• 66°

Irving will play today for Duke

Associated Press
CHARLOTTE — Kyrie Irving zipped down the floor toward an empty frontcourt and fired a pass to a teammate for an easy basket.
Even during a simple drill with the reserves, the electrifying point guard once again had Duke off and running.
Now the Blue Devils will find out how well he’ll have them rolling in a game — and on college basketball’s biggest stage, no less.
No. 1 seed Duke’s NCAA tournament opener against No. 16 seed Hampton on Friday in the West Regional will mark Irving’s return to the court. The flashy freshman has been out since Dec. 4 with an injured big toe on his right foot, and coach Mike Krzyzewski plans to bring him off the bench and play him limited minutes.
“He hasn’t played in a long, long time, but he’s the type (of) player, you give him the ball, he’s going to get out there and he’ll help us if he gets on the court,” guard Nolan Smith said. “He’s that good a player.”
With Irving’s return, the reigning national champions are reintroducing another elite talent to a rotation that already includes the most outstanding player of last year’s Final Four, Kyle Singler, and Smith, the ACC’s player of the year.
“We want to play the way we’ve been playing and integrate him into what we’re doing,” Krzyzewski said.
Still, Duke clearly doesn’t want to expect too much too soon from Irving. At the time of his injury, Irving had Duke at 8-0 and was averaging a then-team-best 17.4 points while orchestrating the team’s uptempo attack.
Irving admits his current conditioning isn’t where he wants it, but he says he’s able to do nearly everything he could before he was hurt. He pronounced himself 95 percent healthy, said “the other 5 percent will come when I actually play out there” and admitted to being even more nervous than he was for his Duke debut back in November.
“It’s even more nerve-racking, just the amount of pressure on Duke and just the aura of the NCAA tournament,” Irving said. “This is a special occasion for me, and I just want to enjoy it with my teammates.”
Especially since Krzyzewski and the Blue Devils never expected him back — at least, not publicly.
Not long after Irving was hurt, Coach K said he was prepared to play the rest of the season without him. Irving spent roughly two months in a protective hard cast with his right foot in a boot after that while Duke rolled up a 22-4 record in his absence and claimed a third straight ACC tournament title and a second straight No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.
Speculation on Irving’s possible return started to pick up last week at the ACC tournament when he worked out in public in uniform shorts and sneakers before a game, then said last Sunday that there was a chance he could return for the tournament.
Krzyzewski downplayed it at the time, then acknowledged the possibility two days later but said he wanted to see how Irving’s toe responded to practice. They have insisted Irving’s return wouldn’t threaten the chemistry they have developed over the past three months without him.
“I’m a pretty good basketball player, and I’m not a selfish one, at that,” Irving said.
His return has all but overshadowed a second-round matchup that figures to be one-sided.
Duke enters as a 23-point favorite over Hampton (24-8), which won the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference tournament in Winston-Salem five days ago and is in the round of 64 for the first time since 2002.
“It’s a good chance to measure where you are as a program,” Hampton coach Edward Joyner Jr. said.
Then again, the Pirates have pulled off a stunner before.
Almost exactly 10 years ago, they knocked off then-No. 2 seed Iowa State as a No. 15 to match the biggest upset according to seeding in the history of the NCAA tournament. At the time, Joyner was on the staff at Johnson C. Smith University, the Division II school in Charlotte where he was a player.
“Ten years later, I got the opportunity to possibly, you know, make history again,” Joyner said. “No disrespect to Iowa State, they ain’t Duke. We’re going to go out there and try.”
The Associated Press
03/17/11 16:06

Comments

Comments closed.

Local

Catawba holds baccalaureate services for Class of 2021

News

$9M settlement for two men wrongfully sent to death row

Nation/World

China lands spacecraft on Mars in latest advance for its space program

Business

Gas crunch hits Washington; Colonial Pipeline paid nearly $5 million in Bitcoin ransom

Coronavirus

State mostly returns to normal operations after 15 months of lockdowns, restrictions

Crime

Blotter: Man accused of stealing car, crashing it

Crime

Man faces new charge of attempted murder for father’s shooting

BREAKING NEWS

Gov. Cooper lifts indoor mask mandate for most situations, gathering limits

Crime

Barnes gets new punishment of two life sentences in Tutterow couple’s 1992 murder

High School

High school football: State’s top honor goes to Jalon Walker

Local

Scout’s Honor: With dedication of flag retirement box, Salem Fleming earns Eagle Scout rank

College

North Carolina king, queen of NCAA lacrosse tourneys

Education

Kannapolis seniors walk elementary schools

Local

Local real estate company employees come out in force to build Habitat house

Local

Quotes of the week

Coronavirus

Auditors find oversight lacking for $3 billion of state’s pandemic aid

Nation/World

When will gas situation return to normal?

Local

Rowan native Shuping posthumously receives Concord Police Department’s Medal of Valor, Purple Heart

News

GOP measure on penalties for rioting draws fire

News

Black high school softball player told to cut hair

Coronavirus

State shows 303 COVID-19 deaths in Rowan

Coronavirus

CDC: Fully vaccinated people can largely ditch masks indoors

Crime

One arrested, another hospitalized in Castor Road stabbing

China Grove

China Grove Roller Mill open for tours Saturday