The offseason is officially over and the Nets will board a plane for training camp in San Diego Monday afternoon. At least 19 players will be preparing for the upcoming season, getting acclimated with new faces and taking the first steps to fulfill the goal of takin care of “unfinished business.”
Out of those invited to training camp, only 15 players and whoever fills the vacant two-way — rookie Kessler Edwards has one — will still be on the roster come October 18, cutdown day. Those decisions, including the vacant two-way, will be heavily impacted by the five-day training camp and the first preseason game vs. the Lakers next Sunday. It’s a camp that is promises to be a competitive environment.
David Duke Jr. — a rookie free agent and a standout at Summer League — is heading into training camp competing for the two-way opening. Duke, who signed with Brooklyn under an Exhibit-10 deal after going undrafted out of Providence, is ready to show his off value ... and compete.
“I’m expecting it to be a very competitive environment. Knowing that this is a championship-caliber team, I know the intensity will be high and energy will be through the roof,” Duke told NetsDaily. “The goal for me is to go in and do all the things that contribute to winning and show my value. Defensively, rebounding, knocking down open shots, talking, etc.”
Duke — who stands at 6’5” with a 6’9” wingspan and 39” max vertical — enters training camp as one of the two players (Devontae Cacok) on Exhibit-10 deals competing for the vacant two-way slot. The combo guard was the first to receive an Exhibit deal during Draft Night — a night he spent back in his hometown of Providence with family and friends. The 21-year-old had offers from other teams but chose Brooklyn due to his pre-draft experience with the organization.
“Draft Night was a special time because I was with my family and friends in Providence, RI. We all came together to celebrate a step into the next chapter of my life. There was a lot of nerves and tension but I tried to look past that and just enjoy the moment,” said Duke on his Draft Night experience.
“When it got to the mid-second round, I got a call from my agent who gave me some scenarios with multiple teams and it was up to me to decide. Having faith in God, and truly believing in myself, I felt the situation with Brooklyn was the best for me based on my pre-draft experience with them. Although I felt overlooked going undrafted, I knew wherever I ended up I would show what I bring to the table and would be just fine.”
The rookie guard documented his Draft Night experience by uploading the first episode of a YouTube series called ‘UNDRAFTED.’ In the episode, Duke documented his journey to NBA Draft night, dating back to his time at Classical High School.
“I just wanted to give viewers an inside look on what the process was like for me as well as show them that your circumstances don’t determine your outcome. I truly believe my work will show and flourish in the right situation and as I mentioned before, being from Rhode Island we are already overlooked as a state. So I hope that I can inspire the next generation of hoopers or any creative to chase their dreams and give it their all because it is possible. The only person you need to believe in you, is you,” said Duke on the motive behind releasing his YouTube series.
It didn’t take long at all for Duke to establish his name. Only a few weeks after Draft Night, the guard took advantage of the Nets Summer League opportunity through hustle and defense. He became one of the biggest Nets surprises in Vegas. In four games, the Summer League starter averaged 7.3 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 1.3 assists in 23.0 minutes per game. The Providence product did not play in the Nets’ fifth and final Summer League game.
Although only shooting 12 percent from three in Summer League, — an area he shot 40 percent in during his last two seasons at Providence — it’s been a motivating part of his game Duke wanted to focus on ahead of training camp.
“Summer league was great. I enjoyed my time competing and having my first NBA experience. The Brooklyn staff was very supportive and encouraging. They saw something in me enough to give me a starting spot and I believe I took advantage,” Duke said. “Since Summer League, I’ve been in Brooklyn working with the staff on a lot of things, especially my jump shot focusing on the details. I want to be able to be dependable to hit an open shot and guard the opposing team’s best player.”
While many were surprised by the string of standout Summer League performances, the ones close to Duke expected the potential to blossom.
“When it comes to David, it’s the things that you can’t teach that stick out to me the most. Right away, I knew David had both toughness and grit and that’s what makes him really unique in addition to his leadership ability, physicality, athleticism and what he’s able to bring to the defensive end,” said Duke’s manager, James Conley Jr. “He is really good at rebounding at the guard spot. I believe his age and college experience now make him more of an asset - especially with a team like Brooklyn where the only options are championship or bust.
“He’s physically and mentally ready to play in the NBA right now and his focus and determination will get him on the floor this season. Mark my words .... all he needs is the opportunity and he’s going to excel.”
Duke also tries to excel off-the-court in his hometown. In one effort, Duke participated in a class project through an Organizational Theory course at Providence. The plan was to help raise money for Crossroads Rhode Island, the leader of homeless services in the state of Rhode Island. Duke used his platform to help raise a total of $14,383. The goal at the time was $5,000.
“I think giving back to the Providence community as a whole is very important to me. I come from a place where a lot of talent is overlooked and unable to be discovered due to our state being so small. The platform for us isn’t very big, so with me being able to have a bigger platform, I want to take advantage and make a way for others to find themselves and show the world the talent we have,” Duke said.
“As far as the homeless community, my high school in Providence was next door to a homeless shelter, Crossroads, so I was very familiar with it. Once I got to PC, my classmates and I were given a choice of what charity we want to give back to and we decided that Crossroads was the perfect charity. I used my social media to engage my followers and fans of Friartown to donate and we exceeded the fundraising goal by a lot which was an amazing turnout.”
Duke will be on the podium Monday at Barclays Center like all his more accomplished and well known teammates. He may not get a lot of questions, but he hopes to have a lot of answers.