Already in jeopardy of falling out of ACC title contention before Valentine's Day, Duke also lost a key member of its rotation Thursday.
Coach Mike Krzyzewski announced he has dismissed guard Rasheed Sulaimon from the program for being "unable to consistently live up to the standards required to be a member of our program." Sulaimon remains in good academic standing at Duke and is expected to finish the spring semester.
“It is a privilege to represent Duke University and with that privilege comes the responsibility to conduct oneself in a certain manner," Krzyzewski said in a strongly worded statement. "After Rasheed repeatedly struggled to meet the necessary obligations, it became apparent that it was time to dismiss him from the program.”
The abrupt dismissal of Sulaimon ends the Duke career of a player whose freshman season portended so much promise but whose ensuing two seasons with the Blue Devils proved to be a letdown. Sulaimon averaged 11.6 points and 3.4 rebounds per game as a freshman, but his playing time and production diminished as other talented wings eclipsed him in Duke's rotation.
Krzyzewski left Sulaimon on the bench for an entire game against Michigan last season, cryptically telling reporters afterward, "He has to play better than the guys who played tonight." Sulaimon's playing time has not yo-yoed as much this season, but he did tie for his fewest minutes of the season in Wednesday night's loss at Notre Dame. He logged only 12 minutes and finished with 3 points on 1-for-6 shooting.
A former elite recruit like Sulaimon would be a coveted transfer if he opts to go that route, especially if he were to be able to get his degree by the end of the summer and transfer without having to sit out a year at his destination. If that's not an option, it's certainly possible he could attempt to turn pro, whether in the D-League or overseas.
The loss of Sulaimon leaves Duke with only eight scholarship players and deprives the Blue Devils of one of their few capable wing defenders. Sulaimon and Justise Winslow were Duke's only two perimeter players who were adept at defending dribble penetration and the junior was a more capable off-ball defender at this stage of his career than the freshman is.
Without Sulaimon, it will probably mean more minutes for Matt Jones off the bench, more pressure on Winslow to fill the role of perimeter stopper and perhaps an increased role for freshman Grayson Allen. Duke has enough depth at wing to survive this, but if perimeter defense was the primary weakness of the Blue Devils with Sulaimon, his dismissal certainly won't help.
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