The latest player to join Duke’s top-rated recruiting class for this season, Tyrese Proctor started college a year ahead of schedule and was the last player to arrive on campus.
If you think he’s at a disadvantage, you’ve never seen Australia’s 6-5 leader play.
“He’s someone who can score, he can pass, he can defend,” Duke coach Jon Scheyer said. “For us, it’s really easy to play with him.”
Proctor turned 18 last April, the same month he was in Portland, Oregon at the Nike Hoop Summit. In July, he played with the Australian national team in the FIBA Asia Cup tournament, averaging 10.5 points while helping his team win the championship.
Once he arrived at Duke in August and started playing with the Blue Devils, that previous experience brought him up to speed quickly.
“His international experience has served him really well,” Scheyer said, “knowing how to play contact, knowing how to play with a really good pace.”
He joins a Duke team with an established ball handler and perimeter scorer in Jeremy Roach, the 6-2 junior who is the only returning starter on the Final Four team from last season.
But Duke leads an offense that, as retired coach Mike Krzyzewski has often said, is positionless. Already in training this month, Proctor and Roach have played together, one off the ball and the other in attack, then vice versa.
This is one of the things Scheyer meant when he talked about how easy it is to play Proctor.
For his part, Proctor remarked on how motivated everyone is already to win and win big this season.
“Everyone’s commitment,” Proctor said. “We have this visionary look. Just the way we push the ball. I think everyone talks a lot about defense. … The way we move the ball, share the ball, everyone knows their role. I think it was good right away.
Before he even knew he would be their teammate this season at Duke, Proctor got to know new Blue Devils Derek Lively, Dariq Whitehead and Kylie Filipowski last spring. They too played at the Nike Hoop Summit in April. Proctor played against them, however, on Team World while they were on Team USA.
Take the next step
Already a duke signed up for the class of 2023, the idea that he would reclassify to arrive this summer heated up in May. Trevor Keels, a first-year guard for Duke last season, got his name into the NBA draft pool but had the option of returning to school.
His deadline was June 1 at midnight and he ultimately stuck with his pro 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 had proven everything I could in Australia,” Proctor said. “So I just wanted to take the next step and come out here and just play.”
He was already playing at a high level of competition in Australia, where he was enrolled in the NBA Global Academy program in the capital Canberra. One of 16 players chosen to compete last year, he trained with coaches hired by the NBA and attended school at a nearby high school with other athletes from the Australian Institute of Sport.
Yet when he toured the Duke 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 and Arizona State, among others.
“I think we built a relationship very quickly,” Proctor said. “You know, he could trust me. I could trust him, which was different from other places. I just felt like it was the right thing for me here.
A three-point shooter, ball handler and smooth passer, Proctor used his summer play at the Asian Cup in Indonesia and his pre-season training to work on another important aspect.
“I put a lot of emphasis on my defense going forward,” Proctor said. “It wasn’t a strong point in the past, but I think in the tournament in Indonesia I really stepped it up.”
He got off to a good start in the Asian Cup, where he recorded four interceptions in six games.
Because Proctor performed overseas and was recruited during the pandemic, seeing him perform in person, rather than just on video, is a new experience for Duke staff. But he never ceases to impress them.
“He’s tough,” Scheyer said. “You can’t tell on a movie, you know, how a person talks? Do they use their body all the time? He can still talk more, by the way. To me, that’s something he can definitely do. But just his feel and attention to detail on any play – it can be attacking or defensive, 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 is definitely not catching up.