Throughout a pandemic, individual scoring struggles and a tough 2020-21 season, sophomore guard Jeremy Roach has persevered through it all at Duke.
And he shined in Saturday’s contest against Elon.
The game appeared to be a typical nonconference home matchup for Duke. Trevor Keels scored 19; Wendell Moore and Paolo Banchero each scored 12. As usual, the top-three offensive contributors had their moments, but Saturday’s game showed that it’s the development of Jeremy Roach’s 3-point shot that ultimately provides the spacing and versatility that Duke has lacked lately, potentially making this Blue Devil squad the most complete in a long time.
While the Duke team started the season strong, Roach did not, making only 6-of-24 shots from beyond the arc before the final exam break. In the three-game stretch concluding Saturday, Roach found his shooting stroke and sank 8-of-14 3-point attempts, good for a 32% improvement from before the midseason break.
“It’s kind of a period of adjustment in that regard. Not that he was in bad shape, but he wasn’t in game shape–and he’s worked on it,” head coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “Bottom line, he’s a good shooter but you have to get accustomed to a game environment.”
Against Elon specifically, the sophomore cashed 3-of-4 pointers en route to his second-best scoring total of the year.
“He spaces the floor and keeps the defense honest," center Mark Williams said. "And you know, he's a great player, even when he's shooting the ball well he passes."
After a year and some change, Roach is now settled into a dynamic Duke offense, and the seeds he diligently sowed in a tumultuous growing season are finally bearing fruit for the Blue Devils.
Roach arrived in Durham as a top-20 prospect in his high school class. The Leesburg, Va., native committed to Duke back in May 2019 with the promise of the full Duke experience. Instead, as the COVID-19 pandemic ravaged the globe, he was met with Zoom meetings, an empty gym and masked life in a team bubble at the Washington Duke Inn.
In his first season, the team and Roach himself struggled, shooting 31% from 3-point range. After an opt-out by Jalen Johnson, a mediocre .500 record in conference play and the 10th seed in the ACC tournament, the final nail in the 2020-21 coffin came from a COVID-19 outbreak within the Duke program in March 2021, ending the Blue Devils' hopes for a NCAA tournament berth.
This time around, Duke has replenished its resources and behind the emergence of Roach, Banchero, Moore and Roach’s high school teammate Trevor Keels, the Blue Devils are now the second-ranked team in the nation with only one loss in their first 11 games.
As conference opponents trickle into town over the next few months, one priority must be made clear: if they want to enjoy their time in Cameron, they’d better be ready for Roach.
Editor’s note: This article has been modified to better describe Roach’s development, his resilience through adversity and his stellar mark from 3-point range the last three games.
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