Associate head coach Nate James spoke with the media Thursday morning, discussing Duke's potential starting lineup, the team’s decision to put the word ‘Equality’ on their jerseys this season and more. Here are some key takeaways:
Potential starting five
Duke fans got their first official indication Thursday of which five players will make up the Blue Devils’ starting rotation to begin the season. While James did not definitively say that the starting five is set, he did give some insight into which players are starting to slowly etch their name into that lineup.
According to James, returning players have snagged three of the five spots in Wendell Moore Jr., Jordan Goldwire and Matthew Hurt, with Jeremy Roach and Jalen Johnson currently looking like the two freshmen to receive starting nods.
This lineup is not necessarily surprising, as coaches and teammates have spoken highly of Moore, Hurt and Goldwire in their press conferences throughout the preseason and Roach and Johnson come in as Duke’s two highest-rated recruits. But having some clarity helps to clear up some of the other questions surrounding the team.
As far as who is first to come off the bench, James said Henry Coleman III, Mark Williams and DJ Steward are currently the frontrunners. James added that the order of these three shuffles on a daily basis, however, and is another piece of this Duke basketball picture that is still murky.
Duke from downtown?
“We have a really good shooting team,” James said.
That’s right, you read that correctly. After sorely missing perimeter shooting over the past two seasons, James believes that this year’s squad is going to end the dry spell from the outside. He referenced Hurt, Roach, Steward, Moore, Goldwire, Steward, Jaemyn Brakefield and Joey Baker as reasons why he believes this team will have success from beyond the arc.
Despite the excitement around being efficient from the perimeter, James noted that the team needs to make sure no other parts of its game lag. The positive of having several returners with significant minutes in addition to six scholarship freshmen is that this team is undeniably deep. And with that kind of roster comes competition as well.
“You better be ready when your number’s called, or that could be a quick stint out there on the floor and you’re back on the bench,” James said when comparing this year's team to the depth of the 1998-99 Blue Devil squad that he was on.
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In an Oct. 1 video on the @DukeMBB Twitter page, the team announced they would have the word “Equality” on the backs of all their jerseys for the season, and James provided some light into what went into that decision.
“I believe [equality is] what we all are striving for,” James said. “We want to live the American dream, have an opportunity to achieve whatever amount of success and opportunities that the next man has.”
“Equality—I think everyone will understand it, and I think if you don’t understand someone’s acts [supporting] equality you have to take a long look in the mirror and do some self-reflection.”
“Nate’s dog pound bone”
During James’ playing days, he earned a reputation of being a player that wasn’t afraid to mix it up with the other team, and this year’s Duke squad has a couple players with a similar style of play.
James has his eye on Coleman as well as Brakefield as being two guys who aren’t afraid to get “rough, tough and bump some guys around a little bit.”
“I have my ‘Nate's dog pound bone,’ so if [Coleman] does a good job I’ll pass that along to him to keep the tradition alive.”
James also added that Goldwire has already established himself as being a fierce player, calling him the “pitbull” of this team.