Duke basketball: Expert analyst nails forecast for incoming Blue Devil

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

One surefire starter for next season’s Duke basketball team will carry a heavy load in the paint, but one expert expects him to thrive in the role.

According to arguably the world’s most knowledgable hoops junkie, incoming Duke basketball freshman Vernon Carey Jr. won’t disappoint.

At least not as a Blue Devil.

Fran Fraschilla, who once served as a respected head coach and nowadays as the most level-headed ESPN analyst, tweeted on Wednesday a concise comparison between Carey Jr. and the class of 2019’s other two top-10 centers: James Wiseman, who is headed to Memphis, and Isaiah Stewart, who is headed to Washington.

As Fraschilla wrote, Wiseman, who holds the No. 1 overall ranking on the 247Sports Composite, has “NBA All-Star” written all over his 7-foot, 210-pound frame, which stretches to a remarkable 7-foot-6 wingspan and 9-foot-3 standing reach.

But the scary mix of Wiseman’s length and athleticism is what leads to the bulk of his production on offense. His arsenal of skills, though impressive, isn’t yet as polished or as expansive as Carey Jr.’s. Put simply, Wiseman is a platinum NBA prospect but may only leave behind a golden college legacy (all three of Wiseman, Stewart, and Carey Jr. are likely to turn pro after one season and could quite possibly all become lottery picks).

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Now we move on to Stewart, who ranks No. 3 and had Duke as a finalist before announcing in January his decision to join the Huskies.

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By using the word “motor” as the primary descriptor for Stewart, Fraschilla was again spot-on in his analysis. No doubt the 6-foot-9, 245-pound turbocharger with a 7-foot-4 wingspan will be a beast on the boards and a pain for opposing offenses in the paint.

Like Wiseman, though, Stewart trails Carey Jr. in scoring skills.

And that brings us to Carey Jr., ultimately the only 18-year-old big man Duke fans are concerned with at the moment. Fraschilla’s thoughts on the 6-foot-10, 275-pound Floridian line up with a recent Ball Durham article comparing him to Sean May, a national-champion behemoth for UNC who became a low lottery pick but didn’t exactly pan out in the league.

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Signaling Carey Jr. may also reach his peak production at the college level are his ho-hum 7-foot wingspan and on-the-charts athleticism.

But Fraschilla’s prediction that Carey Jr.’s numbers will best both Wiseman and Stewart next season is certainly high praise and makes sense in part due to Carey Jr. likely serving as the go-to paint presence for a Blue Devil squad with no other gifted center.

Envisioning a combination of Carlos Boozer-like footwork, Elton Brand-like touch, Zion Williamson-like weight, and wing-like 3-point shooting should provide Duke fans a few extra goosebumps in anticipation of the next great Blue Devil big man who officially debuts on Nov. 5 — when Carey Jr. and the rest of the 2019-20 Dukies play Kansas at the Champions Classic in Madison Square Garden.

And maybe Carey Jr., who saw his composite ranking drop a few spots to No. 6 after sitting out spring all-star events with a lingering ankle sprain, surprises experts with a motor resembling Stewart’s.

Maybe he even fuels Duke’s sixth national championship, thereby instantly boosting his marketability, making him gleam about as bright as Wiseman in the eyes of NBA scouts, and giving level-headed analysts like Fraschilla plenty of reasons to believe he won’t disappoint as a pro.

Joining Carey Jr. as freshmen in Durham next season are five-star power forward Matthew Hurt, four-star small forward Wendell Moore, and four-star shooting guard Cassius Stanley.

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Stay tuned to Ball Durham for more Duke basketball recruiting updates, analyses, opinions, and predictions.