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 graduate transfer Theo John. Read the previous previews here: Stanley Borden, Spencer Hubbard, Keenan Worthington, Michael Savarino, Bates Jones and Jaylen Blakes.
Year: Graduate student
Last year’s stat line: 8.0 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 1.5 BPG, 26.3 MPG
Game breakdown: Duke has a menacing frontcourt this season, and contributing to that is graduate transfer Theo John. After four years at Marquette playing under former Blue Devil Steve Wojciechowski, John entered the transfer portal and was scooped up by Duke. However, before arriving in Durham, the two-time team Most Improved Player had a very successful career with the Golden Eagles, starting his last three years and finishing his time at Marquette situated second on the program’s all-time blocks list.
Rim protection is the hallmark of John's game, as his per outing clip of 1.5 blocks placed him in the 96th percentile of college players in 2020-21, according to CBB Analytics, and he seems to swat shots out of the air with ease. However, while this aspect of his game is the most flashy, it really is just one part of his overall role as a defensive stalwart. A physical specimen at 6-foot-9 and 242 pounds, John is plenty big enough to fend off opponents driving to the basket but also athletic enough to keep up with fast plays and to pop up for rebounds.
His physicality extends to the other end of the court as well. While not a prolific scorer, John does not need to touch the ball to make an impact, as his solid frame enables him to set screens and open lanes for his teammates. Still, he is a reliable scorer in front of the basket and in the low post, and he is particularly adept at muscling through defenders to tap in a second chance or to pass a rebound back out to the perimeter.
A weakness of John's is that he can be foul-prone, which limited his minutes at Marquette. However, his senior season saw him get his personal fouls per 40 minutes below five for the first time, and with a more limited role in Durham, there should be no reason for foul trouble to obstruct his physical style of play.
Role on the team: While listed as a forward, John will likely come in off the bench for sophomore center Mark Williams. Countdown to Craziness saw the two match up against one another, suggesting that John’s main responsibility with the Blue Devils will be keeping the momentum going and holding down the fort defensively while the starters rest. Still, John has plenty of experience at both the four and the five, and his versatility down low lends itself to some interesting options should head coach Mike Krzyzewski want to send out the graduate transfer alongside Williams or power forward Paolo Banchero for some tantalizingly formidable frontcourt combinations. Expect John's role to shrink from what it was at Marquette, though he will still make a reliable piece for the Blue Devils.
NBA comparison: This year, John is likely to play a similar role for Duke as center Daniel Gafford did for the Washington Wizards last season after he was traded from the Chicago Bulls. Like John, Gafford was an off-the-bench block specialist who excelled defensively and had a propensity for scoring from under the basket. Their games don’t line up perfectly, as Gafford bears more responsibility offensively, but Gafford's averages of 10.1 points, 5.6 rebounds and 1.8 blocks for the Wizards and his 6-foot-10, 234-pound frame make for a good example of what John brings to the table.
Projected stat line: 5.1 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 18.0 MPG
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Sasha Richie is a Trinity senior and a sports managing editor of The Chronicle's 118th volume.