Duke Basketball: Season preview for senior center Antonio Vrankovic

(Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
(Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images) /

Chances are Duke basketball senior center Antonio Vrankovic won’t see the court often this season, but his presence on the bench and in practice is sure to benefit the Blue Devils.

Antonio Vrankovic, the lone senior on the 2018-19 Duke basketball roster, will not likely be part of the regular rotation for the Blue Devils.

However, as has been the case since his arrival in Durham, he will provide a safety net in the frontcourt.

Should either of the team’s junior big men, Marques Bolden and Javin DeLaurier, suffer an injury or a dramatic slump in performance, Vrankovic will be ready to fill in. What the 7-footer offers the Blue Devils is experience and size, as well as a complete understanding of how the coaches expect their paint-prowlers to operate.

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Plus, he is fully aware that, at best, he will be a role player.

At the very least, Vrankovic — the son of Stojko Vrankovic, who played five seasons in the NBA during the ’90s — will provide a burly body for Bolden, DeLaurier, and freshman power forward Zion Williamson to practice against all season and a veteran voice that should benefit this freshman-laden squad.

What he lacks, though, is the speed and athleticism to keep up with a Duke team that may very well flirt with the highest scoring average of any that Mike Krzyzewski has coached (91.8 in 1998-99). Also, due to his lack of an outside game, he is not an ideal candidate to play in the five-out motion offense that Coach K has implemented for this season.

But that’s OK.

Even if the native of Zagreb, Croatia, doesn’t top his career average in points (1.6) and rebounds (1.8) or appear in as many games as he did last season (14), he adds to the team’s depth while offering his team-first attitude.

That being said, don’t totally count out the possibility that Vrankovic could surprise Duke basketball fans by becoming a consistent contributor. After all, in his last outing — a 132-48 win over Ferris State in Duke’s final exhibition game on Saturday — he was the Blue Devils’ fifth-leading scorer, coming up with 10 points in just 10 minutes.

Like Brian Zoubek — a former 7-footer for the Blue Devils who didn’t offer much on the stat sheet until his last month as a Blue Devil, helping the team win the 2010 National Championship with his knack for snagging offensive rebounds — Vrankovic could play a vital on-court role by the time March rolls around.

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