Duke's do-everything forward has come up big in a variety of ways at the most crucial moments
AS JUSTISE WINSLOW cut down a net at NRG Stadium on Sunday, he flashed a hand signal to the crowd. It was an H, for Houston, where Duke earned a Final Four bid and where Winslow was raised. It would have not been surprising if the 6'6" freshman forward had used another hand to hold the scissors, a third to steady the net and a fourth to pull an elderly lady's cat out of a tree. He was everywhere all weekend. Winslow easily could have won the South Regional's Most Outstanding Player award that went to point guard Tyus Jones, a fellow freshman. Winslow is that rare player who has one-and-done talent but senior savvy.
His role for Duke is similar to the one that 6'7" forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist played for 2012 national champion Kentucky. He's not the purest shooter, but he is a manic defender who rebounds and drives with such ferocity that he collapses defenses and often ends up at the free throw line. (He went 8 for 9 from the stripe in victories over Utah and Gonzaga.) Winslow is averaging an efficient 14.0 points in the tournament, along with 9.5 rebounds, 1.8 blocks and 1.5 steals.
"He does so many little things that make his game special," said Winslow's father, Rickie, as he snapped photos of Duke's celebration from the stands. "It's because he worked very hard and developed on his own. There's some genes there, but he had to develop as well."
The genes are Rickie's. As the proud dad pointed out, the Winslows are the first father-son duo to earn McDonald's All-American honors and then play in the Final Four. Rickie played for Houston's Phi Slamma Jamma teams, and like Justise, he made it to the tournament's last weekend as a freshman, in 1984.
Justise says that one of the Blue Devils' strengths is that, "In all the big games, big moments, it doesn't matter who's stepping up. No one is scared of that big moment." That may be true. But Winslow takes it a step further. He has a habit of doing exactly what Duke needs at the precise moment Duke needs it.
In the Blue Devils' tournament opener, Robert Morris cut the margin to 10 with 11:56 left. Winslow responded with a three-pointer, a rebound, a layup, another rebound and an assist on a three-pointer to effectively end the game himself. In the Sweet 16 the Utes cut Duke's lead to six with 4:05 left. Winslow responded with a three-point play to key a 63--57 victory.
And when Gonzaga came within two points with 5:43 left on Sunday, Winslow scored the game's next seven points in a 66--52 win. The Blue Devils now go from the H to the Izzo: a Final Four date with coach Tom Izzo and Michigan State.
GREG NELSON FOR SPORTS ILLUSTRATED (WINSLOW)
WINSLOW, HOMER The more than 100 friends and family members who turned out in Winslow's native Houston on Sunday saw the freshman deliver key blows to the Zags.