Duke's Ryan Kelly: Can the Sophomore Be the Solution To the Devils' Inside Woes?

Mike KlineAnalyst IJanuary 19, 2011

Ryan Kelly has been Duke's most consistent inside player this season.
Ryan Kelly has been Duke's most consistent inside player this season.Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Heading into the season when anyone associated with the Duke fan base was asked about the Blue Devils inside game, the answer generally ended in Plumlee.

Either Mason or older brother Miles were easily projected to be the inside threat for Duke on both the defensive and offensive end.

Lost in the shuffle of post players was Ryan Kelly.

Gawky and often overpowered as a freshman, Kelly demonstrated the cerebral ability but was clearly lacking the physical wherewithal.

During the offseason, he bulked up his 6'10" fame, but many, including yours truly, felt he would still be a perimeter oriented big man who mainly shot threes and made passes from the high post to the low block.

Early on in the season, Kelly appeared to do just, that but it didn't take long to see he had expanded his game and unlike some other perimeter oriented players from Duke's past who didn't want to go down low, Kelly hasn't shied away.

Against Virginia, it was clear Duke was trying to work on that dimension and Kelly helped deliver hitting some nice inside shots on his way to 8 points.

In fact, over the course of the ACC season, Kelly has been the best all around post player for Duke.

At 5.6 points per game and just over three rebounds, he isn't a statistical Juggernaut, but he is combining his new physical strengths with his basketball IQ.

Last year, coach Mike Krzyzewski admitted that Kelly wasn't physically ready to play at the ACC or Division-1 level, but that once he got stronger, he had the potential to be a very good player.

So far this season, it is beginning to show. 

He does a little bit of everything: He can rebound, though not as well as either Plumlee; he can also block a shot or two and has shown the ability to be a good passer.

Statistically, Kelly doesn't stand out over any other role player in the country, but he is embracing his role this season and to that end has become Duke's most consistent post player.

He may not be as athletic as the Plumlees, but he has clearly been playing smarter and clearly deserves his spot in the starting line up.

Duke historically has succeeded when it has one or more players who sacrifice ideas of stardom for a position as a secondary player.

If Kelly can continue to grow and improve on his play, he stands to not only see himself get better but the entire team as a whole.