For most, the 1999 season will be remembered for two things. First, that year’s team was the best Duke team to not win a title. It also was the year when Duke basketball fell back to earth, joining the rest of college basketball, to watch its best players go bye-bye early to the NBA.
For me though, while 1999 was significant, it was actually 1996 when Duke first lost a player early to the NBA…a smart, athletic 17-year-old from Lower Merion High School, that reminded many of a young Jordan, passed on Duke. You might have heard of him, Kobe Bryant?
While never officially offered a scholarship, Kobe made it quite clear, if he decided to go to college, he would attend Duke University. In the end though, he picked the NBA and the rest is history.
Since then, the Blue Devils (like every other school) has had to adjust to this simple fact, kids aren’t going to stay four years. However, since I have nothing better to do with my time, I wondered what the Duke roster would have looked like over the years if kids did stay all four years.
Note: Yes, I know if players stayed all four years, the amount of scholarships available would be different, the coaching staff might have gone a different direction, and a player might have gone elsewhere if they knew a current player would be there four years. Obviously any school can play this fantasy game; Ohio State, Texas, Florida and Carolina. Having said ALL THAT, this is just for fun.
– What do you think? Maybe Kobe would have been the difference in Duke’s three-point defeat to Connecticut. Hell, this team could have won a championship the previous year.
*** Let’s assume Burgess still transfers after the 1998-1999 season
– How sick of a team do you have to be, to have freshmen like Jay Williams, Boozer and Dunleavy coming off the bench? The scariest part….Bryant would be the only starting senior.
*** Jones transfered in for his junior year
– For the record, THIS team would have been the greatest Duke team ever. This team won a title without Avery, Brand and Maggette. I’d be willing to bet, Duke would be talking about a three-peat heading into this tournament.
– With Brand, Avery and Battier all gone, there would be an adjustment, but Williams, Boozer and Dunleavy would have gotten plenty of minutes the past two years. Although the bench would still be thin, Maggette would be the star of a the best starting five in basketball.
– Losing Maggette would hurt, but thanks to a solid freshman class, Duke would go big, with two 6-10 forwards taking up space on the front line, while just for fun, they put in off the bench a tubby little white guy named Redick, who’s not afraid to launch a shot from anywhere on the court.
– This is the actual team from 2003-2004 and they would be the less impressive since the 1996-97 squad. Having said that, this lineup did lead Connecticut by ten with five to play in the final four, before falling apart in the end.
– In real life, Deng was gone and this became a two-man team with no bench. However, Deng is back with Redick, Williams and incoming freshman stud, 6-6 PG Shaun Livingston. Just like that, Duke is back.
– Duke gets a little bigger by moving Deng to the SF spot, while freshman McRoberts takes over at PF. Instead of freshman Paulus running the offense though, this team still belongs to Deng and Livingston.
– This team loses two solid players in Williams and Redick, leaving a couple of holes that need to be filled, but Deng and Livingston would still be Blue Devils. Add in three solid freshman on the bench, and you have something good developing. Sure they may not win a championship, but they certainly wouldn’t have lost to VCU.
G – Shaun Livingston (SR)
G – DeMarcus Nelson (SR)
F – Gerald Henderson (SO)
F – Kyle Singler (FR)
F – Josh McRoberts (JR)
G – Jon Scheyer (SO)
C – Brian Zoubek (SO)
G – Nolan Smith (FR)
F – Taylor King (FR)
F – Lance Thomas (SO)
F – David McClure (JR)
G – Greg Paulus (JR)
F – Martynas Pocius (JR)
– This team still lacks size, so winning it all would still be tough, but you couldn’t do any worse with senior Livingston playing the point instead of Paulus, and a McRoberts/Singler combo is a huge important from Thomas/Singler.