DURHAM, N.C. -- Preseason team and player rankings don't mean much over the course of a season and rankings in early June often mean even less, but nonetheless it is nice to see Duke well represented in the upper portions of the Sporting News Top 25 as well as the Top 10 Player Rankings.
The Blue Devils, coming off a 30-6 season that included five wins over AP top 10 opponents and an NCAA Tournament Elite Eight appearance, are ranked No. 4 overall in SN’s 2013-14 Top 25 Poll. Kentucky holds the top spot in the poll following by Michigan State, Louisville, Duke and Arizona. Last season, the Blue Devils topped all three schools listed ahead of them in the 2013-14 poll. Also ranking in the top 10 are Champions Classic opponent Kansas (No. 6), Big Ten-ACC Challenge opponent Michigan (No. 7), ACC newcomer Syracuse (No. 8), cross-town rival North Carolina (No. 9) and Oklahoma State.
Duke’s 2013-14 loaded schedule features six meetings with teams ranked in the Sporting News Top 10 as well as a potential showdown with No. 5 Arizona in the Preseason NIT. In addition, the Blue Devils will also face No. 20 Notre Dame, No. 24 Virginia and one other ranked non-conference opponent yet to be announced this season.
The Sporting News staff, led by senior basketball writer Mike DeCourcy, also placed some lofty expectations on a trio of Blue Devils in the individual player rankings. Newcomer Jabari Parker was slotted as the No. 2 power forward in the country, while sophomore transfer Rodney Hood was the No. 3 small forward and sophomore Rasheed Sulaimon was the third-ranked shooting guard.
Parker comes to Durham after leading Simeon [Chicago] to four Illinois Class 4A state championships and establishing himself as one of the premier recruits in the country. A 6-8 skilled forward, Parker earned the No. 3 ranking from Recruiting Services Consensus Index. As a senior, he returned from an offseason foot injury to lead the team to a 30-3 record. In the state championship game against Stevenson, Parker scored 20 points and grabbed eight rebounds to cap a senior season in which he averaged 18.4 points, 10.4 rebounds and 2.7 assists. He averaged 21.7 points during Simeon’s seven-game playoff run.
The first player to twice be named Mr. Basketball of Illinois, Parker has played in the McDonald’s All-American Game, the Jordan Brand Classic and the Nike Hoop Summit. He was named co-MVP at the Jordan Brand Classic after totaling 16 points on 8-of-13 shooting to go with seven rebounds, two assists, two steals and a block. At the McDonald’s All-American Game, he scored 10 points with eight rebounds, three assists, two blocks and two steals. In the Nike Hoop Summit, he netted 22 points with seven rebounds, three steals and a pair of blocks.
Parker was also a member of the USA Basketball U16 and U17 teams, helping the U17 squad win gold at the 2012 FIBA U17 World Championship and the U16 team win gold at the 2011 FIBA Americas U16 Championship. He was named USA Basketball’s Male Athlete of the Year in 2011 and MVP of the 2011 FIBA Americas U16 Championship.
Hood transferred to Duke in the spring of 2012 after earning SEC All-Freshman Team honors at Mississippi State. The Meridian, Miss., native averaged 10.3 points, 4.8 rebounds and 2.0 assists, while knocking down 47 three-point field goals in his one season in Starkville. Hood quickly established himself as an premier player in practice last season with the Blue Devils showing elite athleticism, strong defensive instincts and a well-rounded offensive game.
Hood, a two-time Mississippi Gatorade Player of the Year, was a consensus top 50 recruit coming out of high school, ranking as high as No. 16 by Rivals.
Sulaimon earned ACC All-Freshman Team accolades a year ago after averaging 11.6 points, 3.4 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game. The Houston, Texas, native started 33 games and finished in double figures in scoring 22 times. He knocked down 49 three-point field goals, including a Duke-freshmen record-tying six treys in an Jan. 26 home win over Maryland. Sulaimon had a pair of 20-point efforts, including 25 points in Duke’s win over the Terrapins.
Sulaimon and Hood are also competing for spots on USA Basketball teams this summer. Sulaimon, a member of the gold medal-winning FIBA Americas U18 team in 2012, is seeking a spot on the U19 World Championship Team, while Hood is competing for a roster spot on Team USA for the World University Games.