Through John Fanta
FOX Sports college basketball writer
Dariq Whitehead, Jon Scheyer and the duke The fan community can probably breathe a sigh of relief.
Yes, Tuesday night’s news that Whitehead, the Blue Devils’ new five-star rookie wing, was undergoing surgery to repair a fracture in his right foot was not good. But it could have been a lot worse.
The predicted one-and-done candidate from Montverde Academy will play later this fall, according to the team, and new head coach Scheyer said the Blue Devils are “confident that he will be back on the pitch soon”. .
Whitehead is the #2 recruit in the 2022 freshman class according to the composite ranking system of 247 Sportsonly behind new Duke teammate Derek Lively.
The Blue Devils will look to both, who lead the country’s senior recruiting league, to rise after losing six of the seven players — not to mention a coach named Mike Krzyzewski — most recently in the Final Four loss to North Carolina occurred April.
Whitehead’s injury could disrupt that plan. There’s no need to panic as all indications are that he’ll be returning fairly quickly. Still, it’s a story worth watching as the 6-foot-6 wing is expected to be a centerpiece for this team, which starts in backcourt alongside veteran point guard Jeremy Roach and Illinois transfer Jacob Grandison .
What makes Whitehead such a potentially important weapon for Duke in the upcoming season?
For starters, he’s had an incredible high school career that has included four national titles in five years at Montverde and Naismith High School’s National Player of the Year award.
“Dariq has won as much as any player in the history of high school basketball,” Scheyer told FOX Sports. “He’s all about winning. He can really score but he can also be an incredible defender. He can be really explosive in transition and the fact is he’s only scratching the surface of who he can be.
“He’s very versatile at 6-foot-6. He’s a great athlete who fits the mold of what NBA wings look like.”
Scheyer’s glowing review shows why Whitehead is likely to be the starting XI for the Blue Devils and how much he means to the program in the first year of a new era.
Yes, Duke has other highly acclaimed newcomers like reclassified Warden Tyrese Proctor and sniper Jaden Schutt. The Blue Devils also added a perimeter role man in Kale Catchings from Harvard and Max Johns from Princeton. All could be key pieces in the Blue Devils puzzle.
But with his great physique, maturity, defensive skills and multi-dimensional offensive play, Whitehead has the tools to lead Duke to another deep March run. The focus of his summer and pre-season was on advancing his outdoor shooter game. That foot injury certainly isn’t helping, and it’s worth keeping a close eye on Whitehead if that setback is still having an impact.
This is far from a nightmare scenario. But because White Duke means so much in Scheyer’s first year at the helm, it’s absolutely a situation worth watching closely.
John Fanta is a national college basketball broadcaster and writer for FOX Sports. He covers the sport in a variety of roles, from calling games on FS1 to serving as lead host on the BIG EAST Digital Network to commentating on The Field of 68 Media Network. Follow him on Twitter @John_Fanta.
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