Four seasons ago, Duke won a national championship with four freshmen at the forefront helping Hall of Fame coach Mike Krzyzewski climb back to the top of college basketball.
Grayson Allen, a senior guard and All-America candidate, is the only player left from that group in college. The other members of Duke's prestigious 2014 recruiting class are in the NBA, guys such as Jahlil Okafor, Justise Winslow and Tyus Jones.
"It's crazy to think about that I'd be a senior this year in college," said Jones, the 2015 Final Four MVP now in his third season as a Timberwolves point guard. "Grayson stuck it out. He's had a tremendous career at Duke — and he's got a great team surrounding him this year. He's got a chance to do something special."
Duke is the No. 1 team in the nation, just like they were to open the 2016-17 season.
The makeup of the 2017-18 Blue Devils might sound familiar. They are extremely young. Aside from Allen, they will be starting four freshmen: Marvin Bagley III, Wendell Carter Jr., Trevon Duval and Gary Trent Jr., a former teammate of Jones and his brother, Tre (also a Duke recruit, for next year), at Apple Valley.
Bagley reclassified from the 2018 class to enter college a year early. The 6-foot-11 forward gives Coach K a big man who, like Okafor, has the potential to be one of the top picks in the NBA draft. Carter, Duval and Trent are "one-and-done" candidates as well. But that doesn't necessarily mean they will all leave for the NBA after a year in college.
Last year's top-rated Duke recruiting class was stacked with four pro prospects. Jayson Tatum, Harry Giles and Frank Jackson left early and were drafted, but Marques Bolden is still in school.
Bolden, a former McDonald's All-America center, will likely come off the bench, which shows just how loaded the Blue Devils are, especially in the frontcourt.
The Duke backcourt will include a name well known to Minnesota basketball fans. Trent, the son of former Wolves forward Gary Trent, attended Apple Valley before leaving for his senior year to play for Prolific Prep in Napa, Calif., last season.
Trent wants to help Duke live up to the expectations of a lofty preseason ranking and rich championship history. Last season's team couldn't stay healthy and had a disappointing finish after losing to South Carolina in the NCAA tournament's second round.
"You could say it's pressure in a sense," Trent told local media last month. "But it's kind of a good pressure. You're adding to the tradition and greatness that was there before. You're just trying to add to it and win games."
Based on his suspensions last season for tripping and poor on-court behavior, Allen might not seem like the best captain for a younger team. But Trent said Allen's mistakes and his championship experience make him the perfect player to lead Duke back to the top this season.
"He's been through the worst of times and the best of times," Trent said. "So he's the best leader for us."