which Duke fans eventually fell in love with because of his clutch shot making.
Amile Jefferson is healthy and explosive:
A player that Duke fans all know and love, Jefferson showed that he has an explosive first step and has put on a little more muscle after getting the medical redshirt last season after breaking his right foot. The highlight of the morning for Jefferson came when he dunked over freshman Jack White, as the crowd stood up and roared with excitement.
Jefferson’s leadership will be vital this season if Duke wants any chance at raising another trophy in March as this team is very young, but has the talent.
Luke Kennard developed more of a repertoire for scoring the ball:
Kennard has shown that he has been in the lab this summer, making his scoring threat even more of a challenge for the opposition. His shining moment in practice on Saturday came in some half court drills when he took Frank Jackson off of the dribble three straight possessions as you could tell the competitive fire was at a high level between the two.
Kennard will look for big minutes this season, and look to prove what kind of leader he can be on the floor for the Blue Devils this season. You may see him even run some point guard this season as there is a lack of depth in that area after Frank Jackson.
Overall you can only take so much from the second day of official practices, but there is one thing for sure, Duke is a contender not a pretender this season.