Discover the NBA players from Duke who entered the draft as freshmen, review their college stats, and see how they went on to make their mark on the biggest stage.
The NBA draft is the ultimate stage for aspiring basketball players to secure their future in the sport. When it comes to producing top-notch NBA talent, Duke University is a name that shines bright. With a legacy of unparalleled success, Duke has seen several of its players rise to the top of the game, especially the talented freshmen who showed exceptional promise early on in their college careers. In this exploration, we delve into the full list of NBA players from Duke that took the leap early, examining college basketball stats, and highlighting the most successful of all.
The NBA’s one-and-done rule
Picture this: it’s 1995 and the NBA has just opened its doors to a new wave of young talent. High school phenoms like Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant, and LeBron James are making headlines as they bypass college and jump straight to the pros. But fast forward ten years, and the NBA has a different policy in place.
Enter the “one-and-done” rule. This requires all players to wait at least one year after graduating high school. The non-international ballers must play college basketball for a season and be at least 19 years of age before entering the NBA draft. It’s taken over the draft since its inception in 2006, but for a decade before that, the league was a playground for raw, young talent.
NBA players from Duke that entered the draft as freshmen
Duke University’s basketball program is no stranger to creating NBA superstars. With an illustrious history and a reputation for excellence, Duke has become a breeding ground for top-tier talent. The program places a strong emphasis on recruiting the best prospects and shaping them into versatile, hard-working players with a high basketball IQ. This approach has resulted in a pipeline of players being ready to take the NBA by storm – some after just one year.
Below is the list of NBA players from Duke that entered the draft as freshmen since 1946-47. The table below includes the year each player made themselves eligible for the draft and their stats for the university.
|Marvin Bagley III||2018||33||21.0||11.1||1.5|
|Wendell Carter, Jr.||2018||37||13.5||9.1||2.0|
|Gary Trent, Jr.||2018||37||14.5||4.2||1.4|
|Vernon Carey, Jr.||2020||31||17.8||8.8||1.0|
|A.J. Griffin, Jr.||2022||39||10.4||3.9||1.0|
The 5 most successful Duke freshmen in the NBA
1. Kyrie Irving
Irving has had a successful NBA career as a dynamic point guard known for his ball-handling, scoring, and clutch performances. The eight-time All-Star played a crucial role in the Cleveland Cavaliers’ historic 2016 NBA championship run. He has since played for the Boston Celtics, Brooklyn Nets, and Dallas Mavericks.
2. Jayson Tatum
Tatum, drafted third overall by the Boston Celtics in 2017, has become a cornerstone player in Boston. The forward has earned multiple All-Star selections and won the Eastern Conference Finals’ MVP in 2022. His versatile scoring ability and impressive defensive skills have made him a formidable force.
3. Brandon Ingram
Ingram has had a promising NBA career since being selected second overall by the LA Lakers in the 2016 NBA draft. After being traded to the New Orleans Pelicans, the forward became a primary scoring option. This led to an All-Star nomination and the league’s most improved player award in 2020. He made the playoffs for the first time in 2022.
4. JJ Redick
Redick is a successful and prolific NBA sharpshooting guard known for his deadly accuracy from beyond the arc. The American played for several teams, including the Orlando Magic and LA Clippers, and made the playoffs 13 times. He broke several records at Duke and is the college’s all-time leading scorer. His No.4 jersey was retired after his departure. He quit the game in 2021 and now works as a sports analyst at ESPN.
5. Zion Williamson
Williamson, the first overall pick in the 2019 NBA draft, has had a captivating start to his career with the New Orleans Pelicans. Known for his athleticism and explosive playing style, the forward is a fan favorite. His unique combination of size and agility has made him a nightmare matchup for opposing teams. He became the fourth youngest NBA player to be chosen for an All-Star game in 2021.
Impact on Duke’s basketball legacy
NBA players from Duke who entered the draft as freshmen have made a significant impact on Duke University’s basketball program. Their feats have strengthened the program’s reputation for developing NBA-ready players. Their success reflects positively on the coaching staff, player development, and culture of excellence at Duke basketball, solidifying its position as a premier destination for top-tier talent and future NBA stars.