Duke basketball’s biggest X factor needs more attention

Duke basketball (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)
Duke basketball (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images) /

Duke basketball’s depth is formidable, but a forward flies under the radar.

The Duke basketball players haven’t started the season the way they envisioned coming into the 2020-2021 college season. However, there have been many positive takeaways from the team’s 3-2 start. Arguably the most positive has been the impressive play of freshman Jaemyn Brakefield.

The 6-foot-8 forward has been a major bright spot for the Blue Devils, especially with his 3-point shooting. With five collegiate games under his belt, Brakefield is shooting 61.5 percent from beyond the arc, which is the highest of anyone on the team.

Major playing time hasn’t been a luxury for Brakefield, as he averages only 15.4 minutes a game. Despite the lack of major minutes, his efficiency during his stints has proven him to be a reliable source of offense.

Per 40 minutes, Brakefield averages 20.3 points, 10.9 rebounds, and 1.0 blocks per game. Given more opportunity to showcase his skill, the 19-year-old can make a significant impact on the Blue Devils, which we saw in Duke’s most recent win against Notre Dame.

Opportunities now abound for the Duke basketball rookie

The case for Brakefield to get more action on the court is there, and it’s bound to happen due to the recent shakeup on the Blue Devils roster. Duke’s top-rated 2020 recruit, Jalen Johnson, is out indefinitely with a foot injury. The minutes that were allocated to Johnson are now up in the air for whoever is willing to work hard enough to earn them.

Brakefield is the perfect candidate.

In the Blue Devils’ first game without Johnson, Brakefield played over 20 minutes for the first time this season. In his time on the court, he tallied 10 points and 5 rebounds while shooting 50 percent from the field. He also connected on both of his 3-point attempts, providing Duke with a much-needed punch off the bench.

His performance wasn’t anything special. However, the impact it had on the game was huge. Brakefield is able to bring the energy that is needed for the Blue Devils, especially when the rest of the team is lacking in that aspect. The more experience the Mississippi native has, the better player he’ll become.

There’s no telling how good Brakefield will be by the end of his first year in Durham.

No. 20 Duke has plenty of things to figure out for the duration of its season. Yet beginning when the squad hosts unranked Pitt at 8 p.m. Tuesday, there would be no harm in giving more opportunities to Jaemyn Brakefield to show what he’s capable of. The Blue Devils might just have a diamond in the rough.

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