Two Duke Basketball players were selected as early college basketball player of the year candidates, but they aren’t the Blue Devils you would expect.
Heading into the 2016-17 college basketball season, the biggest stories for Duke were Grayson Allen becoming a star as a preseason favorite for conference and national player of the year and how the Blue Devils’ top-ranked freshmen class would perform with high-quality talent such as Jayson Tatum, Marques Bolden, and Harry Giles. However, two other Blue Devils who were supposed to be role players have really stepped up this season and made a surprise appearance on an early NCAA Player of the Year candidate list.
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Redshirt senior forward/center Amile Jefferson has dominated in the post, picking up where he left off last season before his season-ending foot injury. He’s leads the team in rebounds and blocks and is the second-leading scorer on the team with 156 total points. He’s averaging a double-double per game this season with 15.6 points and 10.3 rebounds. Many were unsure of Jefferson’s role coming off of a foot fracture and the incoming freshmen post players, but he has excelled so far this season and was ranked the 9th best college basketball player of the year candidate.
Sophomore guard Luke Kennard has been a huge surprise for the Blue Devils this season. The second-year shooting guard struggled last year, but dominated in the preseason. Still, Kennard was just expected to be a role player this season to provide scoring off the bench or possibly a starter. The 6-6 guard is making the most of his opportunity this season leading Duke Basketball in scoring with 20.4 points per game making 52.2% of his shots in addition to adding 6.2 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game. His improvement this season has been historic, and it has Kennard ranked 4th in the early national player of the year race.
Duke Basketball will return to action this weekend with a historic matchup against UNLV. The two programs were former rivals but have not played since the 1991 Final Four where Duke upset the undefeated and favored Runnin’ Rebels. Be sure to stay tuned to Ball Durham for all your Duke Basketball news and check out Kennard and Jefferson as they play a huge role for the Blue Devils going forward this season.