More muscular in the middle, the Blue Devils are at last built for the long haul
Kyle Singler can barely remember the last time he took two months off fromseriouslS playing basketball, but that's what Duke's sophomore forward did thispast summer when he returned to his home in Medford, Ore. Aside from anoccasional pickup game with his buddies, the most strenuous thing Singler didwas lift his fork to put away his mom's spaghetti. "I wanted to take time off,get refreshed," he says. The respite was necessary following a season in whichSingler and the Blue Devils seemed to wear down at the finish. They lost threeof their last five games, including a 73-67 loss to West Virginia in the secondround of the NCAA tournament. "There were moments late in the season where Iwanted to dig deeper, but there wasn't much left," he says. "After the season, Iknew I had to change something."
That something was his body. Since the end of last season, Singler has put 20pounds of muscle on his 215-pound frame, and he worked especially hard on addingstrength to his legs and hips. His metamorphosis reflects a larger one takingplace in the program as a whole. The Blue Devils have been pushed around for thepast two seasons -- West Virginia outrebounded them 47-27 -- but now they're bigger,stronger and, best of all, older. "You can pace yourselves when you have aveteran team, but we haven't been able to do that," says coach Mike Krzyzewski,who two years ago coached a team that included no seniors and just one junior."Kyle plays as hard as anybody, but because we didn't have any depth inside, hehad to play more minutes than he should have guarding people who werebigger."
With his ability to score inside and out (he made 51 three-pointers last yearand was the team's second-leading scorer), Singler is the kind of versatilepower forward who has been a staple of Krzyzewski's teams. (Think Danny Ferry,Christian Laettner and Shane Battier.)
Krzyzewski is also hoping for big seasons from junior guard Jon Scheyer, whowas the team's sixth man last season, and from junior swingman Gerald Henderson,a dynamic athlete who shot 47.4% from the field but just 31.7% from three-pointrange. Shoring up the front line is Miles Plumlee, an agile freshman center whoKrzyzewski says is the team's best shot blocker.
The most significant change will be at point guard, where sophomore NolanSmith will replace Greg Paulus, a three-year starter. The Blue Devils could haveused Smith's ability to pressure the ball last season, but he was not ready tohandle the responsibility. Like everyone else on this team, Smith is older,wiser and stronger. And now that Duke's legs are built for a marathon, the BlueDevils can be expected to go a longer distance this season. -- Seth Davis
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