Ryan Kelly and Seth Curry (No. 30) have been two key contributors so far for Duke this season.
In the absence of point guard Kyrie Irving (the last mention of him in this article) and in addition to its regular stars, Duke has been breaking in and busting out some new talent in 2010.
Aside from the usual suspects that have been leading the Blue Devils this year—namely Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith—Duke has shown some increasing versatility out of its up-and-coming talent.
Each of these players is only a sophomore but is beginning to develop and adapt to his individual role. Some will be asked to take on a greater role as the season progresses, and some may be asked to make sacrifices for the sake of winning.
Still, their contributions will help determine the fate of Duke's season, so here is a brief glimpse at what each offers.
Most anyone associated with or knowing something about Duke basketball had heard of Mason Plumlee. His skill set and potential have been talked about since he walked onto Duke' campus last year.
Plumlee, like his older brother Miles, is very athletic. His jumping ability was something of legend, but last year's freshman season was hindered by injury and his inability to finish near the basket.
So far this season, Plumlee has lived up to some of the hype. His long arms and athleticism have made him a tough defender in the paint, and for the most part he has avoided silly fouls.
Which sophomore is more key to Duke's success?
He is also developing some nice post moves that go beyond the alley-oop dunks. He has become one of the Blue Devils' best rebounders as well and so far has been the key post player on a perimeter-oriented team.
Dawkins, who came in a year early, suffered one of the toughest freshman seasons in recent memory—having lost his sister and then suffering through a shooting and practice slump that saw his playing time dwindle to near invisibility.
Yet he has bounced back and has discovered his touch from beyond the arc. He has even been mentioned statistically in the same breath as J.J. Redick, which is pretty impressive.
Still, Dawkins has shown he can be more than a shooter, though his scoring ability is much appreciated.
While not a great ball-handler, he has the ability to put the ball on the floor more this year and is more athletic than many think.
Probably the greatest improvement has been on the defensive end, which not only helped him earn more playing time but also helped him earn a starting spot.
Curry wasn't expected to be much of a secret this season, and for the most part he has delivered on some of the expectations.
Yet his greatest contributions may be on the defensive end. Having already suffered through a bit of shooting slump, Curry saw a dip in his playing time.
He has quickly bounced back and had decent shooting efforts in Duke's last two outings against Bradley and St. Louis.
What is a surprise is how well Curry plays defense. He is the type of pesky defender that can really bother opposing teams, and it most certainly will keep him on the court for at least 20 minutes per game.
Of course, with sitting out a year and only practicing, he had plenty of time to have Mike Krzyzewski's emphasis on defense pounded into his brain.
Perhaps the most improved player on the Duke team so far has been Ryan Kelly.
While he isn't going to be the featured offensive weapon and isn't terribly quick on the defensive end, he is a skilled and intelligent player.
Last season he wasn't strong enough to earn time, but having picked up weight and strength he is getting solid playing time.
He is stronger with the ball, which allows him to grab rebounds.
He is a deft passer, especially from the high post, and he is finally starting to show the shooting touch that won him the McDonald's All-American three-point shooting contest.
Kelly can be an X-factor for this team just because he is such a smart player. He may never be the star, but his contributions, like those of so many other Duke players over the years, will not be fully measured by his stat line.