The exodus from Durham, North Carolina has been both massive and expected to this point following Duke Basketball’s disappointing second round exit from the NCAA tournament at the hands of South Carolina. The seniors were guarantees: Matt Jones and Amile Jefferson had run out of eligibility after four (or more) years of dedicated service to the team. Jayson Tatum and Harry Giles were similar guarantees as their “one” portion of the one-and-done label was now complete and the greener pastures of NBA contracts awaited. Luke Kennard, similarly, played his way out of college with one of the best seasons the Cameron Crazies have seen in some time. But that was supposed to be it.
Some thought Grayson Allen would leave but a disappointing 2016-17 season which once again saw him the center of foot-related controversy coincided with a significant decrease in statistical excellence after his amazing sophomore campaign. Allen’s return coupled with Frank Jackson’s continued growth had the inklings of a superb backcourt partnership, further cemented by Jackson’s stellar finish to the season. That dream is no more, however, as Frank Jackson declared this weekend that he would enter the NBA draft, although he declined to sign an agent. It is unclear where exactly Jackson projects to land but he will almost certainly not be a lottery pick and might find himself lucky to even be in the first round. The former number 12 overall recruit showed flashes of that talent in his one year in a Duke uniform but struggled to find the consistency shown by other top end point guards such as De’Aaron Fox, Markelle Fultz, and Lonzo Ball.
Going forward this leaves a huge hole at point guard for the Blue Devils, whom have struggled in the two seasons since Quinn Cook and Tyus Jones led Duke to a National Championship in 2015. There may still be hope, with the fifth ranked recruit Trevon Duval still uncommitted. Duke is in the mix for Duval, and the silver lining of Jackson’s departure could be that added playing time lures Duval to Durham. On top of Duval two more top ten recruits remain unsigned and Kevin Knox seems likely to end up wearing a Duke uniform next year. With Gary Trent, Jr. and Wendell Carter already signed, the potential for four top ten recruits would bring another season of high expectations for Mike Krzyzewski and his squad. As it is Antonio Vrankovic, Javin DeLaurier and Jack White should all see additional playing time next year and their development will be critical in avoiding another disappointing season for the Blue Devils. The only problem: none of those guys are point guards.
Perhaps the biggest reason that Duke failed to live up to their lofty expectations this season was the lack of a true point guard. Frank Jackson’s departure leads a huge hole as Duke has no true point guards left on the roster. If things are going to change next season, it all could rely on the decision of Trevon Duval and where he decides to spend the one season before making the jump to the NBA. If it’s at Duke, then they should be in business. If it isn’t… Grayson Allen might have to put the Devils on his back for them to have a chance.