KYLE SINGLER canbarely remember the last time he took two months off from seriously playingbasketball, but that's what Duke's sophomore forward did this past summer whenhe returned to his home in Medford, Ore. Aside from an occasional pickup gamewith his buddies, the most strenuous thing Singler did was lift his fork to putaway his mom's spaghetti. "I wanted to take time off, get refreshed,"he says. The respite was necessary following a season in which Singler and theBlue Devils seemed to wear down at the finish. They lost three of their lastfive games, including a 73--67 loss to West Virginia in the second round of theNCAA tournament. "There were moments late in the season where I wanted todig deeper, but there wasn't much left," he says. "After the season, Iknew I had to change something."
That something washis body. Since the end of last season, Singler has put 20 pounds of muscle onhis 215-pound frame, and he worked especially hard on adding strength to hislegs and hips. His metamorphosis reflects a larger one taking place in theprogram as a whole. The Blue Devils have been pushed around for the past twoseasons—West Virginia outrebounded them 47--27—but now they're bigger, strongerand, best of all, older. "You can pace yourselves when you have a veteranteam, but we haven't been able to do that," says coach Mike Krzyzewski, whotwo years ago coached a team that included no seniors and just one junior."Kyle plays as hard as anybody, but because we didn't have any depthinside, he had to play more minutes than he should have guarding people whowere bigger."
With his abilityto score inside and out (he made 51 three-pointers last year and was the team'ssecond-leading scorer), Singler is the kind of versatile power forward who hasbeen a staple of Krzyzewski's teams. (Think Danny Ferry, Christian Laettner andShane Battier.)
Krzyzewski is alsohoping for big seasons from junior guard Jon Scheyer, who was the team's sixthman last season, and from junior swingman Gerald Henderson, a dynamic athletewho shot 47.4% from the field but just 31.7% from three-point range. Shoring upthe front line is Miles Plumlee, an agile freshman center who Krzyzewski saysis the team's best shot blocker.
The mostsignificant change will be at point guard, where sophomore Nolan Smith willreplace Greg Paulus, a three-year starter. The Blue Devils could have usedSmith's ability to pressure the ball last season, but he was not ready tohandle the responsibility. Like everyone else on this team, Smith is older,wiser and stronger. And now that Duke's legs are built for a marathon, the BlueDevils can be expected to go a longer distance this season.
*HIGH SCHOOL STATS
Xavier (in East Rutherford, N.J.)
at St. John's
*2K Sports Classic(also Georgia Southern, Houston; winner advances to play in New York City)
The Blue Devils' decision to make Greg Paulus a reserve and start Nolan Smithat point guard will get a good road test against a scrappy Boilermakers D ledby Chris Kramer.
Mike Krzyzewski (29th year)
Big changes at Duke could bring the Blue Devils back to national powerhousestatus, writes Seth Davis.
Size Matters Singler, who wore down guarding bigger foes last year, is now 20 pounds heavier.