Duke basketball: Four features fueling underappreciated Blue Devils

Duke basketball freshman Cassius Stanley (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Duke basketball freshman Cassius Stanley (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images) /
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Duke basketball
Duke basketball (Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images) /

3. Budding chemistry

Try to remember a time this season when a Duke basketball player has pouted on his way to the bench or lashed out at his teammates and coaches. Actually, don’t waste your time, for there are no such instances. But what have been common sights are the tight huddles on the court during breaks and the steady dose of high fives that indicate an open sharing of credit for highlight plays.

“They’re really developing into a good team,” Mike Krzyzewski said in his press conference following the last outing. “I really love these guys because it’s different guys. We don’t have a starting lineup, we have a team. Sometimes when you have a starting lineup, you put a ceiling on the other guys in ego, in opportunity, in all that, and it hasn’t happened here with this group.”

Before the season, the general assumption was freshman forward Matthew Hurt would be a one-and-done first-round draft pick. Therefore, after the former five-star recruit — who arrived at Duke with scoring as his specialty — accounted for only two points at Boston College on Feb. 4 and then went scoreless in six minutes of action at North Carolina four days later, it was easy to assume he might be in the midst of a pity party against Florida State.

The opposite was the case. Hurt, just a prime example of what Coach K was referring to in the above quote, instead responded with an encouraging 12-point performance and an even more encouraging self-aware reflection afterward.

“Yesterday in practice was a tough one for me, but I deserve it,” the Minnesota native told reporters. “I haven’t been playing well the last couple of games. I just have to come out with
energy, try to knock down shots and play some defense for my team. College basketball is a lot different from high school. There’s always going to be bumps in the road, but never get too low and never give up and keep working.”

Yup, that’ll work. And that brings us to possibly this Duke basketball squad’s most promising feature of all…