CountDown to the “CountDown …” – Justise Winslow

Today’s Profile is by Rowan Shiell

SDBB - 2014 Profiles - Justise Winslow Collage

With the graduation of Tyler Thornton, Duke is in search of a defender. All five players defend, but all the best teams have that guy who goes out every night with the intention of giving his defensive assignment a bad night.  Thornton was all heart but Justice Winslow has the desire and will to succeed as one of the best defenders in the ACC next season.  Here is the ESPN scouting report for the Freshman.

  • Winslow has a college-ready body and mindset that will help him influence the game with his defensive prowess.  His defensive versatility might be the best among the entire freshman class as the 6-foot-6 forward can defend Point Guards through Power Forwards.  The athletic Winslow can be a factor in full-court pressure or trapping situations as well as in a straight-up man-to-man denial defense locking up, the opposing team’s best offensive threat.  What makes him a special defender is that he is always thinking about where he should be next on the floor. Winslow will be extremely important for Duke next season.

The last sentence says it all.  Years gone by, Duke’s teams were able to get themselves back into games where they had an unfavourable start.  Not any more, the norm now is if they start the game badly it usually ends badly.  The reason being that they just did not have that defensive mindset to get back into games.  There isn’t that point in the game where you could almost guarantee Duke a token run anymore, you just hope for one as a fan.

It doesn’t help that the NCAA changed a few rules to encourage higher scoring, which took a lot away from the game defensively. No hand checking, or more precisely the defender cannot initiate any kind of contact with the offensive player without incurring a foul.  So, if a team doesn’t have a rim protector, or a player who takes pride in limiting his assignment, by moving his feet, it is game over (this could explain Mercer and Lehigh).

If they have that one guy who can effectively limit his mark then the knocked down effect would be a huge payoff.  If an opposing team can’t rely on their best player because he is having a bad night, due to said defender, it could throw them off.

As a Freshman, Rasheed Sulaimon was a superb defender but somehow regressed as a Sophomore.  If he can get back to that form and Justice Winslow meets or exceeds the hype, Duke would be in a good position, with two elite defenders, which will elevate their teammates’ defense.

The ACC is much stronger with the addition of Notre Dame, Syracuse and Pittsburgh last year, and Louisville this year.  These teams bring some outstanding guards and wing players not to mention their tradition of winning.

On top of that, the Blue Devils still have to deal with the usual conference suspects such as North Carolina, Virginia, and NC State. Teams such as Clemson and Virginia cannot be overlooked either, as their coaches have them on the rise.

Duke is going to need an elite defender to stop or impede the likes of Kaleb Joseph, Jerian Grant, Cat Barber, Justin Jackson, and Marcus Paige, just to name a few.

Think of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, who was a great defender for Kentucky in 2012, when they won the championship, or go back a little further to Luol Deng, who helped Duke to a Final Four in his lone season at Duke in 2004.

Deng was a shut down defender with a nice mid range jumper.  While Winslow’s shooting is seen as a work in progress, he is a strong dribble penetrator, however, if his defense lives up to the hype, anything he can add offensively would be like a full tank of gas in a 2014 Mustang.

“He is just competitive, says Tyus Jones.  “He is a lockdown defender. I think he is one of the best defenders on our team.”

Jones also says that he thinks that Winslow is a great rebounder, which is very valuable because one of Duke’s weaknesses is frontcourt depth.  Behind Jahil Okafor and Amile Jefferson is just Marshall Plumlee.  If any of those guys gets into foul trouble, the versatile Winslow maybe an obvious option considering scouts think he can defend power forwards as well.

One of the reasons that make Winslow such a talent is that he is a second-generation basketball player. Usually when we hear about Houston’s Phi Slama Jama, it’s mostly about Hakeem “the Dream” Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler but a basketball team is more than two individuals.

Ricky Winslow, Justice’s father, played with those two Hall of Famers as a Freshman and would go on to score over 1500 points in his four years at Houston.  He was drafted 28th, Second Round at the time, by the Chicago Bulls in 1987.

Sadly he didn’t get to play with a young Michael Jordan, but did play briefly for the Milwaukee Bucks before carving out a respectable career overseas.  His daughter, Bianca, who is currently a junior at Houston, was born in Italy.  Thankfully, for Duke, Justice is blazing his own path.

You know I have always imagined playing at the collegiate level,” says Winslow.  “So when it happens it will be surreal, in a way, but hopefully I won’t be too nervous. I am excited to be playing in front of the Crazies and in the best arena in the country.”

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