Sophomore guard Luke Kennard excelled in the Blue Devils’ first exhibition game scoring 30 points against Virginia State. Is this a sign of things to come?
Shooting guard Luke Kennard was spectacular in Duke’s opening exhibition game with a 90-59 win over Virginia State. The second-year guard starred with 30 points, but will this translate into the regular season?
One of the main strengths for the Blue Devils this year is the depth of talent on the team. With injuries to Harry Giles and Jayson Tatum as well as Grayson Allen and Matt Jones in the game, Kennard excelled scoring a third of Duke’s points and playing in 36 minutes. He excelled managing the game, at times playing with four freshmen on the court and recording 6 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 steals to go along with his 30 points.
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The 6-6 guard had an inconsistent freshman year last season averaging 11.8 points, 3.6 rebounds, and 1.5 assists per game. He was known as a shooter coming into Duke and while he excelled on the free throw line finishing with the 3rd highest percentage for a freshman in school history, he struggled from three making only 55-172. In the preseason opener he showed flashes of his offensive versatility getting to the basket and drawing fouls, but still struggled from beyond the arc making 3-10 threes.
Luke Kennard is poised for a breakout season this year, similar to the improvement of Grayson Allen last year. Head coach Mike Krzyzewski praised the sophomore guard’s performance, saying he’s been the best player so far in the offseason:
"“Luke was outstanding. That’s how Luke’s been playing. He doesn’t have to force me to play him. He’s played great. I think, to be quite frank with it, he’s played the best overall since we started practice.”"
However, his exhibition performance may be misleading playing against Division II Virginia State. Additionally, Kennard only got the start because Jayson Tatum and Harry Giles were out with injuries. Coach K still hasn’t announced roles for the upcoming season, and we’re unsure if Kennard, Matt Jones, or Frank Jackson will start or come off the bench. Either way, it’s unlikely he will play 36 minutes per game. Still, the preseason performance should be encouraging for Duke fans to witness the sophomore guard’s improvement and ability to lead the team in case of injury.
Luke Kennard will most likely get another chance to lead the Blue Devils in their second exhibition against Augustana this Friday. The coaching staff will most likely be cautious with the players nursing injuries, so fans will be able to get another look at Kennard to see if he is the real deal and can make a significant impact for the team this season.