The last player to join Duke’s top-ranked recruit class this season, Tyrese Proctor started college a year ahead of schedule and was the last player to make it to campus.
If you think he’s at a disadvantage, you’ve never seen the 6-5 point guard from Australia play.
“He’s someone who can score, who can pass, who can defend,” Duke coach John Scheer said. “For us, it’s easy to play with him.”
Proctor turned 18 last April, the same month he was in Portland, Oregon, at the top of Nike Hop. In July, he played for the Australian national team in the AFC Basketball Championship, averaging 10.5 points while helping his team win the tournament.
Once he arrived at Duke in August and started playing for the Blue Devils, that previous experience allowed him to speed up quickly.
“His international experience served him really well, knowing how to play through contact, knowing how to play at a really good pace,” said Shire.
He joins Duke’s side with a registered peripheral ball player and scorer in Jeremy Roach, the 6-2 rookie who is the only player to return from the Final Four last season.
But Duke runs an offense that, as now retired coach Mike Krzyzewski said, is centerless. Already in practice this month, Proctor and Roach played together, one off the ball and the other running the attack, and then the other way around.
This is one of the things Scheyer meant when he talked about how easy it is to play with Proctor.
For his part, Proctor noted how everyone is really driven to win and win big this season.
“Everyone’s commitment,” Proctor said. “We have that one vision. Just the way we push the ball. I think everyone talks a lot about defending. … The way we move the ball, we share the ball, everyone knows their role. I think it was immediately good.”
Even before he knew he would be their teammate this season at Duke, Proctor got to know Blue Devils Dereck Lively, Dariq Whitehead and Kylie Filipowski last spring. They also played at Nike Hoop Summit in April. Proctor played against them, though, on the world team while they were on the US team.
take the next step
Already Duke is committing to the class of 2023, the idea of reclassifying him to arrive this summer went into May. Trevor Kells, the new guard for Duke last season, entered his name in the NBA draft pool but had the option to go back to school.
His deadline was June 1 at midnight, and he eventually stayed with his professional plans, becoming a second-round pick by the New York Knicks.
On June 4, Proctor announced his decision to reclassify and play for Duke this season.
“I thought I proved as good as I could in Australia,” Proctor said. “So I just wanted to take the next step and get out here and play.”
He was already playing at a highly competitive level in Australia, having enrolled in the NBA World Academy program in the capital, Canberra. One of 16 players selected to attend last year, he trained under NBA-appointed coaches and attended school at a nearby high school with other athletes from the Australian Institute of Sport.
However, when he visited the Duke University campus and spoke with Scheyer and the coaching staff, he knew he wanted to join the Blue Devils even with offers from Arizona, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Arizona State and more.
“I think we built a really fast relationship,” Proctor said. “You know, he can trust me. I can trust him, which was different from other places. It just felt like the right thing for me here.”
A smooth three-point shooter, ball and pass handler, Proctor used his summer playing in the Asian Cup in Indonesia and his pre-season practices to work on another important aspect.
“I am very focused on my defense going forward,” Proctor said. “It wasn’t a strong suit in the past, but I think at the tournament in Indonesia, I really stepped up to that.”
He got off to a good start in the Asian Cup, scoring four steals in six matches.
With Proctor playing overseas and recruiting during the pandemic, seeing him play in person, not just on video, is a new experience for Duke’s staff. But he continues to impress them.
“It’s tough,” Cher said. “You can’t say in the movie, you know, how does a person talk? Do they use their body all the time? By the way, he can still talk more. To me that’s something he can definitely do. But just his sense and attention to detail in any game – that could be Offensively or defensively, he has a great understanding of how to play the game.”
He may have arrived on campus two months later than his teammates, but Proctor certainly isn’t playing catch-up.