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Duke in the NBA: Zion shines in debut while Gary Trent Jr. posts a career night

<p>Trent has been a valuable piece of the bench for Portland.</p>

Trent has been a valuable piece of the bench for Portland.

As we near the NBA All-Star break, the Blue Zone gives you a recap of some of the best recent performances from former Blue Devils:

Zion Williamson, New Orleans Pelicans

One of the most highly anticipated rookie debuts was put in the national spotlight Wednesday night. After missing nearly four months with a torn meniscus, the world was ready for Zion Williamson’s first NBA game. It seemed near impossible for the young star to live up to the expectations placed on him, but there are not many things that Williamson can't do. Playing on a minutes restriction, the 19-year old phenom scored 22 points on 73 percent shooting, also posting seven rebounds and three assists in just 18 minutes of play.

However, Williamson's start to the game did not reach such historic heights. Entering the fourth quarter, Williamson had only five points with the Pelicans down double digits. In one of the most impressive three minute stretches of any rookie in recent memory, the former Blue Devil scored 17 straight points on four 3-pointers to give the Pelicans a brief lead late in the fourth. 

But much to the dismay of the fans and Williamson, head coach Alvin Gentry adhered to his rigid minutes restriction and pulled him out for the game's final minutes. New Orleans went on to lose the game, but the historic performance dominated as the real story of the night.

Gary Trent Jr., Portland Trail Blazers

Everyone loves a good birthday present, and a career high 30 points was a fitting gift for Gary Trent Jr. in his second pro season. Despite the Trail Blazers taking a tough loss on the road, Trent took advantage of his opportunity. The 21-year old shooting guard had seen a bump in his playing time over the past 10 games, averaging 8.1 points in 23 minutes of play. 

The former Blue Devil continued to showcase his talents last Monday night where he logged 41 minutes with 10 points and four assists in an overtime win over Golden State. While we may not consistently see impressive scoring nights for Trent, look for him to continue to take advantage of his increased opportunities.

Brandon Ingram, New Orleans Pelicans

While one Duke star has only recently been able to showcase his talents in the Big Easy, another has taken the opportunity to step into the spotlight. Brandon Ingram is continuing his breakout season for the Pelicans after scoring a career-high 49 points Thursday night against the Utah Jazz. After some late end of regulation dramatics, Ingram was able to take advantage in overtime to reach his career high in a win.

The Most Improved Player Award candidate certainly hopes to continue his dominance for the rest of the season as Ingram looks to earn his first All-Star appearance.

Marvin Bagley III, Sacramento Kings

While this season may not be going as expected in Sacramento, former No. 2 overall pick Marvin  Bagley III provides hope for the struggling squad after missing significant time with a fractured thumb. The 6-foot-11 big man is averaging 15.5 points and 8.8 boards on nearly 50 percent from the field in the month of January. 

Although he didn't play Wednesday night due to left foot soreness, the Phoenix native has put on a few eye-popping performances. including a 15-point, 15-rebound game against the Heat. While the Kings losing streak continues to grow, Bagley’s recent performances are important for the future of the franchise.


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