DURHAM, N.C. — Jon Scheyer will certainly be able to put his own stamp on his first Duke roster.

And frankly, he kinda has to.

That’s because the roster Mike Krzyzewski left the stage with in April is far from the one Scheyer has now, two months into his Duke head coaching career. Only two scholarship players return — just one of whom played substantial minutes — from last season’s Final Four team, meaning there are a number of new transfers and five-star freshmen for Scheyer’s staff to sort through. There’s talent, as always is in Durham, but also arguably as much uncertainty as the program has faced in the last decade. Integrating 11 new faces isn’t easy, and even less so when you’re also trying to instill your own culture and coaching preferences. For example, will Scheyer keep a shorter bench, like his predecessor, or truly go 10 deep? We can’t know for sure until the season starts.

But even now, with summer workouts underway, we have some idea of how the pieces fit. The Blue Devils’ 13-man roster is officially set, so let’s look into roles for each member of Scheyer’s inaugural squad:

Jeremy Roach

2021-22: Sophomore — 8.6 ppg, 3.2 apg, 2.4 rpg

When Trevor Keels opted to remain in the NBA Draft, it officially made Roach “the guy” for Duke this season. He’s the only returner with starting experience or who even regularly cracked the rotation. You could — and I probably would — make the argument that after Paolo Banchero, he was the Blue Devils’ second-most important player during the NCAA Tournament. The numbers speak for themselves; he started all five of Duke’s tournament contests and saw 35.2 minutes a night, pouring in 11.8 points, four assists and 1.4 steals per game while hitting 88.2 percent of his free throws. He was that good and sustained a level he hadn’t really through most of two seasons in Durham.

Now he has to carry that five-game stretch over to a full season and be the undisputed leader of Scheyer’s first team. Off the court, that shouldn’t be hard. Roach has been in town this summer, and speaking to reporters at K Academy in May, said he’s already bulking up in anticipation of a larger role. (He’s currently listed at 172 pounds but said he would like to get closer to the 180-190 range.) On the court, though, he’ll have to improve in a number of areas. That starts with his scoring efficiency, considering both his field-goal percentage and true shooting percentage dropped from his freshman season, per KenPom. According to Synergy, Roach averaged just 0.852 points per possession (PPP), which rates as “average” and only in the 44th percentile nationally. This isn’t to say that Roach has to suddenly become a singular offensive dynamo who leads Duke in scoring — because he won’t, and he doesn’t need to be. But he does have to be more efficient in a variety of scenarios, especially as a pick-and-roll ballhandler, considering how often he’ll be initiating offense this season; his 0.737 PPP average in those situations last season, per Synergy, won’t cut it. You’d also like to see him refine his 3-point stroke, after he shot 32.2 percent from 3 last season. Even raising that to the 35-38 percent range will open up substantially more room for him as a driver off closeouts.

Where Roach does excel, though, is as a playmaker and crafty defender. He posted almost a 2:1 assist-to-turnover ratio last season, highlighted by consecutive nine-assist games in late January when Keels was out with injury. He won’t maintain that pace regularly but surpassing his four-assist average from those five tournament games isn’t an unreasonable expectation. (Wendell Moore Jr. averaged 4.4 assists per game last season in that same primary playmaking role, and Roach will be even more of a true point guard than that.) Defensively, Roach has to maintain his aggressiveness going for steals and jumping passing lanes without picking up some of the ticky-tack fouls he did as a sophomore. Given his importance, he can’t lead the team in personal fouls per game (2.2) like in 2021-22.

Jaylen Blakes

2021-22: Freshman — 1 ppg, 4.5 mpg

Blakes basically redshirted last season, only seeing spot minutes in the case of foul trouble or late-game blowouts. But as a former four-star recruit with a year’s experience in the program, he’ll be asked to compete for backup minutes this season behind Roach.

The sample size with Blakes was pretty small to make any sweeping judgements, but two things he definitely brings are energy and defensive intensity. Blakes struggled as a scorer — he shot 28.6 percent overall and 29.4 percent from 3 — and was turnover prone in limited minutes, but he absolutely got after it in terms of hustle plays and defensive tenacity. He’s also blazing fast, which will be fun to watch in transition. The Jordan Goldwire growth trajectory may be in play here, meaning Blakes’ value comes more on defense this season while he continues tweaking his jump shot and tightening his handle.

