Derryck Thornton might be transferring, but the Duke Blue Devils look like they will be fine heading into the 2016-17 season without him.
Not only is star guard Grayson Allen returning, but the NCAA has granted Blue Devils big man Amile Jefferson a fifth year after sustaining an injury last season and earning a medical redshirt.
Jefferson averaged a double-double in the nine games he played last season, averaging 11.4 points per game and 10.3 rebounds per game. The most underrated aspect of his game that Duke missed, however, was his defense inside. The 6-foot-9 forward was averaging 1.2 blocks per game and could have had a massive impact on the Blue Devils’ defense, which struggled to guard opposing big men like Jakob Poeltl.
While these statistics might have Blue Devils’ fans wondering “what if” Jefferson had played last season, his return bodes extremely well for the upcoming season. Duke, already considered one of the favorites to win it all in 2016-17, now have a veteran big man on top of their returning players and top-tier recruiting class.
Not to be forgotten, Jefferson’s presence will allow for top recruit Harry Giles to share some of the load on the inside, relax and play his game without worrying about making mistakes. This will lead to the team playing more efficiently as a whole.
It is extremely early en route to the 2016-17 college basketball season, but every team in America will wish they had the talent of Coach K and the Blue Devils.