It’s been said over and over and over again.
Duke has the best freshman class in the country. The rookie group of six is potent with talent with a couple of top 5 prospects in the mix.
But, as T.I. would say: Where they at, though?
Three five-star freshmen were sidelined due to injury-related causes in Duke’s 94-49 season-opening win over Marist at Cameron Indoor Stadium on Friday.
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Forward Harry Giles, who has yet to play anything in a Duke uniform, is still not ready to come back after a knee scope.
Wing Jayson Tatum, who was expected to suit up for the opener, sat on the bench in a Duke polo rather than a jersey, because he prematurely returned to practice after spraining his foot.
And forward Marques Bolden, the latest Blue Devil to be affected by the team’s bizarre injury bug, sat out nursing an unspecified lower-leg injury.
“It wasn’t an event,” Mike Krzyzewski said, addressing Bolden’s injury. “It’s too difficult to explain. He’s getting better. We gotta be careful not to try to get these guys coming back too soon. We’re just going to shut those guys down for a while. We can’t go through the whole year with lingering injuries.”
The other three Duke freshmen, Frank Jackson, Javin DeLaurier and Jack White, saw time against Marist. Jackson, a guard, led the trio with 25 minutes and a game-high 18 points. In his first official game as a Blue Devil, Jackson led all with four assists and four steals.
“Frank, he’s been doing that the whole preseason and into the exhibitions,” said senior guard Matt Jones, who was second with three steals against the Red Foxes on Friday. “When he was aggressive, it’s exciting to see. He’s obviously athletic. He can get in the lane and makes plays for other guys. For (the freshmen) to get that experience under their belt, we’re going to need that moving forward.”
Giles and Tatum, if 100 percent healthy, are good enough to be starters.
Without them on the floor, at least against such an outmatched opponent, Duke was still solid, efficient and unselfish.
They’re all really good. They’re all dynamic in their own right, and they all demand attention.
Senior Matt Jones on Duke freshmen
Nine players saw at least 12 minutes and five players finished scoring in double figures.
Both DeLaurier and Jackson played with four fouls in the second half, neither turning down the aggressive play.
“A lot of it’s just confidence from the coaches,” said DeLaurier, who put a Marist shot attempt against the glass late in the game for his lone block. “Coaches were telling me, yeah, four fouls, but don’t let that affect the way you play, go out there and play aggressive and try to make plays. It allowed me to free up a little bit, get the foul count out of my mind and just go out there and play basketball.”
Krzyzewski said there is no time frame for when the other freshmen will play. Junior forward Sean Obi (knee) is also out.
“We’re not the team we thought we were going to be at this time, but we’re a good team,” Krzyzewski said. “To be the team we hope to be, we gotta be healthy. I’m going to be really adamant about taking a longer time instead of a shorter time no matter what – no matter what.”
Jessika Morgan: 919-829-4538, @JessikaMorgan