Decade Starting Five – Duke Blue Devils
Duke Basketball is synonymous with success so providing just five players for this list was tough. There have been countless players who went on to have great success in the NBA. But who were the best five players in a Duke uniform during the decade? We put out a poll over the past week on our Duke account for the people to vote on their all-decade Duke team. We took that into consideration, as we featured some of those players on our list. But as the official OTH Duke writer, I had to disagree on a few and will cite why in the article.
Duke played in thirty-four NCAA tournament games in the decade and won four ACC titles. They also won an ACC regular-season title and were national champions in 2010 and 2015. So who were the two best guards, two best forwards and best center in the decade? All but one of our starters was a national champion. This is because as Duke fans we know that all that matters to Coach Krzyzewski is banners.
Starting Point Guard: Tyus Jones
Tyus Jones was absolutely incredible during his one year at Duke. Now was Tyus the most talented Duke point guard during the decade? No, that honor goes to the number one pick of the draft that year Kyrie Irving. So why Tyus over Kyrie? Well as most Duke fans know all we care about is hanging banners. And Tyus Jones was spectacular, especially when it mattered the most, in big games. Whether it be against North Carolina in Chapel Hill or Wisconsin in the NCAA final, Tyus was clutch. He helped lead the Blue Devils to the 2015 title and won Final Four Most Outstanding Player. Kyrie may be the better pro player, but Tyus had a better career at Duke this decade.
Honorable Mention: Kyrie Irving
Starting Shooting Guard: Grayson Allen
Grayson Allen is a player that only Duke fans could love. People may call him dirty, but we remember Grayson for all of the great things he did at Duke. His dunk against UNLV was one of the best in-game college dunks this writer has seen. He played very little during his freshman year but did play huge minutes against Wisconsin in the final. His final three years Grayson was an All-American and two times All- ACC team selection. RJ Barrett got some consideration for being such a highly-touted prospect as well. But Grayson stayed all four years, which few players do. He also won a title and led the team during some down years at Duke as well.
Honorable Mention: RJ Barrett
Starting Small Forward: Kyle Singler
This is another selection where we valued their individual and team success in the uniform over just talent. Now we love Jayson Tatum and watching his growth in just one season was outstanding. But many forget how truly great Kyle Singler was early in the decade for Duke. Singler, Scheyer, and Smith were instrumental in Duke winning the 2010 NCAA title. Singler was named the Final Four Most Outstanding player in 2010 as well, which shows how well he played. Kyle was also a two-time All-ACC First Team selection as well in his career at Duke. Shoutout also to Justise Winslow, who also won a national title at the position.
Honorable Mention: Jayson Tatum
Starting Power Forward: Zion Williamson
Zion Williamson is the odd man out on this list, as he is the only one without a national title. He was so incredible to watch though that leaving him off this list would be a disservice. Other powers forwards like Marvin Bagley and Jabari Parker were also freshman sensations. They, like Zion, never brought home a banner. But what can be said about Zion that was not said on ESPN countless times. He was a once in a generation talent who amazed us every time he wore a Duke jersey. In one season he won ACC Rookie, Player, and Athlete of the Year. He also took home the Karl Malone Award for the best power forward. And to cap it off he a was the Consensus National Player of the Year and First Team All-American. It was an absolute pleasure to watch Zion Williamson play for Duke.
Honorable Mention: Marvin Bagley III
Starting Center: Jahlil Okafor
The final starter for the Duke decade starting five is Jahlil Okafor. Jahlil was the number one high school player in the nation and did not disappoint playing for Duke. His skills were unmatched at the center position and he took home all the awards his freshman year. He was ACC and National Freshman of the Year. Jah was also selected to the first team All-ACC and was ACC Player of the Year as well. Lastly, he was a consensus first-team All-American and most importantly helped lead Duke to a national title. Mason and Marshall Plumlee get some consideration for their lengthy careers at Duke, but none of them came close to Jahlil’s talent.
Honorable Mention: Mason Plumlee
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