Duke Basketball: Why Andre Dawkins Is Blue Devils' Biggest X-Factor

David AldridgeFeatured ColumnistSeptember 10, 2013

Feb 16, 2012; Durham, NC, USA; Duke Blue Devils guard Andre Dawkins (20) reacts to a call by the officials in their game against the North Carolina State Wolfpack during the second half at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Duke beat North Carolina State 78-73. Mandatory Credit: Mark Dolejs-USA TODAY Sports
Mark Dolejs-USA TODAY Sports

The Duke Blue Devils will have one of the best starting lineups in college basketball next season.

With two potential NBA lottery picks in Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood, and two other potential All-ACC performers in Quinn Cook and Rasheed Sulaimon, Mike Krzyzewski has a tremendous amount of talent in his starting unit.

But in order for a team to have a successful run to a national championship, it often needs other players to step up. It needs guys who are willing to come off the bench and provide major production.

Luke Hancock did that for the Louisville Cardinals this past season. Darius Miller did it the year before with the Kentucky Wildcats.

Andre Dawkins has the potential to be that player for Duke in the 2013-14 season.

Prior to the 2011-12 season, Dawkins was expected to emerge as a dynamic all-around player for the Blue Devils with his combination of experience, athleticism and incredible shooting touch. Instead, Dawkins struggled through an inconsistent junior season and often found himself on the bench.

After a disappointing junior year, he decided to step away from the game of basketball for a period of time. He redshirted this past season and took time to grieve and receive counseling over the loss of his sister, who died in a car accident when she was on her way to see him play during his freshman season.

Now, after spending a year away from the game and growing mentally stronger, the 6’4” sharpshooter from Chesapeake, Va., is returning to the team as a fifth-year senior with a goal of winning a second national championship.

And though the Blue Devils already have a potent starting lineup, Andre Dawkins has the potential to be a major X-factor for Mike Krzyzewski.

He’ll likely come off the bench behind guys like Rasheed Sulaimon and Rodney Hood, but he will emerge as a very valuable weapon if he can consistently play at a high level.

If Dawkins offers instant offense as he has in the past, he gives the Blue Devils another option that makes them even more difficult to stop. Having a guy who can knock down shots from 25 feet is something the opposition has to immediately account for when he’s on the court.

Dawkins’ ability to make shots will open up space for Rodney Hood, Rasheed Sulaimon and Jabari Parker to slash to the basket and finish at the rim.

He also has the athletic ability to provide rebounding and tough defense against opposing wing players.

Playing on a team with so much depth should allow Dawkins the opportunity to find his role without feeling any pressure to carry the team. He can adjust and get rid of the rust in his game, which he’ll likely have after spending a year away from the team.

People who have seen Andre Dawkins play know he has the ability to make a major impact. The question is whether or not he can perform at a high level on a regular basis.

If he can, that next championship for the Blue Devils might not take long to get.