Jacob Grandison

2021-22: Senior (at Illinois) — 9.6 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 2.3 apg

On to the new faces (already). Start with Grandison, the best player Duke added out of the transfer portal this offseason, and one who should contend to start the season opener. At 6-foot-6 and 210 pounds, Grandison gives Duke some much-needed depth along the wing, especially in the wake of Joey Baker’s late transfer to Michigan. Really, he checks both the boxes for what Scheyer still needed: experience and 3-point shooting.

Grandison turned 24 in April, and he’s the perfect example of a player utilizing his extra COVID-19 year of eligibility. After two years at Holy Cross, he transferred to Illinois and sat out a season in the process. The point is the dude’s played a lot of college basketball already (124 career games) with proven success in a high-major league. That he’s done so largely as a team’s third or fourth scoring option should make his transition even easier, considering he’ll be a role player and not the focal point of Duke’s offense. That said, expect Grandison to be a key part of what the Blue Devils do, namely as a floor-spacer around Roach and the team’s trio of five-star freshmen in the frontcourt. Grandison hit 41 percent of his 3s last season on 4.5 attempts per game, making him a top-150 3-point shooter nationally, per KenPom. The majority of those 3s, per Synergy, came via spot-up scenarios, where Grandison averaged 1.105 PPP, which rates as “excellent” and in the 85th percentile nationally. Just check out his shot chart, and imagine Roach driving and dishing to him in the corners:

Defensively, Grandison posted pretty mundane steal and block rates last season, but he has the length and versatility to switch positions one through four. Plus, with his frame, he has the strength to not get pushed off the ball by smaller guards and wings. Grandison should compete to start with Tyrese Proctor — more on him later — and that situation might be fluid throughout the year, but at worst he’s a super sixth man and veteran presence.

Ryan Young

2021-22: Senior (at Northwestern) — 9 ppg, 4.2 rpg

Last season, both Duke and North Carolina took Marquette transfers, in Theo John and Dawson Garcia. This year, the Tobacco Road rivals raided Northwestern’s frontcourt, with UNC landing Pete Nance and Duke landing Young. Not to draw a one-for-one parallel, but it’s easy to see Young fitting the same role John did, as a backup big man and someone who gets Duke’s fresh-faced frontcourt players up to speed quickly.

Young was more of the traditional big to Nance’s stretchier self last season, and he’ll fill a similar inside presence in Durham. Per KenPom, Young was a nationally relevant rebounder last season, posting the Big Ten’s eighth-best mark on the offensive glass and gobbling up 18.7 percent of the Wildcats’ potential defensive rebounds. With the loss of Banchero and fellow first-rounder Mark Williams, Duke needed to reinforce its rebounding ranks, which Young surely does. He’s also sneaky good at drawing fouls down low, coming in at No. 35 nationally in terms of fouls drawn per 40 minutes. Young isn’t the world’s best athlete, but at 6-10 and 240 pounds — not to mention with four years of Big Ten experience under his belt — he knows how to use his body to score on the block and collect boards. Duke needed someone to do both and found him.

Kale Catchings

2021-22: Senior (at Harvard) — 9.1 ppg, 4 rpg, 1 spg

The basketball bloodlines here are strong; Kale’s aunt is former Tennessee and WNBA star Tamika Catchings, a 2020 Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame inductee. But Catchings’ namesake alone won’t earn him playing time in a crowded frontcourt.

Under Harvard coach (and former Duke guard) Tommy Amaker, Catchings had the most success on cuts to the basket and offensive putbacks, per Synergy. Hustle plays, basically. He did hit a respectable 34.3 percent of his 3s last season, but he’s far from the sharpshooter that last season’s grad transfer Bates Jones was. Catchings could see a few minutes at the three or four in nonconference play, but he’s probably on the outside of the regular rotation looking in once January rolls around.

Max Johns

2021-22: Senior (at Princeton) — 2.8 ppg, 1.3 rpg, 7.4 apg

Johns, a North Carolina native, was never more than a bit piece for the Tigers, and he’ll essentially be a scout teamer this season. He, along with walk-on Spencer Hubbard, will help Duke scout its upcoming opponents and simulate their respective offenses. Johns has solid size for a guard, at 6-4 and 205 pounds, so he’ll give Duke’s backcourt players a realistic ACC body to prepare against.

Dereck Lively II

2021-22: Senior, Westtown (Penn.) School

And on to the rookies. Scheyer knew he’d be facing a frontcourt exodus this offseason, be it to the NBA or graduation, and that came to fruition — leaving plenty of room for Lively, the No. 1 prospect in this year’s class, to make an instant impact. And will he ever; Lively won’t just start from Day 1, but the 7-1, 220-pound center will immediately be asked to be Duke’s defensive centerpiece, à la Williams last season. The body types are similar there, and to a certain extent, so are the skill sets. Lively excels as a shot-blocker given his length and athleticism, and his presence alone will be a deterrent to opposing drivers. We’ll see if Scheyer asks him to play more drop coverage or try switching on the perimeter, but how he fits into Duke’s pick-and-roll defense is the biggest outstanding question about Lively on that side of the court.

