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Scouting Reports 1 DUKE The Blue Devils are a winning act

THIS IS ONLY A GUESS, BUT WE MAY HAVE A new America's (ugh) Team.
The notion probably got started in 1986, when Duke's boy-next-door
seniors captivated everybody at the Final Four with their wit and
intelligence as much as with their play. Two seasons later coach Mike
Krzyzewski's aggressive, well-spoken, clean-cut troops were back in
the Final Four, with Coach K playing a videotape of Blue Devil
highlights for the team on the eve of their semifinal. The fact that
Duke began the next afternoon's game against Kansas by falling behind
6-24, over-and-out, hasn't detracted from its momentum or its stature
as the U.S.'s latest In squad.
They've had international exposure: The Blue Devils summered in
Spain and Greece, playing 10 games against the likes of the Soviet
Union national team -- and John Thompson believed the Portland Trail
Blazers were guilty of abetting the enemy. (''We got beat by 33, and
((Arvydas)) Sabonis wasn't even playing for the Soviets,'' says Coach
K with a laugh. ''I hardly think we helped them.'') They've had
national exposure, prime time no less: It was DUKE that was
emblazoned across the front of Bill Cosby's sweatshirt on the first
episode of his show this fall, the result of Cosby's lost bet with
the Duke pep band last March in the East Regional final, in which the
Blue Devils took apart Cosby's alma mater, Temple.
It's only close to home that the Dookies' image is hurting. The
Blue Devils beat hated neighbor North Carolina three times last
season en route to a 28-7 record, and, perhaps more ominously, Duke
has blown out North Carolina in recruiting two years running. All
this may have raised Duke to a national eminence equal to the Heels',
but the Blue Devils remain No. 2 in local precincts. ''The state is
still all Carolina,'' says Duke star Danny Ferry. ''The natives
couldn't care less about us.''
The rest of the Atlantic Coast Conference still undervalues the
Blue Devils, too, it seems. ''There's still a difference,'' says
Krzyzewski. ''I think teams go to Chapel Hill apprehensive, sometimes
flat, expecting to lose. But they come to Durham still thinking they
can beat us.''
Not many will be able to do that. As a junior last season, the 6
ft. 10 in. Ferry surpassed Carolina's J.R. Reid as the best player
in the league and then nearly caused Krzyzewski to pass out when he
contemplated leaving for the NBA. Not only has Ferry led the Blue
Devils in scoring and rebounding (and doled out 280 assists) over the
past two years, but he is also the fulcrum of the terrorizing Duke
man-to-man defense, which has forced a remarkable two-year average
of 19.7 turnovers a game.
So, just another Danny who stayed in school because he saw a
chance for a national championship, right? ''Damn right,'' says
Ferry, who usually eschews cursing but who had to watch as a Danny
named Manning led his team to the title last year.
The Blue Devils will replace national Defensive Player of the Year
Billy King and shooter Kevin Strickland with a hydra-headed force
including explosive forward Robert Brickey and sophomore Greg Koubek,
an unflappable marksman. Guard Phil Henderson, the junior who
formerly had Johnny Dawkins scribbled all over him, may also finally
get the chance to fulfill his promise.
The big question about Duke remains: Can giants rule in the motion
offense, which demands quickness and mobility? Six members of the
13-man Blue Devil roster are 6 ft. 10 in. or taller, including Alaa
(Alphabet) Abdelnaby and two glittering freshmen, Christian Laettner
and Crawford Palmer. ''This is a big change for us,'' says
Krzyzewski, ''big guys who like to play inside.''
Ferry is now more comfortable in the lane than out, and Duke hopes
Laettner, a Ferry clone of sorts, will follow suit. Meanwhile, Palmer
is the banger of the bunch, a contact guy who, Ferry says, ''is like
the football player the other team rolled out in high school when it
didn't have anybody to guard you. People will hate Crawford guarding
them. He won't spit, but he may drool on them a little.'' On
America's Team? Oh well, nobody's perfect.