Friar Basketball

What’s in Store for David Duke in Year 2?

Duke Xavier Cincinnati Enquirer

In the ten years since began, there have been a handful of days that completely set the online Providence community on fire. Perhaps none so much as when Providence native David Duke committed to the Friars two years ago.

National pundits praised the recruiting haul Ed Cooley pulled together, and former Friars like Kris Dunn, Ben Bentil, and Ricky Ledo were part of the outpouring of love directed Duke’s way the night he committed.

(David Duke Commits, Twitter Explodes)

It was quite a rise for Duke, who a year and a half earlier picked up his first high major offer (from PC) and eventually saw Syracuse, Kansas, Indiana, Villanova, UConn, Virginia Tech, and a host of others offer him a scholarship.

His final five consisted of PC, Virginia Tech, Indiana, Villanova, and Florida, but the recruitment ultimately seemed to come down to Providence and VaTech. The Hokies were a big threat that fall, but the hometown Friars eventually won out.

As a freshman last season, Duke was thrust into the starting point guard spot — marking the first time in the Cooley Era that an underclassman led PC’s offense. Duke started all 34 games a year ago, but eventually moved off of the ball, as Cooley and his staff spent the entirety of the 2018-19 campaign looking for answers at point guard that never came.

Just how much did Providence struggle at point guard last year? They finished in the 3rd percentile in pick and roll ball handler offense (343 out of 353 teams nationally). And while not entirely on the shoulders of the lead guards, the Friars were in just the 14th percentile in isolation offense (302 nationally).

A year prior, Kyron Cartwright navigated the offense with the presence of a four-year contributor, and bailed PC out by looking for his offense when all else broke down. That element of Providence’s offense left with Cartwright.

Duke spent much of his freshman year trying to find his offensive identity. His .654 points per possession in halfcourt sets had him in the 12th percentile nationally, but that number jumped to one point per possession in transition opportunities.

In hindsight, Duke’s struggles in navigating the offense should not have been a surprise. He was a freshman inserted into the starting lineup of a team that struggled to make open shots, even more so when fellow frosh AJ Reeves went down with a foot injury in December.

Those that followed Duke’s prep career saw that he played off of the ball during his first year at Cushing Academy (when his national breakout took place) before taking over point guard responsibilities as a senior. He was electric in the open floor in his first year at Cushing.

Where Duke excelled as a freshman at PC was on the defensive end. A springy 6’5 guard, Duke bothered jump shooters into just 26% shooting when guarded by him — one of the best marks in the country (88th percentile).

He was particularly effective at the top of PC’s 2-3 zone, holding opponents to 23% on all field goal attempts that he defended — good for the 92nd percentile nationally. Duke was also a well above average defender playing man to man, holding opponents to 36% shooting from the field.

Between defending pick and roll ball handlers, spot up, isolation, post up, or off screen opportunities, there really wasn’t a situation in which Duke’s defensive numbers did not shine last year.

By season’s end, he was giving All Americans Markus Howard and Myles Powell headaches. As early as December, he showed glimpses of being a bear on the defensive end. Look at the shots he forced Boston College star Ky Bowman into in December. Bowman shot 6-19 against Providence last year.


The addition of graduate transfer Luwane Pipkins (an explosive, shot seeking scoring point guard who comes to PC via UMass) may benefit Duke more than anyone on the roster. Not only will Pipkins take most of the ball handling responsibilities, he should help Providence play much faster. Duke was at his best when the Friars ran last season.

Lost in the disappointment of last season, was how Duke started to assert himself in the Big East Tournament. He shot 6-8 (including 2-3 from deep) in a 16-point effort against Butler in the first round, and attacked the rim with aggression versus Villanova a day later. In the Garden, he finished difficult shots with his left hand, elevated above defenders in traffic, played the passing lanes, shot from outside with confidence, and punished Butler star Kamar Baldwin in the post.


Freed from playmaking duties, Duke played downhill and looked like a different player.

Perhaps just as encouraging, he saw significant minutes on the Pan American team this summer at the point guard position and looked more than comfortable doing so. Powell, the Seton Hall star and preseason All American, told the press covering Team USA that Duke was the player whose ability surprised him most during the team’s time together.

Duke had his moments on the offensive end during his freshman year. He was the best player on the floor in PC’s fourth game of the season — a 76-67 win over South Carolina in which he shot 8-15 from the field and scored 20 points. The next day he scored 12 more on 5-8 shooting against Michigan. Other highlights included a nine point, nine assist evening at BC, and a tide-turning 18 points against Seton Hall in which he made three 3-pointers in the second half in short succession. He was just unable to string together consecutive games like these offensively.

With the addition of Pipkins and the offensive strengths of Duke, it will be disappointing if the 2019-20 Friars don’t pick up the pace. If they do, Duke is likely to look more like the player we saw at MSG in March on the offensive end. Defensively, his advanced numbers were great as a freshman and figured to only improve with added strength and experience.

Twitter: @Kevin_Farrahar


  1. Derec Lamendola

    October 1, 2019 at 5:33 am

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  2. Anonymous

    October 1, 2019 at 1:48 pm

    I just lost half my brain cells

  3. Anonymous

    October 1, 2019 at 2:47 pm

    Great write up on duke

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