Given the passion and precision that Duke point guard Chris Duhon
has played with in his senior season, it's easy to forget that a
year ago he was questioning his love of the game after he was
benched because of subpar play. But after several heart-to-heart
talks with coach Mike Krzyzewski, Duhon has improved both his
outlook and his execution, and last Saturday in the Blue Devils'
84-72 win over No. 4 Wake Forest, he turned in a virtuoso
performance, dishing out a career-high 14 assists. Duhon's
leadership on both ends of the floor is the biggest reason why
Duke (14-1) had won 11 straight and jumped to No. 1 in the nation
on Monday. Says Krzyzewski, "There is no question that Duhon has
been our best player."
That certainly wasn't the case last season when Duhon made just
38.6% of his shots from the field, including 27.3% from
three-point range as he took almost four treys a game. This year
Duhon has greatly improved his shot selection (he was shooting
50.9% through Sunday), cutting his attempts from beyond the arc
almost in half. Krzyzewski is quick to point out that Duhon was
under a particular strain last year because Duke had four
freshmen among its top nine players, but Duhon concedes that he
"went about things the wrong way. I put a lot of pressure on
myself by trying to develop the young guys and be perfect all the
time." Part of that pressure was trying to replace the scoring
Duke lost when Jason Williams left early for the NBA. The low
point for Duhon came on Feb. 5, when Krzyzewski pulled him from
the starting lineup for a home game against North Carolina.
"There were a lot of times when I would cry myself to sleep,"
Duhon says. "I remember going to practice and not wanting to be
Duhon may have had his ups and downs at Duke, but he is almost
certain to finish his career with the most steals (through
Sunday he was just seven short) and the second-highest assist
total in school history. "As maligned as Chris Duhon has been,
they've won a heck of a lot of basketball games with him running
the show," said Wake Forest coach Skip Prosser. "People who
criticize him by reading stat sheets don't understand the nuances
of the game."
With 106 career wins, three ACC titles and one national
championship, Duhon now wants to add to his resume. "It's a lot
easier knowing that everybody is secure with what their roles
are," Duhon says. "So the only thing I have to do is lead them,
and I think I've got that part down pat."
COLOR PHOTO: GREG NELSON (DUHON) By taking better shots and digging in on D, Duhon has led Dukeback atop the polls.