An injury that first appeared to threaten to sideline Tre Jones for the remainder of the season may keep him out for less than two weeks.
Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski said Friday that Jones, Duke’s freshman point guard who separated his shoulder on Jan. 14 against Syracuse, is probable to return to play on Saturday against Georgia Tech.
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Jones started Duke’s first 16 games but has missed the last two since suffering the injury. He had four steals in the first five minutes against Syracuse before he and Orange guard Frank Howard collided while pursuing a loose ball.
Howard was called for a foul and Jones lay on the court writhing in pain. After the game, Duke announced that Jones was out indefinitely with an AC joint separation of the right shoulder.
Duke, after leading 14-2 against Syracuse, lost that game 95-91 in overtime at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
Three days later, Jones attended practice, without the sling he had been using to immobilize his right arm, as Duke’s medical staff became more confident he would only be sidelined for a few games.
Freshman forward RJ Barrett took over primary ball handling duties with Jones out. After playing a man-to-man defense with Jones pressuring the opposing ball-handler in the backcourt, Duke played some zone against Virginia and mostly zone at Pittsburgh with success.
Still, the Blue Devils (16-2, 5-1 ACC) have been a better defensive team with Jones on the court.
Since the Pittsburgh game, his return grew more and more likely.
On the Duke Basketball Radio Show Wednesday night, Duke assistant coach Nate James said Jones would be back “very, very soon.”
On a Duke podcast released Thursday, Duke assistant coach Jon Scheyer said Jones was “starting to do more and more on the court” and characterized his injury status as “more day-to-day than long term.”
The 6-2 Jones averages 8.1 points, 5.7 assists and 2.1 steals per game. He’s made 44.3 percent of his shots from the field.
Despite missing two games and all but a few minutes of a third, Jones remains tied for second on the team in steals. His 33 are tied with Cam Reddish behind only Zion Williamson’s 36.
Prior to Jones’ injury, Duke ranked as high as No. 2 in the country in defensive efficiency, according to Ken Pomeroy’s advanced statistics at KenPom.com.
Duke’s play against Syracuse, Virginia and Pittsburgh -- mostly without Jones -- now have it at No. 7, allowing .887 points per possession.
In the loss to Syracuse, where the coaching staff had to scrap the game plan mid game due to Jones’ injury, Duke allowed 1.04 points per possession.
In beating Virginia, where the Blue Devils used a switching man-to-man at all five positions and mixed in some zone, they allowed 1.11 points per possession.
At Pittsburgh, playing primarily zone, Duke allowed 0.94 points per possession.
Duke remains No. 1 in the country in steal percentage, ending 13.7 percent of its opponents possessions with a steal. That number was 14.7 percent two weeks ago, before Jones was injured and Duke also played without Reddish (flu-like symptoms) the entire game against Syracuse.