It’s safe to say that Duke is the only team where the No. 3 player in the Class of 2018 could be glossed over on talking points.
Yet on a team with names like Zion Williamson and R.J. Barrett, it’s easy to lose track of all of the talent sitting in Durham.
But of the Blue Devils’ highly talented freshman class, Cam Reddish stands apart as one of the most important pieces to Duke’s upcoming campaign, even if he does not come with the same pomp and circumstance as some of his peers.
Reddish has been on Duke’s radar since 2015. Moments after winning the NCAA tournament, Blue Devil assistant coach Jon Scheyer called the then-high schooler, proclaiming that Duke had just won a national championship and Reddish would help them win another one. Two years later after a series of visits, scouted practices and high school summer league tournaments, the Norristown, Pa., native inked his name down as the second Blue Devil of the Class of 2018.
“When I came here, I felt everything,” Reddish said of finally committing to Duke. “I fell in love with [Duke] when I first stepped on campus and everything about it has been perfect with me. The coaches have been straight up with me from the jump and that stood out to me. I thought it was the best decision for me. Putting on a Duke jersey meant a lot. I worked so hard to get to this point and it was nothing but a blessing.”
Joining fellow five-star recruit Tre Jones—who committed a month earlier—Reddish instantly went to work in helping build his future team. The two freshmen began talking to Barrett and Williamson about potentially building a squad out in Durham, and in time the pieces began to fall into place. Barrett was the next to sign on in early November, and Williamson shocked the nation with a seemingly last-second decision to become a Blue Devil, cementing the freshman class as arguably one of the most talented of all time.
With all of the young talent concentrated at Duke, it may seem that the soft-spoken Reddish is at risk of being swallowed up and overshadowed by his star-power teammates. However, the 6-foot-8 forward complements his fellow signees perfectly, rounding out some glaring weaknesses in the lineup while also having his own shortcomings compensated for.
Simply put, Reddish gets buckets.
Billed by some as the top small forward in his class, Reddish has made a name for himself in recruiting circuits for his dead-eye shots from deep and ability to finish at the basket. Frequently compared to the likes of Paul George, the Blue Devil freshman is a much-needed deep threat for Duke, with questions surrounding Barrett, Williamson and Jones’ 3-point strokes.
Although Reddish’s shooting has appeared to be cold at times in Duke’s preseason games—he made just eight of 22 field goals and only five of 16 shots from downtown—Blue Devil head coach Mike Krzyzewski has attributed this slump to a minor rib fracture. And if anything, Reddish’s teammates are far from worried.
“Cam is just so smooth, really smooth scorer and he’s a surprisingly good facilitator as well,” junior captain Javin DeLaurier said. “You’d think a guy who scores like that in high school doesn’t want to pass the ball, but he’s always willing to dish it out, so it’s been a lot of fun playing with those guys.”
Outside of his shooting, Reddish has the versatility in his game to round out any rough edges with his team. Measuring in at a 7-foot-1 wingspan in the middle of 2017, the Duke freshman has the length to guard any wing he’s assigned as well and can easily snag rebounds right off the glass. With experience playing at the one to the four, Reddish brings a little bit of everything to his team and is comfortable adopting head coach Mike Krzyzewski’s “positionless” basketball.
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With the likes of Barrett and Williamson driving much of the offensive energy, Reddish’s willingness as a passer will become especially important, as some have wondered how the Blue Devils plan on dividing time on the ball between so many talented players.
“Oh it’s fun, it’s good because we all got great feels for each other,” Williamson said of playing with Reddish and the rest of his high-powered class. “We all want to make each other better... [Krzyzewski’s] kind of why we came to Duke, like, he’s done it with Team USA with great players so we feel like he can do it with us, and so far he’s shown that he can.”
For Reddish, playing alongside the likes of Jones, Williamson and Barrett only stands to help negate some of the issues scouts have found in his game. The most consistent points of criticism the Duke forward has received since he went under the recruiting microscope have been regarding his motor. Whether it be natural introversion or his mild mannered demeanor, Reddish has been known to sometimes fade into the background in his time on the EYBL circuit.
However, with high-energy teammates like Barrett and Williamson backing him up, Reddish doesn’t need to necessarily be a huge presence on the court at all times. At the very least, the atmosphere of playing and practicing with such fiery personalities should serve to motivate the young Blue Devil, helping him overcome the only glaring flaw in his game.
“All of the players have been competing at the highest levels in practice, not just the freshmen, and everyone has been pushing each other,” Reddish said. “We’ve improved a lot since the summertime and I’m looking forward to the season.”
When reading about the hype behind this season’s Duke basketball, don’t forget about Cam Reddish. Although he may not have the same public personality as some of his teammates, he is arguably the most important piece for the Blue Devils in their quest for a sixth national title.
Editor's note: This article is one of many in The Chronicle's men's basketball season preview. Find the rest here.