Duke released a statement today that Rasheed Sulaimon has been dismissed from Duke, "after Rasheed repeatedly struggled to meet the necessary obligations." The McDonald's All-American (and then-No. 12 ranked recruit in the country) had slowly seen his playing time diminish since his freshman year, and currently averages 7.5 points per game off the bench in 19.3 minutes per game.
The junior guard was leading Duke in three-point shooting percentage this season, so we checked in with Ben Swain, Duke fan, reporter, and aficionado, to see how this affects Duke.
Streaking The Lawn: This news, I assume, comes as much as a surprise to Duke fans as to the rest of the us, is that right? Are there any working theories right now as to what might cause this kind of reaction from Coach K?
@TheBenSwain: I've always thought Sulaimon had to be the most frustrating player ever to coach because he's so out of control at times. Clearly he's been in Coach K's dog house multiple times over his career, and even last night there were examples of teammates getting frustrated with him for his decision making. This has been the most prevalent theory I've seen so far, but unfortunately it's probably the least plausible theory out there. Bad shot selection and poor body language doesn't get you kicked off of a basketball team. Anyone saying they saw it coming or that they're not surprised are either lying or trying to fit some observation they've made into a theory to get this to make sense. We'll find out why, but right now literally no one knows.
STL: And forgive my ignorance if this is an obvious question and I'm completely blanking, but do you recall the last time Coach K had dismissed someone off the team? What was the reason?
Swain: I was trying to think back on this as well and couldn't pinpoint an example. Taylor King probably deserved to be kicked off of the team more than anyone I've ever seen and he was allowed to transfer. That guy took bad shots, didn't play defense, had awful body language, and had a pretty well documented weed habit, and he was allowed to transfer. My immediate fear is that this is something really bad. That doesn't compute with anything I've come to know about Sulaimon while I've been covering the team, but this just feels bad. I hope I'm wrong. [Eds. note: According to a Raleigh News & Observer Duke beat reporter Laura Keeley, this is the first time Mike Krzyzewski has dismissed a player from Duke.]
STL: How big of a loss for Duke is this? Sulaimon's playing time has steadily decreased each year, but he's still a big contributor off the bench and shoots a solid 41%. What, if anything, did Sulaimon bring to the table that might be hard to replace?
Swain: Basketball wise, Duke isn't that deep anymore. And though most of it goes towards being kind of selfish, Sulaimon has been the guy to take Duke's big shots when they've needed one in the past two seasons (although I can only remember him hitting against Syracuse and against UVA). I think that's where he'll be missed the most.
STL: Who fills in his playing time?
Swain: Matt Jones. He's been really, really good for Duke this year by doing the little things, which is exactly what's needed when you have star power. You don't need a guy taking away shots from Cook, Tyus Jones, Winslow and Okafor. And Cook may play 40 minutes a game from now on, which isn't a bad option for Duke. But now Duke is definitely an injury or foul trouble away from being average. Grayson Allen will come off of the bench and plays the same position Sulaimon did, but he's not ready. He's a year away.
STL: How does this affect the game plan against Virginia?
Swain: Honestly probably not much. Duke will try to get the ball to Okafor and get shooters to find space when UVA doubles. Just different guys will be getting shots, but I don't think it changes much. In terms of position, this is the one that Duke could afford some attrition.