Duke Basketball: Who Will Step Up and Be Blue Devils' Leader Next Season?

David AldridgeFeatured ColumnistApril 25, 2013

Mar 31, 2013; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Duke Blue Devils guard Tyler Thornton (3) dives for a loose ball against the Louisville Cardinals in the second half during the finals of the Midwest regional of the 2013 NCAA tournament at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports
Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

The 2013-14 Duke Blue Devils appear to be a team with an incredible amount of potential.

Andre Dawkins returns to the team after a redshirt year and could be an extremely explosive offensive player.

Rodney Hood will be eligible after transferring from Mississippi State. He's a slashing wing player who brings tremendous versatility to Duke.

To go along with those two, the Blue Devils will also receive the services of three incoming freshman, including Jabari Parker, one of the best high school recruits in the country.

Still, with all this new talent, Mike Krzyzewski must find a player who can emerge as this team's leader. This is especially important considering that last season's team had three senior starters who all had a great deal of experience.

However, the player ready to take on the role of leading next season's team doesn't even figure to be one of the starters.

The starting spot won't matter—Tyler Thornton is ready to lead the Blue Devils.

Thornton is a rising senior who has only averaged 3.1 points through his first three season at Duke. Clearly, scoring doesn't tell much of the story of what Thornton means to the team.

The 6'1" guard from Washington, D.C., is the ultimate "glue guy" for a basketball program. He is a physical defender who is willing to do whatever his team needs from him and makes plays that don't always show up in the box score.

As Mike Kline of DukeReport.com noted:

He is clearly respected by the coaching staff who believe in his abilities. He isn't the most talented player, not by a long shot, but he is a guy that can make the guys around him better.

Thornton needs to take on a vocal leadership role with next season's team and he's shown the ability to make his voice heard in the past. With the experience of winning an ACC tournament championship and playing in numerous hostile environments, he will be a player who can help mentor Duke's new faces.

There is no doubt that next season's team will have plenty of talent. What Mike Krzyzewski needs is for his players to learn their roles and put the pieces together so the team will become a championship contender.

And Tyler Thornton's role will be to lead this talented group.