When Ryan Kelly sat out the entire second half against Clemson with a foot injury, the coaching staff, players and fans all got extremely nervous.
The senior center is out indefinitely with a foot injury. In fact, it was the same foot Kelly injured last season that forced him to sit out the ACC tournament and NCAA tournament, where Duke went a combined 0-2 without him. No one knows how long Kelly is going to be out for, but he needs to get back soon. He has already missed three games, including tonight’s game against No. 25 Miami.
Going back to last season, Duke is a combined 1-4 without Kelly and has struggled greatly without him. Tonight’s game further proved the significance of Kelly’s body on the court.
Kelly is a 6 foot 11 inch center who averages 13.4 points and 5.4 rebounds per game. His stats are pretty good, but they don’t show nearly how much he means to Duke on the court.
Him and Mason Plumlee are basically Duke’s only two rebounders and their only true big men. Not only is Kelly effective with rebounding the basketball, he is extremely effective on the offensive side of the ball.
Kelly is a center who can knock down the outside shot more effective than a lot of players in college basketball. With that, it forces his defender to cover him on the outside which opens up the lane for his teammates, especially Plumlee, to have a one on one situation in the post.
He means so much to this team on the offensive side and without him, Duke is forced to become a 3-point shooting team like they have been in the past. With a team like that, you can live and die with outside shots and without one of their best shooters in Kelly, they tend to die.
Tonight Duke was 4-23 from behind the arc. 23 three-pointers is an extraordinary amount to take and to only make 4 leaves you in a bad situation to win the game.
Not only does Kelly effect the team as a player, but also as a leader. He is one of Duke’s few seniors and on the court he brings a great deal of leadership and experience. Tonight, Duke looked like they kind of game up a bit and stopped playing their game. With Kelly on the floor, his leadership would’ve not allowed that to happen.
Amile Jefferson has filled in nicely and had a good game tonight, but doesn’t provide what Kelly does. Kelly is a one of a kind big man and is hard to replace and that makes him the most valuable player on this Blue Devil team.
As long as Kelly is out, Duke will continue to struggle.