But I’m also interested to see how Scheyer uses Lively offensively. One comparison I’ve heard thrown around, even dating back to Lively’s grassroots days, is former Kentucky star Willie Cauley-Stein — except, better. Like Williams before him, Lively will be a rim-running threat in transition from the get-go, a legitimate outlet option on the break. He might struggle posting up the ACC’s stronger, traditional big men in the halfcourt, and his post moves are still somewhat TBD. What I’m most curious about, though, and where Lively has a chance to separate himself as a prospect, is if he can space the floor. Lively has shown some ability to stroke it to this point in his career, but doing so in high school versus the ACC are two totally different animals. If Lively proves he can step out and hit jumpers, and potentially even 3s, from a respectable clip, it changes the dynamic of Duke’s offense. But that’s one of those wait-and-see things. At minimum, Lively will be a defensive anchor and a high-energy, low-usage big man on offense. Anything beyond that is gravy.


Dariq Whitehead has all the makings of an immediate star. (Jasen Vinlove / USA Today)

Dariq Whitehead

2021-22: Senior, Montverde Academy

Roach might be Duke’s leader next season, but I expect Whitehead to be its best player. High expectations? Absolutely. But for the No. 2 prospect in the incoming class, per the 247Sports Composite, it’s fitting. Whitehead is a smooth, 6-6, 190-pound wing who fits the modern ideal along the perimeter. He has the ability to score from all three levels, something you hear about with a load of players but don’t actually see from many. Whitehead is one of the rare ones who can finish at the rim going downhill, and his vision and passing ability off a live dribble is something special. He’s going to be an absolute menace in transition for that reason alone, not to mention his athleticism and change of direction. Whitehead’s 3-point shot isn’t what he’s known for, but it’s far from busted, and he’s continued improving his consistency and confidence from deep. Offensively, there isn’t a whole lot he can’t do, and Scheyer should accordingly use him all over the floor.

Defensively, there are reasons to buy Whitehead’s upside, too. He’s shown impressive anticipation while playing on the grassroots circuit and with Team USA, and he should be able to switch freely along the perimeter. We’ll see if he has the functional strength to fight through screens, but it shouldn’t be an issue for him to keep up with quicker perimeter players. Regardless of what defensive coverages Scheyer ultimately rolls with, Whitehead should be a valuable piece of the puzzle on that end of the court. It’s a lot to ask of a freshman, sure, but it’s something the future lottery pick should be able to handle.

Kyle “Flip” Filipowski

2021-22: Senior, Wilbraham & Monson Academy in Wilbraham, Mass.

Filipowski, another top-five prospect in this year’s incoming class, is going to be so fun to watch offensively. He’s 6-11 and 220 pounds, but with a wing-like skill set: we’re talking initiating offense, shooting from deep and passing vision. Given how many high-post offensive sets Duke has run historically — Scheyer surely will introduce some new concepts, but he won’t scrap all the old stuff right away — Filipowski can be an offensive fulcrum. He figures to start alongside Lively from Day 1, and he also will see time alongside Young. Filipowski moonlighting at center alongside four perimeter players — think Roach, Grandison, Whitehead, and either Proctor or Mitchell — would be a fascinating offensive grouping. I expect Filipowski to be one of Duke’s better passers from the jump, and the options for him operating out of the program’s traditional Horns sets would be basically endless.

Defensively, Filipowski won’t be the focal point Lively is, but he obviously has good length for defending both wings and smaller bigs. How Scheyer manages him and Lively together on defense will be a greater challenge than on offense, especially if Lively isn’t as adept along the perimeter and forces Filipowski to play farther away from the rim. He’s a good athlete with a somewhat-developed body, so hanging with ACC forwards isn’t impossible, but defending the conference’s quicker wings would be a bigger ask.

Tyrese Proctor

2021-22: NBA Global Academy in Canberra, Australia

Proctor, who recently reclassified, isn’t on campus yet as he irons out the visa paperwork necessary for him to come to the U.S., but he’ll be in the fold sooner rather than later.

