Meet Duje Dukan, Wisconsin’s Newest WeaponPosted by Alex Moscoso (@AlexPMoscoso) on November 11th, 2013
Last week, we predicted that Wisconsin would finish fourth in the Big Ten. Our ranking was rooted in Bo Ryan’s long history of consistency. Since he’s been the head coach in Madison, Wisconsin has finished fourth or higher in the Big Ten every single year. Given the talent on his roster, had we replaced the name Wisconsin with that of any other team, we would have had the Badgers ranked much lower. The most obvious concern for this year’s team is the loss of several major contributors; Ryan will need to replace the 28.0 points and 19.5 rebounds a game of graduated players Ryan Evans, Jared Berggren and Mike Bruesewitz.
But this is something Ryan does every couple of years. Like the programs of yesteryear, Wisconsin has made an art out of bringing in unheralded recruits and developing them into effective college players. By the time they are upperclassmen, they can seamlessly step into contributing roles and keep the Wisconsin basketball machine operating at a high level. In our preseason post, we mentioned Nigel Hayes as one those players who could make a significant jump. But as Wisconsin’s impressive 86-75 win over a talented St. John’s team on Friday night showed, Duje Dukan has emerged as a player who can be a significant scoring option off the bench.
Dukan is a prototypical Wisconsin player. He was a mid-major recruit until his senior season in high school. What he lacked in superficial traits of a high-major recruit, such as jump-out-of-the-gym athleticism, he made up in work ethic (he’s been described as a gym rat) and a strong fundamental background. He’s the son of Ivica Dukan, who works in the Chicago Bulls’ front office and had a long professional basketball career overseas. On Friday night, Dukan came out of nowhere to score 15 points and grab five rebounds in 21 minutes against St. John’s. Before this game, Dukan had only scored 11 points in his entire two-year tenure in Madison. Although it was only the first game of the season, the way Dukan scored throughout the night signals that his game has fully developed and his performance won’t be a one-game anomaly. He scored from deep (2-of-3 from distance) and inside and, most impressively, he was aggressive underneath the basket, leading to six free throw attempts. Dukan ended the night with a fantastic true shooting percentage of 86.8 percent.
If Wisconsin is going to challenge for the Big Ten title, it will need its offense to score as effectively as it did Friday night. For that to happen, Ryan needs Dukan to provide consistent scoring off the bench. He will have a chance to prove himself again against elite competition on Tuesday when Florida comes to town. Then we’ll find out for sure if this was a one-hit wonder or if Dukan is the next in a long line of unheralded contributors coming off of Bo Ryan’s bench.