With Duke’s season officially in the books, the Blue Zone breaks down each player's season, including comparisons to their preseason projections. We already looked at Jaylen Blakes, Jaden Schutt, Jacob Grandison, Ryan Young and Mark Mitchell. Next up is Dariq Whitehead:
This year’s stat line: 8.3 PPG, 2.4 REB, 1.0 AST, 20.6 MPG
The Blue Zone’s projected stat line: 15.5 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 3.1 APG, 31 MPG
Season breakdown: As the ESPN No. 2 recruit in the country and the Naismith High School Player of the Year, the expectations for freshman forward Dariq Whitehead were sky high. But, after suffering a broken foot in August, the role Whitehead would play on head coach Jon Scheyer’s first Blue Devil squad was uncertain.
Upon his return in the early part of the season, Whitehead struggled to find his place in the offense. The freshman did not break double digits in scoring in any of his first eight games in a Duke uniform. But, in their last game before taking time off for finals, Whitehead dropped 15 points on Maryland Eastern Shore Dec. 10 to help the Blue Devils secure a comfortable win. He only took off from there. Whitehead would go on to score in double figures in six of his next 10 games, highlighted by a 18-point performance at Boston College to help lead Duke to a 65-64 victory.
Whitehead worked his way into the flow of the Blue Devils’ offense by establishing himself as a 3-and-D guy, a term used for players who operate as spot-up 3-point shooters on offense and lockdown defenders on defense. The Montverde alumnus used his large frame – 6-foot-7 and 220 pounds – to make things difficult for his assignment on defense. On the offensive end, he stretched the floor with his spot-up shooting from behind the arc, where he shot a team-high 45.9% in conference play. Whitehead also showed his ability to create shots for himself off the dribble when the Blue Devils needed a bucket. The New Jersey native's versatility on both sides of the ball was a large part of Duke’s success.
Results relative to expectations: In the fall, the Blue Zone projected Whitehead to have a larger role on the team as a more dominant scorer than he was this season, but that is not to say that Whitehead was not still a great player for this Duke squad. Injuries set him back significantly, as he missed six games over the course of the season. However, when fully healthy, Whitehead provided a consistent lift for the Blue Devils off the bench and increased the length of the team defensively.
Scheyer and staff would love to have Whitehead back for a sophomore season, but the 19-year-old prospect has a decision to make, since he is projected to be selected in the first round of this year’s NBA draft.
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