Proctor is already 18 and should be draft-eligible in 2023, so this isn’t the case of someone especially young jumping up a year. Proctor has been playing and training alongside grown men in Australia, so the physical jump to the ACC shouldn’t be as dramatic as it has been for other reclassifying guards in the past. That’ll help, because Proctor will be counted on as a key rotation piece from the jump as he’s just too good of a player and fit to not see serious time. He’s a combo guard, despite being listed as a point, and someone who should be comfortable with secondary ballhandling responsibilities; I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s a guy orchestrating the offense when Roach is out. But aside from being another ballhandler, Proctor is a creative and willing passer, not to mention being a legitimate 3-point threat. Between him, Filipowski and Whitehead, at least two of those guys need to emerge as consistent 3-point shooters to keep defenses honest. Proctor should, given his track record, and especially so in situations where he’s not creating for himself off the dribble.

Defensively, Proctor has good length with his 6-5 frame, but he’s on the thinner side (178 pounds) and might have trouble with bigger, stronger guards. He’s quick, though, and should be fine switching other perimeter players. With his time in the NBA Global Academy, Proctor’s basketball IQ is pretty high, so I wouldn’t anticipate him having trouble picking up whatever defensive concepts Scheyer commits to. The biggest priority is just getting him on campus, so he can start developing chemistry with his teammates and learning how Scheyer wants to play this season. The sooner that happens, the better.

Mark Mitchell

2021-22: Senior, Sunrise Christian Academy in Bel Aire, Kan.

Mitchell’s in an interesting spot, and to be honest, I’m not totally sure what the ideal role is for him yet on this particular roster. He’s listed at 6-8 and 215 pounds, which theoretically makes him a fit at both the three and four, but the pieces around him make his fit a little funky. If Mitchell’s at the three, with Whitehead, Filipowski, and Lively also on the floor, you’re talking about a potentially supersized lineup with four players over 6-6. But in that situation, Mitchell — a superior athlete, but not the polished player from a skill perspective quite yet — doesn’t necessarily provide the floor spacing you’d prefer at that position. If he’s at the four, on the other hand, it’s likely in place of Filipowski and alongside Lively, Whitehead, and Grandison or Proctor. But does that lineup pack enough offensive creation or rebounding?

It’s a good problem for Scheyer and his staff to have, in that you’re talking about a super athletic talent with a ready-made body. But it might be a feeling-out process early on in the season to see where Mitchell fits best, so that Duke is utilizing him as well as it can. Mitchell’s adept at driving to the rim, and his sheer energy should make him a nice fit in Duke’s transition offense. With all the creators around him, I expect he’ll be one of the primary beneficiaries of some easy looks at the rim. Defensively, his length and twitchiness should enable him to switch most perimeter spots, and even to hang with thinner bigs inside at times. That’s a lot of “shoulds,” but on a roster with so many varied offensive threats, defense is something Mitchell could really make his calling card — and something that always earns playing time.

Jaden Schutt

2021-22: Senior, Yorkville Christian (Ill.) High School

I visited Schutt in Illinois in January and came away really impressed with his work ethic and, obviously, his shot. The mechanics are awesome, it’s replicable, pretty quick, and — most importantly — usually goes in. But there’s more to the 6-4, 175-pound guard than just his 3-point prowess, even if running off screens and hoisting treys is his clearest path to minutes as a freshman. He’s significantly more athletic than I expected going into that trip, and one thing his trainers encouraged over the last year was utilizing that athleticism more aggressively in attacking the rim, rather than settling for jumpers. (Although, is it settling if that’s your strong suit?)

Another advantage Schutt has heading into Duke is his body — namely, the fact that he’s basically been in an advanced strength and conditioning program for years. His dad’s a chiropractor, his mom’s a nutritionist, and his high school doubles as a local workout facility for athletes from all sports. So, the dude already has that preparation going for him, which should make his transition to college much easier. Shooting is always a need, so Schutt has an opportunity to play his way into a larger role if the 3-point marksmanship translates. Regardless, he’s the sort of talented-yet-developing player who grows as he gains experience. For a program welcoming 11 new faces this season, and which regularly sees that type of turnover, having guys who can contribute now while also sticking around for the long haul is invaluable.

Christian Reeves

2021-22: Senior, Oak Hill Academy

Even dating back to Reeves’ initial commitment, there’s been a strong possibility the three-star center redshirts this season. That plan is still on the table, especially given the quantity of other bigs at Scheyer’s disposal; it’s difficult to imagine Reeves playing much, if at all, this season with the one-and-dones and graduate transfers ahead of him. That could change if he surprises in camp, but the most likely outcome is the 6-11 big man learning behind the scenes for a season or two before he’s ready to crack the real rotation.

(Top photo of Jeremy Roach: Robert Deutsch / USA Today)



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