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Duke Players to Watch

Who are Duke’s impact players?

Duke v Louisville Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

The Deacs return home to the Joel on Saturday to take on a Duke team that has been struggling as of late. The Blue Devils (15-5 overall, 3-4 in ACC) are 9th in the ACC and coming off their first loss to NC State in Durham since 1995. The Deacs have a chance to pick up a big win on Saturday in front of the home crowd, but they’ll need to slow down these players to do it:

Luke Kennard | Sophomore Guard| #5

In just his second year, Kennard has developed into one of the best scorers in the ACC. He is averaging 19.8 points (4th in the ACC), 2.5 assists, and 5.5 rebounds per game this season while shooting an impressive 53% from the floor. He has one of the highest offensive ratings in the country at 136.1. With an effective field goal percentage of 62% and a true shooting percentage of 67%, his main weapon is his ability to shoot the ball. He is 6th in the conference in 3-point percentage at 44%, which is a significant improvement over last season’s 32%. He has a really quick release and can knock down 3s given even the slightest amount of space.

Even though he is such a great 3-point shooter, a majority of his shots (58%) come from inside the arc. Kennard has developed a really nice mid-range game that makes him even more difficult to defend. His fast release and his height (6-6) are definitely big advantages in this aspect of his game.

He also has improved his ability to drive the ball to the basket. He is an adequate ball handler and though he is left handed, he can finish at the rim with either hand. He is getting to the charity stripe almost 5 times a game, where he shoots almost 87. The Deacs will definitely want to avoid sending him to the line.

All these ways to score the ball make Kennard very tough to stop. If the defender plays him tightly, he can put the ball on the floor and drive or stepback into his jump shot. If the defender backs off, he can just shoot from deep. Perhaps Dick Vitale said it best, when he eloquently explained: “He’s like Baskin Robbins, man, a lot of varieties. You want that chocolate chip? You want that butter pecan? He’s got all kinds of ways to score.” The last thing I’ll mention about Kennard is that he uses the pump fake really well to get himself open. The Deacs will want to make sure they stay on their feet when defending Kennard, else wise he’s probably going to get an uncontested look at the basket.

Amile Jefferson | Graduate Forward | #21

Jefferson is the defensive anchor for the Blue Devils. He is averaging 12.7 points, 9.9 rebounds (2nd in ACC), 1.6 blocks (3rd in ACC), and 2.1 assists per game. He also leads the ACC in shooting percentage at 61.4%. He doesn’t look to score that often, but he is a very athletic forward that can put the ball on the floor and get to the basket on the drive. Based on his shooting percentage, he definitely picks his shots well.

He is very strong on the glass, and gets the Devils extra possessions by pulling down almost 3 offensive rebounds per game. The Deacs will need to make sure they find him and get a body on him when Duke shoots to ensure he isn’t getting easy putback buckets.

Where Jefferson has the biggest impact on a game is on the defensive end of the court. He has a defensive rating of 88.9, which is among the best in the nation. Maybe the most impressive thing about Jefferson is that averages 30 minutes and just 2 fouls per game. The ability to alter shots and defend the basket without sending opponents to the free throw line is a big advantage. He will undoubtedly be defending John Collins for a majority of the game on Saturday; if he can slow down Collins in the post, the Blue Devils will likely be in good shape to pick up a win.