Talk about the irony.
First, NC State lost out a not so competitive recruiting battle for Raleigh’s Ryan Kelly more than four years ago. Then, last year, Amile Jefferson (click for tag) broke the hearts of WolfpackNation when he publicly announced for Duke just days after he told the NC State coaches and some players that he was going to announce for State.
Now, Ryan Kelly is hurt. What will Duke do? Will Amile Jefferson be thrust into a huge role?
Let me preface this piece by saying I have no inside knowledge of what Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski’s plan is sans Ryan Kelly or am I claiming to be smarter than the Blue Devils staff when it comes to what they should do.
Alex Murphy and Amile Jefferson may be Duke’s best options for dealing with the loss of Ryan Kelly.
I can, like everyone else, only hypothesize about what Duke will do to compensate without one of its best players for the foreseeable future. Unlike some though I think that the Blue Devils will adjust and be just fine though admittedly it could take some time.
For starters who starts in place of the injured Kelly. Well all signs right now have to point to 6-foot-7 junior forward Josh Hairston. Hairston isn’t Kelly, isn’t even close but he has the confidence of Krzyzewski to play the role he has been assigned to play. The questions is will his role change drastically with Kelly gone? It really shouldn’t because Hairston’s limited in what he can do well.
He plays hard, there is no mistaking that but he isn’t a real scoring threat. He can play respectable defense but he isn’t going to be the guy Krzyzewski puts on an opponents best player. He is a servicable body and a player who can hustle but who isn’t going to overwhelm anyone. In short he is a role player and his role isn’t changing.
The two guys whose roles are most likely to change are Amile Jefferson and Alex Murphy. Neither is averaging big minutes; Jefferson 8.8 minutes per game and Murphy at 5.6 minutes per game. Those two will probably see an increase in their floor time now but what in terms of production they provide is a mystery.
Jefferson isn’t going to be a major scoring threat but he can slash a little bit and attack the basket. He is not quite strong enough to bang against bigger, stronger, more experienced post players and he isn’t even close to the shooter Kelly is. That means he is going to have to pick his scoring opportunities and get chances on put backs and fast breaks. If he can hit a free throw with any consistency then you might start seeing him attack the basket even more.