FanTake: The Best Duke Basketball Freshman Over the Past 15 Years

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As fans of Duke basketball, we have had the luxury of seeing a long list of great players take the court for the Blue Devils. Some of the greats have developed over a four year career, some have transferred in, and some have arrived on campus as freshmen ready to set the world on fire. Jabari Parker represents the latter. The forward from Chicago has displayed a skill set and suave demeanor usually reserved for seasoned vets. It’s easy for us to forget just how young Parker is when we watch him play. In honor of Parker and his stellar play so far this season let’s reminisce on the best freshman seasons of the past 15 years of Duke Basketball.

Corey Maggette 1998-1999

Corey Maggette wasn’t a starter for the Blue Devils, but his impact off the bench was undeniable. Maggette was one of the best 6th men in the country averaging 10.6 ppg and 3.9 rpg while shooting 52.5% from the field. The 98-99 Blue Devils went 37-2, going undefeated in conference play to win both the ACC Regular Season and Tournament Championship. After falling to Cincinnati in the second week of the season, Duke didn’t lose again until they met UConn in the NCAA Finals. Maggette was one of four Blue Devils taken in the first round of the 1999 NBA Draft, going with the 13th pick.

Jason Williams 1999-2000

As a freshman, Jason Williams started every game at point guard for the Blue Devils. Williams was more than ready for the spotlight, averaging 14.5 ppg, 6.5 apg, 4.2 rpg, and 2.4 spg on the season. Duke lost their first two games of the season, but finished 29-5, including a 15-1 mark in the ACC, winning the regular season. The Blue Devils also won the ACC Tournament and Williams was named the tournament’s most valuable player, averaging 17.6 ppg and 9.0 apg over the weekend. Williams was also voted as an All-ACC member, making the 3rd Team.

Chris Duhon 2000-2001

Chris Duhon was a solid contributor for the 2000-2001 Blue Devils all season, averaging 7.2 ppg, 4.5 apg, 3.2 rpg, and 2.0 spg, but it was his insertion in the starting lineup after the injury of Carlos Boozer that may have been the catalyst that propelled Duke to the National Championship. Duhon’s ability to run the point guard position as a freshman allowed star guard Jason Williams to move off the ball and created a faster team that proved to be unbeatable in the NCAA Tournament. Duke also captured the ACC Regular Season and Tournament Championship that season and Duhon became the first freshman under Coach Mike Krzyzewski to win the ACC Rookie of the Year Award.

J.J. Redick 2002-2003

J.J. Redick started every game for the 2002-2003 Blue Devils. The sharpshooting guard averaged 15.0 ppg, 2.0 apg, and 2.5 rpg while shooting 39.9% from three point range and 91.9% from the free throw line. His touch from long range that was on display in his first year as a Blue Devil was just a glimpse of what was yet to come. Redick scored 30 points in the finals of the ACC Tournament to lead the team to a victory over NC State. The freshman led the ACC in three pointers made. He was voted Third Team All-ACC.

Luol Deng 2003-2004

Luol Deng only played one season in a Duke uniform. He was a key player for a Blue Devil team that won the ACC Regular Season and went to the Final Four. The forward averaged 15.1 ppg, 6.9 rpg, 1.1 bpg, and 1.3 spg. Deng was a valuable asset on both ends of the floor, showing great quickness and ball handling for his size and using his length on the defensive end of the floor. Deng received Third Team All-ACC honors for the season and was named the Most Outstanding Player of in the Atlanta Region of the NCAA Tournament. He was the 7th pick in the 2004 NBA Draft.

Kyle Singler 2007-2008

Freshman forward Kyle Singler started all 34 games for the Blue Devils. He averaged 13.3 ppg and 5.9 rpg. Singler could stretch opposing defenses with his shooting ability and guard bigger players in the post on defense. He helped lead an overachieving Duke team to 22-1 start to the season, winning their first 10 games in the ACC, including a win on the road against a heavily favored North Carolina squad. Singler was voted as the ACC Rookie of the Year and a Third Team All-ACC member.

Kyrie Irving 2010-2011

Kyrie Irving only played in 11 games for the Blue Devils, but his impact and ability was undeniable. Irving came into Duke as the #1 rated point guard in the freshman class of 2010. When he was on the court he was one of the best players in the country. He averaged 19.5 ppg, 3.4 rpg, and 4.3 apg, while shooting over 50% from the field, over 45% from the three point line, and over 90% at the charity stripe. Duke was 10-1 with Irving on the court, including wins over #4 Kansas St., #6 Michigan State, and eventual National runner-up Butler. Irving declared for the NBA Draft and was the first player taken. It’s too painful to think of what might have been had Irving not injured his foot, it’s best to just appreciate the moments we got to experience with him on the court.

Austin Rivers 2011-2012

Austin Rivers came into Duke as the Rivals #1 recruit in the nation. The guard started 33 games for the Blue Devils. He led the team in scoring with 15.5 ppg to go along with 3.4 rpg and 2.1 apg. Rivers will forever have a place in sports history thanks to his buzzer beating three pointer to defeat rival North Carolina in Chapel Hill. Austin Rivers was the unanimous winner of the ACC Rookie of the Year award, as well as a First Team All-ACC member. He was the #10 pick in the 2012 NBA Draft.

Rasheed Sulaimon 2012-2013

As a freshman, guard Rasheed Sulaimon started 33 games and averaged 11.3 ppg, 3.4 rpg, and 1.9 apg. His play on the perimeter was the perfect complement for big men Mason Plumlee and Ryan Kelly. Sulaimon led the veteran team in scoring four times and his ability to create offense on the outside opened up things on the interior and took ball handling pressure off point guard Quinn Cook. He helped the team reach the Elite 8 of the NCAA tournament, losing to eventual National Champion Louisville.

For more on Duke, the ACC, and the wider world of sports, follow me on Twitter @BdotEdot.

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One Reply to “FanTake: The Best Duke Basketball Freshman Over the Past 15 Years”

  1. CB says:

    On the whole, great article that brought back some great memories.

    One quibble: How do you leave out Seth Curry while talking about Rasheed’s complementarity with last years team?

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