Duke Basketball: Nolan Smith's Leadership Critical to Blue Devils' Chances
Duke Basketball Senior Nolan Smith Holds More Weight for Blue Devils' Chances Than We Think
When Kyrie Irving went down for the Duke Blue Devils during the regular season, a constant energy surrounded the team, everyone worrying about if he could return to the court before the NCAA Tournament.
Once he returned, all the buzz centered on Irving, understandable given the freshman could be the No. 1 pick in the 2011 NBA Draft.
But, amidst all of this buzz around Irving, one player hasn't fully gotten the credit he deserves.
That player is Nolan Smith, the senior guard who has been under coach Mike Krzyzewski for four years, who has learned under Duke's leader for his whole collegiate career, who has become a leader himself.
Against Michigan on Sunday, Smith went off, scoring 24 points on 8-of-13 shooting and helping lead the Blue Devils to the Sweet 16.
What people forget throughout Irving's season with the Blue Devils is Smith has been arguably their best player since Irving has been out.
He's averaged 20.9 points and 5.3 assists this year, led the Blue Devils to a 32-4 overall record, and been their rock all year.
As USA Today's Marlen Garcia writes, Smith "will be remembered for his evolution as a player and enthusiasm befitting a motivational guru."
Also, as Garcia notes, Smith is not only a leader, but listens to his teammates, gives them voices, including Irving, who he sometimes asks for counsel regarding scoring opportunities.
He's been the heart of the team throughout the season.
Without Smith, Duke loses parts of its heart, part of its balance, part of its cohesion.
Without Smith, Duke wouldn't be anywhere near where they are now.
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