The future centerpiece of the Duke basketball backcourt contends he is ready, in more ways than one, for the pressure-filled role he's signed up to fill.
It's both a matter of principle and manner of therapy. See, following rare Duke basketball no-shows (see Wednesday's 22-point loss at NC State), I try my darndest to focus on the next season until the team from the current season shows up again (this one will, but still, the most lopsided loss to an unranked squad under Mike Krzyzewski, well, that was truly mind-boggling considering the seven-game win streak that preceded it).
Fortunately, this site has writers with less severe fandom disorders who were admirably able to offer their expanded thoughts on Duke's white-flag interior defense and listless body language against the Wolfpack (see "Coach K is right, this is an old-fashioned team" and "Why Blue Devils will recover and win the national title").
So I instead spent this somber day daydreaming about the future in Durham that doesn't start until the fall; in other words, I took a play out of the typical Wolfpack playbook by enacting a temporary wait-til-next-year mentality.
And SI director of basketball recruiting Jason Jordan's recent interview with the next Duke basketball point guard, Paul VI Catholic (Va.) senior Jeremy Roach, provided exactly the dose of excitement I needed.
“Coach K told me that I was gonna come in next year and lead this team as a freshman,” Roach told Jordan, alluding to the expectation that now-sophomore Duke basketball floor general Tre Jones will be in the NBA at this time next year — not to mention the fact that, against the Pack, now-junior combo guard Jordan Goldwire looked to take a step back.
ALSO READ: The 100 greatest Blue Devils under Coach K
Roach — a 6-foot-2, 180-pound five-star who ranks No. 21 on the 247Sports 2020 Composite and became the first member of the class with his commitment last May — continued:
“This kind of situation and opportunity doesn’t happen for everyone, so I’m excited about it. Mentally, I’m just at another level, and I know I’m ready physically."
Stats and highlights this season back up the claim about his physical readiness. After sitting out his entire junior season with a torn right ACL, as Jordan recounted, Roach "is pumping in 21 points, five assists, four rebounds, and three steals per game for one of the top teams in the country. Last month he was named to the McDonald’s All American Game and is on the Watch List for the SI All-American team."
But as Roach explained, the road back from such a devastating injury wasn't at all easy:
“The first couple of months were a struggle. It’s not really the physical part, it’s the mental part. I was constantly asking myself if I was gonna be able to be where I was before...That battle in your head is a tough one when it’s you going through it. It can make you depressed. At some point, I knew that I just had to have faith and work it out in my head. I would tell myself I would come back better, and I started to put the work in.”
Now, Roach asserted that all aspects of his game are clicking like never before:
"My IQ is higher, my jump shot is better, and my speed, quickness, and explosion are all better too. After going through that time where I had to rebuild the mental part of my game, it made me the strongest I’ve ever been.”
Speaking of a rebuild, the Duke basketball coaches should benefit from a strong one next season, centering around Roach, whose strong suits include gritty defense, poised drives, impressive rebounding for a guard, and now obviously his proven perseverance. The video below gives great insight to Roach the person:
Assuming no other additions to the class, Jeremy Roach will arrive at Duke alongside five other top 50 prospects: Whitney Young (Ill.) five-star combo guard D.J. Steward, Nicolet (Wis.) five-star small forward Jalen Johnson, Huntington Prep (W.Va.) four-star power forward Jaemyn Brakefield, Trinity Episcopal (Va.) four-star power forward Henry Coleman, and IMG Academy (Fla.) four-star center Mark Williams.
In addition to the six newbies and Goldwire, the 2020-21 Duke basketball team figures to include three-to-five returning scholarship players from the following list: now-junior shooting guard Alex O'Connell, now-sophomore wing Joey Baker, now-freshman small forward Wendell Moore, now-freshman shooting guard Cassius Stanley, and now-freshman power forward Matthew Hurt (the chances of either Jones or now-freshman center Vernon Carey Jr. coming back seem slim to none).
Summarizing, Roach looks to be the on-court conductor for a Duke basketball squad with two seniors, one junior, six freshmen, and two or three sophomores. Altogether, there will be three former five-stars, five or more four-stars, and one three-star (Goldwire). Yes, a second center won't likely exist, but the above mix of talent and experience should do the trick, nevertheless (assuming they all consistently show up, of course).
"I can't wait," Roach exclaimed to Jordan.
Amen to that, at least until the current bunch reappears and thereby reaffirms that there are indeed more good things to wait for this year (again, there surely are; for now, though, I'm choosing to be as apathetic as the Blue Devils were last time out, yet I applaud those of you fans with more mature reactions).