By Mychal Hunter
I bag on Duke. I bag on Duke a lot. I get that. There are some things that need to be said about it though.
- If you are a Duke hater, it is most likely because you covet their success. As an avid Georgia Tech fan, there are programs in the ACC I respect, there are some that I am indifferent about and then there is Duke. However, I would give my back teeth for G-Tech to have the kind of sustained success that the Blue Devils have experienced over the last 30 years.
- If you are a Duke fan, you know. You are the Yankees of college basketball. To steal a term from Barstool, you are the “Brad” of the NCAA.
Now there are things that the Duke program and fans could do to possibly soften some of the hatred from other fans around the country. You could tell your point guards to stop slapping the floor on defense. You could tell Dick Vitale to tone it down when he’s expected to at least feign indifference during a national broadcast and you could admit that maybe, possibly, there is some semblance of truth that your basketball recruiting isn’t all above board. Also, admit that the Gerald Henderson elbow was one of the dirtiest plays in the history of organized sports. What a fucking punk.
For the fans of other programs who are reading this, know one thing: Duke fans are never going to do any of that.
There is of course one other thing that Duke seems to have every season. Some awkward white kid who is not the most charismatic, but can straight up play ball. Something you should know, he’s already in Durham.
Alex O’Connell is his name and being freakishly athletic is his game. A native of Georgia, O’Connell was pursued by both GT and Georgia along with everyone else in the area, but it became quite apparent early on that he coveted one offer in particular. Shortly after Coach K came calling, O’Connell was a Blue Devil.
The #68 recruit in the 2017 class, O’Connell is a 6-5 shooting guard and a really interesting player. I’m not sure you would believe it unless I showed it to you, so here it is.
The second video is hilarious to me because if I am watching that all I am thinking is “who the fuck is #11? He doesn’t look like he can run with these guys…..OH SHIT!”
The first video shows that pure jumper. The kid can flat out shoot the ball. In his freshman campaign he averaged 3.3 points and 1.4 rebounds in 10 mpg. Nothing too spectacular, but the peripherals are there. 48.9% from deep. 54.5% from deep in conference play. An effective field goal percentage of 60%. For a freshman wing player? Not bad. 12.7 points per 40 along with 5 boards, 2 assists and a steal? Again, I’d take it.
This kid just needs his shot and he will join the ranks of Grayson Allen, JJ Redick, Greg Paulus, Mike Dunleavy Jr. , any of the players whose last name was Mason and of course, Wojo. The man who made floor slapping…well I won’t say cool, but…yeah.
The only difference between O’Connell and the other guys listed is due to the revamped Duke recruiting emphasis, he will most likely be relegated to a bench role to start his sophomore campaign. Cam Reddish and RJ Barrett are going to suck up a lot of minutes on the wing, but AOC should most likely be the 6th man in Coach K’s historically short bench.
Will he be a star this year? Maybe. Injuries happen. Prospects don’t always live up to the hype. Could he be? In my humble opinion, the only thing this kid needs is an opportunity.
By the way, if he doesn’t play this year, it will just be another example of Duke bringing in recruits for the sake of preseason class rankings and then recruiting over them with haste. If you think I am wrong, let’s check tape. Semi Ogeleye. Jordan Tucker. Taylor King. Chase Jeter. Javin DeLaurier. Derryck Thornton. Don’t even fight me on Thornton. The following year Duke had Frank Jackson and Jayson Tatum (who was projected to play point guard). I’m not saying you turn those guys away, but I’m sure they didn’t tell DT he would be buried during his sophomore season.
So for those wondering, he is already there folks and he is damn good. I just wonder about the opportunity. He could be starting for Louisville or Miami this year. Instead he’s buried behind another all-time freshman class at a program that is just going to sign a handful of 5 star kids for next year too.