Duke’s coveted early start to the basketball season will take place without two members of its star-studded recruiting class on the court.
Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski announced Friday morning that freshmen Tre Jones and Cameron Reddish will not play when the Blue Devils play three exhibition games during a foreign trip to Canada next week.
The 6-2 Jones, a guard, arrived at Duke recovering from a hip injury while the 6-8 Reddish, a forward, has a groin muscle strain. Both players have been limited participants in Duke’s seven practices this summer, which are allowed for team’s taking an NCAA-approved foreign tour.
Neither injury is expected to linger into the season, Krzyzewski said. But, just to be certain, Duke is taking a cautious approach with both Jones and Reddish.
“I wish these two kids were completely healthy,” Krzyzewski said. “It’s not anything that we are worried about. But, again, it’s August. We shouldn’t put them in position where they might get a more serious injury as a result of playing them right now.”
Both Jones and Reddish have been at Duke for summer school classes while taking part in team activities.
Jones, the younger brother of former Duke guard Tyus Jones, is working with Duke’s athletic training staff on building up to full strength with his hip. Duke utilizes a system that monitors the players’ activity level and the plan to slowly ramp Jones up to full speed.
But he’s not there yet.
“He can play certain portions of practice,” Krzyzewski said. “You can actually see his improvement. But it’s got to be done in a gradual way.”
Reddish has yet to take part in a full practice for Duke because of the groin strain’s lingering effects.
“It just hasn’t gone away,” Krzyzewski said. “When you don’t play for a couple of days it seems like it’s OK, but then when you start you want to go right away and it comes back a little bit.”
Because of that, using Reddish in live game action could lead to an injury that could last much longer.
Krzyzewski said the plan with both players is for them to be ready on Labor Day when Duke resumes individual workouts with the coaching staff. The Blue Devils will take two weeks off following their Canada trip before resuming those workouts on Sept. 3.
The NCAA allows teams to take a foreign tour once over a four-year period and 10 extra practices are allowed in conjunction with the trips. With the freshmen who comprised the nation’s No. 1-ranked recruiting class expected to man the majority of the starting jobs, Duke hoped to use this bonus time to build cohesion quickly.
The injuries to Jones and Reddish, two players expected to have major roles this season, certainly throw a wrench in to that plan.
It helps, Krzyzewski said, that Duke is using a positionless system where any number of players can bring the ball up the court and get the team into its offense. That makes it easier to deal with the loss of Jones, who is known for his ball-handling and play-making skills.
Still, Duke will be a lesser team without Jones and Reddish. RJ Barrett, the top-ranked player in the class, will be asked to absorb more ball-handling responsibility.
“Having those two guys out will hurt our ball-handling for the trip,” Krzyzewski said. “It will put more emphasis on RJ being out there.”
Sophomore guards Alex O’Connell and Jordan Goldwire will get additional opportunities. Freshman Zion Williamson, a 6-7, 285-pound forward, will also get to show his skills with the ball.
“Zion plays all over the place,” Krzyzewski said. “We can learn more about them.”
Duke travels to Canada on Monday and will practice in the Toronto area on Tuesday. Duke plays games on Wednesday at 7 p.m. (against Ryerson) and Friday at 6 p.m. (against the University of Toronto) in Mississauga, Ontario, outside Toronto. The Blue Devils face McGill on Aug 19 at 3 p.m. in Laval, Quebec, which is outside of Montreal. All games will air on ESPN+.