Expectations for Jon Scheyer: New Duke coach faces Kansas in first major test of career

Expectations for Jon Scheyer: New Duke coach faces Kansas in first major test of career

Replacing a legend at any school is no enviable position to be in, much less one in which you launch your head coaching career. And doing it at a college basketball blue blood like Duke? That makes it doubly difficult for what lies ahead for first-year coach Jon Scheyer.

But Scheyer’s path to the top of the Duke monarchy has been etched in stone since the moment the legendary Mike Krzyzewski launched his season-long farewell tour. He was groomed and hand-picked by the Hall of Famer to take the reins of the Coach K program built into a juggernaut. He might be young and lacking experience but he makes up for that with zeal, recruiting prowess and an affable personality that people gravitate towards.

So what are realistic expectations for him as he takes over the program in 2022-23? What is the path he traveled to get to this point? And what is he working with from a perspective roster?

With Duke facing his first real test of the Scheyer era on Tuesday against reigning national champion Kansas, here’s a look at the answers to all those questions.

Blue Devils have plenty of talent

It’s hard to judge what Duke has done thus far this season and project what it can do the remainder of the 2022-23 campaign. It has faced Jacksonville and USC Upstate and, as expected, completely annihilated both of them. But the talent is so good that, on paper, our team as a whole sees them as the clear No. 2 in the ACC behind cross-state foe North Carolina. Jeremy Roach is one of the best veterans in the conference. Lively and Whitehead are possible top five picks in 2023. Mark Mitchell looks like a huge steal.

Here’s their current rankings as they enter Tuesday’s marquee matchup vs. Kansas:

No one from our team picked Duke in our Final Four preseason picks — Whitehead is recovering from a preseason injury, Lively was dealing with a calf injury — so there is some reason to maybe take a wait-and-see approach with this team. But there’s no doubt Scheyer can accumulate a group of talented players that should be able to hang with any team in the sport. With Kansas on deck almost right out of the gate this season, it should serve as a great litmus test for where the Blue Devils stand, and where they can go.

Rocking and rolling in recruiting

Part of the reason – largely the reason, really – why Coach K announced his retirement so early was because, as he put it, he wanted to be open and honest with recruits. Recruiting them and not revealing his plans to retire seemed shady. So he wanted to be transparent. That elevated Scheyer into the de facto No. 1 role on the recruiting trail. Even as he was waiting in the wings to take over as head coach, recruits wanted to hear from Coach K, sure, but they really wanted to hear from the man who would eventually coach him.

Scheyer has done nothing but win on the trail since. In his first unofficial recruiting class, Duke in the 2022 cycle landed No. 2 overall recruit Derek Lively, No. 3 overall recruit Dariq Whitehead, No. 4 overall recruit Kyle Filipowski along with three four-star recruits and a three-star recruit to polish off the No. 1 class in the team rankings at 247Sports.

That has continued in the 2023 cycle where Duke is on track to finish No. 1 again in the team rankings behind a star-studded class of commitments that includes five five-star prospects – three of whom are top 10 at 247Sports.

Scheyer’s path to the Duke job

Even before his high school career began, Scheyer was widely viewed as a high-major athlete with star potential at the college level. Tom Crean and Marquette offered him a scholarship as an eighth-grader. Duke, Arizona, Illinois and Wisconsin all joined the chase eventually. But Duke won out to land him – then a top-50 national talent and a four-star prospect – in a star-studded class that ranked fifth nationally that year.

Scheyer starred at Duke right away. As a freshman he started 32 games and averaged 12.2 points per game, third on a team loaded with NBA talent. That production was consistent through his career and crescendoed to an All-American campaign as a senior in which he averaged 18.2 points, 4.9 assists and 3.6 rebounds per game while leading Duke to a 35-5 overall record and NCAA championship.

After his college career, he went undrafted and wound up making pit stops overseas as a pro hooper that lasted only a few years. In 2014, he landed back at Duke as an assistant on Coach K’s bench before working his way to an associate head coach at Duke in 2018. Two days after Coach K announced the 2021-22 season would be his last, Duke named Scheyer as its coach-in-waiting.

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