Through 5 games, Duke’s dunked the ball 35 times. They’ve allowed just 6 dunks against them, and have a league-leading 33 blocks. This post-heavy Duke team attacks the rim on both ends of the court with a level of aggression typically seen by the kinds of teams the Blue Devils struggle to beat. So something has to give in practice, right? Do players go with faders or floaters to avoid being stuffed by a teammate? Do they sidestep on defense and let their man have a free path to the rim to dodge the shame of being dunked on?
According to sophomore big man Marques Bolden, if there is any “give”, it doesn’t happen at the rim.
“It’s a war. You see the talent we have from the first guy to the last guy, and us playing against each other in practice, man … it’s just a war.”
“As bigs, and as a team, we take pride in the defensive end, and protecting the rim is a big part of that.”
Freshmen Wendell Carter added, “We definitely want to be a defense first team. We’re not always going to knock down every shot, but we can always play defense. [Blocked shots] send a message that it’s going to be a long night for those guys.”
Blocking shots is great and all, but there’s a huge risk, especially in the social media age when getting dunked on can make someone famous in an instant for all of the wrong reasons. Especially on a team like Duke with such a bright spotlight on them at all times, a player’s reputation can be destroyed in a heartbeat in the practice gym, especially with high-flyers like Marvin Bagley, Grayson Allen and Javin DeLaurier on the court.
It would certainly be understandable for players to make business decisions at the rim in practice to avoid risking their reputation, but according to Bolden, there’s no second-guessing.
“If you’re a shot blocker, you’re going to get dunked on. We just try to come in every day and be all in with the team, and that just means competing hard. Whatever happens, happens.”
So who ends up on the wrong end of a dunk the most often?
Bolden held ranks by answering, “I mean … I ain’t gonna say no names.”
“Jack,” chimed in an eavesdropping Jordan Goldwire. “It’s Jack.”
That answer certainly won’t surprise Duke fans who surely remember Jack White getting posterized by Grayson Allen in a pre-season scrimmage.
But according to Bolden and Goldwire, no one’s immune. “Oooooh, Marvin”, laughed Bolden while Marvin Bagley III started laughing mid-answer in an interview going on in the next locker over. “Jack got him the other day,” said Goldwire.
“But that’s what makes this team so special,” Bolden bragged. “We really don’t have a lot of personal motives. If we did have personal motives, we’d care about getting embarrassed.”
But what about Bolden? Has he had to deal with the embarrassment of getting dunked on in practice?
“Nah, not me. No. No, man. Nah,” he laughed. “I know better than that.”