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The Grueling Truth - Where Legends Speak / Top-20 Players in Duke Blue Devils History

Top-20 Players in Duke Blue Devils History

Duke's finest ballers
Publish Date: 12/14/2023
Fact checked by: Mark Lewis

The top 20 Blue Devils!

The Blue Devils under Coach K was a dynasty, but Blue Devil history was present before he arrived in Durham. You had the great Duke teams of the 70s and the magical run of Bill Foster’s Blue devils in the late 70s.

20) Jim Spanarkel

As a 1979 Duke graduate and 1978 Final Four team captain, Spanarkel made an indelible mark on Blue Devil’s history.

As a freshman in 1976, Spanarkel earned ACC Rookie of the Year honors and led Duke in scoring his sophomore year. By 1978 as a junior, Spanarkel led his team from last place to first, winning both conference titles and making it to the Final Four before losing in a national championship game against Kentucky.

As a senior, Spanarkel led his club back into the NCAA Tournament before being selected in the first round of the NBA draft and later playing professionally for five years.

Video: Coach K tribute: Take an emotional journey with him at the 2022 Final Four

Coach K tribute: Take an emotional journey with him at the 2022 Final Four

19) Marvin Bagley

Duke may have become increasingly one-and-done over time, but Bagley’s one year for the Blue Devils deserves recognition. In 33 games he averaged 21.0 points on 61.4 per cent shooting from the field and 39.7 from beyond the arc while pulling down 11.1. rebounds per contest while also contributing 1.5 assists on average per game.

Video: Marvin Bagley III Official Highlights | Duke

Marvin Bagley III Official Highlights | Duke

18) Zion Williamson

At just 6-7, 285 pounds, Williamson lived up to his early-season hype as a freshman Blue Devil. Averaging 22.6 points and 8.9 boards per contest while leading Duke with 8.9 boards per game and notching an impressive average of 2.1 assists and steals per game, Williamson made quite an impression in his one and only season at Duke.

Video: Zion Williamson Duke Basketball Highlights - 2018-19 Season | Stadium

Zion Williamson Duke Basketball Highlights – 2018-19 Season | Stadium

17) Trajan Langdon

Langdon was an elite recruit from Alaska who overcame a serious knee injury to have an impressive collegiate career at Duke. By his final semester, he had become the all-time leader for made 3-pointers (342), with an overall conversion rate of 42.6 per cent from beyond the arc. As an all-ACC first-teamer and second-team All-American (1999), he averaged 14.5 points on 45.1 per cent shooting for Duke’s Blue Devils.

Video: Duke Basketball - Trajon Langdon

Duke Basketball – Trajon Langdon

16) Shelden Williams

Williams became Duke University’s career rebound king by amassing 1,262 boards over four seasons, averaging 9.1. His 422 blocks rank as the most by any Blue Devil player ever. Additionally, in 2003-04 Williams made history when he became the first player in the Mike Krzyzewski era to average double figures both for points (15.5) and rebounds (11.2)

Video: Shelden Williams Duke Highlights

Shelden Williams Duke Highlights

15) Carlos Boozer

Boozer played three years at Duke and averaged nearly 15.0 points and just over 7.0 rebounds during that time, earning third-team All-American honors from the Associated Press while also becoming ACC Tournament MVP during 2001-02. Boozer’s 82-11 winning percentage ranks fourth highest among those who participated in 50 or more games for Duke.

Video: Carlos Boozer Duke Highlights

Carlos Boozer Duke Highlights

14) Elton Brand

Brand was only at Duke for two seasons, yet he was highly productive. Although his team lost in 1999’s national title game against Connecticut, Brand had an outstanding individual season, averaging 17.7 points on 62% shooting while contributing 9.8 rebounds and 2.2 blocks per game while earning consensus national player of the year honors. His 61.2 career field-goal percentage ranks third all-time, while his 50-5 winning percentage ranks as the highest of any Duke player with at least 50 games played.

Video: Elton Brand Duke Highlights

Elton Brand Duke Highlights

13) Jeff Mullins

Mullins was Art Heyman’s teammate in 1962 and 1963 at Duke. After an outstanding athletic career at the university, he graduated in 1964.

Mullins achieved similar statistics as Heyman, averaging 21 points and nine rebounds in each contest over his three-year career.

No. 44 had long since earned its retirement when it was raised to the rafters during the 1994 season.

Video: Classic Warriors: Jeff Mullins

Classic Warriors: Jeff Mullins

12) Mike Gminski

Mike Gminski may have been one of Duke University’s youngest players, yet despite being so young, he proved his worth as an all-around seven-footer.

Gminski excelled for the Blue Devils from 1977 to 1980, averaging 19 points and ten rebounds per game during an All-American career that saw him rank fourth all-time scoring and rebounding averages among NCAA division 1 athletes.

Video: The Vault Episode 3: Mike Gminski

The Vault Episode 3: Mike Gminski

11) Jason Williams

Williams only played three seasons at Duke and he still finished his Blue Devil career tied with Gene Banks for No. 8 in points scored (2,079), No. 2 in assists per game (6.0) and No. 4 in career assists (644). Williams was a complete point guard who could drive, dish, and shoot it.

Video: Jason Williams Duke Basketball 17 Straight Points

Jason Williams Duke Basketball 17 Straight Points

10) Gene Banks

Mike Krzyzewski first great player was Gene Banks, who was recruited by Coach K’s predecessor Bill Foster.

Banks played on Coach Krzyzewski’s first team in 1980 and averaged almost 17 points and eight rebounds per game, becoming 1978 ACC Rookie of the Year and earning All-ACC First Team honors and Third Team All-American status from the UPI in 1979.

