Some surprises: Ranking Duke basketball’s 10 key players thru 20 games

Duke basketball (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
Duke basketball (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images) /
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Duke basketball
Duke basketball center Vernon Carey Jr. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images) /

Center. Vernon Carey Jr.. 1. player. Scouting Report. 434. Pick Analysis. Freshman

  • Games played: 20
  • Games started: 20
  • Minutes per game: 24.6
  • Points per game: 17.4
  • Rebounds per game: 8.5
  • Assists per game: 1.2
  • Steals per game: 0.7
  • Blocks per game: 1.7
  • Field goal percentage: 59.5
  • 3-point percentage: 45.5
  • Free throw percentage: 59.4
  • Grade: A (97)

Some might tag an A+ on a 97, but this Duke basketball grader requires a 98. Of course, freshman center Vernon Carey Jr. could have earned a 98 or higher at this point if not for his recent subpar showing in the loss to paint-controlling Louisville.

And as was the case against Louisville and in the 85-83 home overtime loss to Stephen F. Austin back on Nov. 26, Coach K has shown a tendency, whether right or wrong, not to trust Carey Jr. in late-game scenarios. Part of the reason, no doubt, is his unreliable shooting from the foul line.

But Carey Jr.’s arsenal on offense and dominance on the glass — not to mention all the shots he blocks — leaves little room for criticism. His nine double-doubles rank second in the ACC and put him in a tie for second among the nation’s freshmen. When the Blue Devils properly feed the 6-foot-10, 270-pound “Tank” from Southwest Ranches, Fla., he typically gobbles up post defenders with ease.

The icing on the cake is Carey Jr.’s outside shot, which he showed off again in compiling his latest mega stat line against Pitt: 26 points, 13 rebounds, four assists, and a block in 35 minutes.

As Duke’s only weapon that requires constant double-teams by opponents — i.e., the only weapon that can dictate an opponent’s entire game plan — Carey Jr. has to be right here on this list as the No. 1 Duke basketball player this season.

Does the “Tank” contain enough gas to overpower foes to the tune of 20 more games for Duke? We’ll just have to wait and see. But if it does, he’ll surely then land on some all-time Duke basketball rankings here come April.

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