As basketball season quickly approaches, the Blue Zone takes a detailed look at Duke men’s basketball’s 2022-23 roster, with a preview of each player. Previously, we’ve highlighted Stanley Borden, Spencer Hubbard, Max Johns, Kale Catchings, Ryan Young, Christian Reeves, Jaylen Blakes, Jaden Schutt, Tyrese Proctor, Mark Mitchell, Kyle Filipowski and Jacob Grandison. Here is Dariq Whitehead:
Last year’s stat line: N/A
Game breakdown: Freshman Dariq Whitehead’s high expectations are well warranted. The New Jersey native excelled at Montverde Academy, where he played alongside current NBA stars Scottie Barnes and Cade Cunningham. Last year, Whitehead averaged 16.5 points, five rebounds and 3.5 assists for Montverde and earned his fair share of accolades, including the 2022 Geico High School Nationals Championship, Naismith High School Player of the Year and McDonald’s All-American Game MVP. As a consensus top-two freshman and potential 2023 NBA draft lottery pick, Whitehead should find no trouble adjusting to the college level.
At 6-foot-7, Whitehead is set up to succeed at the wing position. On the offensive end, Whitehead has an explosive first step that allows him to drive past a defender and finish smoothly at the rim. He is a poised ball handler, yet doesn’t need to have the ball every possession, which should bode well on a talent-rich Duke squad. Whitehead also has great court vision and can easily laser a pass from 3-point range to a cutting big man. What truly sets Whitehead apart from other prospects, however, is his confident midrange jumper. Whether he is in transition, heavily contested or off-balance, Whitehead has a knack for knocking down tough pull-up jumpers.
Whitehead also excels on the defensive side of the ball. With a 6-foot-9 wingspan, he is a great shot blocker and has a large presence both in the paint and on the wing. Whitehead’s tremendous athleticism and off-ball awareness should make him a turnover machine on defense, which can generate much-needed transition buckets for the Blue Devils. His confidence on defense is noticeable as well, and he doesn’t mind taking on taller and larger players.
Role on the team: A lingering foot injury is the only thing holding Whitehead back from being an immediate starter. Whitehead fractured his right foot in late August and underwent successful surgery. Although he has ditched the boot, he didn’t take the court at Countdown to Craziness, and it is unsure whether he will be ready for Duke’s opener against Jacksonville. Once healthy, however, he possesses the talent to immediately find a spot in the Blue Devil starting five, especially after Duke lost four starters this offseason. Blue Devil fans will hope that he fully recovers in time for the Nov. 15 matchup versus Kansas and serves as a key weapon for the remainder of the season.
NBA comparison: Bogdan Bogdanovic. Although not a flashy choice, Bogdanovic and Whitehead are similar in many facets. Both players are relatively physical for a wing and can guard almost anyone on the court. The strong midrange game shines for both players, although Whitehead is a bit more explosive while Bogdanovic is more catch-and-shoot. Bogdanovic, like Whitehead, excels both with and without the ball, and his mere presence on the court makes the players around him better. Both are three-level scorers that simply make impactful plays.
Projected stats: 15.5 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 3.1 APG, 31 MPG
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