Five past Duke basketball stars stand out for their stellar freshman years.
Along with programs such as Kentucky and Kansas, Duke basketball has been known as an epicenter for outrageously talented freshmen, year in and year out.
Although recruiting the top players in the country makes a national championship promising, that’s not always how it plays out. One thing for certain, however, is these freshmen will make you feel like you’re watching a blockbuster classic from the first buzzer to the last.
These five freshmen are some of the most talented players to grace Cameron Indoor Stadium, and they are among the best players the college basketball world has ever seen. Let’s look back on some of the best rookie performances in Duke’s history, beginning with a guy who is now one of the top young stars in the NBA…
Best seasons by a Duke basketball freshman: No. 5 Jayson Tatum
Jayson Tatum began his lone season at Duke fresh off a foot injury, but he made no excuses when he finally hit the floor.
Tatum spent 26 out of 29 games played scoring in double figures, to average 16.8 points and 7.3 rebounds per game. Over the course of his freshman campaign, he rightfully earned the nickname “Jay Smooth” for showcasing one of the smoothest jump shots in the game of basketball.
His length allowed him to rise above any defender, making Tatum nearly unguardable in the post and from the perimeter, especially when he drove to the basket to drop a dunk on someone’s head.
Tatum received an All-ACC Tournament First Team selection after leading his team to Duke’s 20th ACC Tournament Championship. He averaged 22.0 points and 7.5 rebounds across those four games.
Even though his season was cut short due to an early loss in the NCAA Tournament, Tatum will be remembered by all college basketball fans as one of the most exciting players to watch. It doesn’t hurt that he now continues his sensational play in the NBA, representing Duke after becoming the third overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft.