Duke basketball freshman Cassius Stanley better than advertised

(Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
(Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) /

Other than his ranking as a recruit, the numbers don’t lie concerning one of the fresh Duke basketball faces on campus; neither do his flights.

Incoming Duke basketball freshman Cassius Stanley, who turns 20 on Sunday, is 11 months older than Zion Williamson. In fact, the 6-foot-6, 195-pound shooting guard from California was born before all five of last season’s freshmen Blue Devils.

No surprise, then, that Stanley is eldest among the 2019 class in Durham (eight months older than Matthew Hurt, 18 months older than Vernon Carey Jr., and 25 months older than Wendell Moore).

What would surprise most, though, is if the new scholarship Dukie with the lowest ranking as a recruit — No. 36 on the 247Sports Composite — turns out to be the most valuable of the bunch (Carey Jr. ranks No. 6, Hurt ranks No. 11, and Moore ranks No. 28).

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First, critics claimed his shot was broken.

And until his senior year of high school, they were right: across 16 Nike EYBL games leading up to Peach Jam last summer, Stanley found the bottom of the net only 12 times among 57 attempts from beyond the arc (21.1 percent). At Peach Jam, though, Stanley went 7-for-17 from downtown (41.2 percent) while leading Team WhyNot (Calif.) to the title against a mass collection of four- and five-stars.

Then, as the leading scorer for Sierra Canyon as a senior — 17.8 points per game to go along with 6.2 boards, 2.9 assists, and 2.6 steals — he tallied a 9-for-18 clip from deep while guiding the prep school to a 32-3 record and the title for the California Open Division (no small potatoes considering the level of competition).

Finally, at the Jordan Brand Classic, Stanley knocked down two of his five 3-point tries on his way to 15 points, two rebounds, and two steals — again, his performance came against his most elite peers.

The numbers suggest Stanley has either improved his shooting form or learned to be more selective with his attempts — or a combination of both.

Next, critics claimed Stanley was too thin.

And until this summer, they were probably right. However, per USA Today’s Bryan Kalbrosky, he has added about 20 pounds to his frame since the end of his senior season (on April 22, he became Duke’s final 2019 commit).

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So now that the four-star has plucked away at his weaknesses, he should be able to focus on maximizing the effect of his strengths; if he does, then when he officially makes his Duke debut Nov. 5 against Kansas at the Champions Classic, he might look more like a five-star.

Stanley’s most visible blessing as a baller — the one that has made him a YouTube sensation since he was a ninth-grader — is his invisible set of wings. If not for the insanity that was Zion in flight last season, Stanley’s mixtape below would make Duke basketball fans believe they are about to witness the greatest dunk show inside Cameron Indoor Stadium at least since Gerald Henderson.

Of course, mirroring real planes, no human other than Zion can reach the stratosphere without ample speed at liftoff. And as the son of Tonya Sedwick — a conference-champion heptathlete and long jumper at UCLA during the early 1990s — speed may actually be Stanley’s specialty.

Baseline to baseline, Stanley should be the fastest Duke basketball player next season. More importantly, though, he has the handles to maintain control at top speed. Also, he possesses enough court awareness to either find open teammates on the run or to find the best lane to put himself in position to be on the receiving end of an alley-oop.

Stanley’s dad, Jerome, is an experienced sports agent, which should come in handy if Cassius exceeds expectations next season, leaves for the NBA, and then proves wrong all the current mock drafts not even mentioning his name.

Aerial acts alone, though, won’t earn Stanley playing time under Mike Krzyzewski or make him the best freshman in town — a title the other three may prevent him from obtaining regardless.

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But when taking into account his frequent-flyer status, his Lamborghini wheels, and his ever-dwindling list of flaws, even the sky may prove to be no limit for Stanley.

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Stay tuned to Ball Durham for more updates, analyses, opinions, and predictions concerning Cassius Stanley and all things Duke basketball.