Photo courtesy of Providence College Athletics
By David Cordova
When you’re a high-major Division I basketball player, there will always be a lot of offers from schools trying to acquire your talents. But there are a couple of questions that player should ask themselves. Do they want to go far away for the “college experience?” Or simply, do they want to stay close to home and lead the local program to national prominence?
David Duke asked himself this question plenty of times. But he settled on one answer and this one has paid dividends as of late. He decided to stay with his local school, Providence College, which is a powerhouse in the Big East Conference. So far, he has been reaping the benefits of being a Friar.
The 6-foot-5 guard has gone from a promising prep star in the New England to one of the Friars’ most potent offensive weapons very early in the season. For his efforts, he has been named the Big East Co-Preseason Player of the Year with Villanova’s Jahvon Quinerly. With his level of outstanding talent, it is possible that he could possibly in the running for the conference’s Rookie of the Year award come March.
When asked what motivated him to be successful in the game of basketball, Duke replied, “I think it just changes my family’s life for the better. My love for the game is just, you know, unexplainable. I mean, I just love the game. It’s really just going out every day, being able to hoop with my guys.”
Duke, who grew up a mile away from the Providence College campus, is one of the most prominent players to come out of the state of Rhode Island in a few years. When asked what it is like being from Providence, he replied, “It’s cool, going to Providence [College], going to school in my hometown, you know everybody around me shows love, so it’s cool.”
As for the basketball culture in the city, he replied, “In Providence, everybody wants to be the guy, everybody wants to have the ball in their hands and show what they can do.”
The player that Duke looked up to in the area was Ricky Ledo, who at one-time was a five-star player during his high school years, as he attended four high schools, two of them in the state of Rhode Island. Ledo committed to Providence in 2012, but never got to play for the Friars because he was a non-qualifier. He would then leave school after that season and would be drafted in the second round by the Milwaukee Bucks and played parts of two seasons in the NBA with the Dallas Mavericks and the New York Knicks, and is now playing professionally in Italy with Pallancestro Reggiana.
“I mean, just local high school guys, the biggest guy you could name was Ricky Ledo, coming out of Providence. He actually attended Providence College for a year, so yeah, he was the guy I looked up to,” said Duke.
Duke played for three seasons at Classical High School, a public magnet school in Providence, and was a key contributor leading them to the state’s Division I championship in 2016 as a junior, while averaging 15 points per game.
Then, he would transfer to Cushing Academy, a private boarding school in Ashburnham, Massachusetts, where he would play in one of the country’s best leagues, the New England Prep Schools Athletic Council, which is commonly referred to as the NEPSAC. While at Cushing, he averaged 16 points and helped the Penguins win a NEPSAC Class AA title as a reclassified junior. In his postgrad year, he averaged 17 points, five rebounds and four assists and led his team to the NEPSAC Class AA semifinals.
When asked about the experience of playing in a league such as the NEPSAC, he replied, “It was great, I mean, going up against talented guys night and night out, you know, guys that are going to school specifically for basketball, you know, it’s definitely tougher competition than public school, but it does prepare you well for college.”
Duke also played for Mass Rivals on the Adidas Gauntlet circuit. During his last summer on the sneaker circuit, he and A.J. Reeves, his current teammate at Providence wreaked havoc on the court and helped steamroll their team to the Adidas Gauntlet Finale title and the Adidas Summer Championships title.
“It was great, I mean, that was a life-changing decision, moving from my previous AAU team to Mass Rivals. It was all for the better, and in the end, it got me to where I am, so I’m extremely thankful,” said Duke about his experience with Mass Rivals.
When it came time to make his collegiate decision, the top-50 recruit decided to stay local to play for the Friars in the fall of 2017. When asked why he chose to stay in Providence, he replied, “Just the coaching staff, the culture, you know, being close to home, my little brothers can see me play, and just being able to go out and do what I love in front of the city.”
And what is also interesting is that he gets to play for Ed Cooley, who is also a native of Providence, and has led the Friars to five straight NCAA Tournament appearances during his eight seasons at the helm. When asked about his relationship with Cooley, he replied, “It’s definitely a close relationship. Me and him both share the same background, coming from Providence, so it was kind of a connection that we had during the recruiting process.”
So far, Duke hasn’t disappointed in the Big East, as he has averaged 8.7 points, 2.7 rebounds and 2.5 assists for the Friars, who are 3-2, so far this season. Duke’s breakout game this season was against South Carolina on November 17th, when he scored 20 points in Providence’s 76-67 victory.
When asked about coming into the Big East, he replied, “It’s amazing, you know, I thank God, I thank my team, everybody for the support, but you know, I’m just looking forward to playing with my teammates and for coach and seeing how the season goes.”
On what he is looking forward to as a freshman this season, he added: “Just looking forward to learning new things, getting up there, getting the experience, which will help me later on, and just experiencing the Big East, to be honest.”
As his freshman season goes on, Duke will continue to learn more and more about what the college game will bring him. His athleticism and overall play will bring delight to the fans at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center, the arena in downtown Providence that seats over 14,000 fans. This season, the rest of the world and the Big East will get to know what the city of Providence has already known about David Duke, that he is a star in the making, and that the best is yet to come.
Highlights of David Duke:
Courtesy of All Ball.
Courtesy of WPRI-TV.
Courtesy of Buzzer Beater Basketball.
Courtesy of Courtside Films.
Courtesy of RI Affiliated.
Courtesy of Providence College Athletics.
Courtesy of Buzzer Beater Basketball.
Courtesy of CBS Sports Network.
Courtesy of Friarbasketball.