Duke football has been a program that has struggled the past decade. From a one win season in 2007 to a four win season in 2008, this season was supposed to be different under second-year coach David Cutcliffe. Although the program is heading in the right direction, it will take a few years for the team to be competitive in the always tough Atlantic Coast Conference.
The same can not be said of the basketball program, however.
Considered one of the most storied basketball programs in the country, Duke has always been a threat to any team in the nation under Hall of Fame coach Mike Krzyzewski. National Championships in 1991-1992, and 2001 elevated Duke to a national powerhouse in the sport.
A big key to Duke's success over the years has been the great recruits being brought in by Coach K and his staff. Year after year, the Duke recruiting class has consistently been ranked one of the Top 10 in the country.
Final Four appearances and many coaching accolades began piling up for Coach K as he continued to produce talented teams year in and year out. The spotlight seemed to always be focused around the Tobacco Road rivalry, Duke and UNC, when talking about college basketball.
However in the past few seasons, the focus has shifted from being spread on both Duke and UNC to primarily revolving around the Tar Heels. The main reason for this shift in power and attention can be attributed to the decline in NCAA success for Duke in the past couple of years and the great success that Roy Williams' boys have had over in Chapel Hill.
Although Duke has been one of the most talented teams during the regular season the past few years, come tournament time the Blue Devils seem to lose their mental edge over the opponent. They lose the confidence that Duke teams over the past decade have exhibited, and thus lose their composure on the grandest of stages.
This lack of focus cannot be linked back to only Coach K, however. Although he is the coach of the team, it seems as if the players are burned out when the tournament comes around in March. Coach K stresses one thing, and that is to play your hardest every game. Yes, this is a good mindset to have; however, it seems as if this motivational tool catches up to the Blue Devils during the tournament.
The Duke players are taught to play with their heart and soul every game, no opponent should be looked over. Every team has a chance to knock you off, you are not allowed to lose sight of what is ahead. Play your hardest, no matter what obstacles you face ahead of you in the season. Give it your all, and most importantly never give up.
Coach K is most likely the best motivational coach in the game today. He can rally his troops in a variety of different ways, whether that be pulling the star player out of the game, inspiring halftime speeches, or even arguing at a bad call here and there can motivate a team.
In the past few decades at Duke, Coach K has had a designated player that will become the leader of that season's team. Who will he assign to command Duke this season? Who will be that inspirational player? Who will Duke turn to when they need a crucial basket near the end of a game?
That player for Duke this season would have to be none other than Kyle Singler.
Jon Scheyer will be the senior leader of this upcoming Duke team, however his leadership comes from his actions, how he interacts with the opposing team's players, and how he handles himself on the basketball court. He is Duke's silent leader, one that leads by his actions and not by words.
Kyle Singler, on the other hand, will have to become the outspoken leader of this basketball team. He must be able to rally the troops when needed, know how to inspire the guys on the team, and play well down the stretch in critical games.
Coach K has emphasized how important a role Kyle Singler will play on this specific Duke team, and it will be up to Singler himself to take on that role. This may be his last season in Durham (of course, only if he decides to leave for the NBA after this season), and he will be looked upon as the leader of the 2009-2010 Duke basketball team.
It will most likely come down to how well Singler plays in the postseason to determine how far Duke will go in the tournament. If Singler plays well and up to his standards, then look for Duke to try and make a deep run in the NCAA tournament once again. They have the opportunity to become a Duke team that will be remembered for quite some time.
Singler has been waiting his turn to become a leader of a great Duke team. Well, his time will most likely come this upcoming basketball season. With Scheyer by his side, and with talented incoming freshman now calling Durham their home, Singler is prepared to put his leadership skills to the test.
Kyle Singler is prepared to play well, he is prepared to inspire his Duke teammates when they are down, and most importantly, Kyle Singler is prepared to elevate Duke back into the national spotlight.