All four Duke basketball freshmen warrant starting gigs

(Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
(Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images) /

The 2019-20 Duke basketball team should become the third in a row with four freshmen starters; a new mixtape supports the notion.

Duke basketball groupies can’t hide their googly eyes each year when catching a glimpse of Durham’s new kids on the block.

Though the latest group of incoming scholarship Blue Devils won’t turn the scream-o-meter dial as far to the right as the last group did — they won’t debut for fans until Countdown to Craziness on Oct. 18 — all are deserving to start from Day One.

Anyone who hasn’t watched the foursome’s compilation of highlights — Fast Break Productions released the stimulating mixtape on Thursday — should do so right away (below).

Anyone who has already seen it once or twice ought to go ahead and indulge by doing so once or twice again.

And anyone who doesn’t think all four should be starters either hasn’t viewed the video close enough or has unrealistic expectations for the returning players not named Tre Jones.

Stating the obvious, Cassius Stanley, Wendell Moore, Matthew Hurt, and Vernon Carey Jr. play the perfect positions to start alongside surefire starter Jones (the sophomore point guard should once again thrive as a limited-mistakes facilitator on offense and the first line of defense on the other end; if he drastically improves upon his 26.2-percent freshman clip from downtown, he could end up with several national honors).

First, no working eyeballs would give the role of starting center to anyone but Carey Jr., a 6-foot-10, 270-pound native of Ft. Lauderdale, where he played for NSU University School.

As the namesake of a former NFL offensive tackle, he has the sheer size and strength no other Blue Devil can offer. But Carey Jr.’s honed footwork in the paint and accurate shot from all distances — plus his adequate speed and emphatic finishes — add to his significant edge over the only other contender to start at center: senior Javin DeLaurier.

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The best way for the Duke staff to prevent teams from double-teaming Carey Jr., of course, is to put on the floor a stretch-four who demands defenses’ attention.

Hurt is that answer.

The 6-foot-9, 215-pound forward, who comes to Duke from John Marshall High School in Rochester, Minn., can put a hurting on other teams with his natural-yet-refined array of skills on offense, which Dukies like DeLaurier and senior Jack White will never possess (despite Hurt’s average athleticism, his pure instincts make his defense better than advertised).

The key selling point for Hurt, though, is his quick-flick-of-the-wrist release.

Deadly from any range. Deadly off the dribble. Deadly from a standstill.

Hurt seems impossible to stop when he spins on a dime — impressively able to do so either clockwise or counter-clockwise — to display an inexplicably smooth fadeaway for a teenager. Most may disagree, but this writer is convinced the wizardly baller should be the team’s leading scorer and go-to guy in crunch time.

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However, the go-to guy to defend an opponent’s go-to scorer in crunch time should be Moore.

As a two-time state champion for Cox Mill High School in Concord, N.C., the 6-foot-6, 215-pound Moore used his 7-foot wingspan, excellent athleticism, and tenacious style to ensure stars he faced had stat lines they’d just assume forget.

Add to Moore’s defensive prowess his trustworthy, unselfish play on offense; the result is a player who shouldn’t spend much time warming benches.

Finally, Stanley, whose game isn’t nearly as raw as some experts suggest, looks like a roadrunner with eagle wings.

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As the above clips eloquently show, the 6-foot-6 speedy shooting guard out of Sierra Canyon School in Los Angeles skies far higher on his way to the hoop — and from far greater distances — than the other three candidates to start at his position: sophomore Joey Baker, junior Alex O’Connell, and junior Jordan Goldwire.

Granted, Stanley’s dimensions aren’t as ideal as Baker’s (6-foot-8 with about a 6-foot-10 wingspan). His shooting stroke won’t be quite as crisp as O’Connell’s (41.6 percent from deep since arriving at Duke). And his handles aren’t likely to be quite as trustworthy as Goldwire’s (nor will his defense be as gritty).

That being said, Stanley offers more of a total package and a greater threat to the opposition than any of the above three. His so-so length is certainly not a major issue, his shot is improving, his handles are adequate, and his ability to quickly dart into passing lanes should provide a perfect complement to Jones’ pestering style of defense (Goldwire’s defense, on the other hand, is more like a replica of Jones’).

Most importantly, Stanley as a starter would prevent any opposing team from dominating at the start by way of a noticeable athletic advantage.

Now, this article is not meant to disparage the veterans. DeLaurier, White, Baker, O’Connell, and Goldwire will provide an experienced, formidable back-up five (though coach Mike Krzyzewski will likely only employ two or three off the bench per game by March, as has been the case for a majority of his previous 39 seasons at the helm in Durham).

And whether or not Coach K again puts his trust in a four-freshmen starting five certainly remains to be seen.

That being said, it’s clear to this Duke basketball fan’s googly eyes — even before ever watching the above mixtape — why he should (even if doing so increases the chance they will all bolt to the NBA after one season).

Yes, it’s true the strategy of starting four rookies didn’t culminate in any April games two seasons ago. Same goes for last season.

Ever heard of the third time being the charm?

Next. Three reasons Duke wins natty next season. dark

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