Just when No. 7 Duke’s roster had reached full strength, another injury has come along to knock a key player from the lineup.
Senior forward Amile Jefferson will become the eighth Duke player to miss a game this season when a bone bruise in his right foot keeps him out of the Blue Devils’ game at No. 9 Florida State Tuesday night (8 p.m., WRAZ).
Jefferson suffered the injury late in the first half of Saturday’s 93-82 win over Boston College at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Even though head coach Mike Krzyzewski was absent following Friday’s back surgery, the Blue Devils had all of their players — minus forward Sean Obi who is not expected to play this season — in uniform and participating in pregame warmups.
Before halftime arrived, Jefferson had hobbled to the bench and later to the locker room after injuring the same foot where he suffered a season-ending fracture in December 2015.
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Duke associate head coach Jeff Capel, Duke’s acting head coach while Krzyzewski recovers, said Monday that medicals tests showed a bone bruise this time. Jefferson won’t play against the Seminoles and will be re-evaluated Wednesday before determining his availability for Duke’s game at No. 14 Louisville on Saturday (noon, ESPN).
Duke has played games without most of its top players all season, from junior guard Grayson Allen (toe injury, suspension) to freshmen Jayson Tatum (foot) and Harry Giles (knee).
The loss of Jefferson, though, looms larger in the bigger picture.
“Amile is as important a player that we have,” Capel said. “His importance, his value can not be measured by just numbers and the numbers themselves are incredibly impressive. But the things that he does, coaches really value the things that he does. You see it a little different, the leadership, the talking, the experience. Being the most respected guy on the court and in the locker room.”
One of two team captains, the 6-foot-9 Jefferson has started every game this season, averaging a double-double with 13.1 points and 10.6 rebounds.
He was also averaging a double-double (11.4, 10.3 rebounds) through nine games last season when he broke his right foot in practice.
On top of that production, though, is Jefferson’s leadership and experience. He’s a key traffic cop on the defensive end for Duke, barking out instructions to his teammates on the court in real time.
Opposing coaches notice how big that is for the Blue Devils.
“They seem very vocal, very intelligent,” Florida coach Mike White said after Duke beat his Gators 84-74 in New York on Dec. 6. “You can hear Amile chirping a bunch as kind of an anchor. Sometimes you think that means that I’m only speaking to the interior side of things. But he’s out there catching ball screens or crowding ball screens or downing ball screens or whatever he is doing, you can hear him vocally leading that charge and getting guys in the right spots. He’s really impressive.”
Unlike last season when Jefferson missed the final two-thirds of the season, Duke has far more depth in the post.
Giles has started the last two games and finally appears healthy after having arthroscopic knee surgery last October.
We will evaluate him Wednesday.
Jeff Capel on Amile Jefferson
Marques Bolden missed eight games with a left foot injury and is also showing more effectiveness. He’s played 22 minutes over Duke’s last two games after playing just 27 over the previous five games.
Duke could also get 6-10 sophomore Chase Jeter back in the mix inside. Jeter missed Duke’s last two games with an unspecified back injury but is back at practice.
“He improved (Sunday) and so he will be available (Monday) in practice and (Tuesday),” Capel said.
Another freshman big man, 6-8 Javin DeLaurier, could also provide post depth although he’s only played in eight games due to a right foot injury.
“He had a good workout (Sunday),” Capel said.
Still, just as a few guys get healthier, Duke finds itself down a major piece once again. Unlike in November and December, Jefferson’s injury comes with a tough slate of ACC games on the horizon for Duke.
After games at Florida State and Louisville, the Blue Devils have home games with Miami (Jan. 21) and N.C. State (Jan. 23) before two more road games at Wake Forest (Jan. 28) and No. 20 Notre Dame (Jan. 30).
Krzyzewski, who is expected to be out up to four weeks, could be back by then, but now Duke has to be concerned about Jefferson’s injury.
“He’s not going to be available (at Florida State), and we don’t know after that,” Capel said. “But like we’ve done all year, guys have to step up. Guys have to do more and we feel like guys will be ready to do that.”
Steve Wiseman: 919-419-6671, @stevewisemanNC
Duke at Florida State
When: 8 p.m. Tuesday
Where: Donald L. Tucker Civic Center, Tallahassee, Fla.
TV/Online: WRAZ, ACC Network