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Jayson Tatum was one of three freshmen in program history to average at least 16 points and seven ...

Duke men's basketball 2016-17 player review: Jayson Tatum



Jayson Tatum

Season Breakdown:

Despite missing the first eight contests of the season with a foot sprain, Tatum evolved into one of the Blue Devils’ best offensive weapons by the conclusion of the season. As expected, Tatum did not hit his stride immediately, but eventually grew into his own as a versatile stretch four in the lineup.

Tatum was too fast and athletic for bigger defenders and used his strength and size to bully smaller opponents for easy buckets. The St. Louis native also had to improve his defensive efficiency and blossomed into the Blue Devils’ second-best rebounder by the season’s conclusion.

Tatum showed off his skills with a variety of highlight plays throughout the season, including a posterization of North Carolina forward Kennedy Meeks in Cameron Indoor Stadium. The No. 3 recruit also made a slew of huge plays down the stretch in the ACC championship game against Notre Dame. With less than two minutes left, he blocked Steve Vasturia at the rim and glided coast-to-coast to the other end of the court for a lay-in that gave Duke the cushion it needed to secure the title.

After the Blue Devils were bounced in the Round of 32 at the hands of South Carolina, Tatum announced his intentions to enter the NBA Draft, where he is expected to be a top-five pick. Although he only stayed one year in Durham, Tatum accomplished far more than most Blue Devils, as he was named to the All-ACC third team and the All-ACC freshman team, and he will go down as the third Duke freshman ever to average at least 16 points and seven rebounds per game—the other two were top-three draft picks Jabari Parker and Jahlil Okafor.

Results relative to expectations:

Tatum was everything the Blue Devils needed and more, considering their surprising lack of frontcourt depth throughout the season. Even with his early-season absence, Tatum soon blended in seamlessly among scorers Luke Kennard, Grayson Allen and Frank Jackson to give Duke a fearsome quartet for opposing defenses to handle.

The team went as Tatum played, and for most of the season, that was a good thing. Although he struggled with turnovers—he averaged a team-leading 2.6 miscues per game—Tatum was able to fend off constant pressure and also guard bigger forwards defensively, as he allowed the Blue Devils to transition to a powerful small-ball lineup that fueled their charge to the ACC championship.


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