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Duke men's basketball's Joey Baker makes surprise debut in first half against Syracuse

<p>Joey Baker played the first five minutes of his career Saturday.</p>

Joey Baker played the first five minutes of his career Saturday.

SYRACUSE, N.Y.—Joey Baker saw the first game action of his college career against Syracuse.

Baker, who reclassified in order to come to Duke’s campus this fall, had been a healthy scratch in each of the Blue Devils' prior contests, and was presumably going to redshirt his first season.

On Saturday night, Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski turned to desperate measures with bench contributions lacking, opting to burn Baker's redshirt.

"He’s a spacer, he can shoot and one thing about Joey is he works so hard,” Blue Devil forward R.J. Barrett said. “He’s going to come in and work hard every day, and we need that."

The freshman from Fayetteville, N.C. came off the bench five minutes into Saturday evening’s contest, and missed his first shot attempt, a 3-pointer from the left corner. With normal starters Zion Williamson and Marques Bolden sidelined, Krzyzewski opted for a different game plan, including the decision to debut Baker and insert Alex O’Connell into the starting lineup for the first time this season.

Baker played only five minutes, all in the first half. The 6-foot-7 forward’s most tangible impact of the game came at the tail end of the opening period, when he racked up three fouls—two intentional—in eight seconds. In his debut, Baker tallied no points and two rebounds.