The final 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 the 6-5 point guard from Australia play.
“He’s somebody that can score it, he can pass it, he can defend,” Duke coach Jon Scheyer said. “For us, he’s really easy to play with.”
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 began playing with the Blue Devils, that previous experience allowed him to be up to speed quickly.
“His international experience has really served him well,” Scheyer said, “with knowing how to play through contact, knowing how to play with a really good pace.”
He joins a Duke team with an established perimeter ball-handler and scorer in Jeremy Roach, the 6-2 junior who is the lone starter back from last season’s Final Four team.
But Duke runs an offense that, as now retired coach Mike Krzyzewski often said, is positionless. Already in practice this month, Proctor and Roach have played together, with one off the ball and the other running the offense and then vice versa.
That’s one of the things Scheyer meant when he talked about how easy it is to play with Proctor.
For his part, Proctor has noticed how driven everyone already is to win and win big this season.
“Everyone’s commitment,” Proctor said. “We have that one vision look. Just the way we push the ball. I think everyone talks a lot on defense. … The way we move the ball, share the ball, everyone knows their role. I think it’s been good straightaway.”
Even before he knew he’d be their teammate this season at Duke, Proctor got to know incoming Blue Devils Dereck Lively, Dariq Whitehead and Kylie Filipowski last spring. They, too, played in April’s Nike Hoop Summit. Proctor played against them, though, on the World team while they were on the US squad.
Taking the next step
Already a Duke commit for the 2023 class, the idea of him reclassifying to arrive this summer heated up in May. Trevor Keels, a freshman guard for Duke last season, entered his name in the NBA draft pool but had the option of returning to school.
His deadline was June 1 at midnight and he ultimately stayed 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 proved as much as I could in Australia,” Proctor said. “So I just wanted to take the next step and get out here and just get playing.”
He was already playing at a high level of competition in Australia, where he was enrolled at the NBA Global Academy program in the capital city Canberra. One of 16 players chosen to attend last year, he trained under coaches hired by the NBA and attended school at a nearby high school with other Australian Institute of Sport athletes.
Still, when he visited Duke’s campus and talked 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 really quick relationship,” 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 smooth three-point shooter, ball handler and passer, Proctor used his summer play at the Asia Cup in Indonesia and his preseason practices to work on another important aspect.
“I’m taking a big emphasis in my defense moving forward,” Proctor said. “It wasn’t a strong suit in the past, but I think at the tournament in Indonesia I really stepped up in that.”
He got off to a good start at the Asia Cup, where he recorded four steals in six games.
Because Proctor played overseas and was being recruited during the pandemic, seeing him play in person, rather than just on video, is a new experience for Duke’s staff. But he just keeps impressing them.
“He’s tough,” Scheyer said. “You can’t tell on film, you know, how does a person talk? Do they use their body all the time? He still can talk more, by the way. That for me is something he can definitely do. But just his feel and his attention to detail on any play — he can be offensively or defensively, he has a high understanding of how to play the game.”
He may have arrived on campus two months after his teammates, but Proctor is definitely not playing catch up.