How Duke basketball is plotting its near future without injured forward Dariq Whitehead
Published in Basketball
Duke expects to get Dariq Whitehead back onto the floor at some point this season — something that looked doubtful when he was helped from the court with a lower leg injury Monday night — but the Blue Devils will be without the 6-7 forward this weekend at Georgia Tech.
Whitehead scored 10 points in Duke’s 78-75 loss at Virginia Tech before tweaking his left leg in a leaping attempt to snare a loose ball away from Hokies forward Justyn Mutts during the second half.
Subsequent medical exams, including an MRI, showed no structural damage, Duke coach Jon Scheyer said on Thursday. The Blue Devils avoided a worst-case scenario.
“I think it was scary just because it’s a different kind of injury,” Scheyer said. “For him, though, I think he got a lot of relief once we’d done the testing, got the MRI. No structural damage, which is important. He’s relieved. I know that. We just need to make sure we make smart decisions and take our time with him.”
The first of those decisions is to hold Whitehead out of practice and declare him unavailable to play on Saturday when the Blue Devils play an ACC game at Georgia Tech in Atlanta.
So Duke (14-6, 5-4 ACC) will be without a backcourt player who has scored in double figures in five of the eight ACC games in which he’s participated. He topped out at 18 points in Duke’s 65-64 win at Boston College on Jan. 7, and had 16 points in an 86-67 win over Florida State on Dec. 31.
But the projected first-round pick in this June’s NBA Draft has also had less productive games, like scoring six points on 2 of 11 shooting in Duke’s 77-69 win over Pittsburgh on Jan. 11, and two points on 1 for 6 shooting when Duke lost 72-64 at Clemson on Jan. 14.
Scheyer said he thought Whitehead appeared to be finding his groove on offense against Virginia Tech before he missed the game’s final 17 minutes.
“He’s bummed, no question,” Scheyer said. “He wants to be out there playing. In that game against Virginia Tech, thought he showed some big time flashes and really, offensively, carried us early. I thought he had a great swagger about him and he not only had some some baskets, but his feel for the game, his passing, I thought he was showing a lot that game.”
Having lost four of their five ACC games away from Cameron Indoor Stadium, the Blue Devils will turn to a host of players to make up for the 27 minutes or so that Whitehead has played while starting the past five games.
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