Duke men’s basketball 2022-23 player review: Jaylen Blakes

Jaylen Blakes finishes against N.C. State.
Jaylen Blakes finishes against N.C. State.

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

Jaylen Blakes

Season breakdown: For almost all amateur athletes, a quote that rings true is “seize the moment because some opportunities don’t come twice.” For sophomore guard Jaylen Blakes, that statement defined his 2022-23 season. After playing sparingly a season ago, he earned a much larger role in the Duke’s rotation thanks to injuries and old-fashioned luck. 

Blakes averaged 3.4 points per game on 35.5% shooting, but like much of Duke’s roster, his year was a tale of two seasons. From the start of the season to Duke’s victory against Maryland Eastern Shore Dec. 10, Blakes earned significant playing time, averaging 18 minutes per game. Then, it was announced that star freshmen Dereck Lively II and Dariq Whitehead would miss the contest at Wake Forest due to illness. Blakes made the most of his opportunity for increased playing time, scoring 17 points off the bench on 6-of-7 shooting, including 3-of-4 from outside the arc. While the sophomore guard fouled out in the loss, this breakout game was enough for head coach Jon Scheyer to put him in the starting lineup for Duke’s next two contests.

In his first-ever start against Florida State Dec. 31, Blakes played well, scoring 17 points again and dishing out three assists in the victory. However, his mini hot-streak fell back to Earth, as he would score a combined nine points on just 3-of-15 from the field in his next four games. Then, before a home game against Miami Jan. 21, Blakes broke his nose in practice. The sophomore saw extremely limited time thereafter, averaging just five minutes per game and scoring a combined 11 points the rest of the season. 

Despite a disappointing second half of the season hampered by injury, Blakes offered value when playing. Known for his defense, the Somerset, N.J., native was a valuable contributor on that end. According to CBB Analytics, Duke was 3.9 points better defensively per 100 possessions when he was on the court. It is not as though Blakes performed poorly on offense, as he cashed in on 42.4% of his 3-point attempts through his performance against Florida State. While he may not be a household name for national college basketball fans, the guard played a supporting role in one of the nation’s best programs. His good season sets up the rising junior to be one of Duke’s veteran leaders for next season.

Results relative to expectations: Blakes was expected to take on a larger role in Duke’s rotation from his freshman year, but it is safe to say that even his biggest fans could not have expected this uptick in his production and minutes. Blakes ended up playing 421 minutes after only playing 94 a season ago. As anticipated, he was the fourth guard in the rotation behind Tyrese Proctor, Jeremy Roach and Jacob Grandison, but he clearly made an impact when healthy. All told, the sophomore fell just short of the breakout expectations that grew in the middle of the season, but he was much better than many anticipated and proved his value heading into a pivotal second season for Scheyer. 


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