Coming from the Maryland area and having family in North Carolina, who are die hard N.C. State fans, I try my best not to root for Duke whenever the team appears on my television screen.
But, I will be insulting my basketball intelligence not saying the Blue Devils’ beat down on Kentucky in the Champions Classic on Tuesday evening was one of the most exciting things I’ve seen in a long time.
It was so fun that I couldn’t avoid taking the time to write about freshmen Zion Williamson, RJ Barrett and Cam Reddish leading the Blue Devils to a 118-84 demolishing derby victory over John Calipari’s Wildcats.
There was so much hype surrounding Duke’s talented freshmen class before they even stepped on campus. Barrett, Williamson and Reddish were the top three players in the 2018 recruiting class. Williamson, who has more Instagram followers than some NBA players, was talked about since his sophomore year of high school. Reddish was already known to be a high level scorer, and Barrett, the Canada native, is considered be the top pick in the 2019 NBA Draft.
It was just a matter of if their game could translate to the college level, especially Williamson, who is weighs more than New York Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge.
Well, all those questions were answered against Kentucky.
Duke’s trio of freshmen combined to score 83 points and outscored the entire Kentucky team in the first half.
Barrett’s 33-point performance was the most points scored by a Duke freshman in program history. Barrett looked similar to Houston Rockets’ guard James Harden, as he was constantly attacking the basket and getting to the free throw line. Something Harden has mastered. Barrett also showcased his outside shooting and distributing, registering six assists.
Reddish registered 22 points and showed off his range, converting a trio of three pointers. He wasn’t as electrifying as Williamson and Barrett, but his scoring capabilities couldn’t be denied.
Williamson showed he was more than his highlight reel dunks. Williamson scored 28 points on 11-13 shooting, seven rebounds and knocked down a three-pointer.
Williamson was hitting mid-range shots, attacking the basket at will and ran the floor like a guard even though he is 6-foot-7 and weighs 285 pounds. Williamson basically couldn’t be stopped. And the way he passed and handled the ball is rarely seen by players his size.
Duke has had plenty of talented freshmen classes, but it was just something special when watching the game last night. They looked like they’ve been playing together for years.
Then you can’t forget Tre Jones, whose ability to run the point and pass the ball well maybe overshadowed by Williamson and Barrett’s explosiveness.
I think what really made the Blue Devils standout is their chemistry on the court, and the way they passed the ball to one another. It was simply remarkable.
Remind you, Duke wasn’t going up against a mid-major school. The Blue Devils defeated Kentucky, who is the second best team in the nation and had the second best recruiting class coming into the season.
It’s too soon to say this team will go undefeated and win a National Championship. At the same time, the combination of these players and Head Coach Mike Krzyzewski can do something we have never seen before in college basketball.
I don’t know about you, but I’m definitely tuning in when Duke plays.