Many different members of the Duke basketball team have received a great deal of attention over the past few weeks. Jabari Parker is widely regarded as one of the best recruits in the country. Rodney Hood briefly gave everyone an injury scare but should be ready to go for the start of the season and could be the best transfer in America. Amile Jefferson is adding weight to become more physical and improving his offensive skills. And Quinn Cook is being praised for his commitment to become more consistent and take on more of a leadership role.
With all the focus being given to these players this offseason, it’s been easy to forget about Rasheed Sulaimon.
And if you’ve forgotten about Sulaimon, you’ve forgotten about one of Duke’s most dangerous weapons.
Sulaimon had some brilliant moments during the 2012-13 season as a freshman, but he struggled with consistency. That’s expected when a player is going through his first season at a major college basketball program.
Still, the 6’4” guard from Houston, Texas, averaged 11.6 points and nearly 30 minutes per game. His shooting percentages were also respectable, as he was 42% on field goals, 37% on three-point field goals, and 80% from the free throw line. He scored in double figures in 22 games last season. He also showed the ability to play intense perimeter defense and never backed down from a challenge of trying to stop another team’s scorer.
His performance earned him a spot on the ACC’s All-Freshman team and he was the runner up for ACC Freshman of the Year, which went to Olivier Hanlan of Boston College. Many believed Sulaimon should have won the award.
Yet, as we move closer to the 2013-14 season, he is still a player who’s flying under the radar.
Because of all the hype and the anticipation fans have with Rodney Hood and Jabari Parker, people are forgetting about the talent Sulaimon possesses.
He has a fantastic mid-range game and the ability to get to the rim and finish against contact. And as an 80% free throw shooter, Duke benefits when Sulaimon is aggressive and looks to attack with the ball in his hands. He was a streaky outside shooter last season but that should improve with extra work in the offseason and hopefully his shot selection will improve as he matures.
You could also tell last season that Sulaimon has a killer-instinct about him that defines great players. He took it personally anytime scored a basket against him and he loved looking for his shot in clutch moments. To see that confidence in a freshman is special.
This offseason, Sulaimon is part of the U.S. National U19 team that is competing in the FIBA U19 World Championship. Not surprisingly, Sulaimon has played a key role in guiding the U.S. team to an undefeated record through the tournament thus far.
That’s what he does. Rasheed Sulaimon helps teams win. He makes plays on both ends of the court, whether people notice him or not.
And Duke fans shouldn’t forget about the opportunity to see how good he’ll be in his sophomore season.