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Dust Still Settling For Deep, Young Team

Thursday, September 11, 2008 11:41am
By: Accsports Staff

May 14,2002 DURHAM – When point guard Sean Dockery of Chicago qualified academically to play next season, he avoided becoming the first Mike Krzyzewski signee in years – ever? – to fail to qualify for freshman eligibility. There have been some close calls, but few closer than Dockery, who learned in April that he had earned the necessary standardized test score.

Most mainstream reports insisted on referring to Dockery as Duke's next point guard – "Jason Williams' heir apparent," according to one local newspaper account. Please.

Chris Duhon is Duke's next point guard. Even with Williams, Carlos Boozer, Matt Christensen and possibly junior Michael Dunleavy (NBA withdrawal deadline: June 19) departing, Dockery almost definitely won't start next season. He might not even play that much.

Duhon's the point guard. Sophomore Daniel Ewing and freshman J.J. Redick will be the shooting guards, and high-scoring ones at that. Don't be surprised if either, or both, scores in the double-figure range. The forwards are Dahntay Jones, (maybe) Dunleavy and freshman Shavlik Randolph. The only available spot in the rotation is at center, and that will be filled by some combination of Casey Sanders, Nick Horvath, Shelden Williams and Michael Thompson.

Dockery would be Duhon's likely backup, but Duhon averaged 30-plus minutes as a sophomore and easily could go 34-35 minutes as a junior. And unlike last season, when Ewing was the first sub off the bench for anyone but Boozer, next season's team will be deeper and more versatile. That also could limit Dockery's minutes.

If Redick goes out, Ewing comes in. Or vice versa. If Jones goes out, Duke could go small with Duhon, Ewing and Redick in a three-guard look – or it could go big with Williams at center, Randolph at forward and (maybe) Dunleavy on the wing.

However it plays out, don't be surprised if Dockery is eighth or ninth on the team in minutes next season. Given his educational background, written about in previous issues of the Sports Journal, his academic qualification was a tremendous accomplishment. But his much-anticipated arrival will affect the Blue Devils much more in the long term than in the short term.

Dockery: A Four-Year Point Guard

Krzyzewski probably wouldn't mind seeing Dockery in a limited role next season. The teams that do the best in March generally have experience in the backcourt. National champion Maryland and Final Four qualifiers Indiana, Oklahoma and Kansas, plus surprising Kent State, all qualified by that standard last season.

Perhaps the most talented Krzyzewski team of all time, the 1999 group featuring five future first-round draft picks (and future ACC player of the year Chris Carrawell wasn't one of them), stumbled in the NCAA title game in part because sophomore point guard William Avery was abused by Connecticut senior Ricky Moore.

The 2000 Duke team lost in the Sweet 16, despite being a No. 1 seed, in part because freshman Jason Williams ran out of gas. The 2001 Blue Devils won the title with a sophomore-freshman backcourt of Williams and Duhon, but that team also had one of the best senior leaders possible in Shane Battier, and by that time Williams (30-plus minutes as a freshman) had as much experience under his belt as any second-year sophomore in history.

All of this is to say that Krzyzewski surely wouldn't mind not having to count too heavily next season on Dockery, a freshman, at point guard. Especially not with so many other freshmen expected to fill key roles elsewhere.

In fact, if you wanted to give Krzyzewski an exceeding amount of credit for shrewdness, you could even argue that he recruited Dockery instead of the other point guards in an amazing class at that position for this reason: He has four-year player written all over him.

Dockery may have been a McDonald's All-American, but he's not the kind of super-athlete or offensive juggernaut who usually attempts an early jump to the NBA. If he gets to the NBA, it will be because he has learned his craft well from Krzyzewski and his staff of talented, hard-working ex-guards.

North Carolina got Raymond Felton, but if you've seen the sublimely talented Felton play, you know the Tar Heels can't reasonably expect to have him all four years. Florida got Anthony Roberson, a scoring machine of a point guard who already speaks of his early NBA aspirations.

The Blue Devils may have had a shot at either, and certainly Roberson, but they zeroed in on Dockery instead.

Now, maybe, you know why.

Randolph Wisely Postponed NBA

As if there should ever have been any doubt, Randolph finally spread the word in late April that he will attend Duke in the fall and not go straight to the NBA from high school. Or even enter the NBA draft for a look-see.

Randolph's father spread another message in the wake of the NCAA passing a rule allowing high school players to enter the draft but retain their eligibility as long as they don't sign a pro contract or hire an agent. Kenny Randolph told various North Carolina reporters that his son would have to take a long, hard look at entering the NBA draft since he now would be allowed to go through the process without losing his eligibility.

Shavlik put the kibosh on that talk, and soon Kenny was reversing field and saying the same thing: Shavlik won't enter the 2002 draft under any circumstances.

It's a good thing, because Randolph isn't ready for the NBA. Nor is he even close. He has likened his own game to that of Dallas Mavericks star Dirk Nowitzki, and while from a perimeter-shooting and ball skills point of view it's not that much of a stretch, there is no comparison in quickness. Nowitzki burst into the NBA consciousness at an international junior all-star game in which he was a one-man fastbreak. He's already a pro superstar.

Randolph, for all of his wonderful skills, simply doesn't have that kind of foot speed. He also lacks the strength to play inside on the next level.

A year or two in the Duke system could change things, and that's what Shavlik seems to be counting on. The Blue Devils probably have recruited players as eager as he is to enter the NBA, but they've never had one who's so honest about it.

A Small Thing, But Still Bad News

Football recruiting just got harder.

The Blue Devils surely didn't need to be handicapped further in their pursuit of football talent, but that happened recently when the North Carolina High School Athletic Association awarded state championship games to Duke's three in-state ACC rivals: UNC, N.C. State and Wake Forest.

Not that Wallace Wade Stadium is any great shakes, some sort of magical lure if only Franks and Co. could get some of the best players in North Carolina to play a game there. It's just that, now, the goal of every high school player in the state will be to play one day in Chapel Hill, Raleigh or Winston-Salem.

But not Durham. As usual.