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Film room: Analyzing Duke men's basketball forward Theo John

Graduate transfer Theo John figures to be an important part of Duke's second unit.
Graduate transfer Theo John figures to be an important part of Duke's second unit.

Ahead of Coach K's final season, Duke men's basketball is bringing in several new players to Durham. In this series, we analyze film on each of the Blue Devils' new signees and transfers for the 2021-22 season. Previously, we took a look at Bates Jones. Next up, we look at Theo John.

Conventional wisdom suggests that the main headliners from the Duke frontcourt in 2021-22 will be Mark Williams, a potential breakout star in his sophomore season, and Paolo Banchero, who seems best suited to carry the mantle as this year's Blue Devil freshman phenom. And while that will likely turn out to be the case, don't forget about Theo John.

After a four-year stint at Marquette under Steve Wojciechowski, John enters the upcoming season with a fairly defined role—to bring energy and defensive expertise to the second unit. Still, the 6-foot-9 graduate student averaged a respectable eight points, five rebounds and 1.5 blocks last year, so his overall skillset is worthy of mention.

Throughout his collegiate career, John’s calling card has been his stellar shot-blocking ability. The Minnesota native made a name for himself as a rim protector during his time at Marquette, rejecting 1.5 shots per outing in four years. John is sound when defending pick and rolls, and his length makes it tough for guards to avoid him around the rim. If Coach K opts to experiment with a bigger lineup, John and Williams could be a formidable frontcourt duo on the defensive end. 

On the offensive end, John has a few tricks up his sleeve, particularly in the low post. When isolated on the block, the former Golden Eagle uses a forceful drop step to shield off his defender and finish at the rim. 

In pick and roll scenarios, John is alert enough to screen and anticipate the incoming delivery, often finishing off a well-executed sequence with a jam. Don’t be surprised if John and Jaylen Blakes make up a pick and roll tag team as part of the bench mob. 

The final component of the Champlin Park alum’s offensive arsenal is his propensity for snatching loose balls and converting second chance opportunities. Duke’s second unit will presumably feature a mix of Joey Baker, Wendell Moore Jr. and Trevor Keels—each of whom is more than willing to pull the trigger from deep—so John will be battling on the glass if they fail to convert.

In sum, John figures to always be a spark plug for the Blue Devils, but there’s clearly more to the 242-pounder’s game than just hustle and effort.


Max Rego

Max Rego is a Trinity junior and sports managing editor for The Chronicle's 117th volume.

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