It’s His Turn
by James Burns
When you think of the mystique Duke basketball emanates, you think of a perennial Top-5 program, championship-caliber seasons and Christian Laettner’s turn-around jumper against Kentucky.
Images of Bobby Hurley dribbling the ball up court or Grant Hill on the receiving end of an alley-oop pass pop into your head. And the list of names and accomplishments goes on. Duke has made it a habit of pumping loads of talent into the NBA circuit, many of which have been viable first round selections.
Case in point: Jay Williams and Mike Dunleavy recently went No. 2 and No. 3 in the 2002 NBA Draft.
The games, like the names, are just as memorable – Duke-Kentucky or Duke-UNLV. Both early 90’s NCAA Tournament contests have been deemed classics by sports enthusiasts and sportscasters alike.
But Duke-North Carolina takes the cake, year in and year out. With two ACC-regular season match-ups and an inevitable conference tourney meeting, each showdown is sure to grab the nation’s attention for at least two overtime periods.
But as the Blue Devils prepare to embark on a new season, they do so with little transition from last season’s Final Four team. Dunleavy and Williams have taken their big play performances to a couple of NBA losers (Golden State and Chicago, respectively) and the Blue Devils’ lone inside threat, Carlos Boozer, also made the jump to the pros.
This season, unlike any other in recent memory, Duke will be led by a faceless warrior with a name that doesn’t quite ring a bell either. Virtually invisible on the college basketball radar screen a year ago, Chris Duhon has the inevitable challenge of maintaining Duke’s prominence.
Without all the hype and hoopla of Duke greats before him, Duhon will need to build his own legacy from scratch. Where as in the past, the names made for great games; this season, the name Duhon creates for himself will determine just how memorable the games are.
It’s sad but true.
However, it’s hard to believe Duhon isn’t already a household name.
Williams’ sidekick from a year ago, the soft-spoken guard, believe it or not, led the Blue Devils in minutes (1,229) and minutes per game (35.1). With all that talent, he – not Williams, Boozer or Dunleavy – had more to do with Duke’s 31-win season.
And, while the three NBA-bound players were busy fighting over ESPN clips and postgame interviews, Duhon was busy leading the team in assists and steals.
There will be no such struggle this year, the team captain will be head coach Mike Krzyzewski’s No. 1 option. The 6-foot-1 guard should handle a majority of the offense, building on his scoring average a season ago (8.9 points per game).
Duhon showed glimpses of stardom during last season’s season-finale against Indiana. With Dunleavy and Williams struggling, shooting just 4-for-16 during the first half, Duhon put the Blue Devils on his shoulders helping them build a huge halftime lead.
Duhon sparked Duke’s offense, shooting 3-for-5 from the field for seven big points, before ducking back in the shadows of Williams and co.
Now its Duhon’s team, his turn to mold and shape the aura of this program. It’s his turn to add to the mystique and prominence of this longtime ACC power.
It’s his turn.