In his usual star-studded recruiting class, Duke has added two big men expected to play key roles on this season’s basketball team.
The fact that they are considered two centers, one standing 7-foot-1 and the other 6-11, is not a problem for Duke’s trainer or the players themselves.
That’s because Dereck Lively and Kyle Filipowski chose Duke because they wanted to play together, and they have the diversity to make it work.
The team’s summer rehearsals only added to that point.
“This is exactly what we were expecting because of how interchangeable we are,” said Filipowski 6-11, 220 pounds. “Being each of us able to play inside and out, it was really a huge benefit to both of us.”
The 215-pound Lively reached Duke as the No. 1 recruit in the 2022 class. Filipowski, who also holds a five-star rating, was No. 4.
Together, they are confident they can work in tandem to help Duke maintain her traditional level of success in Jon Scheer’s first year as head coach for the Blue Devils after Mike Krzyzewski’s retirement.
Last season, while last season’s Blue Devils were 32-7, winning the ACC regular-season championship and reaching the Final Four, Mark Williams used a 7-1 indoors with versatile 6-10 striker Paulo Banchero working inside and out.
Williams was more of a traditional center. So was his main reserve, 6-9 Theo John.
Comes to life with the defensive reputation as a blocker, something Williams did very well while being named ACC Defensive Player of the Year. But Lively does much more than that.
“Derek fits the picture of a modern-day big man,” Cher said. “He can run on the ground, he can finish over the edge and he’s a great pick and roll player who can either run or run and be a threat. On the defensive end, he’s an elite.”
In defense, Lively has the sportsmanship to check goalkeepers, attackers, and midfielders. This will allow Duke to have his players change their guards around the field and not worry about mismatches.
He is expected to be the frame protector Duke lost when he left Williams for the NBA, being picked by the Charlotte Hornets in the first round of last June’s draft.
Filipowski will be there, too, helping to protect the rim and grab bounces.
When attacking, they are confident that they will react well enough to keep the Blue Devils scoring high.
Both can shoot 3 heads. Both can score in the pass. Both can put the ball on the ground and defeat defenders on the edge.
“He can put the ball on the floor very well,” Lively said. “He can get past the shot. He can get past the previous players. Knowing he can do it, that will make a defender help me. So the shots will open up for me as well. Whenever I get the ball, he will help the person guarding him, so we will just play each other.”
This would of course be more than a two-man show. Duke is also planning major contributions from 6-6 new forward Darrick Whitehead, 6-5 freshman goalkeeper Therese Proctor, 6-6 transferring Jacob Grandison and 6-3 junior guard Jeremy Roach.
Another transfer, 6-10 players from Ryan Young, will also help in the position.
Duke’s new senior men, in particular, are ready to thrive.
“The Duke’s attack,” said Filipovsky, “It’s made for multiple types of players.”
With so many choices, being selfless will be even more important.
“Just make sure we stay selfless and make sure the ball keeps moving,” Lively said. “It will be a wonderful year.”