Duke freshman and former five-star prospect Dariq Whitehead will not play Saturday in the team's road game against Georgia Tech as he recovers from a lower-leg injury, coach Jon Scheyer announced Thursday. The good news for Duke and Whitehead is the injury he sustained in Duke's Monday night 78-75 loss against Virginia Tech is not an Achilles tear, nor is it season-ending.
"We've got positive news, but he's not ready for Saturday," Scheyer told reporters. Whitehead went through multiple tests this week, and the MRI scans showed "no structural damage."
"It's a strain, it's not anything more than that," Scheyer said.
The first-year Blue Devils coach sounded encouraged, but did not offer up a timeline for how long Whitehead could be out.
"I don't want to speculate on a time, because we don't know," Scheyer said.
Whitehead left the Virginia Tech game with 17:20 remaining after landing awkwardly on his left leg. He was helped off the court, unable to put any pressure on his injury, and did not return. Duke trailed 47-45 at that point. Whitehead attempted to defend an entry pass by jumping at the ball in front of his man but came down awkwardly and immediately crumpled to the floor. He hopped to his feet to finish out the offensive play but checked right out of the game when the possession changed.
"In that game against Virginia Tech I thought he (Whitehead) showed some big-time flashes," Scheyer said Thursday.
Whitehead signed to Duke with high expectations as a five-star McDonald's All-American and ranked as the No. 2 overall player in the 2022 class. He has been a projected lottery pick in the upcoming 2023 NBA Draft and ranked No. 11 in the CBS Sports Top 50 NBA Draft rankings prior to the injury. However, he has yet to fully live up to expectations after suffering a fracture in his right foot in the preseason that required surgery. He missed the first two weeks of the season and has slowly been worked back into Duke's rotation as the season has gone along.
In the past two years, Whitehead's had a lot of intrigue surrounding his long-term potential, much of it centered around his explosive leaping ability and inside-out scoring from the wing spot. Two possible significant lower-body injuries in the span of a few months may open up some reasonable debate about his draft value, though this lower-leg strain does ease some concerns.
In 15 games this season with the Blue Devils, Whitehead, who left Monday's game with 10 points and one rebound, was averaging 8.3 points and 2.5 rebounds in just over 20 minutes of action per night.