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At preseason media day, Duke men's basketball previews first season under Scheyer

Jon Scheyer began Duke's preseason media day Tuesday at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
Jon Scheyer began Duke's preseason media day Tuesday at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

A year ago, the Blue Devils were embarking on an odyssey of lasts. This time around, Duke is readying for a season of firsts.

Duke held its annual preseason media day Tuesday, uniting the Blue Devil roster and coaching staff in Cameron Indoor Stadium to preview the upcoming winter season, the program’s first under new head coach Jon Scheyer. On a day that doubled as Duke’s second practice of the year, Scheyer led off with some remarks of his own on the direction of the 2022-23 Blue Devils.

“First day of practice is something that I’ve had marked down on my calendar for some time, and awesome we’re here,” Scheyer said. “Now it’s the second day. So it’s an exciting time for our team, we’re really getting a feel for each other and we have a lot of work to do, but it’s an exciting group.”

Before all else, Scheyer began by providing an update on freshman forward Dariq Whitehead, who he said received an X-ray Tuesday on his surgically repaired right foot. There is not yet a timetable for Whitehead’s return to play, but the No. 3 recruit out of Montverde Academy is out of his walking boot and due back “sometime this fall,” Scheyer said.

During the open portion of Tuesday’s practice, Whitehead participated in warmups with the team before stepping aside to work solo with a trainer. Fellow freshman Dereck Lively II, who Scheyer said had been out after he, “got dinged up and got hit in the calf,” was a full participant.

“For us, yesterday was the first time in a couple of weeks that we've had our whole group out there to get a feel for what it looks like,” Scheyer said. “So, that was exciting for me as the coach to get a chance to really see what this team could possibly be."

Beyond the roster’s young talent, Scheyer spoke to the importance of junior guard Jeremy Roach, the only returning starter from Duke’s Final Four team in 2021-22. Both player and coach recognized Tuesday that in his third year in Durham, Roach’s role—like Scheyer’s—will look quite different.

“He’s in a new position, not only with his role on the team and his experience from coming off of last year,” Scheyer said. “We have a great relationship, but he's figuring out what I'm like as a head coach and the things that I'm looking for him to do.”

“He's in a great spot to really have a heck of a year,” Scheyer added. “And he's gonna be our guard, and I'll put him up against any guard in the country.”

As players took to the court Tuesday for their respective availabilities, freshman guard Tyrese Proctor, a 6-foot-5 Australian who reclassified in June and only arrived on Duke’s campus in August after summer competition in Indonesia, was the subject of much attention. For a player whose recruitment occurred half a world away from his home in Sydney, Scheyer noted that the 18-year-old Proctor’s strength stood out when he was finally able to see him take the floor in Durham.

But Proctor represents only part of what is a talented freshman class featuring five-star recruits Whitehead, Lively, Kyle Filipowski and Mark Mitchell, four-star Jaden Schutt and three-star Christian Reeves. If Tuesday was any indication, the members of that star core are meshing well with one another and the roster as a whole.

“We don’t have egos,” Whitehead said. “Everybody came in top-ranked in the country, everybody came in top grad transfers, and there’s no egos on the team. We all genuinely have one goal and one vision which is to win a national championship.”

On the other end of the age spectrum, Tuesday gave a first look at Duke’s four graduate transfers: Kale Catchings (Harvard), Jacob Grandison (Illinois), Ryan Young (Northwestern) and Max Johns (Princeton). That veteran group is sure to shore up a key gap in the Blue Devils’ young roster, with Scheyer likening the potential roles of Young and Grandison to those of graduate transfers Theo John and Bates Jones from a season ago.

Young especially seems to cherish the opportunity for veteran leadership, even as he and his graduate teammates prepare for a new chapter themselves.

“For me, just having them come and not take it easy on me was huge,” Young said of two veteran centers from his freshman year at Northwestern, Dererk Pardon and Barret Benson. “I really felt like I grew so much as a person and a player that year. And in a way, I kind of feel like I wouldn't be doing them justice by not paying it forward to be that kind of role model for these young guys.”

In addition to Scheyer and Duke’s roster, the trio of associate head coach Chris Carrawell and assistant coaches Amile Jefferson and Jai Lucas spoke to the media Tuesday for the first time since May’s introduction. With the exception of Carrawell, each of those coaches steps into a new role alongside Scheyer this season as part of the biggest overhaul to Duke’s staff in decades.

“It’s kind of exciting, at the same time, because you can make it whatever you want to make it,” Scheyer said of working with a new coaching staff. “Now it’s a challenge, because you’ve got to make it good, and it’s important.”

Carrawell, Jefferson and Lucas were each on the floor for practice Tuesday, showing off a big positive to their collective youth. The Blue Devils split into three apparent positional groups for drills: Lucas with guards, Carrawell with wings and Jefferson with centers. 

Notably, the 6-foot-11 Filipowski was included among the wings, teasing a tantalizing big-man duo with his 7-foot-1 freshman teammate Lively. The question heading into the season is not what those two are capable of on their own but on the court alongside one another.

“You look at [Lively and me] and you don’t really think that that’s something that could happen, that’s a possibility,” Filipowski said. “But just with how versatile each one of us are. It’s really something unique and not many people in the country can do, so it’s something that everyone’s going to be shocked with once we start playing.”

To start, though, Scheyer says that he is focusing these next few weeks on Duke’s defensive development. While Tuesday was, in many ways, the ceremonial start of his first season leading the way, the Blue Devils have time to work before their season tips off Nov. 7 against Jacksonville at Cameron Indoor.

Sasha Richie and Andrew Long contributed reporting.


Jonathan Levitan | Sports Editor

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

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