Jack White’s presence on the court in place of Cam Reddish to start the second half for Duke on Saturday night felt more like an expectation than a shock.
One of two Duke captains, White’s play this season doesn’t draw the attention like Blue Devils freshmen stars Zion Williamson and RJ Barrett.
That doesn’t mean it’s unnoticed or unappreciated.
“Jack White has been the unsung hero of our team,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said after the Blue Devils whipped Clemson, 87-68.
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Reddish started the season held in similar regard to Barrett and Williamson, his fellow classmates. Like them, he expects to be at Duke for one season before entering the NBA as a first-round pick.
He scored 22 points in 25 minutes when Duke blasted Kentucky 118-84 in the season opener.
But Reddish isn’t producing or playing as well as Barrett, Williamson or White lately.
Over Duke’s last seven games, he’s only played more minutes that White three times. Reddish is a starter and White a bench player in name only.
So with Reddish saddled with three fouls to go with five turnovers and misses on all three of his shot attempts against Clemson over the first 20 minutes, Krzyzewski had White start the second half with Reddish on the bench.
White hit a 3-pointer 17 seconds into the half. That started a 14-0 Duke run that turned its seven-point halftime lead into a 54-33 advantage and it was lights out for the Tigers.
White scored 12 points with six rebounds, two blocked shots and two steals with no turnovers in 28 minutes, 44 seconds against Clemson.
Reddish made 1 of 8 shots while committing six of Duke’s 12 turnovers while playing only 16:24.
It looked like a low point of the season for Reddish. He’s been among Duke’s starting five to start every game and every second half this season until Saturday night.
Reddish said he was told foul trouble was the reason why he was removed from the lineup to start the half. Krzyzewski said he’s not giving up on the 6-8 forward.
“We have confidence in him,” Krzyzewski said. “But tonight was not a good night for him. Thank goodness our other guys stepped up. But he’ll be good. We have confidence in him.”
For the season, White has made 47.7 percent of his shots from the field, including 41.2 percent of his 3-point shots. Though White has no career starts and Reddish has started all 13 Duke games, White now played more minutes than Reddish this season.
Reddish’s season shooting percentage is down to 35.6 percent and he’s made 31 of 91 3-point attempts (34.1 percent). He has more turnovers (38) than any other Duke player.
“I think he’s just got to be stronger with the ball,” Krzyzewski said. “That’s an adjustment for all freshmen in the league. Like tonight (against Clemson), you are playing against men. He’ll be fine. But he didn’t play well tonight. He’s got to make the adjustment to play where it’s that physical. He can do that. He can do that.”
While he’s not producing on offense, Reddish is playing well defensively. His 28 steals lead the team and he had two even in limited minutes against Clemson.
“I haven’t been in a rhythm for God knows how long,” Reddish said. “I’m just trying to figure it out. I know on the defensive end I can get things going that way.”
Meanwhile, White keeps rolling along with consistent positive contributions.
“Jack is always going to give us great intensity,” Duke junior forward Javin DeLaurier said. “Anything you want in a teammate, Jack is going to do. He’ll put his body on the line. He’s going to lock up on defense. Grab rebounds and knock down shots. He makes the game so much easier. He’s a lot of fun to play with.”
White’s emergence has helped Duke stay dominant while Reddish is scuffling. No matter who is in the starting lineup Tuesday night when Duke plays at Wake Forest, both will have important roles for the Blue Devils this season.
Krzyzewski said it. Reddish’s teammates agree.
“We have full confidence in Cam,” DeLaurier said. “We know he’s going to get out of this little slump he’s in. He’s super talented. We tell him whenever he has the ball and he’s open he should shoot.”