Banks helped lead the Blue Devils to the Final Four in 1978 and made it cool to be a Blue Devil again.

Video: Gene Banks Forces OT - 1981 Duke Senior Day - then Duke beats UNC in the OT

Gene Banks Forces OT – 1981 Duke Senior Day – then Duke beats UNC in the OT

9) Danny Ferry

Ferry helped take the Blue Devils to 3 Final Fours during his time at Duke. Ferry finished his career 6th in career points (2,155), 7th in career rebounds (1,003), and 7th in career assists (506)—the only player in the top-10 of all three categories. In his junior and senior years, Ferry was named as the ACC Player of the Year, ACC Athlete of the Year, and a consensus All-American selection. As a senior, Ferry won most of the national Player of the Year awards. Danny, much like Battier, was the ultimate team player and spent a lot of time on the floor going after loose balls. Ferry was a winner.

Video: Duke Great Danny Ferry Scores 58 Points

Duke Great Danny Ferry Scores 58 Points

8) Dick Groat

Groat is better known as a baseball player, but he was a great basketball player, averaging 23 points per game over his career with the Blue Devils. In 1952, he set the NCAA single-season scoring record (839 points; now held by Pete Maravich with 1,381 points). Groat was also named the United Press International’s (UPI) National Player of the Year in 1952.

Video: Dick Groat Honored | ACC Now & Then

Dick Groat Honored | ACC Now & Then

7) Shane Battier

Nobody ever gave more of themselves on the floor as Battier did! On top of that, he was a great player. Battier finished as Duke’s all-time leader in charges taken with 111, 48 more than Billy King, who is in second place. He is No. 2 in steals (266) and No. 3 in blocked shots (254). The Blue Devils won 131 games in which Battier saw action, the most by any Duke player. Battier was an integral part of the 2001 Duke National Championship team.

Video: Shane Battier Ignites Run at UNC

Shane Battier Ignites Run at UNC

6) Art Heyman

Heyman was a stud and averaged a double-double for his career. Heyman, a two-time All-American selection, is Duke’s career scoring average leader (25.1 ppg) and No. 4 in rebounds per game (10.9). Playing in just three varsity years (seniors were not eligible as a freshman back then), he is still No. 2 in free throw attempts (853) and No. 5 in made free throws (558). In his senior year, Heyman was selected for most of the 1963 national Player of the Year awards, the 1963 ACC Athlete of the Year and the Final Four Most Outstanding Player award. Heyman led the Blue Devils to the 1963 Final Four where they lost to the eventual National Champions Loyola (Chic).

Video: Duke vs. UNC Basketball 1961

Duke vs. UNC Basketball 1961

5) Johnny Dawkins

Dawkins is the man that started it all for Coach K, leading the Blue Devils to the 1986 NCAA Championship game. He was a slasher who could shoot; one of the best left-handed shooting guards in ACC history. A two-time All-American, Dawkins became Duke’s all-time leading scorer with 2,556 points until 2006 when J.J. Redick surpassed it. He is still the school’s leader in field goal attempts (2,019) and made field goals (1,026), and No. 6 in career assists (555). Just imagine the records he could have set if the three-point line would have existed when he played? With a three-point line, he may even have a National Championship ring.

Video: Johnny Dawkins Becomes Duke's All-Time Leading Scorer vs UNC | ACC Hidden Gems

Johnny Dawkins Becomes Duke’s All-Time Leading Scorer vs UNC | ACC Hidden Gems

 4) J.J. Redick

Reddick was the greatest shooter in Duke history. He finished his career with an NCAA-record 457 three-point field goals. Redick is the Blue Devils’ all-time leader in career free throw percentage (91.2), with streaks of 54 and 43 consecutive free throws. Redick was a clutch player at Duke and was also the 2006 national Player of the Year.

Video: Best JJ Redick duke career highlights

Best JJ Redick duke career highlights

3) Bobby Hurley

Hurley did not look like much physically, but he was a competitor who never backed down from a challenge. Hurley went to the Final Four three times and helped lead the Blue Devils to back-to-back NCAA Championships in 1991 and 1992. He was selected as the Final Four’s Most Outstanding Player in 1992 and a First Team All-American in 1993. Hurley remains the NCAA all-time assists leader with 1,076 assists. In crunch time he was as good as it gets at the point guard position.

Video: Bobby Hurley highlights - Best Duke PG ever!

Bobby Hurley highlights – Best Duke PG ever!

2) Grant Hill

Hill helped the Blue Devils win NCAA titles in 1991 and 1992, leading Duke to the championship game again in 1994. He was a complete player both offensively and defensively and you remember that dunk in the 1991 Championship game don’t you? He won the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) top defensive player award in 1993 and in 1994.

Video: Grant Hill Duke Highlights | ACC Icon

Grant Hill Duke Highlights | ACC Icon

1) Christian Laettner

No question at the number one spot for me, plus it pisses Kentucky fans off whenever they even see a picture of Laettner! Laettner is the only player in NCAA history to start in the Final Four all four of his college years. He owns the following NCAA Tournament records: Laettner is Duke’s No. 3 in career points scored (2,460) and total rebounds (1,149). Surprisingly, Laettner is Duke’s all-time leader in three-point shooting, hitting on 48.5 per cent of his shots from beyond the arc. Laettner was a great leader while at Duke and he made everybody around him better.

Video: Christian Laettner's shot sinks Kentucky in 1992 Elite Eight

Christian Laettner’s shot sinks Kentucky in 1992 Elite Eight

Honorable Mention

Bob Verga

Steve Vacendak

Jack Marin

Mark Alarie

David Henderson

Kenny Denard

Billy King

Quinn Snyder

 

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