Duke basketball’s top 10 role players of the last decade

Duke basketball (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Duke basketball (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images) /
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Brian Zoubek
Brian Zoubek (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /

The best Duke basketball role players since 2010: Brian Zoubek

Scouting Report. Center. Brian Zoubek. 5. player. Pick Analysis. 2006-10. 434

I went back and forth trying to decide where to put Brian Zoubek on this list. Zoubek played such an integral role on the 2010 national championship team, and I think it’s safe to say that Duke would not have cut down the nets had Zoubek not stepped up and played the best basketball of his career.

Zoubek had an incredible two-month stretch that helped Duke secure both an ACC and NCAA title. Other than that stretch, though, the majority of Zoubek’s career was rather forgettable. He never played more than 12 minutes per game before his senior season. Despite being 7-foot-1, Zoubek never averaged more than one block per game. He also only had two double-digit rebounding games before his senior season.

Zoubek seemed like the big man who didn’t know how to use his size. Duke was very limited with size and low post scoring during the years that he played, and he never really emerged as a reliable option for Coach K. The Blue Devils needed Zoubek, but he just wasn’t producing enough to get extensive minutes and make a real difference.

All of that changed in February of 2010 when Zoubek made his first start of the season against Maryland. Zoubek scored 16 points and grabbed 17 rebounds in that game. Both were season and career highs for him. From that moment on, Zoubek became the full-time starter at the center position and played a huge role in helping Duke basketball win its fourth national title.

Zoubek turned into a professional glass cleaner over the last couple of months of the season. He had eight (!!!) double-digit rebounding performances after the breakout game against Maryland. Remember that Zoubek had just two in his first three years. Zoubek, like Marshall Plumlee, was an all-time screen-setter. His job was not to score but rather to open up scoring opportunities for Jon Scheyer, Kyle Singler, and Nolan Smith.

We all remember Zoubek in the 2010 championship game, with his late contest on Gordan Hayward’s fall-away shot when he then grabbed the rebound and was subsequently fouled. Zoubek, who was a 60 percent career foul shooter, calmly knocked down a free throw to give Duke a two-point lead before intentionally missing the second foul shot. That contest of the shot and rebound are glossed over, but those were extremely important moments that helped Duke secure a national championship.

Zoubek never made the NBA, but he did briefly run his own cream puff shop before settling into a career as a managing partner for a Philadelphia real estate firm.