Duke Basketball: Cam Reddish deserves patience due to defense, attitude

(Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)
(Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images) /

Despite being in the midst of a shooting slump — no marksman is immune — the freshman starter who is drawing the most criticism from Duke basketball fans deserves nothing but patience and praise.

Don’t give up on Duke basketball freshman Cam Reddish. Don’t lash out at him through the TV for not living up to his billing as the nation’s third-best recruit coming out of high school. Don’t even let his shooting woes be cause for concern.

He’s a good player with the potential to become great.

He’s calm and nice yet should probably become a touch more vocal and meaner.

He’s actually the perfect complement — not a ball hog or a whiner — to his fellow freshmen starters.

Sure, it’s true he is struggling to avoid clanks off the rim after he launches shots from beyond the arc as of late — 5-for-27 across the past four games, including a 1-for-5 clip during the Blue Devils’ 69-58 win over Texas Tech on Thursday night.

However, it’s also true that his stroke is smooth — it just so happens to also be streaky.

Remember, though, a member of the Splash Brothers, Golden State’s Klay Thompson, started this season going 5-for-36 from downtown before instantly turning his season around during his next game by setting an NBA record by going 14-for-24 from long distance.

Remember, even J.J. Redick, who to this day remains Duke’s all-time silkiest 3-point specialist, suffered through plenty of games where he struggled to find the bottom of the net — unfortunately, his off nights often coincided with the month of March.

ALSO READ: J.J. Redick becomes 12th Blue Devil to score 10K in NBA

No, Reddish isn’t Thompson or Redick.

One key difference is that Reddish is a far better defender than both were during their college days.

And it’s that defense that should give Duke basketball fans every reason they need to believe Reddish, even if his slump was to continue, will not become a detriment to this team.

The 6-foot-8, 220-pound small forward out of Norristown, Pa., has used his 7-foot-1 wingspan and heightened awareness to come away with the most steals of any Blue Devil thus far — despite only playing the fifth-most minutes.

His 2.2 steals per game, if the season ended today, would be the second-highest average by any Duke freshman (trailing only Jason Williams’ 2.4 per game during the 1999-00 season).

ALSO READ: Stats suggest Blue Devil defense is program’s best ever

And the rest of his stats, if not for being overshadowed by the rest of the sensational freshmen, would be the source of high praise at the moment.

The 19-year-old with only 12 college games under his belt is averaging 13.5 points, 3.2 rebounds, and 1.7 assists while hitting 36 percent from three — yes, it’s still that high in spite of his recent woes. He’s also the second-best shooter on the squad from the charity stripe (78 percent).

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That being said, Reddish should work on committing fewer turnovers (he is tied with freshman R.J. Barrett for the most with 32 across Duke’s 11-1 start). And he should probably consider driving to the basket more often instead of settling at times for just serving as a spot-up shooter.

But Reddish will improve. Count on it.

And while doing so, he won’t — at least he hasn’t to date — hang his head, lash out at teammates and coaches, or make disparaging remarks to reporters about his not playing enough minutes (he only played 20 against the Red Raiders) or not receiving enough passes.

He has the ideal attitude. He has the ideal frame. He has the ideal set of skills.

All he needs is a bit more confidence and to discover his exact role on this team.

Maybe that already happened, though, with 3:26 to play against Texas Tech. After his freak-of-nature fellow freshman Zion Williamson fouled out with the issue still in doubt — Duke only led by three — Reddish hit the biggest shot of the game.

ALSO READ: Zion Williamson fouls out, Blue Devils unite to top TTU

His 3-point splash from the corner off an assist from Barrett gave the Blue Devils a chance to breathe.

Maybe Mr. Reddish’s role is being Mr. Clutch.

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So, Duke fans, forget about his slump and just be happy with his unwavering spirit, his impressive defense, and his most recent shooting from deep: one for his last two, which helped ensure the No. 2 Blue Devils didn’t pick up loss No. 2.