Importance of the modern-day Duke basketball senior class

Duke basketball’s modern-day senior class is not at all what it used to be.

There are no longer Duke basketball senior classes containing three or four ultra-talented players with already illustrious careers. Instead, Duke’s senior classes now usually consist of only one or two guys who were either under the radar as recruits or talented players who never fully reached their potential and spent the majority of their careers on the bench or in small roles.

Gone are the days of having a senior-led team, especially around Durham. But the Blue Devils have shown that they can still be at the highest level and compete for a national championship with a freshman-heavy rotation. Now, Duke basketball is led by freshmen every year, and it is rare to have a senior class with multiple contributing players.

We may never see another senior class like 2010, where Duke started three seniors, with all playing major roles to help bring the program a fourth national title. Having seniors in the rotation still helps win games in March. A winning team still needs an experienced player who provides leadership, toughness, and an understanding of the game that only experience can provide.

Quinn Cook was exactly that guy for Duke as a senior in 2015. By far his best season under Mike Krzyzewski came in his fourth and final one. Cook not only provided experience and leadership on an extremely young, inexperienced squad, but he also provided production, averaging over 15 points per game and shooting around 40 percent from three.

There was also Grayson Allen, who helped Duke win a national championship as a freshman and stayed all four years despite drawing interest from the NBA throughout his career. Allen was a star player in each of his last three years as a Blue Devil, and we may never see another player with a similar type of journey. He was also the lone senior on the 2017-18 Duke basketball squad.

Last year, Duke had three seniors who were all contributors at some point in their careers, with Jack White, Justin Robinson, and Javin Delaurier. It was one of the bigger senior classes the Blue Devils have had recently, but none of those players were even consistent starters while at Duke.

The current seniors epitomize the modern-day Duke basketball senior class

With the 2020-21 season around the corner, the Blue Devils will once again be led by young players and will have an underwhelming senior class.

Jordan Goldwire and Patrick Tape are the only Duke seniors likely to see significant playing time. Goldwire has been a career-long role player and has never been in a real leadership role as a Blue Devil. And Tape, a grad transfer, has never even played a game in a Duke jersey.

Goldwire is the most likely candidate to slide into the Cook-like role. While their skill sets are much different, Goldwire certainly has the chance to take a big leap between his junior and senior years like Cook did. Similar to Cook, Goldwire will share duties at point guard with a highly touted freshman point guard in Jeremy Roach.

Also similar to Cook, Goldwire already has multiple years of experience playing alongside another point guard in Tre Jones. This year’s Duke team has the ability to have another 1-2 senior-freshman point guard punch.

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It is hard to imagine Goldwire not being one of the leaders in playing time on this team. He was fourth on the team in minutes a season ago, and it is clear that he has earned the trust of Coach K. The toughness and energy that Goldwire provides on a game-to-game basis will serve as a great example for the young Blue Devils.

There have been few Blue Devils who have embraced their roles quite like Jordan Goldwire.

The Georgia native was not an All-American coming out of high school. He was the lowest-ranked and least-known player in Duke’s top-rated 2017 recruiting class. Goldwire is certainly not a star or a guy who will grab headlines, but he understands exactly who he is as a basketball player.

He knows that his role is to defend, play hard, bring energy, take care of the ball on offense, and get the ball to the scorers. He’s not a guy who will hunt his own shot much or do things he doesn’t need to. No, Goldwire simply sticks to what he does best.

Goldwire can be an ideal leader for this young Duke basketball team. Having a successful team requires an understanding of the game from each player. Every player has to understand their role and how important that individual role is to the success of the team.

If the other players on Duke’s roster can carve out and star in their roles the way Goldwire does, then the Blue Devils could be a well-balanced team and exhibit impressive togetherness.

Despite the lack of experience and seniors on Duke basketball teams over the past decade or so, leadership hasn’t seemed to be a huge issue. Of course, having a world-class Hall of Fame leader like Coach K certainly helps. Yet the Blue Devils have also relied on walk-ons to provide leadership.

Justin Robinson started his Duke basketball career as a walk-on, and he ended up being a two-time team captain despite never cracking the rotation until the final weeks of his senior year.

Robinson was beloved by his teammates and highly praised by his coaches. Despite not being a factor on the court for the majority of his career, he provided a level of maturity, and familiarity, that no other player could offer. Robinson was an embodiment of the Duke basketball program.

Duke will certainly miss the experience of Robinson, but it seems like senior walk-on Mike Buckmire will slide into the role that Robinson occupied.

Buckmire, like Robinson, is a guy who has received nothing but praise from teammates and coaches. While he certainly doesn’t have the experience or skill level to lead on the court, his voice in the locker room and in practice will be very helpful for this young Blue Devils team.

The 2020-21 group of seniors in Durham is a prime example of the modern-day Duke basketball senior class. There are no stars or players with a lot of individual success.

The Blue Devils will be led by Goldwire, a role player who has the opportunity to prove he’s more than just a role player; Tape, an experienced big man with no big-time college hoops experience; and lastly, a walk-on in Mike Buckmire, who likely won’t even be playing basketball a year from now.

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