Duke needs a fifth starter to join its four freshmen. Here are the leading candidates.

Marques Bolden improves during practice as basketball season looms

Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski speaks about team veterans in opening press conference
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Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski speaks about team veterans in opening press conference

Four freshmen are penciled into Duke’s starting lineup this season.

The fifth player to join them figures to be an upperclassman and likely a bigger player.

Juniors Javin DeLaurier and Marques Bolden are in line to claim the spot and join newcomers Tre Jones, R.J. Barrett, Zion Williamson and Cameron Reddish in Duke’s revamped starting five.

While DeLaurier had the early lead, the foot injury that sidelined him for two weeks allowed Bolden to make up ground.

“With Javin being out,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said Monday, “Marques has had his best week of practice. He’s really..boom. He’s played really good.”

DeLaurier returned to the court on Monday and declared his foot, where a stress reaction had been causing discomfort, to be feeling good.

“I feel great,” DeLaurier said. “I’m excited to be back. The season is started. I’m ready to get rolling.”

Javin DeLaurier

No matter who starts, Bolden and DeLaurier both figure to get plenty of playing time this season.

Prior to DeLaurier’s injury, he was in the starting lineup with the freshmen, Krzyzewski said. The 6-10, 234-pound forward played well in Duke’s three exhibition games in Canada in August, averaging 7.3 points and 5.7 rebounds while making 10 of 13 shots from the field.

Just as important, Krzyzewski said, is that DeLaurier adds much-needed leadership on the court for a young team.

“The thing that Javin does is talk,” Krzyzewski said. “We noticed a slippage of talk with him being out. Marques has started to talk better this past week. But it hasn’t permeated throughout the whole team.

“The communication aspect of it has always been very critical to the success of our team.”

Duke basketball Coach Mike Krzyzewski, 71, said he's "in the best health he's been in in about 10 years" and jokes about all of the replacement body parts he's had replaced.

DeLaurier knows how important that aspect of the game is.

“I think one of my biggest strengths is my talk and my voice,” DeLaurier said. “Being able to talk to these young guys and communicate, to be honest, makes things flow a little better when I’m on the court. It might not be anything I’m doing in particular. But if you help guys work as a unit, everything is going to look a little better.”

Marques Bolden

The 6-11, 250-pound Bolden didn’t play well in Canada. Krzyzewski allows for that assessment. Bolden played just 39 minutes over three games and didn’t score.

Bolden said Monday he learned from that experience and he’s brought a better approach to practice this month.

“The energy level, coming in with the right mindset,” Bolden said. “I try to lead the freshmen and sophomores every day. Really just my mindset coming in everyday ready to work.”

Bolden arrived at Duke two years ago as a five-star recruit with one-and-done aspirations. Injuries and ineffective play have prevented his career from gaining much traction. But Krzyzewski said Bolden is healthy and Bolden agreed.

They both believe that allows him to show his best play.

“I think he’s’ the healthiest he’s been for a long time right now,” Krzyzewski said. “Maybe that’s part of what has clicked. And that opportunity to do more in practice.”

Duke takes the court at Cameron Indoor Stadium Friday night for its Countdown to Craziness event, which includes a Blue-White scrimmage at 8:25 p.m.

Next week, the Blue Devils have their two preseason exhibitions. The Blue Devils face Virginia Union at 7 p.m. on Oct. 23 and Ferris State at 4 p.m on Oct. 27.

What Krzyzewski and his staff see in those exhibition games will go a long way toward determining the starting lineup on Nov. 6, when Duke opens the regular season against Kentucky in the Champions Classic at Indianapolis.

DeLaurier and Bolden each said the four freshmen are easy to play with and their versatility is striking.

“They are so unselfish and so talented,” DeLaurier said. “There are no egos. They really just want to win. They are so competitive. Their will to win is fantastic.”

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