It’s always supposed to be about building a foundation during early nonconference games, but for No. 7 Duke there were obvious subplots as the season approached.
Now that Jon Scheyer’s first game as head coach of the storied program is in the books, more attention is bound to fall on the development of the Blue Devils as a whole.
That chance comes Friday night in a home game against USC Upstate in Durham, N.C.
“(Our chemistry) is maybe not midseason form, we have a lot of work to do,” Scheyer said. “But I think it starts with their attitudes from Day 1. Nobody’s been above anything. They all get along, although on the court, they push each other. It starts there for me.”
Duke opened the season by defeating Jacksonville on Monday night.
With only guard Jeremy Roach as a seasoned player in Duke’s system, it’s clear that he might take advantage of his experience.
“Jeremy just had a great floor game,” Scheyer said. “Forget about the scoring and the passing. I just thought his presence and his poise were really key for us.”
With a bevy of freshmen expected to make huge impacts for Duke (1-0), it will be fine if Roach further carves out his role.
“Just being a junior, you have that confidence now, and I think just playing with joy and being happy out there was a big part of it,” Roach said.
For Duke’s freshmen, the second game of the season brings a chance to settle in a bit more. Now they’ve played an official game in Cameron Indoor Stadium and ought to start becoming more familiar with that atmosphere.
“It was everything I expected,” freshman forward Mark Mitchell said. “I don’t think anything really caught me off guard. It was a lot of fun, everything I expected. I just tried to go out there and play with energy and feed off the crowd.”
It’s not just freshmen making the adjustments for Duke. Graduate transfer Ryan Young played at Northwestern before joining the Blue Devils. He knows the value of making sure there are accomplishments at both ends of the court.
“We wanted to make sure that’s part of our identity as a team that plays physical and plays hard throughout the whole defensive possession and then obviously to complete the defensive possession with a rebound,” said Young, a reserve center. “So that’s something we’ve been drilling in practice and something that’s been emphasized from the coaching staff to us. We’ve got to have that reputation that it’s hard to score on us for 40 minutes.”
Friday night’s game is bound to be a major shift in gears for USC Upstate, which drubbed Division III Brevard to open the season.
“We’ve had some good things going on,” USC Upstate coach Dave Dickerson, “but we’ve got to get better. … I really love the core that we have. Those guys played a lot of minutes last year and played in some meaningful games.”
Sophomore guard Jordan Gainey is USC Upstate’s first All-Big South Conference preseason first team selection.
“We have all big, high expectations for the year,” Gainey said.
The Spartans need to get used to this level of competition, with upcoming games against Clemson, South Carolina and Florida State before jumping into Big South play.
“Take in the atmospheres that we’re going to see throughout the year,” Gainey said.
–Field Level Media