Duke Basketball: One play suggests chemistry here to stay for Blue Devils

(Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
(Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images) /

Sometimes a dunk represents far more than just two points; that was the case with a doozy of an alley-oop that came in the final minutes of the Duke basketball team’s win against Hartford on Wednesday night.

It was just one play. But it felt like so much more. It felt like two Duke basketball brothers connecting in a way that symbolizes the camaraderie they share.

It just felt perfect. And it felt like a sign of nothing but good times ahead.

In case you missed the off-the-glass alley-oop pass from freshman Zion Williamson and finish by fellow freshman R.J. Barrett — it capped off a 32-9 run by the Blue Devils during a late 10-minute stretch during No. 3 Duke’s 84-54 thumping of Hartford in Cameron Indoor Stadium on Wednesday — check it out below from a few different angles:


I’ll wait while you replay it over and over — it certainly warrants that.

Seen enough for now?

OK, besides the sheer beauty of the play, let’s talk about its significance:

  • It signifies that the two roommates, both southpaws who stand 6-foot-7, each have extraordinary skills on the basketball court. But we already knew that.
  • It signifies that Williamson doesn’t have a selfish bone in his body. But we already sensed that. He could have easily flushed the ball on his own, drawing him closer to matching Barrett’s point total for the night — 27 compared to Williamson’s 18. But he didn’t feel the need to do that.
  • It signifies that Barrett owes him one — can’t wait to watch him return the favor.
  • It signifies that this Duke team, now 8-1 on the season, possesses the two best players in college basketball — surely to be two of the best in the NBA within a few years (max).
  • It signifies that even the sky may not be the limit for the tandem.
  • It signifies that the magical powers of #TheBrotherhood include the ability to telepathically communicate with one another at times.
  • It signifies that Williamson and Barrett can make superhuman plays look easy. Approximately 99.9999 percent of the world’s population couldn’t fathom pulling off this play in practice, much less in a game.
  • It signifies, from the perspective of this observer, the top play of the team’s 2018-19 season thus far.

More, please.

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While some — myself included — worried early on, especially after an 89-87 loss to Gonzaga in Maui, that friction could surface between Williamson and Barrett as they battle for the title of Duke’s best player, those worries now seem totally unnecessary. They’re obviously having fun leading this team — together.

And it’s showing as they continue to put on shows for what is currently the luckiest fan base on the planet.

As for this fan, I still don’t know which one will end up with the best overall stats for the season. And I still don’t care.

Both are simply brilliant.

Williamson is currently the only NCAA player this season who ranks in the top 60 for field goal percentage (.664), blocked shots (2.11 per game), and steals (also 2.11 per game). The Spartanburg, S.C., native is averaging 20.4 points and 9.1 rebounds.

Meanwhile, Barrett has already become the first Blue Devil in history to have at least 25 points, seven rebounds, seven assists, and four steals in a game (Duke’s 113-49 home win against Stetson on Saturday). He is averaging 23.6 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 4.0 assists. Plus, the Canadian is shooting lights-out ever since the Gonzaga game, bumping his field goal percentage for the season to .480 and his three-point percentage to .380.

But back to “The Play.” How did they pull off such a beautiful spectacle?

"“I mean, we didn’t even plan it,” Barrett told sophomore guard Alex O’Connell in the locker room after the game, as seen in a video posted by the Duke basketball program’s official Twitter account. “I yelled [Zion’s] name, he looked back, then he just threw it to me, and I just went up and got it.”"

Simple as that.

"“That’s that connection right there,” O’Connell responded. “They just have that connection.”"

Telepathy. Magic. Pure insanity. However you attempt to explain it, one thing’s for sure: this year’s Cameron Crazies are blessed to have such a close view of it.

But while it is amazing to watch the talents of the 18-year-old pair of Dukies shine this season — not to mention the play of fellow freshmen studs Tre Jones and Cam Reddish as well as the rest of the squad — this one play from Wednesday night shows that Williamson and Barrett have one sincerely special bond and enjoy sharing the spotlight as they work toward one common goal:

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Hanging banner No. 6 from the rafters at the north end of Cameron.