LAHAINA — As advertised.
The buzz surrounding No. 1 Duke threatened to drown out all else coming into the first day of the Maui Jim Maui Invitational on Monday. So the Blue Devils cut through it with a buzz saw.
San Diego State was merely collateral damage.
Freshman stars R.J. Barrett (20 points, five assists), Cam Reddish (16 points on 6-for-10 shooting) and Zion Williamson (13 points, five steals) took turns submitting "SportsCenter"-worthy highlights as the Blue Devils destroyed the Aztecs 90-64 in the latest 40-minute mythic mashup that's captivated the college basketball world.
So, Dukies, your thoughts?
"I tried to really just ignore it," Reddish said. "Just continue to just work hard, listen to Coach, and basically trust my teammates and get better every day. Really just ignoring all the press."
Yeah, good luck with that. They've been all anyone can talk about here, even among opposing fan bases and media.
"They know how to play the game of basketball, and they play it at a high level," SDSU guard Jeremy Hemsley said. "I think they did a good job of just staying true to themselves and just playing their game, but they're a good group of freshmen for sure."
ESPN rated Barrett, Williamson and Reddish as the top three recruits of the 2018 freshman class, in that order. Now some projections have those three going as the Nos. 1 through 3 picks in the 2019 NBA Draft. Tre Jones, the freshman point guard who added 14 points on 6-for-7 shooting Monday, could be a late first-rounder.
"In recent memory, it rivals some of the classes Kentucky's had, talent wise, as far as the NBA level," an NBA scout sitting courtside in the Lahaina Civic Center told the Star-Advertiser. "Kentucky's had a couple of really good classes, starting with John Wall, Boogie (DeMarcus Cousins), Eric Bledsoe.
"So we've seen it before in college basketball, but they're all really talented players who will go high in the draft."
With the way the young stars worked the ball around and spread the workload Monday, their individual numbers were pretty clearly secondary to the outcome.
"The coaches do a great job in making sure that we're not worried about those things," Jones said. "We're worried about things that will actually make us better. So there's a lot of little things like playing defense, talking, getting back in transition, rebounding, things like that that will actually make us better rather than worrying about personal stats."
Williamson, unique in his skills and form at 6 feet 7 and 285 pounds, got off to a slow start because of foul trouble and a couple of missed 3s. But in the second half, his potential energy went kinetic. He stole a long inbounds pass, got a head of steam and threatened to tear a Civic Center rim off with a tomahawk stuff, his head at rim level.
"You don't know what to think. It's crazy," Reddish said of Williamson's feats. "He's different and it's really fun to watch."
The 6-8 Reddish exhibited a broad skill set. Among them Monday were a step-back 3 and a flipped circus shot off the glass after he was fouled crossing the lane.
And Barrett, an acrobatic 6-7 member of the Canadian national team, was great in his own right.
Duke improved to 16-0 all-time in Maui games, but the Devils figure to get a tougher test today against No. 8 Auburn.
Coach Mike Krzyzewski made it clear he doesn't want to talk about his team's Maui mark, just as his players apparently have been coached not to tap into the constant stream of superlatives.
"They're over themselves. It's not about them," Krzyzewski said. "They understand being part of something bigger than them, but still being really good. The spotlight is bigger, their stuff will show if the spotlight's on the whole team."
This article is written by Brian McInnis from The Honolulu Star-Advertiser and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.