The best pure point guard in the high school class of 2010 chose a college in October and a country in June. Kyrie Irving, the 6' 2" Duke-bound McDonald's All-America, was born in Australia in 1992 while his father, Drederick, a star at Boston University from 1984 to '88, played professionally with the Bulleen Boomers. Kyrie was raised in New Jersey and has become a star himself. After committing to Duke before his senior season, he averaged 24.5 points, 4.5 rebounds and 6.5 assists in leading St. Patrick (Elizabeth) High to a 24--3 record and becoming a Naismith player of the year finalist.
One of his father's former coaches in Bulleen, Brett Brown, now heads the Aussie national team and had aggressively pursued Kyrie with hopes of having him play for Australia in the 2012 Olympics. But as the top-rated point guard in his class, Irving also had an offer to join USA Basketball's 18-and-under team in the FIBA Americas tournament in San Antonio in June. Opting for tougher competition among players he knew, Irving committed to a Mike Krzyzewski program for the second time in eight months.
USA Basketball has a Dookie feel of late: Coach K will lead the senior team in the London Games as they try to defend the gold medal won in Beijing, and one of his former point guards, Oklahoma coach Jeff Capel, was at the helm of the Under-18s last week, offering Irving the beginnings of his Blue Devil education.
"Coach K is very demanding of [the point guard] position," Capel said, "and I want Kyrie to be prepared, because I think he has a chance to be great."
Irving was great in crunch time for Team USA: In the gold medal game on June 30, he led his team back from a nine-point fourth-quarter deficit to beat Brazil 81--78, finishing with a team-high 21 points and 10 rebounds. His composure—"Kyrie never loses his cool," says co-captain Patric Young, a Florida recruit—offered a glimpse of Irving's potential to handle the high-pressure environment of the ACC.
Duke is the likely preseason No. 1 in '10--11, and Irving will need to develop a leadership balance with seniors Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler, the returning stars of last year's title team. Projected as a top five pick in the 2011 NBA draft, Irving is such a weapon in the open floor that Krzyzewski has vowed to completely change the Blue Devils' offense to take advantage of the freshman's skills.
One of the spectators in San Antonio was John Wall, who chose Kentucky over Duke in '09. Irving, who chose Duke over Kentucky, jokingly asked Wall for an autograph. Wall became the NBA's top draft pick, but the Blue Devils did well too. They won a championship and now have this year's elite freshman floor general on the way—a freshly minted gold medalist seeking a national title of his own.
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Son Is a Gunner
One particularly interested observer at the FIBA tournament was Celtics coach Doc Rivers, who watched his son Austin(below) start at shooting guard alongside Irving—and lead the U.S. in scoring with 20.2 points on the strength of his three-point shooting. (He hit 21 of 35 treys.) Doc, who was an inconsistent long-range shooter in the NBA (32.8% for his career), says Austin developed into a superb gunner on his own. "If I had taught him how to shoot," Doc says, "he wouldn't be able to shoot." Austin, a class of 2011 top prospect whose game is reminiscent of a Davidson-era Stephen Curry, is uncommitted but thought to be leaning heavily toward Duke. Following the gold medal game, Austin emerged from the locker room wearing both a Blue Devils national-title shirt and team shorts.
DEVILS' DISCIPLE Irving gained insight on playing for Duke from U.S. team coach Capel, a former point guard for Coach K.