Projected starting five.
PG Quinn Cook
Jr., 6-2, 180
11.7 points per game, 5.3 assists
Mike Krzyzewski emphasized several times during the preseason that Cook’s role will be different this year. With Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood instructed to take the ball up the floor and start the fast break if they grab rebounds, the need for a traditional point guard is minimized.
“He’s been good about trying to adjust his role as the so-called classic point guard on the team or whatever,” Krzyzewski said.
There are three things Cook has improved on from last season, though: his conditioning (“he’s in the best shape of his life,” Krzyzewski said), his ball-pressure defense and his shooting.
SG Rasheed Sulaimon
Soph., 6-4, 190
11.6 points, 3.4 rebounds
Sulaimon has length and athleticism that should translate to a nice career at the next level. But for this year, he has to learn how to play off and complement Hood and Parker, whom Krzyzewski has appointed the centerpieces of the offense.
“One of the main keys to this team is sacrifice,” Sulaimon said. “If coach says those two guys are the main guys, then, for me, I just have to do whatever it takes with my talents to help the team win. It’s not necessarily taking a back seat to those guys, it’s just using my talents with those guys.”
Easier said than done. Andre Dawkins and Matt Jones will challenge for this starting spot, too.
SF Rodney Hood
R-Soph., 6-8, 215
2011-12 at Mississippi State: 10.3 points, 4.8 rebounds
Last July, N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried took time out of his summer press conference to sing the praises of Hood, whom he was familiar with from his time as the coach at Alabama. Gottfried said Parker and Hood could go Nos. 2 and 3 in the 2014 NBA draft.
“There’s a lot of attention around Jabari Parker,” Gottfried said. “Wait until you see Rodney Hood. He’s that good.”
Krzyzewski thinks so, too, and the year he sat out only helped his development. He’s a long, high-flying athletic wing who can score inside and outside and guard positions 1-4, and, after watching last year’s seniors, has better learned how to work to maximize his talents.
“I remember times when Mason would shoot free throws at 7 in the morning, and his percentage went up,” Hood said. “That’s something I’m taking into my game, trying to improve every single week.”
PF Jabari Parker
Fr., 6-8, 235
To hear Parker tell it, he’ll have to grow into his role as the featured scorer. He would be just fine if he wasn’t.
“I love playing basketball,” he said. “I love playing the whole game. Getting rebounds, assists, setting screens.”
Rebounding has been a point of emphasis in the preseason, as opportunities on glass will lead to more points, either through a tip-in or a fast break, depending on what end of the floor. Krzyzewski has emphasized that his young potential superstar is an unfinished product, one that will continue to get better as the season goes along.
But he’s pretty good now.
“He’s everything he’s been hyped up to be,” Hood said. “He’s big, physical, very skilled, can play multiple positions, can handle the ball, shoot the ball. Way more athletic than I thought he was.”
PF Amile Jefferson
Soph., 6-9, 210
4.0 points, 2.9 rebounds
The name of the game is complementing Parker and Hood, and Krzyzewski thinks Jefferson might do that better than anyone else on the roster.
“He’s just gotten better at everything. He’s stronger,” Krzyzewski said. “He’s got an unbelievable personality to play the game. Exceptional personality to play the game. He’s such an easy guy to play with, not bothered on the court, he’s such a good teammate, and he’s got a 7-2 wingspan. So pressuring the ball, press, how you use him in those situations, because he’s not conventional.”