The decision not to return to Duke basketball for a sophomore season paid off for Trevor Keels.
On Thursday night, Keels was selected No. 42 overall in the second round by the New York Knicks in the NBA Draft, becoming the fifth and final Duke player off the board.
The 6-foot-4 freshman guard helped Duke win the ACC regular-season title and reach the Final Four but struggled to decide if he should stay in college.
“Really turned. He was torn, man. … All the way up to the end he was torn,” Duke assistant Chris Carrawell said. “He was really torn. Because Trev is 18 years old. You can come back and be one of the best players in the country. Or, I say to all these guys, the NBA trumps everything.”
There had never been five Duke basketball players selected in the NBA Draft in the same year — until now.
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Keels averaged 11.5 points, 3.4 rebounds and 2.7 assists during his only season with the Blue Devils.
He shot 41.9% from the field and 31.2% from the 3-point line while showing an ability to light up the scoreboard at times, particularly in marquee games. He scored 19 points on 8-of-14 shooting in the Final Four loss to UNC.
Keels was Duke’s final holdout when it came to the NBA Draft, waiting until the final day to decide not to return to Durham for his sophomore season.
The reservation about his future may have come from an up-and-down performance at the combine where many scouts and evaluators suggested another year of college basketball would be in his best interest.
Keels showed flashes of brilliance at Duke, most notably a 25-point, 10-of-18 shooting performance against Kentucky in a high-profile season opener at his new home in Madison Square Garden. Keels, though, topped 20 points only twice in the remaining 34 games and missed three games with a lower leg/calf injury.
David Thompson is an award-winning reporter for the USA Today Network covering NC State and Duke athletics. He can be reached at email@example.com, at 828-231-1747, or on Twitter at @daveth89.