Duke basketball: An honest take on Coach K’s next point guard

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

The proof will be in the pudding, but a recent straight-shooting assessment suggests the new Duke basketball starting point guard should at least be a treat to watch develop under a Hall of Fame coach.

Half of Mike Krzyzewski’s past six Duke basketball teams have included a trusty Jones brother operating the backcourt. In the three Jones-less campaigns, the one-spot was oftentimes a group effort, sometimes a disappointment, and only occasionally a weapon.

Next season, incoming five-star Jeremy Roach looks to provide the Blue Devils with similar stability to that of Tre and Tyus Jones. Offensively, the Paul VI Catholic (Va.) senior has the potential to be a more lethal calculating driver than either and a better shooter from Day One than Tre, who announced weeks ago his departure to the pro ranks.

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But does Roach come equipped with the Jones clutch gene? And is his defense as intense and crafty?

Lofty expectations and sincere doubt are sure to welcome the arrival of Roach, a 6-foot-2, 180-pound true point guard who now ranks No. 21 overall on the 247Sports 2020 Composite after returning from a junior-year ACL tear in his right knee to win 2019-20 Gatorade Player of the Year in Virginia. A recent in-depth breakdown from Hoops Perspective — via a strength-and-weakness montage — feeds both the optimistic and skeptic narratives:

For those who only watch videos on mute and without captions, first, here are some transcribed snippets from the “strengths” analysis:

“One of the most aggressive and relentless downhill attackers in the country…the way he is able to change gears in the open court…keeps the defense on its heels with stop-and-go moves…always attacks low to the ground, which makes for stronger and more explosive attacks…when he’s under control, Jeremy is a one-man fastbreak…potential to be a solid shooter…good elevation on his shot…bread and butter is his slashing…embraces contact…good job moving without the ball…talented passer…like his decision-making out of the pick-and-roll…

“Defensively, Jeremy has terrific instincts in the passing lanes…grit and toughness…always makes a noticeable effort to be disruptive.”

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Now, here are the noted “weaknesses”:

“He has a tough time finishing in traffic, especially against length…love his aggressiveness attacking the basket, but this occasional reckless approach won’t work out well at the next level…misses a lot of open teammates…When Jeremy has his mind made up to get to the rim, there’s really no going back; his tunnel vision not only leads to forced shots, but it sometimes puts him in bad positions on the floor, where he gets trapped or gets jammed up in the paint…overall feel for the game as a point guard isn’t quite there yet.”

Finally, here’s the “verdict”:

“He’s a speedy guard who can be very electrifying…has all the tools…just needs some help putting the pieces together.”

Roach should receive that help from a Duke basketball head coach who specializes in — among other things — floor generals. Before we get to that, though, seeing that Ball Durham prefers to fall for the hype, let’s have a quick look at the most recent feel-good mixtape from the signee’s senior campaign:

Across his 40-year, five-natty reign in Durham, Coach K has overseen the growth of an NABC National Defensive Player of the Year in Tommy Amaker, the NCAA’s all-time assists leader (1,076) in Bobby Hurley, a two-time NABC National Player of the Year in Jason Williams, a makeshift point guard who directed a natty run in Jon Scheyer, and two Jones brothers who in three seasons combined tallied nearly three times as many assists (594) as turnovers (207) — not to mention 179 steals.

So, needless to say, Roach is in good hands.

The 18-year-old, who will turn 19 nine days before the 2020-21 Duke basketball season tips off against Michigan State at the Champions Classic in Chicago on Nov. 10, will also be in good company. By his side, Roach will have five fellow top 50 incoming recruits: combo guard D.J. Steward, small forward Jalen Johnson, power forward Henry Coleman, power forward Jaemyn Brakefield, and center Mark Williams.

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