If Duke men’s basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski wants to set NCAA history next season with his 13th Final Four appearance, he will have to do it with an entirely new starting lineup of Blue Devils, as this past season’s starting five is headed to the NBA.
The last possible holdover, freshman Wendell Carter Jr., announced Monday that he will declare for the NBA draft, thus foregoing his final three years of eligibility.
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I’ve put a lot of thought into this tough decision. Attending Duke University has always been a dream of mine. Playing for Coach K was once a dream of mine but God’s endless blessings has made that a reality. I’ve been given the opportunity to chase another lifelong dream of mine in playing in the NBA and with that being said, I will be entering the 2018 NBA Draft with intent of signing with an agent. I will like to thank my family, friends, and fans for being there with me every step of the way. I will forever be a Blue Devil ! #Brotherhood ?⚪️
“I want to thank Duke University, my coaches and teammates for helping me so much, not only on the court, but off it as well,” Carter said in a statement, according to ESPN.
“We’re all brothers, we all have each other’s backs. I’m really going to miss being around my friends, but I’m really going to cherish the moments we had together. I’m very excited and very happy to say I was part of something special here at Duke,” he added.
Unfortunately, the lasting image of Carter in a Duke uniform is the questionable blocking foul that he was called for in the Elite Eight. It ended up being his last play for the Blue Devils, as it was his fifth foul and Duke would go on to lose the game.
— The Sports Poller (@TheSportsPoller) March 26, 2018
Carter joins three other freshmen who left Duke early: Marvin Bagley III, Gary Trent Jr. and Trevon Duval. Senior Grayson Allen has also declared for the draft.
Monday is a special day for Carter, not only due to his announcement, but because it’s his 19th birthday. He’s the youngest of the four Duke freshman who declared and arguably the smartest as well , as he considered attending Harvard but ultimately decided against it.
In 37 games last season, Carter averaged 13.5 points per game and 9.1 rebounds. He also led the team with 2.1 blocks per game.
This marks the first time in Duke basketball history that four freshmen have declared for the draft in the same year. Carter becomes the 16th freshman overall to leave the program after one year.
But showing how times have changed under Krzyzewski, 12 of those freshmen to leave early have done so in the last five years.
“It was such an honor to coach Wendell,” Krzyzewski said in a statement. “He and his family were a true joy to have in our program and they’ll always be in our program. He had a sensational freshman year — a double-double guy — and he has so much more potential. He’s going to keep getting better, because he’s talented and he has the best attitude. He really represented himself, his family and Duke in a first-class manner, and whoever gets him is going to be very lucky.”
According to the Duke Chronicle, with all of the NBA departures, Krzyzewski will have to replace more than 86 percent of the team’s scoring from last year.
But Duke doesn’t rebuild — it simply reloads — and the school has one of the greatest incoming freshman classes in NCAA basketball history.
The top three players in in this year’s recruiting class are all headed to Durham: R.J. Barrett, Zion Williamson and Cam Reddish.
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