With all the young ages athletes that are leaving for the NBA draft in college basketball, it almost seems like teams are having to replace their star players each year. Underclassmen are constantly being required to take the lead and to live up to the legacies of their predecessors. However, Duke has been put in an interesting situation this year. After being carried last year by Grayson Allen, it seemed almost certain that G would be the undeniable star for the team this season. He was even projected to be the ACC player of the year. However, Duke’s season has not been going as projected, and sophomore Luke Kennard has been the one having a remarkable year. Every news site is reporting that Luke is Duke’s MVP. So what happened? Did Luke replace Grayson before Grayson even left?
The answer is no. Luke is not the new Grayson. I could give you some sappy lecture about how comparing two players is like comparing apples and oranges, or about how everyone is their own special self, but that’s not what this is about. Luke is not better than Grayson. Luke doesn’t carry Duke. And Grayson is not failing. So what’s happening?
This season, Luke Kennard has had 411 field goal attempts. Grayson has only had 299 attempts. Grayson also has the highest average assists per game on the team at 3.6 assists. Last season, with key players like Quinn Cook, Tyus Jones, Jahlil Okafor, and Justise Winslow gone (and Amile Jefferson deemed out due to foot injury), Grayson was faced with the pressure of making up for all of the talent gone. The rest of his team was young and inexperienced. To be honest, Grayson was inexperienced too. He hadn’t played much in past the regular season, only truly stepping up in the Final Four and National Championship. Nevertheless, he was given all the looks, drove to the hoop every time he got the ball, and led the team in most statistics. This year, Grayson feels less pressure to perform. Luke has stepped up and shown his unique ability to score. Grayson sees this and now favors passing over shooting the ball himself. Luke is getting far more shot attempts, so of course he has more points per game. And quite frankly, Luke can only play well when Grayson isn’t. Any time Grayson starts going off, Luke starts missing. It’s an unfortunate pattern, but if you watch the games as closely as I do than you’ve noticed it. Luke still doesn’t have it together enough to be the superstar.
Grayson has also been battling injuries all season long. He’s had a broken toe, dislocated finger, an ankle injury, and countless smaller issues. This affects everything in his game and has been holding him back drastically. Being healthy changes everything. If Grayson heals up for the NCAA tournament, than we can expect him to be a bigger part of the game. And then there’s the tripping incident. Oh yes, the three little controversial events that the media have blown out of proportion in order to ruin this poor kid’s career. They’ve labeled him as a dirty player, a punk, and an overall jerk that should be hated. How classy. However, I seem to remember Grayson spending the first half of his sophomore year having countless dirty plays happen to him.
He got elbows to the face, punches thrown at him, and he was able to average a 90% free throw percentage for the longest time due to all of his “trips” to the line for fouls and technicals. But he’s the villain. He’s the bad one. Not only did he miss a game due to his latest trip, but Grayson also lost confidence in himself. His outburst on the bench after the trip made it clear that the media’s hate has gotten to him. Grayson is shaken up, and all of the negative comments that have been made about him are weighing on him. Most college players don’t have to deal with an entire nation hoping that they fail. He’s too young to handle it. He doesn’t have the privilege of unlacing his shoes at the end of a game or practice, going home, and leaving his career in the gym. It follows him everywhere. Rude tweets, photos, and articles are posted on the daily. He can barely breathe without offending someone. So Grayson didn’t peak last year. He hasn’t lost his touch. He was never overrated, especially now. And no, Luke Kennard did not replace Grayson. No one can compare to G.
Justin Jackson looks like the love child or Dr. Doofenshmirtz and Obama, never forget that.