The Duke basketball program knows it has something to prove entering the season.
It’s not often that a program that has the accomplishments similar to the Duke basketball team is entering the season with a chip on its shoulder to prove the doubters wrong, but Jon Scheyer has his team focused in that direction.
The Blue Devils met the media for the first time this summer last week and Scheyer was asked about the unusual position he is in with a plethora of talent from last year’s team returning for another season.
“You can’t assume something is going to happen just because you have a certain number of players returning or because of whether you have us higher or not in preseason rankings,” the Duke head coach said.
Four starters from last season, Jeremy Roach, Tyrese Proctor, Mark Mitchell, and Kyle Filipowski, are all back for at least one more season in Durham and the team returns 81-percent of its scoring from last season, the highest mark in the ACC.
The 2,585 total points scored and 7,230 minutes logged from players last year that are returning is the most Duke has retained since the 2016-17 season and the combination of 191 games started of players returning is the most since 2010-11.
“That doesn’t mean anything, and I’ll continue to remind our group when you think about last year, there’s games along the way and you have to fight in every game to win,” Scheyer added.
“It’s not like we were this juggernaut last year; we had a great end to the season…But that’s behind us.”
Duke was 17-8 (8-6 ACC) following a controversial overtime loss on the road against Virginia, which marked the second consecutive defeat for the Blue Devils after its emotional victory over North Carolina on February 4.
Scheyer would then lead his team on a 10-game winning streak, capturing the ACC Tournament Championship, before losing to Tennessee in the Round of 32 in the NCAA Tournament to end its season.
“I feel like the chip on our shoulder has been even higher this year from our returning guys, from our incoming freshman. It’s been as competitive as I’ve seen the last few years,” Scheyer explained.
Duke basketball hoping to manage preseason expectations
Duke is expected to be an Associated Press Preseason Top-3 team and many college basketball experts have pegged the Blue Devils as one of the early favorites to win the National Championship.
Jon Scheyer has loaded his team’s non-conference schedule with matchups against Arizona (November 10), Michigan State (Nov. 14), Arkansas (Nov. 28), and Baylor (December 20) with only one of those games coming at home inside Cameron Indoor Stadium.
“Everything that you do, naturally as a player returning, there’s credibility you get from things you’ve done; that doesn’t earn you a certain role. That doesn’t earn you minutes, that doesn’t earn you wins.”
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The Blue Devils are beginning to get healthy as the summer workout program continues but it has been the freshmen class of Caleb Foster, Jared McCain, Sean Stewart, and TJ Power that have impressed this offseason.
“Our freshmen are very serious. It’s a very serious group. They are very consistent with how they work, they’re on a mission,” Scheyer said of his youngsters, who are consensually ranked as the No. 2 recruiting class in the nation.
Regardless of how things shake out in the winter, Duke is keeping a humble and hardworking mindset to bring into the season this summer.