The critical recovery of Duke basketball pledge Jeremy Roach

Duke basketball signee Jeremy Roach (Photo by John McDonnell/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Duke basketball signee Jeremy Roach (Photo by John McDonnell/The Washington Post via Getty Images) /

The recruit who jumpstarted the 2020 Duke basketball class is in the final months of an all-important journey back to what he hopes to be full strength.

Duke basketball fans know all too well the potential longterm setbacks from an ACL injury to a five-star prospect (refer to the caution and fragility Harry Giles exhibited during his lackluster one-and-done stay in Durham).

The Blue Devils cannot afford anything less than what a five-star rating implies they should be receiving in Jeremy Roach, who preceded five-star small forward Jalen Johnson by two months in becoming Duke’s first of now-two 2020 commits.

Last November, during a Paul VI Catholic (Fairfax, Va.) preseason scrimmage, the 6-foot-2, 180-pound point guard, who ranks No. 17 on the 247Sports Composite, came down crooked on the last step of one of his signature slashes into the lane. And he didn’t bounce right back up. No, he just laid there and held his right knee in pain.

He hasn’t played competitively ever since.

Doctors estimated Roach’s full recovery from the time of the ACL tear to require nine months to a year. Exactly nine months have now passed.

Jeremy Roach: #TheGetBack Road to Recovery Documentary (Part One below) begins with a clip of the injury and then details the recovery plan both Roach and the Blue Devils are counting on to work.

More Than Basketball released Part Two of the documentary in late July, focusing on Roach’s look back at his first two seasons of high school with no mention of his recovery (Part Three, which may offer a significant update to his knee’s status, is “coming soon”).

Now, no offense to Jordan Goldwire — a combo guard who has proven to be a firecracker of a perimeter defender and not much else during his first two seasons at Duke — but his overall talent level is not ideal for a Duke basketball starting point guard.

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However, if Roach begins his college career the season after next noticeably slower and less explosive than he was as a dynamite floor general his sophomore year — and on the Nike EYBL circuit the summer before his nonexistent junior campaign — Goldwire might end up as the best option at the point.

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Of course, the lack of recent news concerning Roach’s recovery in no way suggests he has hit a speedbump. And the opening reference here to Giles isn’t exactly fair considering the now-beloved Sacramento Kings forward had torn both his ACL’s and one of his MCL’s by the time he graduated high school.

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Also, Roach’s game, fortunately, does not heavily rely on his having superior bounce. Instead, he methodically breaks down his opponents with his intense defense, beyond-his-years poise under pressure, and overall versatility (he rebounds well for a guard and had an outside shot that was steadily improving prior to his injury).

Roach has all the makings of a star Duke basketball point guard — similar style to his soon-to-be predecessor, sophomore Tre Jones, who will almost certainly leave for the NBA after next season.

After listing Roach as one of the nation’s 10 most important commits to date, Rivals’ Eric Bossi expressed this week just how essential the trustworthy floor general is to Duke’s post-Jones plans and the uncertainty among recruiting experts as to what he’ll look like whenever he does finally play again.

"“Because he’s been out for a while due to injury, none of us knows exactly how much, or any, rust he’ll have upon return,” Bossi wrote. “But assuming he’s back to himself, he’s a terrific early score at a major position of need.”"

Understandably, before breathing easier, Duke basketball fans will need to see if Roach, who turns 18 on Nov. 1, begins his senior season with his pre-injury wheels intact.

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