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Takeaways from Duke men's basketball's Countdown to Craziness scrimmage

Duke was back in action Friday night at Cameron Indoor Stadium for Countdown to Craziness.
Duke was back in action Friday night at Cameron Indoor Stadium for Countdown to Craziness.

Countdown to Craziness is many things: an intrasquad scrimmage; a first look at new recruits; a raucous campus-wide spectacular. But at its core, Countdown is a love letter to Duke basketball. 

Nobody really wins, nobody really loses, but everyone—thousands of spectators, 17 women’s players, 15 men’s players, nine combined coaches, four recruits and countless support staff and student performance groups—gathers for the love of the game. 

“Just to see Cameron, right? You know, we haven't been here for a while, and to see Cameron, the way that it was—our students were incredible. They were in there for a few hours, but they packed it. And I think for our guys just to get a feel for what it’s like playing here. ... Should be a big advantage for us, playing here,” head coach Jon Scheyer said after the game. 

This year was a special one, too, as it marked the first true outing of Scheyer’s turn at the helm. The Duke community, adorned with blue paint and light-up Blue Devil horns, welcomed him accordingly as teammate faced off against teammate. Ultimately, the Blue Team downed the White Team 41-26, but at the end of the day, the real winner was everyone around the program who got to watch. 

Starting lineups

The program announced teams for the scrimmage before the event’s start. On the Blue Team: sophomore guard Jaylen Blakes, freshman center Kyle Filipowski, graduate transfer guard Max Johns, graduate transfer guard Jacob Grandison, freshman center Christian Reeves and returning junior point guard Jeremy Roach. On the White Team: graduate transfer forward Kale Catchings, freshman forward Mark Mitchell, freshman guard Tyrese Proctor, freshman guard Jaden Schutt, graduate transfer center Ryan Young, sophomore center Stanley Borden and junior guard Spencer Hubbard.

Freshmen Dereck Lively II and Dariq Whitehead, both likely starters, were held out of the scrimmage for injury, so Countdown didn’t give a complete picture of this season’s starting lineup as it normally does, but it still gave a rough idea. 

The clear connection between Roach and Grandison means that the graduate student has likely earned his place in the starting five. Responding to the locker room availability’s last question, Grandison said of Roach, “You can just type, ‘That’s my guy.’” 

At the four, Duke has options, including Catchings and Mitchell, but after playing alongside Roach and Grandison, Filipowski seems likely to get the nod. The freshman wasn’t perfect—if this were a real game, he likely would have been benched with foul trouble—but he still showed off what made him the No. 4 recruit of his class; he grabbed five rebounds and had one of the game’s few steals. Plus, it’s not every day you see a 7-foot paint menace drain a triple. 

Fresh-faced phenoms

Mitchell rang in the new season with a slam dunk and Proctor followed up soon after with a layup. Young put the White Team up 6-0 just a few seconds later, and just like that, fresh faces had made the season’s first three baskets. 

“We have 11 players that haven't experienced [Cameron Indoor Stadium]. … I'm really excited about this group, how they've handled themselves, the preparation leading up to this point, and now we get to start playing against other people,” Scheyer said after.

All of the roster’s new additions made their mark on the game, but Reeves especially stood out. The 7-foot-1 center, aside from scoring the second most points in the game with 12, was seemingly always there for the rebound and was a ruthless rim protector with three blocks. Midway through the scrimmage, Schutt weaved through traffic to go up for a layup, demonstrating his own handles, but Reeves was there for the swat, and the crowd erupted. 

Graduate transfers got in on the action as well, with Young playing a majority of the scrimmage’s minutes for the White Team, while Grandison gobbled up a game-leading eight rebounds and made a defensive impact. Catchings also showed out, with his seven points following up Proctor for the White Team lead. 

Backcourt excellence 

Roach will assuredly start at point guard, but Proctor gave him a run for his money as the floor general of the White Team. The takeaway? Duke has depth in its backcourt. No matter how the minutes end up getting split, the Blue Devils have nothing to worry about at the guard position. 

The team clearly belongs to Roach, and by the sound of the stadium after he sunk a top-of-the-key three, the fans agree. The junior dished out three assists and scored 12 points, both game-leading stats, as he led the Blue Team to a victory and made some of the scrimmage’s cleanest plays. At one point, he crossed up Mitchell in the corner for a step-back three. On the Blue Team’s next possession, he pulled up for another distance make from the top of the key. 

Of what powered his confidence, Roach said, “Getting my teammates involved early. Giving them confidence early, and that led to my self-confidence. Me forcing myself is not gonna really do anything, it's not gonna do any good for the rest of the team, so getting my guys involved. ... Will be a big key for us.”

Proctor, though, in his first public performance at Duke, stole the show with 10 points of his own and an uncanny way of understanding the floor. The Australian could end up one of the season’s biggest surprises if his composure is anything to go by. Always in control and playing a particularly poised brand of basketball, Proctor had it all, from accuracy and defense to clean footwork and paint moves. 

“He really can create for others,” Scheyer said. “And he’s really good at pick-and-roll, and I think the defense is at his mercy when he has the ball in his hands. We've learned now, when you're playing with Tyrese, you see everybody else has their hands ready, because he's gonna hit you at different times.”

One of the biggest surprises of the night was Blakes. The sophomore point guard seldom saw the court last season, but the showing he put on Friday night previewed a completely different player from the one Duke faithful saw back then. Aside from seemingly putting on a considerable amount of muscle, Blakes played at the two, feeding and feeding off of Roach and Grandison and demonstrating what his role could be this season in the process.  

“We're gonna need everybody, but with Jaylen [Blakes], he can play a big role for us with his energy, his defense,” Scheyer said.

Cameron gets Crazie

Cameron Indoor's first taste of the Craziness came as the women’s team was introduced, complete with thunderous applause and pyrotechnics. Freshman Shay Bollin whipped the crowd into a frenzy when she walked up to Taylor Swift’s “22” and flashed her jersey, No. 22, but the cheers reached a peak when women’s head coach Kara Lawson came through, only settling for a moment so she could give one of her signature motivational speeches. 

“When you are chasing something or someone, what is one characteristic you have to have? I’m going to tell you the one thing you have to have, and it’s urgency … For you guys, we’re going to play with a lot of urgency,” Lawson said.

Then, it was time for the men’s team. The crowd didn’t settle until tipoff, but a few moments got the stands especially riled up. Reeves wore a signed Mike Myers-style hockey mask as he walked up onto their podium, and he whipped it off on the corresponding lyric of his walk-up song, “Mask Off” by Future. Meanwhile, Schutt, pronounced “shoot”, garnered laughs with his choice of “Shots” by LMFAO. 

“I think I was most nervous about the little, the first part, just going out, getting introduced,” Reeves joked.

Borden upstaged everyone, though, as he pulled a saxophone out of a trenchcoat and played his own walk-up song: the solo from George Michael’s “Careless Whisper.” Young closed out the introductions with Year 3000 by The Jonas Brothers, and the crowd sang along. Duke’s season had officially begun, to the absolute elation of everyone surrounding.

Next, the Blue Devils will host their exhibition game against Fayetteville State Nov. 2, then their season will fully commence against Jacksonville Nov. 7.


Sasha Richie | Sports Managing Editor

Sasha Richie is a Trinity senior and a sports managing editor of The Chronicle's 118th volume.

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