What Duke basketball fans should expect from Jaylen Blakes

Duke basketball (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
Duke basketball (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images) /

When weighing the Duke basketball roster, don’t forget about Jaylen Blakes.

In anticipation of next season, the only thing that is on the mind of Duke basketball faithful is winning. And the Blue Devils have a winner in Jaylen Blakes.

It’s safe to say that the 2020-21 Duke Blue Devils didn’t live up to the expectations placed upon them before the start of last season. But after a year where college basketball wasn’t truly college basketball due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Blue Devils are looking to bounce back from a forgettable 13-11 campaign.

Things are looking bright for head coach Mike Krzyzewski and his staff, as there are three confirmed five-star recruits making their way to Durham for the 2021-22 season. However, with so much attention on Paolo Banchero, AJ Griffin, and Trevor Keels, some people seem to have forgotten about Blakes.

The 6-foot-2 point guard brings what this past Duke basketball team often lacked, which is energy. One of the main sources for any sort of life came from then-freshman forward Jaemyn Brakefield, who recently transferred to Ole Miss. With Brakefield gone, the life that Blakes gives to those around him will be imperative for the Blue Devils this coming season.

Blakes was rated a four-star recruit by 247Sports and ESPN.com, while Rivals rated him a three-star prospect. He isn’t the flashiest player on the court, but he does what is needed to help propel his team to victory. The skillset he brings to the table, including his impassioned defense, should be enough for fans to fall in love with right away.

So what is the Duke basketball freshman’s style of play?

If there was one word to describe Jaylen Blakes’ offensive game, it would be “scorer.” When it comes to scoring, the broad-shouldered bucket-getter is dynamic with the ball in his hands. He is particularly skillful at contorting his body for a smooth finish at the rim. Despite this, he isn’t scared of absorbing contact and finishing for and-one opportunities.

One of the most important attributes of Blakes’ game, though, is that he is a winner.

Blakes was a key piece to Blair Academy (N.J.) winning the state title in 2019. In the state championship game, he came off the bench and was the top scorer with 27 points, propelling the squad over St. Benedict’s Prep. There are also some familiar ties with the Blue Devils, as Duke basketball walk-on Keenan Worthington was part of that championship team alongside Blakes.

Although scoring is a strong suit, there are aspects of Blakes’ game that need some improvement. His passing ability at the point guard position isn’t exactly up to par with what it should be at the college level.

Sure, Blakes is quite capable of finding his teammates, as is evident through his average of 3.5 assists per game as a junior. However, he is now in a situation where there are greater talents surrounding him. Depending on the role he is assigned, it wouldn’t be misguided to assume that his assist totals will rise in his first season playing college basketball.

With Jeremy Roach returning for his sophomore Duke basketball season, it is most likely that Blakes will be the backup point guard in Durham. Still, Blakes should be able to frequently give the Blue Devils a much-needed lift off the bench.

ALSO READ: Predicting Duke’s starting lineup next season

Fulfilling that “Lou Williams role” might be the best option, as Blakes’ game is tailored around putting the ball in the basket.

Major touches are going to be given to Banchero and Griffin when it comes to the incoming recruits. That said, with the way Blakes lets the game come to him, it won’t be a surprise if there are outings where he explodes on the scoreboard.

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One certainty is that if utilized correctly, then Jaylen Blakes will have a successful Duke basketball career.