Despite the debut of two big pieces in Saturday’s win over Maine, Duke is still far from 100 percent.
But as coach Mike Krzyzewski has said for weeks, the Blue Devils are close to being the team they intended to be.
Freshman center Marques Bolden was cleared to play Friday and contributed 12 minutes in Duke’s 94-55 win at Cameron Indoor Stadium, the last of its four-game homestand.
Prized wing Jayson Tatum made his college debut after recovering from an October sprained ankle, nearly posting a double-double with 10 points and eight rebounds. Seven came off the defensive glass as the 6-foot-8, 205-pound freshman tried to push the pace early in the first half against Maine.
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It elevates our team. Our team has a new happiness, a new verve, a new identity to it. When (Grayson) and Frank get back, it’ll be even more.
Forward Amile Jefferson
Bolden at 6-11, 245 pounds, offers Duke a look it wants to use before opening its ACC schedule at the end of this month.
But even with a couple of the injured freshmen back, the Blue Devils will use a light December and their exam period to push for a 100 percent healthy squad.
Frank Jackson and Grayson Allen sat out Saturday’s win with respective foot issues. Jackson, a freshman guard who’s averaged 30 minutes in eight games (four starts) this season, had a sore foot. Allen was still battling turf toe, which can be painful if he lands awkwardly on it. The goal is for both of them to be ready by Tuesday.
I will tell you this, God bless being the US coach for the last 10 years, because that’s helped me immensely in handling so many of these things without going ‘Ahhh!’
Harry Giles, who’s recovering from knee surgery, finally practiced against contact this week, and Krzyzewski said he may be ready after exams.
“He’s close to doing stuff,” Krzyzewski said of the top 5 prospect. “He’s been away for over a year, so I want him to do more five-on-five when he can do five-on-five in practice.”
Duke’s had two challenging games this season against Kansas and against Michigan State, in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Outside of freshman Javin DeLaurier’s one minute at the end of the first half of the Kansas game, Duke used a six-man rotation in those two contests. The Blue Devils were able to beat MSU with strictly six players last Tuesday.
Saturday was a good time to work in the freshmen, since they were available. They were able to shake off a little rust before Duke gets Florida at Madison Square Garden in Tuesday’s Jimmy V Classic. The freshmen needed the reps: Tatum caught a cramp in his right calf early in the second half, staying out the rest of the game. Bolden hadn’t done anything in nearly five weeks before Saturday, as he was cleared to play Friday after practice, and he got tired in Saturday’s Maine game.
“I don’t have the exact line items here,” Krzyzewski said. “We’re just trying to deal with the bottom line that eventually everybody gets well. I’m not trying to be evasive or anything like that, just kind of running motion offense here in how these guys are coming back and how we can put them in. I will tell you this, God bless being the U.S. coach for the last 10 years, because that’s helped me immensely in handling so many of these things without going ‘Ahhh!’
“Privately, there have been a few ‘Ahhhs!’ ”
Jessika Morgan: 919-829-4538, @JessikaMorgan