X-Factor: Tyrese Proctor's two-way ability is crucial for No. 11 Duke men's basketball in the ACC tournament

Tyrese Proctor lays the ball up against North Carolina's Armando Bacot.
Tyrese Proctor lays the ball up against North Carolina's Armando Bacot.

No. 2-seed Duke opens up its ACC tournament play Wednesday. The Blue Zone looks at the key player for the Blue Devils in their quest to defend their conference title:

Duke: Tyrese Proctor

Entering Washington Wednesday, No. 11 Duke will look to win its first back-to-back ACC title since the 2011 season. Aside from freshman Jared McCain, all of the Blue Devils’ starters are experienced in ACC tournament play. While McCain, Kyle Filipowski and Jeremy Roach all look to be headliners in the conference postseason, there’s one player in particular that can greatly help Duke come out on top: sophomore guard Tyrese Proctor.

Entering this season, Proctor was expected to have a breakout year and make his mark as one of the nation’s best point guards. While he hasn’t quite lived up to those expectations thanks in part to injury, the sophomore has been one of Duke’s most reliable players this season. The Sydney native averaged 10.6 points and 3.7 assists per game in the regular season, good for fifth and first on the team, respectively.

The highlight of Proctor’s season thus far was when he sank two game-winning free throws against Clemson Jan. 27, deeming himself the “best free-throw shooter in the nation” afterwards. Indeed, he has a positive impact as a shooter — he shoots 36.9% from 3-point range, up from 32% last year — and as a facilitator, boasting one of the better assist-to-turnover ratios in Division I. He might not be as consistent of a scorer as the Blue Devil faithful hopes — he’s been held to no points multiple times — but he is a point guard capable of running one of college basketball’s best offenses.

Additionally, the sophomore is known for his strong defense, and that reputation has been earned all season. While he doesn’t generate many steals or blocks, he is a capable on-ball defender thanks in part to his 6-foot-5 stature. Alongside other capable Blue Devil defenders like Jeremy Roach and Mark Mitchell, Proctor has helped lead a top-25 unit in defensive efficiency nationally, per KenPom.

Above all else, Proctor’s previous postseason outings might be his — and Duke’s — secret weapon. Against Pittsburgh in last year’s ACC tournament quarterfinal, Proctor was on fire, scoring 11 points on 4-of-6 shooting and dishing out a career-high 10 assists. He followed that up with a 15-point, five-assist performance against No. 1-seed Miami. In the Blue Devils’ Round of 32 loss to Tennessee in the NCAA Tournament, Proctor was Duke’s most effective player, scoring 16 points and garnered six assists.

Simply put, Proctor has played his best against the best. That fact will need to remain true for the ACC tournament, as Duke will run into several tough conference opponents in its hopes to defend its ACC title. If Proctor can put all three of his best traits together — shooting, facilitation and on-ball defense — for three straight games, the Blue Devils will be hard to stop. Whether this is the sophomore’s final ACC title run or not, he’ll hope to make his mark in helping Duke secure its 24th conference title. 


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