Breaking: Duke Basketball Head Coach Jon Scheyer Addresses Roster Adjustment with the Addition Of Another Sensational Star…

After concluding his second season as Duke’s basketball coach with another 27-9 record, Jon Scheyer is forging ahead with a refreshed vision. In his inaugural season, he led the Blue Devils to an ACC championship and, in his second, to within a game of the Final Four. Despite these successes, the Blue Devils have yet to achieve the program’s highest goal—the NCAA championships, which they won five times under Mike Krzyzewski’s Hall-of-Fame leadership.

“There are some good building blocks there,” Scheyer told the News and Observer. “But I always want more. I strive for higher standards in everything we do.” This means rebuilding the Duke roster from the ground up, a massive overhaul that’s becoming common in modern college basketball, though it has been unsettling for some longtime Duke fans. Following the 2023-24 season, seven players exited via the transfer portal, while the Blue Devils brought in four new transfers.

“There weren’t going to be promises or assurances for anyone in terms of guaranteed minutes or starting positions,” Scheyer stated. “Our program is built on competition. We’re doubling down on that, even when the environment encourages promises. Our promise is to give you everything we have as a coaching staff and support team.”

Scheyer aims to build a team that’s highly competitive, both internally and externally. This includes two freshmen expected to be top picks in the 2025 NBA Draft—6-9 forward Cooper Flagg and 7-2 center Khaman Maluach. They will join returning starters 6-5 junior guard Tyrese Proctor and 6-5 sophomore guard Caleb Foster.

Emphasizing Experience

While Duke welcomes six incoming freshmen, it also adds six experienced players who have started college games. Foster, a starter in 15 Duke games last season, is the least experienced among them. Mason Gillis, the Big Ten Sixth Man of the Year from Purdue, started 63 games during his four seasons. Another graduate student, 6-6 guard Sion James, started 61 games over the past two seasons at Tulane. Additionally, 6-8 junior forward Maliq Brown, who led the ACC in steals and made the league’s all-defensive team as a sophomore at Syracuse, joins the team, along with grad student guard Cameron Sheffield from Rice.

“We needed a group that was completely committed to Duke basketball, winning, and competing at the necessary level to achieve our goals,” Scheyer said.

Difficult Departures

Rebuilding the roster required tough conversations with some of last season’s players. Kyle Filipowski and Jared McCain entered the NBA Draft, where they are projected to be first-round picks. Senior guard Jeremy Roach, a key player in Duke’s 2022 Final Four team and a mainstay in Scheyer’s first two teams, entered the transfer portal while declaring for the NBA Draft. Roach has since withdrawn from the draft and will play at Baylor next season. Forward Mark Mitchell, who started 67 games in the past two seasons, transferred to Missouri. Reserve players Jaden Schutt, Sean Stewart, TJ Power, and Christian Reeves also transferred to other schools, and guard Jaylen Blakes is seeking a new school for his graduate year.

“You have to handle every conversation with total transparency and honesty,” Scheyer said. “I’m proud of each of those guys. We had conversations throughout the season about what they needed to do to improve and carve out a role. But we couldn’t promise anything for them to return. I wish all those guys the best of luck.”

Projected Starters

With the roster turnover, Duke’s projected starting five could include Foster, Proctor, Flagg, Brown, and Maluach. However, James and Gillis are strong contenders for starting positions in the backcourt. Freshmen Isaiah Evans, Kon Knueppel, and Darren Harris are known for their strong perimeter shooting, while 6-11 center Patrick Ngongba will compete for playing time inside with Maluach. This internal competition is exactly what Scheyer desires.

“To have a championship-caliber team, you need more than just five players capable of starting, and I believe we have that this year,” Scheyer said. “I couldn’t tell you right now who our starting lineup will be.”

Recovering from a broken right ankle that ended his freshman season in February, Foster is back on the court and shooting well. “We’re going to be conservative with him, but he’ll be back to full go 100% in the next few weeks,” Scheyer said. “Everything’s gone really well with him.”

Proctor returned to Australia when the academic semester ended but has since returned to campus, along with Gillis. Proctor, who averaged 10.5 points per game last season, struggled in Duke’s NCAA Tournament South Region final loss to N.C. State. Scheyer noted that Proctor’s December ankle injury limited him for the rest of the season. Getting Proctor back to full health is a priority.

“We need to get him back to full health and strength,” Scheyer said. “He wasn’t able to work the way he has in the past. There aren’t any excuses or finger-pointing. It’s about doubling down on who he is and who he can be as a player. I’m proud of what he’s done so far.”

The full team, except for a few exceptions, will be on campus in late June for their summer work. Maluach will play for South Sudan in the Paris Olympics in July, and Ngongba may play on the U.S. Under-18 national team this summer. Otherwise, the group is assembled and ready to be one of the nation’s best teams next season.

“We have the base of our team,” Scheyer said. “We’re a big team with the ability to switch positions and put size on the court. We want to play our way, asserting our presence regardless of the opponent.”

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