We can start by looking back in 2010. Yes, that’s when Duke was crowned the “king of the dance”, but there is another aspect to look at. Leadership. Without Jon Scheyer, Lance Thomas, and Brian Zoubek, there is no way Duke goes on to put on an incredible run in the tournament. Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith in 2011 provided the squad with much needed leadership. Singler was more of a “lead by example” type player on the court, while Smith did both, being vocal and turning into a star player. That year’s team went on to the Sweet Sixteen. 2012 was a different story.
The Blue Devils just never seemed to gel and play as one, like all of the other past Duke teams under Mike Krzyzewski. Miles Plumlee was the lone senior and wasn’t the type of player who could take on the role of being a leader. Duke was not able to go beyond their first NCAA tournament game, losing to Lehigh. Going into the 2013 season, there was an emphasis on coming together to become closer as people which would transcend onto the court. This started with the three seniors: Mason Plumlee, Seth Curry, and Ryan Kelly. They were constant presents on the court and vocally became people the other players would look up to. They would go on to the Elite Eight before losing to the eventual champion Louisville Cardinals.
So, who takes on the leadership role this season? There are a few options, but one sticks out the most. There is the possibility of the three seniors, Tyler Thornton, Josh Hairston, and Andre Dawkins being the three leaders. Here is a breakdown of the three:
Tyler Thornton: Thornton has been an energy guy from the moment he stepped on campus. His gritty, pit-bull type play has made him a crowd favorite. He is always diving on the floor for loose balls, coming up with steals, and always giving everything he can when he gets his name called. He has been a leader before, last year along with the three seniors then. He can definitely be a leader, but his lack of playing time will restrict him from being the main leader.
Josh Hairston: Hairston plays with such fire and passion that it seems he was born for a leadership role. He has said that he wants to be a leader this season and he can be. He is always yelling out instructions of defense, diving on the floor like Thornton, and always shows emotion when he plays. He loves to interact with the Crazies as well. He has the same problem as Thornton as well: his lack of playing time will prohibit him from being the leader.
Andre Dawkins: We all know about Andre Dawkins, he can flat out shoot the lights out. After sitting out last season so he can properly mourn the loss of his sister, which occurred in 2010, he is back and primed to be a more consistent player. He has never come across as a leader, but he does play as hard as anybody, and having three years being with the team under his belt, he can help lead the team this season.
Seniors are always the ones who are looked on to lead, but this season will see a non-senior be the primary leader. Without one doubt, this man is Quinn Cook.
Quinn Cook: In his freshmen season, Cook underperformed while dealing with an ailing knee injury that required surgery his senior year of high school. He then would have a breakout season last year. He was the quarterback that the offense was in desperate need of. He stepped up big time, whether it was hitting the game-sealing floater in the Battle 4 Atlantis or not letting a poor scoring night affect the rest of his game. Being able to learn under Plumlee, Curry, Kelly, and most importantly, the coaching staff, he is ready to take the throne as a junior to be the leader Duke will rely on this season. He has worked on his body, gaining strength and muscle this offseason, as well as working on his game. His will to learn and help others learn make him the perfect man for the job. Another advantage for Cook is that he will be on the floor almost all the time, so he has to be the leader with a younger core around him. His charisma, passion, and work ethic make him the perfect leader for this year’s Duke Blue Devils.