The projected Duke basketball starting five for next season

Duke basketball (Photo by Lance King/Getty Images)
Duke basketball (Photo by Lance King/Getty Images) /
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Duke basketball
Duke basketball (Photo by Lance King/Getty Images) /

C. player. 434. Scouting Report. Henry Coleman. Pick Analysis. 6-8, 240. Freshman

  • BEST FEATURES: Others-first mentality, intelligence, leadership, communication, mobility, rebounding instincts, strength, passion
  • QUESTION MARKS: Shooting outside 10 feet, inexperience, post moves

The barrage of uplifting tweets, retweets, and the likes that Trinity Episcopal (Va.) four-star post player Henry Coleman regularly hits social media with is impressive and telling of his character. Rarely are the messages about himself, and even when they are, they are in someone else’s words with his sincerely gracious reply.

No, all his feel-good deeds — nor his role as the president of his student body — don’t necessarily mean Coleman, who holds a No. 44 composite ranking, will have what it takes to hold down the paint as a Duke basketball starting big man.

But all his growth across the past year — vertically, horizontally, and skill-wise — should mean he’s up for the task.

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Coleman has added an inch or two to his height. He’s added a lean 25 pounds or so to his frame. And he’s added a couple of weapons to his offensive arsenal, which already included a soft touch down low, an explosive bounce, and a keen eye for putbacks.

Granted, there are now a couple of 6-foot-10-and-up options Mike Krzyzewski is sure to at least consider to fill the five-spot in the starting lineup. Nevertheless, Coleman’s intangibles, including his workhorse motor, speak for themselves; in case they don’t, though, it’s worth checking out what one of his high school English teachers, Maria Bartz, said around the time he committed to Duke in September regarding his communication skills:

“First off, you hear Henry before you see him. He’ll come down the hallway, belting a country song, saying hello to any students and teachers he passes…He has a big personality, but it doesn’t overtake others because he won’t let it. He welcomes other people’s ideas, opinions, thoughts, and will make them comfortable to share because he is also putting himself out there with his own ideas.”

Sounds like a future Duke basketball treasure who won’t be afraid to do what Coach K appreciates most: talk on the floor. For those who need to see a different type of praise before believing the Richmond native is suited for the starting gig, here’s the observation another one of his English teachers, Betsy Reid, provided around the same time:

“I love that he’s always thinking about how one thing impacts another. Henry is an observer and a thinker, and he’s really comfortable sharing his thoughts with everyone.”

Simply put, it appears Coleman has the necessary sharp mind and focus to grasp Coach K’s total system before his big-bodied counterparts in Durham do next season. That sums up the thinking behind this outside-the-box pick to be Duke’s next starting center.

Coleman’s primary backups: MARK WILLIAMS and PATRICK TAPE

So there you have it: a fast, aggressive, talented starting five that includes loads of facilitators. And there are reasons to believe the weaknesses wouldn’t be detrimental: 73-year-old Coach K’s 40 years on the job balances out the group’s youth, today’s game allows for smaller lineups to prosper, and a couple of 3-point snipers on the bench (Matthew Hurt and Joey Baker) can sub in at any time to fix any shooting woes.

As for finding out the accuracy of this projection, we’ll just have to wait until Duke — likely a preseason top 10 team — tips off its season on Nov. 10 against Michigan State at the Champions Classic from Chicago’s United Center.

Only 229 days left — relax, it’s not as long as it looks, and it’ll be here before you know it — until the start of yet another spellbinding Duke basketball quest.

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