In the one-and-done era, college basketball fans have grown accustomed to having to get to know a slew of new, highly-touted names and faces each season, many of whom will spend just one year on campus before moving on to the NBA. Just look at the 2018 draft, where it took 10 picks before Mikal Bridges became the first non-freshman (or international) to be selected. Not all elite freshmen will pan out, but history dictates that many of them will help headline the sport for the next year—and, for some, maybe even beyond.
With that in mind, SI.com will be introducing you to the top incoming freshmen in college basketball and breaking down the impact those players could have this season. The rankings are according to RSCI Hoops, a composite that averages from 25 different expert top-100 lists. We move to the No. 13 overall recruit, Duke's Tre Jones. You can view all of the profiles to date here.
What he means for Duke’s recruiting class
Jones is the first of four five-star, top-25 recruits for coach Mike Krzyzewski and the Blue Devils that are being featured in our series. Coming in with Jones (No. 13 in the RSCI rankings) in the 2018 class are three potential lottery picks in R.J. Barrett (No. 1), Cameron Reddish (No. 2), Zion Williamson (No. 4) and four-star small forward Joey Baker (No. 37). The five top-50 recruits are the reason behind Duke’s No. 1 ranking for this class, and all should see serious minutes for the Blue Devils.
Jones, a two-time Minnesota Gatorade Player of the Year and McDonald’s All-American, is the only point guard in Coach K’s class and will have 2018's top-ranked shooting guard, small forward and power forward at his disposal. The 6'2", 183-pound guard is the younger brother of Tyus Jones, the skilled one-and-done point guard who helped lead Duke to a national championship in 2015 before being taken with the 24th pick of the NBA draft by the Timberwolves. The younger Jones will look to do what his brother did while running the floor for Duke during a season in which the Blue Devils should be national title contenders. Krzyzewski managing to get three of the top four players in the country plus Jones in one class means there will be tons of talent in Durham this year.
How he fits
Last year’s Elite Eight team lost a lot with the departure of guard Grayson Allen and two tremendous big men in Wendell Carter Jr. and Marvin Bagley III. The decisions made by Gary Trent Jr. and Trevon Duval to go pro meant that Duke’s entire starting lineup left Durham. As massive as these losses are, the Blue Devils are still stacked this season thanks to their wildly talented recruiting class. At 6'7" and 285 pounds, Williamson will replace production lost at the post, while Reddish and Barrett will immediately contribute at the two and the three, respectively, to replace Allen and Trent Jr. That leaves the point in Jones’s more-than-capable hands, taking over for the undrafted Duval.
Sophomore guard Alex O’Connell could also see time at the point, but Jones will be the Blue Devils' primary floor general. He's the perfect leader for Duke’s backcourt: a pass-first point guard who can maximize the potential of his other top-ranked teammates, and a monster defender to boot. O’Connell, a talented three-point perimeter player who shot 48.9% from deep as a freshman, is more of a shooter, making him a nice complement to Jones. Tre’s older brother Tyus was a fan favorite in Durham, averaging 11.8 points and dishing out 5.6 assists in his lone season, but some would say that the younger Jones is the more well-rounded of the two—which is saying a lot. If Tyus had the basketball IQ, Tre has the physical talent. He should orchestrate a very efficient Duke offense.
Importance to Duke's success/team outlook
Duke is exceptionally inexperienced this season, so while expectations for this talented team should still be high, they should be tempered by the understanding that its youth could be a challenge for Coach K, especially on the defensive side. While this will be a point of concern, a talented two-way player like Jones running point definitely helps. He’s adept at making plays on both ends of the court and is highly respected within the incoming class, which should only amplify Jones’s leadership qualities. Even with a clear lack of veteran talent, Duke’s freshman faces will undoubtedly still make headlines throughout what should be a big year in the ACC.