After a string of four straight games away from home, Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski knew that Saturday afternoon’s matchup against South Dakota would be an opportunity to work his bench into the rotation more. 

Given the opportunity to get back out on his home court, one of those subs came up big for the Blue Devils. 

Sophomore Javin DeLaurier had his best game of the season off the bench in Duke’s 96-80 victory against South Dakota, finishing just one rebound away from a double-double with a career-high 13 points, nine boards and two assists in just 15 minutes on the court before fouling out. 

“[Javin]’s an energy guy for us. He comes in and he just makes a play. I can’t tell you what exactly it’s going to be, but he gets something done,” senior captain Grayson Allen said. “He’s getting his hands on balls in the passing lane, he’s going after every offensive rebound and he has the athleticism to go up and get it with anybody.” 

DeLaurier, ESPN’s No. 44 recruit in the Class of 2016, has fit well into his role coming off the bench this season. He has appeared in each of the Blue Devils’ first 10 games, averaging 4.7 points and 5.0 rebounds per game while playing less than 10 minutes per contest. 

Those numbers are a marked improvement from last season, when he rarely saw the floor, playing in just 12 games. Now, fully healthy and one of the most naturally athletic players on the roster, his impact on a Duke team that has a highly-touted freshman frontcourt has been significant, particularly on defense.

For a team that starts four freshmen, DeLaurier is in the unique position of being a second-year player who has more experience than most of his teammates on the floor. As the young players adjust to new defensive schemes and the physicality of college basketball, DeLaurier’s defensive value off the bench has been clear. 

“Defensively, he’s trying to block every shot, and he’s active,” Allen said. “We know when he comes into the game, our defense is going to get better. We’re going to have more energy, and we have confidence in him to do that.”

Against South Dakota, his skills were on full display. On multiple occasions, he grabbed a missed layup and finished immediately under the basket, drawing a foul on one such play and helping spark the Blue Devils during a comparatively lackluster second half performance. Although he fouled out with a little less than four minutes remaining, he was by far the most productive contributor off the bench for Krzyzewski. 

“I thought Javin really gave us a good jolt today. [He] is a good player and really made some good hustle plays today,” Krzyzewski said. “Sometimes just a couple plays a kid makes is the jumping off point to be better, not the number of minutes.”

Saturday was the first time the sophomore from Shipman, Va., reached double figures in scoring in his young career. His nine rebounds were the second-most he has grabbed in a game for the Blue Devils, with 11 boards against Elon earlier this season marking his career high. 

The rest of the bench was solid for Krzyzewski, who stressed after the game that his primary focus thus far this season has been developing his starting five of Allen and freshmen Marvin Bagley III, Wendell Carter Jr., Gary Trent Jr. and Trevon Duval. Fellow freshmen Alex O’Connell and Jordan Goldwire both provided solid minutes for Duke against the Coyotes, finishing with four and two points, respectively.

But despite their effective play, the star of the reserves was DeLaurier, who had the highest plus-minus rating entering Saturday of any Blue Devil bench player. With ACC play looming just one week away, Duke hopes he can build off his strong performance at the start of the season to become a lethal weapon off the bench.

“[I’m] just trying to come into the game and affect it in any way possible, whether that be down on the floor, grabbing rebounds, whatever it is, and just trying to make the most of whatever minutes I get,” DeLaurier said. “It’s always nice to be back in Cameron. [The last week] was a pretty grueling stretch in our schedule, and we got the win and we move forward from here.”