DURHAM, N.C. (AP) — Duke won an Atlantic Coast Conference championship in its first season of massive transition on the bench. The second-ranked Blue Devils look positioned to contend for more.
Jon Scheyer's second team will feature four returning starters, including All-American big man Kyle Filipowski and point guard Tyrese Proctor. There's also a top-tier recruiting class that has given Duke deep backcourt and wing options as the Blue Devils seek the program's sixth NCAA championship.
They had an up-and-down start to Scheyer's tenure as the successor to Hall of Famer Mike Krzyzewski. But they surged down the stretch to win the program's league-record 22nd ACC Tournament title before falling to a physical Tennessee team in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
Still, the lessons from that late 10-game winning streak linger in terms of how Duke continues its standard in a new era with a first-time head coach.
“Really everything was new, you're feeling it all out,” Scheyer said. “This year, the way we're going to play is different, and that's new. But they know me. They know each other. They know what worked and what didn't work. So at least you're working with some sense of a core, a core of understanding of what it takes to be successful.”
Duke lost a first-round NBA draft pick in the middle with shot-blocking and rim-running big man Dereck Lively II, but the 7-foot Filipowski returns as last year's Associated Press league newcomer of the year. And he's joined by three other returning starters who are on the ascent.
Proctor showed promise as a playmaker and elite defender. Mark Mitchell offered size and physicality on the wing. And guard Jeremy Roach is the veteran who was a key cog in Duke's push to the 2022 Final Four in Coach K's final season.
Duke also added the nation's No. 2-ranked recruiting class according to 247sports with four top-25 recruits, led by 6-2 guard Jared McCain.
“Each one of our strengths are very different from the other," Filipowski said. "That's a really good thing for this team because that just makes us very versatile and we can really on something different each time if we need to.”
FILIPOWSKI'S NEXT STEP
Lively's departure puts more of a load on Filipowski, both to continue his production (15.1 points, 8.9 rebounds) and to improve defensively while showing more reliability stepping out to the arc. He's also coming off surgery on both hips to eliminate pain and increase flexibility, which could show in better mobility outside the paint.
The slender 6-5 Proctor reclassified to graduate a year early out of Australia and struggled early in adjusting to physical play at the college level. But he thrived late; after scoring in double figures in four of his first 16 games, he hit that mark in 14 of his last 20.
Expect Scheyer to juggle looks around Filipowski inside.
"We've just got different lineups we can go to, like me, Jared and Jeremy on the court," Proctor said, adding: “I think it's going to be good for our offense, just (defenses) not knowing who's going to push the ball.”
McCain is the headliner of the recruiting class, a McDonald's All-American ranked No. 14 nationally by 247sports. There's another five-star prospect in 6-9 forward T.J. Power, as well as a second McDonald's All-American in 6-8 forward Sean Stewart to go with 6-5 point guard Caleb Foster.
The Blue Devils open the season Nov. 6 against Dartmouth before playing another slate of games against marquee-brand opponents this season, starting with No. 12 Arizona visiting Cameron Indoor Stadium on Nov. 10. Duke follows that by facing No. 4 Michigan State (Nov. 14), visiting No. 14 Arkansas (Nov. 29) and faces No. 20 Baylor in Madison Square Garden (Dec. 20).
Duke visits Georgia Tech on Dec. 2 to open the league slate and the regular-season finale is against 19th-ranked rival North Carolina on March 9.
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