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Duke men’s basketball 2018-19 player preview: Alex O'Connell

Alex O'Connell hopes to continue his hot shooting from outside this season.
Alex O'Connell hopes to continue his hot shooting from outside this season.

Alex O'Connell

Year: Sophomore

Height: 6-foot-6

Position: Guard

Last year’s statline: 3.3 PPG, 1.4 RPG, 10.4 MPG

Game Breakdown: While O’Connell showed flashes of potential from time to time in his freshman year, he struggled to cement a meaningful spot in a thin rotation filled with one-and-done freshmen and Grayson Allen. After getting only 11 total minutes in the first two ACC games, the Georgia native made the most of his first true conference opportunity in a blowout win over Pittsburgh, scoring eight points on three-of-three shooting, including two three-pointers. He followed that game with his highest-scoring performance of the year, posting 13 points, but was unable to carry the momentum through the rest of ACC play. As a result, O’Connell played double-digit minutes in only four of the final 17 games. 

O’Connell’s game revolves around consistent perimeter shooting, freak athleticism, and high energy play. The lengthy guard finished his freshman season with a sensational 49-percent mark from beyond the arc on 45 attempts and posted a quality 47-percent field-goal percentage. He provides a jolt of energy off the bench with his offensive skillset and high motor. While O’Connell is a proven perimeter threat, he did struggle to get into the lane at times, due to his thin frame. Most of the short-comings in O’Connell’s game, however, come on the defensive side of the ball, where the freshman had trouble defending the ball and containing the shifty guards of the ACC. 

Role on the Team: With another year under his belt, a few extra pounds of muscle, and an entirely different roster around him that lacks perimeter shooting, O’Connell figures to play a much larger role in the rotation in his sophomore season. While the sophomore will still have to prove he is not a defensive liability, with spot-shooter Jack White serving as his primary competitor for minutes, it is still a safe bet to say that O’Connell will see a large bump in minutes.

The bottom line is that O’Connell is a far better fit with this year’s roster which features a surplus of skilled, athletic guards, such as Zion Williamson, R.J. Barrett, and Cam Reddish, but a shortage of proven shooters. A consistent shooter will be necessary to round out this team, and without the likes of Gary Trent Jr. and Grayson Allen on the perimeter, O’Connell’s presence could play a critical role.

NBA Comparison: The combination of O’Connell’s stroke from three and his athleticism resembles Rodney Hood of the Cleveland Cavaliers. The former Blue Devil shot 39-percent from three with the Utah Jazz before being traded to Cleveland where his three-point field-goal percentage dropped to a respectable 35-percent, along with 10.8 points-per-game. Hood provided an instant spark of offense off the bench for the Cavaliers last season, similar to what O’Connell has done for Duke, but struggled to compete on the defensive end of the floor. Additionally, like O’Connell, Hood has the leaping ability to make your jaw drop when he gets to the rim.

Projected Stats: 5.9 PPG, 2.3 RPG, 14.2 MPG

Stay tuned to the Blue Zone for our continuing player previews. Previous players previewed include Justin RobinsonJoey BakerJordan Goldwire ,Antonio Vrankovic, Jack White, Marques Bolden and Javin DeLaurier.

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