As November nears, it is becoming apparent that basketball season is on the horizon. That means that it is time for our player previews of every member of Duke men's basketball. Next up is sophomore Jeremy Roach. Read the previous previews here: Stanley Borden, Spencer Hubbard, Keenan Worthington, Michael Savarino, Bates Jones, Jaylen Blakes, Theo John, AJ Griffin, Joey Baker and Trevor Keels.
Last year’s statline: 8.7 PPG, 2.8 APG, 27.4 MPG
Game breakdown: As one of the few key contributors returning from last season, Jeremy Roach enters his sophomore campaign as the likely starting point guard for the Blue Devils. The Virginia native had a relatively effective freshman year despite the otherwise disappointing outcome of Duke missing the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1995. Roach proved to be a steady decision-maker at the point guard position, displaying flashes of strong drives to the basket and precise passing to cutters. His struggles last season mostly came from shooting the ball, as he only converted on 31.3% from three and 67.5% from the free throw line. The former Virginia Gatorade Player of the Year rarely puts up eye-popping numbers, but Duke fans should look for him to continue to grow in his role with the team.
Though undersized, Roach does possess the ability to finish amongst the trees. Whether it be cutting from the top of the key or taking a defender baseline, his ability to get into the paint remains a viable weapon for head coach Mike Krzyzewski’s offense. Roach’s 3-point shooting was inconsistent during his freshman year, but if given time either in transition or after a kick-out, he can indeed connect from distance. The Blue Devils will greatly benefit from a point guard who is aggressive looking to score, since opposing teams will already have their work cut out for them trying to cover pure scorers like forward Paolo Banchero and guard Trevor Keels.
Role on the team: A definite upgrade from last season is the interior presence that Duke will have. Going from Matthew Hurt and Jalen Johnson to Mark Williams, transfer Theo John and Banchero will bolster both offensive and defensive capabilities in the paint. This is where Roach’s role is crucial: the two-man game. Whether it be Williams or John setting a screen and then diving to the basket, Roach will be the sole decision-maker of it resulting in a lob for the big man or his own finish. We’ve already seen glimpses of this during Duke’s latest preseason scrimmage this past Tuesday. Despite this, don’t expect Roach’s assist total to increase too much because of the emergence of Wendell Moore Jr. as a play-maker. With 66 total, Roach only ended last season with one more assist than Moore.
Roach’s production will also depend on his ability to hit threes. With his former high school teammate Trevor Keels as the only true shooter in the projected starting lineup, Roach will need to prove himself a threat from distance to help spread the floor. On the other side of the ball, the point guard’s defense will also be an essential part of his role. Duke fans still feel the defensive void left after the departure of Tre Jones two years ago. With stifling interior defenders, if Roach is able to contribute to locking down opposing perimeter players, it is reasonable to expect the Blue Devils to have one of the top defenses in the ACC.
NBA Comparison: Now having the sample size of his freshman season, the NBA comparison for Jeremy Roach is newly-acquired Clippers’ guard Eric Bledsoe. Though Roach lacks the muscle mass that Bledsoe has, their skill sets are similar. Playing for three teams in the past four seasons, Bledsoe has the reputation of a reliable starting point guard who can play both ends of the court. Both him and Roach do not excel in one particular area, though they both possess the abilities to drive the ball, create for their teammates and connect from distance if left open. They are both trusted with the ball in their hands, which given their roles, is very valuable.
Projected stat line: 10.4 PPG, 3.8 APG, 26 MPG
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