Top-ranked Duke deals with injuries as Marist awaits
DURHAM, N.C. — Duke's available roster has already evolved and that's before the season opener Friday night against Marist.
But the convenient part for the Blue Devils, who enter the season with the No. 1 ranking, is that there might be a surplus of talent.
That talent goes on display with the first game of the season at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
“A luxury is that we have so many talented guys that our practices are really intense,” fifth-year senior forward Amile Jefferson said. “I think we'll be OK.”
Duke played two preseason games without forward Jayson Tatum, who suffered a foot injury in practice more than two weeks ago, and center Harry Giles, who's coming off a surgical procedure in September.
Coach Mike Krzyzewski said he expects Tatum to be on the court for the opener, though Giles won't play in the first weekend.
Then the team announced this week that freshman forward Marques Bolden, who's another member of the heralded recruiting class, will miss at least two games because of a lower-leg ailment after sitting out the second exhibition.
Senior guard Matt Jones said the Blue Devils are benefiting from using various player combinations during practices and in the team's two exhibition romps past Division II teams.
“We're still learning about each other and learning the flow of the game,” Jones said.
Krzyzewski said the injury bug is a concern in general.
“We had a lot of big, athletic guys in Duke polos,” he said, referring to players out of uniform on the bench for exhibition games.
Duke, which is the top-ranked team in the preseason for the eighth time, is aiming for a season-opening victory for the 17th year in a row. Krzyzewski has a 34-2 record in openers as coach of the Blue Devils.
Marist arrives as the opponent for a game that's part of the Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament. Duke starts the season with home games on back-to-back days, with Saturday's matchup coming against Grand Canyon.
“Once we start Friday, we'll play eight games in November,” Krzyzewski said, noting the busy schedule. “We feel really good about (Tatum) and things for him have moved on really well.”
Duke and Marist have never faced each other.
Third-year coach Mike Maker is aiming for some traction with the Red Foxes. Marist is coming off a pair of seven-win seasons.
Twice, Maker took Williams College to the Division III championship game. He has one 30-win season, so that pales in comparison to Krzyzewski.
Marist fifth-year senior guard Khallid Hart is the leading returning scorer in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference. He posted 20.3 points per game last season while averaging a league-high 36.5 minutes per game.
As a team, the Red Foxes were picked to finish eighth in the preseason coaches' poll.
Marist also unveils guard Richie Mitchell, a junior college transfer after one season at Weatherford College.
“He will add quickness and playmaking ability to our backcourt and he has a reputation for being a great teammate and a hard worker,” Maker said.
It's a daunting opening stretch for the Red Foxes, who play only one of their first five games at home.
Marist became Duke's opening opponent after Albany, which had been scheduled to play in Durham, pulled out because of New York's public-school ban on non-essential travel to North Carolina because of the state's controversial law known as HB2.