Duke basketball underclassmen’s decisions could get tricky

Duke basketball guards Tre Jones and Cassius Stanley (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
Duke basketball guards Tre Jones and Cassius Stanley (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /

Some Duke basketball players with remaining eligibility still seem likely to depart, but they may have to do so with little assurance of their draft stocks.

One impact of coronavirus concerns — albeit a minor one in the big picture — is the uncertainty surrounding the 2020 NBA Draft. And that directly impacts the choices that several Duke basketball underclassmen will eventually have to make.

On Tuesday, after reporting that NBA vice president Kiki VanDeWeghe “sent a memo to NCAA coaches telling them that [the league is] accepting applications to the Undergraduate Advisory Committee” and that the “pre-draft process remains murky amid crisis,” ESPN senior insider Adrian Wojnarowski tweeted the following possibility:

“Players may have to make decisions on entering the 2020 NBA Draft with the reality that there could be no opportunity to audition for teams individually or attend a combine. The unknown certainly extends to college underclassmen.”

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Beyond that, as speculation abounds about if and when any sports will return this calendar year, well, you get the picture: nobody knows for sure when the draft, which is on the calendar for June 25, will actually take place. Here’s what Rivals insider Corey Evans wrote in response to Wojnarowski’s tweet:

“Could lead to a greater return of talent to the college ranks than presumed just a few weeks ago. Storylines will not be in short supply.”

All this has the potential to affect the Duke basketball program as much as any other. After all, at the beginning of the season, the assumption was that as many as four freshmen (Vernon Carey Jr., Matthew Hurt, Cassius Stanley, Wendell Moore) and one sophomore (Tre Jones) could cash in their talents at season’s end.

The fact that the Duke basketball team (25-6, 15-5 ACC) had to end its campaign prematurely — due to the cancellation of all March Madness last week — only amplified the questions surrounding each of the above player’s draft stock.

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One look at the slew of mock drafts online points to plenty of unpredictability:

  • Carey Jr., who might have worked his way into the top 10 with monster numbers in the Big Dance, falls between a late lottery pick and a late first-rounder.
  • Jones, who also could have used the tournament to further show off his “clutch” and “leadership” genes, falls between a late first-rounder and a late second-rounder.
  • Stanley, who stands to miss out on the benefit of wowing folks at the combine, falls just inside the first round on a few but is unlisted altogether on several others.
  • Hurt, who arrived at Duke with a “one-and-done” tag, is all but nonexistent in either round and would now likely need an opportunity to sizzle in front of scouts if he was to have any shot at hearing his name.
  • Moore, who also came into college with the possibility of only a one-year stay, could also use a way to exhibit his full array of strengths prior to the draft.

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Based on a Tuesday ESPN article by Jonathan Givony and Wojnarowski, these Dukies may just have to put extra trust in the UAC:

“NBA executives widely agree that the pre-draft process will be severely limited, if not lost altogether…That will make it challenging to gather feedback and assess a player’s standing…Players have until April 16 to apply and will not be able to ‘test the waters’ while maintaining their NCAA eligibility without first applying for an evaluation…

“The UAC sends NBA executives a series of emails with a list of names, requesting their team’s assessment of players’ draft stock. The player is then informed of the consensus reached by weighing the NBA executives’ responses and offering feedback on whether the player is likely to be a lottery pick, first-rounder, second-rounder or undrafted.”

Meanwhile, what Stanley tweeted on Tuesday surely sums up what all his Duke basketball peers are feeling at the moment:

“I just want to hoop.”

For more information about COVID-19, visit the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s website or the website for your state’s Department of Health.

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