Duke basketball appreciation post of the week: The Enforcer, Theo John

Duke basketball power forward Theo John (Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports)
Duke basketball power forward Theo John (Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports) /
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Duke basketball
Duke basketball (Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports) /

Theo John has been a great addition to Duke basketball this season. Now, if only we could keep him eligible forever.

Duke basketball has seldom had a player like Theo John. Sure, the Blue Devils have had their fair share of strong post players and a wealth of big-man superstars who have gone on to earn All-ACC and All-American honors.

John won’t be the next one up in that long line stretching into Duke basketball history.

That’s fine because he was never supposed to be. What he was supposed to do on this team is what he has done for the most part: be a back-up for Mark Williams, make the young guys grow up some, and bring the toughness. John isn’t averaging close to the eight points he did as a senior at Marquette; his minutes have dropped by over half. If his playing time were the same, he would have higher averages in every major statistic besides scoring while cutting his turnovers significantly.

The thing John has brought most is some nasty to a squad that has some of it but needs to show that side more often. Duke has also been a program that is historically viewed as lacking in that category. The Blue Devils have been able to shed many of the labels stuck upon them over the years in attempts to parse their success.

It’s also a bit of specious reasoning since the Blue Devils’ cup has been overflowing in general for decades. Duke has won more than anybody in the Coach K era, and the five national championships are the ultimate in last words, whether spoken or left unsaid.

However, as a fan of Duke basketball, how can you not love John telling Lance Ware of the Kentucky Wildcats, “I’m not the one. I’m not the one.”  repeatedly down the court in the first game of the season to flex on him in an act of intimidation that shut down those uppity-kitty feelings a bit quickly. I also appreciate him approaching every tie-up like a gladiator-type battle for each other’s soul and taking Sydney Curry’s lunch money when the Blue Devils beat the Louisville Cardinals.

Theo John is Duke basketball’s soul-taker on the court. And I, for one, am entirely here for it. The Blue Devils could use a player like this every season. This is especially so with the reliance on freshman players who may assert themselves offensively or shut someone down on defense but seldom do in huddles or speaking up on the court. They never do as an enforcer, someone who can intimidate with physicality and instill the work ethic or toughness required upon the leap up into college ball.