As though their quest for a title wasn’t already front and center, Duke recently secured a No. 1 seed in the 2011 NCAA Tournament bracket as they look to repeat as champions.
Though a toe injury forced stud freshman point guard Kyrie Irving to sit out much of this season, Duke’s focus and team mentality has been no different under coach Mike Krzyzewski.
The expectation to win has never wavered. Nolan Smith, a natural shooting guard, has filled the void as floor general, more than adequately running the pick and roll throughout the season.
Smith’s presence at point, coupled with the team’s veteran leadership and hunger to win, has once again propelled Duke to the top.
If there’s anyone who knows how to win, it’s Duke legend Bobby Hurley, who led the way the last time the Blue Devils won back-to-back NCAA titles in 1991 and 1992.
Hurley, who has teamed up with Dove for its “Journey to Comfort” campaign, talked about what Coach K’s focus is when going after a second title, saying, “Each season is a journey, just like our 'Journey to Comfort' here at Dove. Each year has its own group. That’s what Coach K talks about, not necessarily defending something, but just trying to win something else with the group you have there.”
Hurley will be looking for Duke to build on its most recent success as the team starts to make a run in the tournament.
Referencing their play this past weekend, Hurley noted, “If they can bottle that up and play with that same type of effort, they're going to put themselves in great shape. They look like a team that was focused and really found themselves. Nolan Smith did a phenomenal job running the pick and roll and creating offense. Then they have the Plumlee brothers really defending well and rebounding—those will be the keys to winning.”
At the same time, Hurley of course knows just how critical having a good point guard out on the floor really is.
With the talk of Irving returning for the tournament after being limited to only eight games during the season, Hurley indicated, “If he’s able to come back, that only will enhance Duke’s chances. It will be interesting to see how productive he can be and how much time he’ll be able to be out on the floor. You’ve got to think, though, that if he’s practicing out in front of the media, he’s personally pointing to being back out there.”
Nevertheless, Hurley also recognized how difficult it can be for a player to bounce back after missing so much time. That’s why it’s been key for Duke to press on without Irving and learn how to win without him if necessary.
While Duke has always produced fantastic point guards and the Plumlee brothers, Miles and Mason, will certainly play a role in the team’s success down low, Duke teams have always lived by their efficient three-point shooting, and this year’s team is no different.
If an opponent is able to shut down Duke from long-range, the Blue Devils could have some trouble moving forward.
Coach K is one of the best coaches in college history, and his leadership will play just as important of a role as it always has. Hurley noted how good of a motivator Coach K is, being passionate about the game but also playing a role in each of his players’ lives.
Perhaps having a coach so invested helps the athletes see winning as the only option, if not just for them, then for their dedicated coach as well.
Stay tuned for a Q&A with Bobby as he talks more about his involvement with Dove's "Journey to Comfort" campaign, his experiences at Duke and his thoughts on Grant Hill, Carmelo Anthony and more.
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