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

Alex O'Connell provided a much-needed 3-point spark off the bench for the Blue Devils.
Alex O'Connell provided a much-needed 3-point spark off the bench for the Blue Devils.

Alex O'Connell

Season breakdown: If O'Connell could play every game against Syracuse and its 2-3 zone defense, we would be discussing an all-ACC campaign.

In Duke's first meeting with the Orange, the Roswell, Ga., native put up a then-career-high 16 points behind four 3-pointers. O'Connell stood out even more during the Blue Devils' second encounter with Syracuse, as his career-high 20 points powered Duke to a road victory in its first full contest without Zion Williamson.

Unfortunately, the Blue Devils played 33 games against teams not coached by Jim Boeheim, and O'Connell's impact varied greatly game by game. Although O'Connell led Duke—which was desperate for any consistent outside shooting—in 3-point percentage, head coach Mike Krzyzewski often kept the sophomore guard glued to the bench. 

After averaging just 6.3 minutes in the Blue Devils' previous four contests, O'Connell was inserted into the starting lineup in Duke's Sweet 16 matchup with Virginia Tech due to Cam Reddish's knee injury. O'Connell responded well to this surprise promotion, tallying a career-high 35 minutes and 7 rebounds, but played just three minutes in the Blue Devils' subsequent game against Michigan State.

Results relative to expectations: O'Connell played an important role for Duke this season, proving that he could do other things on the court aside from spot up shooting. 

Yet, his performance left something to be desired. Whether a fault of O'Connell or Coach K, his inconsistent usage was frustrating, considering the Blue Devils finished No. 329 in 3-point efficiency. 

With Reddish, Zion Williamson and R.J. Barrett—who collectively accounted for 66.5 percent of Duke's scoring—all likely headed to the NBA, O'Connell will need to step up offensively next year. While O'Connell has shown flashes of brilliance in his first two seasons as a Blue Devil, he still has plenty of work to do before becoming a trusted scorer night every night.

Stay tuned to the Blue Zone for our continuing player reviews. Previous players previewed include Justin Robinson and Joey Baker.


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