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Duke men's basketball 2021-22 player review: Jaylen Blakes

Jaylen Blakes showed defensive promise in his first season at Duke.
Jaylen Blakes showed defensive promise in his first season at Duke.

With Duke’s season officially in the books, the Blue Zone breaks down each player's season, including comparison to their preseason projections. First up is Jaylen Blakes:

Jaylen Blakes

Season breakdown: Blakes’ first season in Durham was nothing to write home about, as the Blair Academy product found himself on the outside looking in at Duke’s rotation all season long. Still, Blakes saw a fair bit of game action in the team’s widest victories, reaching a season-high 18 minutes of court time in an easy December win against South Carolina State. In his limited playing time, Blakes showed flashes of the scoring and defensive tenacity that he’ll need to become a more regular member of the Blue Devils’ rotation moving forward.

That defensive tenacity especially looks like it could become Blakes’ calling card as his minutes grow. Head coach Mike Krzyzewski praised the freshman guard’s defense after an October exhibition matchup against Winston-Salem State, pointing out Blakes’ stellar movement and footwork. Blakes’ shooting touch hasn’t come around just yet—he shot just 28.6% from the field and 29.4% from beyond the arc in his first year—but would appear to be in position for some positive regression in year two.

Results relative to expectations: It’s likely that the majority of Blakes’ development this season happened behind the scenes, with the guard taking a backseat to fellow freshman Trevor Keels and returning guard Jeremy Roach in the backcourt. With those two and junior captain Wendell Moore Jr. running the show, Blakes didn’t end up as the true backup point guard the Blue Zone projected him to be back in the preseason. As such, there’s still a whole lot we don’t know about his game.

Even so, it doesn’t feel fair to say that Blakes didn’t reach preseason expectations when in reality, he simply proved to be a longer-term player on a team that was ready to contend for a national title in his freshman year. With a jump to the NBA a strong possibility for each of Keels, Moore and Roach this offseason, Blakes’ sophomore year could feature a much larger role on a team in need of dependable point guard play. 

Jonathan Levitan

Jonathan Levitan is a Trinity senior and was previously sports editor of The Chronicle's 118th volume.


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