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Duke basketball: Jon Scheyer defends heralded freshman's low numbers

Despite what box scores say, Duke basketball's Dereck Lively is productive.
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Dereck Lively II is shooting 70.0 percent from the floor. No complaints there. But that's on only 10 attempts across his four outings to date. And it's worth noting the Duke basketball freshman center has yet to score off anything other than dunks (and one free throw).

He's averaging 3.8 points, 3.5 rebounds, 1.8 assists, and 1.3 blocks in 18.3 minutes per game.

Outside of perhaps the blocks and assists, those are notably low marks for a 7-foot-1, 230-pounder who arrived in Durham as a projected one-and-done lottery pick and the nation's top-ranked recruit in his class.

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In Lively's defense, though, aside from the fact he missed the Blue Devils' first game and about a month's worth of practices and scrimmages leading up to the season while rehabbing a strained calf muscle, his impact extends beyond individual numbers that show up on a box score.

"He's progressing well," first-year Duke basketball head coach Jon Scheyer told the media following Monday night's 74-57 home win over Bellarmine. "And I think you can definitely see his passing. Any time he sets a ball screen, the pressure he puts on the rim, you can feel the defense shrink because he's such a lob threat."

Furthermore, it's not as if Dereck Lively II hangs his head. No, on the court and in the locker room after games, he consistently displays one of the most upbeat personalities on the team.

On defense, his all-in enthusiasm and impressively lightfooted lateral movement for his size allow the Blue Devils to switch seamlessly at most every position. And on offense, as Scheyer alluded to, his guard-like court vision helps to keep the ball flowing in the right direction.

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Look at Duke basketball's self-selected top five plays from the Bellarmine bout, and notice that four include either a Lively slam, a Lively block, or a Lively presence problem for the Knights.

Scheyer seems encouraged with Lively's growth thus far but still sees loads of untapped potential — his 3-point stroke, which he shows off in pre-game warmups, is nothing to sneeze at — for the 18-year-old Philadelphia native as a Blue Devil.

"The next step for him is just being more aggressive, putting the ball on the floor," Scheyer said. "He has a few finishes that are right there. But that comes with time...I always feel, for a freshman, that preseason time is so valuable. [Lively and Dariq Whitehead] missed that, so they're learning a lot right now and can't get down on themselves. They have to stick with it and keep going."

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Scheyer doesn't sound at all worried.

"I think Dereck, every single game, has just taken big-time strides going forward," he reiterated. "And the next step is, when you're open, shoot it, and when you have a guy closing out, drive it — making those plays. But I'm really happy with how he impacts others on the offensive end just by being a threat on the court."

Maybe Dereck Lively II's explosion in the box score will occur in Portland, Ore., at the Phil Knight Legacy tournament. The Blue Devils (4-1, 0-0 ACC) will play three games in four days there, beginning with a 3 p.m. ET bout against the Oregon State Beavers (3-1, 0-0 Pac-12) on Thursday.

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