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Size a Concern for Blue Devils

With the departure of senior big men Mason Plumlee and Ryan Kelly, the Blue Devils appear undersized entering the 2013-2014 season. With Marshall Plumlee as the only player taller than 6’8’’, Duke might be hard-pressed to deal with physical, strong-rebounding teams that employ lineups with 2 bigs. Even with Mason Plumlee and Kelly anchoring the boards, the Blue Devils finished 213th overall in rebounding with 33.8 rebounds per game. With a lineup presumably featuring Marshall Plumlee and either Josh Hairston or Rodney Hood anchoring the 4 and 5 spots, it’s hard to envision this ranking getting better. Without an improvement in this category, teams like Louisville and Michigan State will continue to give Duke problems with their ability to create second chance opportunities for themselves on offense and prevent multiple shots on defense. As the best coach in the game, Coach K has certainly already thought of ways to mask his team’s size deficiency, and the Blue Devils have one of the most athletic and explosive set of wing players with Jabari Parker, Rodney Hood, Rasheed Sulaimon, Semi Olejeye, and Matt Jones. However, as shown by this season’s loss to Louisville in the regional final, a game in which the Blue Devils were outrebounded 35 to 26, size can sometimes play a pivotal role in game between two otherwise evenly matched teams.

With Duke only showing great interest in one center prospect, Jahlil Okafor, in the class of 2014, it is abundantly necessary that they aim for center prospects in the class of 2015. Even if they obtain Okafor, it is likely that he is a one-and-done type of player, leaving the Blue Devils without another big in 2015. By this time, Parker, Hairston, and Hood would likely have left the Blue Devils, leaving Marshall Plumlee, assuming he stays for a redshirt senior season, as the only player that could play the 4 or 5. To the end of ensuring one or two big men for the 2015 season, Duke has already shown interest in three 2015 center prospects according to ESPN recruiting. Based on a Rivals report, one of them, Skal Labissiere, has apparently made enough of an impact on the Duke coaching staff that the Blue Devils are preparing a substantial push for his services. While at first glance it may seem too early to start worrying about 2015 prospects, center is definitely a position of need for Duke, and the earlier the coaching staff makes an impression, the better off the team will be.