Duke Basketball: Reeling Blue Devils Need Amile Jefferson—Is He Ready?

Josh SchochAnalyst IIIJanuary 16, 2013

Jan 12, 2013; Raleigh, NC, USA; Duke Blue Devils forward Amile Jefferson (21) reacts to picking up his fifth foul during the second half against the North Carolina State Wolfpack at PNC Arena. North Carolina State won 84-76. Mandatory Credit: Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports
Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

The Duke Blue Devils need serious help.

A basketball team that took down three Top Five opponents and was atop the college basketball world for weeks has suddenly become vulnerable.

Senior leaders Ryan Kelly and Seth Curry are both dealing with injuries right now and could be sidelined for quite some time.

Kelly's injury came on Jan. 13 and looked to be pretty bad, according to Seth Davis.

For those asking my point about Ryan Kelly is I believe this is a serious injury. Not saying def out for year but I think it'll be a while.

— Seth Davis (@SethDavisHoops) January 13, 2013

Then, just days later, Curry's nagging leg injury that was expected to bother him all season became the least of his worries when he injured his other ankle. He is now dealing with a few bad injuries, which could mean that he will miss a lot of time.

For a team that was really only playing six guys at the beginning of the season, these injuries are devastating.

Tyler Thornton will likely fill in for Curry, but what about Kelly, who was one of two true big men on this roster?

That's where freshman Amile Jefferson comes in.

Jefferson was a Top 25 freshman in the Class of 2012, according to ESPN, and he brings versatility to the table as a power forward.

He is not very big right now at 6'8" and 195 pounds, but that is still bigger than he was a few months ago. He is still putting on weight so he can play down low.

Jefferson is an elite slasher who can use his length and athleticism to get to the rim and finish around defenders.

On defense he won't be keeping anyone out of the paint, but he can use his length to disrupt passes and keep his man from getting the ball.

Right now, the task for Jefferson is replacing a 6'11" forward who averaged 13.4 points and 5.4 rebounds per game. Luckily for Jefferson, Kelly was not exactly dominant in the paint either and played primarily on the perimeter on offense.

Jefferson might not have the range that Kelly does on the offensive end, but he is certainly just as efficient. In his nine minutes per game this season, he is averaging 3.5 points on 56.4 percent shooting.

When Jefferson gets his shots, he'll take them, and he'll typically knock them down. Now that he should be playing more than 20 minutes per game, we will definitely see a rise in his production levels.

While Jefferson could average as high as nine points and six rebounds per game if he plays a starter's minutes, those numbers still aren't enough.

Kelly was a beast.

He helped the team in so many different ways, including taking a big man off National Player of the Year candidate Mason Plumlee inside.

Because Jefferson can't play well with his back to the basket, opposing teams will likely put a smaller guy on him and focus more on Plumlee inside.

The freshman has big shoes to fill, and he'll fill them to some extent. However, this Duke team won't be the same without Kelly and Curry, and it will need them back to be truly dominant again this year.