There is no doubt that it is currently an exciting time to be a fan of the Duke basketball team coming off of a season where they were one win shy of reaching a Final Four spot despite their young roster. It is all led by Duke basketball head coach Jon Scheyer who did an interview with Steve Wiseman of The News and Observer talking about the “building blocks” of the program and how the future looks.

“There’s some good building blocks there,” Scheyer said. “For me, I’m always going to want more. I’m always going to want to do more and have a higher standard for how we do things.”

Scheyer has been the head coach for two seasons where he brought the Blue Devils to the ACC title game the first season and led them far into the national tournament the next. While that is impressive, it still is not the winning ways fans could be used to as their previous head coach was Mike Krzyzewski, the legendary head coach who won five national championships.

Scheyer talks about Duke basketball losing players through the portal

Duke Blue Devils head coach Jon Scheyer reacts in the second half against the North Carolina State Wolfpack in the finals of the South Regional of the 2024 NCAA Tournament at American Airline Center.
Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

However, the Duke basketball team enters an interesting offseason as seven players that were on the roster have left through the transfer portal. While they obtained four players through the same means, it is the current landscape of college basketball coaches have to deal with as Scheyer talks about the way stars get playing time on his team.

“There wasn’t going to be promises or assurances for anybody in terms of guaranteed minutes or guaranteed starting,” Scheyer said. “Our programs are built on competition. And we’re doubling down on that at a time where the environment makes you or puts you in a position to promise things. Our promise is to give you everything we have as a coaching staff and our entire support staff.”

However, one of the players that Scheyer has attracted to the Blue Devils is top prospect Cooper Flagg who is already projected to be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2025 NBA Draft as a freshman. He also brought in another highly touted prospect in Khaman Maluach who is also projected to be a top selection so the “rebuild” or “retooling” of the roster is off to a scorching start.

Scheyer wants players that fit the winning culture of the Blue Devils

Even with the two players that are coming in to the Duke basketball program as true freshman, the roster still has players that have played significant minutes plus transfers that have played elsewhere and are experienced. The goal for Scheyer was simple in terms of what players he wants, which is to have a winning mindset and the competitiveness to match up to the standards of the Blue Devils name.

“Ultimately,” Scheyer said via Wiseman. “We needed a group that was completely all in to Duke basketball and to winning and to competing at the level that we needed to in order to accomplish what we want this year.”

Two of the players returning to the program are starters in Caleb Foster and Tyrese Proctor, but the ones from other programs include the likes of Purdue's Mason Gillis and Tulane's Sion James. The similarities with those last two players is that they started more than 60 games with their respected programs.

Scheyer speaks on conversations with players leaving and returning

While there is no doubt those are good gets for the team, the players they are missing from last season will still be a tough pill to swallow as they are losing such names as Kyle Filipowski, Jared McCain, Jeremy Roach, and Mark Mitchell. The first two are projected to be top picks in this summer's draft as Scheyer talks about the conversations he has with players either returning or leaving in either transferring or declaring for the draft.

“You have to handle every conversation, every one of them, whether it’s the guys returning or the guys that are leaving with total transparency and honesty,” Scheyer said. “I’m proud of each of those guys. The conversations we had in the spring and conversations that were had throughout the course of the season, what they had to do in order to get better and to carve out a role. But it wasn’t going to be just promising somebody something for them to come back. And so again, I wish all those guys best of luck.”

Duke basketball already has “the base of our team” per Scheyer

Still, the players that are staying and the ones that have transferred here make the roster deeper than ever before which could be seen as a blessing and a curse to some since it will be hard to craft a starting lineup. However, Scheyer says to win championships, that's the type of roster you want.

“In order to have a championship caliber team,” Scheyer said, “you need more than just five players who are capable of starting and I feel we have that in this year’s group. Like I couldn’t tell you right now, who our starting lineup is going to be.”

“We have, already, the base of our team,” Scheyer continued. “I mean, look, we’re big team. We have the ability to switch positions and put size on the court. The ability to play small or to play big. We want to make sure we have in our pocket for this year where we could play how we needed to assert our presence, whoever we’re playing, not the opposite way around.”

Injury status regarding two key returners 

While it is a given that Proctor would be in the starting lineup because of his familiarity with the program, he is still dealing with an ankle injury that he suffered in December which forced him to miss four weeks per Wiseman. It limited him the rest of the season as Scheyer says the goal is for him to be “back to full health.”

“We need to get him back to full health, full strength where he can work the way that he has worked in his time here,” Scheyer said. “I think that what he wasn’t able to do that as much down the stretch. So, for him, there aren’t any excuses. There isn’t any finger-pointing. It’s about doubling down on who he is and who he can be as a player and putting the work in. I’m proud of what he’s done so far.”

Another injury from a returner of the Duke basketball program is dealing with is Foster who had a broken bright ankle and missed the rest of his freshman season in February. While it sounds heinous, Foster is back and Scheyer said “everything's gone really well with him.”

“We’re gonna be conservative with him but over the next few weeks, he’ll be back to full go 100%,” Scheyer said. “Everything’s gone really well with him.”

In any sense, the Blue Devils are looking to improve off of their 27-9 record from last season where they finished second in the ACC and ninth in the nation.