Shortly after the Duke Blue Devils' 2012-13 season came to an abrupt end at the hands of the Louisville Cardinals in the NCAA tournament, the lasting image of a deeply emotional Rasheed Sulaimon in the Blue Devils' locker room illustrated how important the freshman guard values success for this program.
Sulaimon closed out his first year at Duke with one of his worst games of the season. He finished with only three points on 1-for-10 shooting.
It was a disappointing end to a rather exceptional freshman season that provided plenty of promise.
The 6'4" shooting guard averaged 11.6 points, 3.4 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game while starting in 33 of the Blue Devils' 36 games. He also tied the Duke freshman record for the most made three-point field-goals with six in a win over Maryland on January 26. He also set a career high in scoring with 27 points in a win over Boston College on February 24.
Designated as a role player for a Duke team that relied heavily on its three seniors—Seth Curry, Ryan Kelly and Mason Plumlee—the contributions that Sulaimon gave were key in the Blue Devils' Elite Eight run.
And that was just a glimpse of how special Sulaimon truly will be.
He has all of the right tools to become one of the best players in the country for years to come. As mentioned above, he can score the basketball at a high rate. Sulaimon also showed his versatility with a great handle to create for himself off the dribble.
With the talent that he possesses on the offensive end, Sulaimon is that much better defensively. With outstanding footwork accompanied by a 6'8" wingspan, he quickly became an extremely underrated defender in the ACC.
Looking ahead to next season, the Blue Devils lose three irreplaceable starters while adding four highly skilled players which include incoming freshmen Jabari Parker, Matt Jones and Semi Ojeleye, and Mississippi State transfer Rodney Hood.
Not to mention, Quinn Cook will become a junior and Andre Dawkins is expected to return for his senior season after taking a year off due to personal reasons.
It'll prove to be one of the more talented and athletic teams in the last 10 years for Mike Krzyzewski.
For Sulaimon, though, the days of being a role player have come to an end. Upon entering his sophomore campaign, his stock will continue to rise with his offseason development after a terrific first year.
Is he on the fast track to becoming a star? Absolutely.