The last time Duke had an upperclassman grow a beard for the entire season, Mike Krzyzewski won his fourth championship.
Brian Zoubek was an integral part of the 2010 championship team, even though he wasn’t a high scorer. He did the little things that ensured a victory, like rebounding, setting screens and blocking shots.
Just like Zoubek, junior Ryan Kelly is now sporting a beard. Just like Zoubek, Kelly does all the little things to ensure Duke wins games.
Kelly is a much better shooter though—whether it is at the free-throw line where he shoots 89 percent, or three-point shooting where he makes just over 40 percent of them.
The 6’11” stretch-forward was recently named the MVP of the Maui Invitational tournament.
The last five MVPs of the Maui tournament were UConn’s Kemba Walker (2010), Gonzaga’s Steven Gray and Matt Bouldin (co-MVP, 2009), North Carolina’s Ty Lawson (2008), Duke's Kyle Singler (2007) and UCLA’s Darren Collison in 2006.
"I'm happy for Ryan," Coach Krzyzewski said after Kelly scored 17 points to beat Kansas in the finals of the tournament. "I really think Ryan's going to be one of the best players when he finishes up. He's going to be a pro…”
Except for the Gonzaga pair, all the MVPs listed above would be drawing an NBA check if the league had not closed down for business this season.
If Kelly continues to play at a high level he might just join them someday.
However, know this: So far, Duke is undefeated with Kelly’s beard.
Apparently there is a practice in the NHL where a player would not shave his beard until his team has been knocked out of the playoffs.
Superstitious or not, no razor should go near Kelly's face until Duke's fortune changes.