If the NCAA handed out an award that honored college basketball’s “Most Improved Player” throughout the season, there is no doubt that the most improved player for any team during the 2014-15 season would be Justise Winslow.
Winslow has impacted the Duke Blue Devils in a major way by helping them keep their lineups diverse and providing an impact forward who can bridge the gap between Duke’s strong front court and talented back court.
Duke already has Jahlil Okafor — well on his way to the NBA already — and guards Quinn Cook and Tyus Jones, but the 19-year-old Winslow has been the unsung hero that has helped the Blue Devils march to the Final Four again for the 1st time in five seasons.
Winslow is breaking out at the right time and his stock has never been higher. Here is what you need to know:
1. Winslow Played in the McDonald’s All-American Game
Winslow played in the 2014 McDonald’s All-American Game for the East team. Some of Winslow’s teammates included: teammate Tyus Jones, Ohio State’s D’Angelo Russell, Kentucky’s Karl-Anthony Towns and Maryland’s Melo Trimble — all future NBA prospects.
The West defeated the East 105-102 and Winslow scored 9 points in 13 minutes on 4/6 shooting from the floor.
2. Winslow Was Known but Not the Top Recruit Coming Out of High School
Scouts Inc. graded Winslow with a 95 and he was 15th on ESPN’s top 100.
3. Winslow Has Experience Playing for Team USA
Winslow has extensive experience playing for Team USA. He played in the FIBA U17, U18 and U19 World Championships. He has continued to polish his game through USA play. His most impressive statistics came with the 2014 U18 National team:
The 2014 USA U18 National Team that compiled a 5-0 record, won the FIBA Americas U18 Championship gold medal and qualified the U.S. for the 2015 FIBA U19 World Championship; averaged 12.4 ppg., 6.0 rpg., 2.0 apg. and 2.0 spg.
4. The Forward Has Gotten Better as the Season Has Progressed
Winslow came very close to choosing UCLA over Duke mainly because Winslow wanted to build his profile — Duke already had Okafor, Tyus Jones lined up in addition to Quinn Cook.
He averaged 12.5 points and 6.5 rebounds this season, good numbers for essentially the third or fourth scoring option on a good team. Winslow has turned it up in the NCAA Tournament; he averaged 18.5 points in Houston — his hometown — during the South Regional games.
5. Winslow Is on the Radar of NBA Draft Scouts
Coming into this season, Winslow was seen as an athletic prospect who did everything well, but nothing “great.” He was a solid scorer, a good defender with great length and athleticism and a good rebounder for his size.
Winslow’s Tournament performance has scouts talking again. Draft Xpress above originally compared him as a hybrid of James Harden and Grant Hill. Hill is probably the closer comparison. A current NBA player that Winslow compares favorably to is Chicago Bulls wing Jimmy Butler.