Duke basketball: Kyrie Irving’s short lived but impactful year in Durham

Duke basketball guard Kyrie Irving (Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports)
Duke basketball guard Kyrie Irving (Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports) /

The Duke basketball program could have another National Championship if not for injury. 

Kyrie Irving arrived on campus as one of the most highly anticipated recruits all-time for the Duke basketball program, and he wasted no time in showcasing his elite talent and potential.

In his first game at Duke, he lit the Princeton defense up with a dazzling performance by wowing the crowd with his elite ball handling, aggressive style of play, and elite shooting.

He finished that game with 17 points and dished out nine assists as he continued to impress over the next seven games and the Blue Devils emerged as one of the favorites to win the national title.

However, in his 8th game of the season, Irving suffered an injury and the landscape of college basketball changed.

Kyrie suffered ligament damage to his toe in the second half of the game against Butler and would be sidelined for months.

Stepping into the point guard role was Nolan Smith and the team didn’t miss a beat in Irving’s absence as their success was a testament to the strong team chemistry and masterful coaching by Mike Krzyzewski.

Duke was rolling.

Kyrie Irving returned to action just in time for the NCAA Tournament after being out for more than three months, but he played in three games before their team ultimately lost to Arizona.

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Upon his return, it was evident that the team’s chemistry was slightly off as the guards — Smith, Andre Dawkins, and Seth Curry — who had carried them in Irving’s absence seemed to struggle to adjust to the new rhythm with such a dynamic guard back in the lineup.

Irving played in just 11 games in Durham while averaging 17.5 points, 3.4 rebounds, and 4.3 assists per game on 52.9-percent shooting from the field, 46.2-percent from 3-point range, and 90.1-percent from the free throw line.

Duke basketball looking back at what could have been

Duke’s roster for the 2010 -11 season was undeniably filled with talent, boasting a strong mix of experience, sharpshooters, and size.

The addition of Kyrie Irving was the icing on the cake, making their chances of repeating as National Champions even more promising.

Despite losing its star guard Jon Scheyer, who is now the head coach of Duke, the team returned key players with championship experience from the previous season like Nolan Smith, Kyle Singler, Andre Dawkins, Mason Plumlee, Miles Plumlee, and Ryan Kelly.

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The team also welcomed Seth Curry, via transfer, adding even more firepower to their roster.

Kyrie Irving was so talented that despite his limited collegiate career, he was drafted No. 1 overall in the 2011 NBA Draft by the Cleveland Cavaliers.

It only adds to the mystique of what could have been accomplished at Duke that season had he been healthy the whole year.

As he continues his career with the Dallas Mavericks, Kyrie Irving has already enjoyed success both on and off the floor as he looks to capture his second NBA Championship.

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