There are few bets in all of college basketball that are safer than saying at least one Duke player will be on the All-ACC team. With all the talent that head coach Mike Krzyzewski brought in this offseason, that will once again be the case in the 2014-15 season.
The question now becomes which player or players make that distinguished squad.
Jahlil Okafor may be the headliner of the Blue Devils' loaded recruiting class and the potential No. 1 pick in the next NBA draft, but don't overlook the newcomer at point guard. Tyus Jones is the perfect candidate to quarterback this Duke team, and he will put up some impressive numbers along the way.
Talent-wise, Jones is certainly good enough to compete for a spot on the All-ACC team. He is always looking to set up others, has impressive court vision that allows him to thread passes through narrow openings, controls the pace of the game with his excellent ball-handling skills and understanding of tempo and is more than ready to get out in transition when needed.
He doesn't have explosive speed, but Jones is quick enough to get by defenders off the dribble and stay in front of shifty guards on the defensive side. He also has a deadly perimeter jumper in his arsenal that will help him make opponents pay when they sag off him to focus on Okafor.
Krzyzewski couldn't have asked for a better pass-first, distributing point guard to run a team with so much talent across the board.
Having teammates like Okafor, Justise Winslow, Rasheed Sulaimon, Amile Jefferson and Quinn Cook, among others, would be somewhat worrisome when discussing Jones' chances at earning All-ACC honors if he depended on his scoring. He clearly doesn't, though, and having these types of players around him will lead to head-turning assist numbers once Jones becomes comfortable in the offense.
What's more, point guards are often judged in a similar fashion to quarterbacks in football where wins and losses count for or against a resume. Duke should be one of the nation's best teams, and Jones will get plenty of credit for all those wins as he leads the Blue Devils on the floor.
For those worrying that Jones won't have a substantial enough role to play his way onto the All-ACC team with Cook still around, ESPN.com's Myron Medcalf noted that it shouldn't be an issue:
Jones himself discussed that relationship with the senior Cook, according to Joedy McCreary of The Associated Press, via TwinCities.com:
We're looking at it as we're both trying to get better. We're both pushing each other to be the best players we can be.
We're both trying to play in the backcourt at the same time, and with each other we feel ... we both bring different dynamics to the table that can help our team be good. We're looking at it as a positive, rather than a negative. It's a positive to have two point guards on the floor, so that's what we're trying to do.
The fact that Jones is gradually becoming more comfortable with Cook in the backcourt instead of fighting for playing time is certainly an encouraging fact going forward.
While Jones' talent is obvious, we have to look at other contenders as well if we are projecting his All-ACC chances.
Interestingly, only Marcus Paige returns from last year's All-ACC first team. Duke's Jabari Parker bolted for the NBA draft, C.J. Fair graduated from Syracuse, James Michael McAdoo declared for the draft from North Carolina, K.J. McDaniels declared for the draft from Clemson, and T.J. Warren left for the draft from North Carolina State.
That is a lot of departed talent, and it opens up the door for the rest of the players in the ACC, including the multifaceted Jones.
Of course, Paige is also a point guard, and the battle between him and Jones will be an interesting subplot to follow throughout the entire 2014-15 campaign on Tobacco Road. Beyond the obvious Duke-North Carolina rivalry, there are parallels in place as both try to lead young and talented teams to the Final Four and beyond.
However, Paige is the more experienced of the two and has the chance to compete for ACC Player of the Year and even National Player of the Year.
It's not that Jones can't reach that level eventually, but Paige has proved it consistently in the college game already. The thought here is that Paige puts up a more successful season when it comes to individual statistics and competes with Okafor for the league's Most Valuable Player.
The good news for Jones, though, in terms of this discussion is that there is room for two guards on the All-ACC squad. If he fulfills his potential, challenges for the conference's assists title and leads the Blue Devils to a league championship, he will find his name on that team.
That is a lot to ask of a freshman, but the coaching and surrounding talent are both already in place. Now, all Jones has to do is deliver.
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