As Duke men's basketball wraps up its season, the Blue Zone gives individual breakdowns of each player's season with comparisons to their pre-season projections. Read the previous player breakdowns here: Mike Buckmire and Patrick Tapé.
- Year: Freshman
- Height: 6-foot-8
- Position: Forward
- This year’s stat line: 3.5 PPG, 2.5 RPG, 12.5 MPG
- Blue Zone’s projected stat line: 6.7 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 13.0 MPG
Season breakdown: Jaemyn Brakefield had an active start and finish to Duke’s regular season, with a lull in the middle stretch and ACC tournament. Brakefield recorded 15 or more minutes in seven of the season’s first eight games, with a 27-minute performance against Virginia Tech. Brakefield adjusted to the college game very well early on considering he was a four-star recruit per ESPN rankings. He scored in double digits multiple times and played a role in rebounding.
Despite that, in a five game stretch from Pittsburgh to hosting North Carolina, Brakefield never recorded double digit minutes or points. Brakefield entered a new level of productivity and made his name commonplace among the Cameron Crazies for the remainder of the regular season, recording double digit minutes in six of the regular season’s final seven games. Brakefield’s emergence in the late regular season was critical for the Blue Devils, as he replaced freshman Jalen Johnson—who opted out of the season’s remainder after the N.C. State game. Brakefield’s most notable performance was by-far his breakout game against Virginia. Brakefield logged 29 minutes, 11 points and a memorable and-one celebration in the game’s final moments, all while matching up surprisingly well against Cavalier veteran Jay Huff.
Although Brakefield only logged eight total minutes and no points in the first two games of the ACC tournament, he was certainly poised to play a larger role in the latter half of Duke's run before it ended prematurely due to COVID-19.
Brakefield was often seen energizing his team the entire season, whether it was from the bench or the court. However, in a disappointing development for the Blue Devils, Brakefield announced Wednesday that he would be entering the transfer portal.
Results relative to expectations: Brakefield and the Blue Devils both had less than ideal seasons. Brakefield averaged just 3.5 points per game and was inconsistent, failing to score on eight occasions this season, and all of which he played minutes.After seeing the impressive highlight reels of freshman Blue Devils like Jayson Tatum, Zion Williamson, RJ Barrett and Vernon Carey Jr., Duke fans have come to expect nothing but greatness from rookies. Although Brakefield was not expected to put up numbers comparable to those big names, expectations for his first collegiate season were still high, likely due to previous Duke seasons. Brakefield’s minutes, although inconsistent, were on par with expectations. He fell short in terms of scoring and rebounding.
However, what is not represented in this stat line is performance in crunch time. Brakefield stepped up when the moment was largest. Duke’s win over Virginia was probably the season’s high point, and Brakefield was instrumental to this performance. The Mississippi native matched up well against Huff, a 7-footer and easily one of the toughest matchups in the country, and got critical buckets late. Brakefield brought an impressive level of energy and clutch factor to the Blue Devils in his first college basketball season.
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