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Harry Giles trending upward at critical time for Duke

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Duke dominates Boston College without Coach K (0:43)

Grayson Allen has a career high 11 assists as Duke beats Boston College, 93-82. (0:43)

DURHAM, N.C. -- Duke freshman forward Harry Giles, speaking from the kind of experience no player ever wants to obtain, remained optimistic as he watched teammate Amile Jefferson go down with a right foot injury against Boston College.

Jefferson played only nine games last season when an injury to that same foot shut him down for the season. Against Boston College, he never returned in the Blue Devils' 93-82 win after playing 13 minutes.

Giles, having bounced back from two major knee injuries in high school, would not speculate on playing without Jefferson.

"We've been through a lot this season; we have to stay positive," Giles said. "We can't get down on ourselves about things like that because things can look worse than they really are."

Duke has withstood injuries, waited for rehabilitations to end and is quite possibly going through the next four weeks without head coach Mike Krzyzewski, who is recovering after back surgery. If Jefferson is forced to miss games, this shouldn't be any different.

Giles has quickly -- and quietly -- started to show more and more flashes of what made him the No. 1-ranked player in the 2016 ESPN 100.

The way Giles sees it, he has to continue to improve if he's playing alongside Jefferson in the lineup or not.

"It's my time to step forward, regardless," Giles said. "Right now we don't know what's going on. He's going to be fine, I believe, but I have to step up regardless."

Every bit matters.

Duke interim head coach Jeff Capel even pointed to the four minutes Giles played against Tennessee State on Dec. 19 as helping to restore his confidence. Before that long-awaited debut, the last time Giles played a competitive game, he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee within the first two minutes of the season opener in his senior year in high school.

He'd already been through knee surgery, having torn the ACL in his right knee as a high school sophomore. Then, at the start of this season at Duke, he had his knee scoped, which delayed his eventual debut.

"When you think about it, since he finished the eighth grade, he's played two seasons," Capel said. "That's very hard. He's been a prodigy since the ninth grade. It's not just taxing physically, but the emotional strain that goes into what he's gone through is very difficult. The mental toughness that he's shown has been great."

Although Giles played only six minutes against Elon, Capel said Giles "jumped out on tape." And the subsequent practices held during Duke's semester break have only helped to elevate his confidence.

That led to his first double-double -- 10 points and 12 rebounds -- against Georgia Tech. He scored 12 points and played a season-high 24 minutes against Boston College.

Boston College coach Jim Christian says Giles will make the Blue Devils even tougher to defend as he continues to improve.

"Each game you can see his progression; you can see his comfort level," Christian said. "He gives them an option when he's healthy that they probably haven't had."

Giles is still very much learning. He had plenty of rookie mistakes against the Eagles, such as reaching in while defending a drive and fouling out when called for a moving screen. But those are the things you live with because of the way that Giles can rebound at a high level and operate in the post.

"Where I need to improve the most is on the defensive end, and then everything else will flow with time," Giles said. "I just want to get started on the defensive end and I'll be fine."

Giles will face a tougher test -- especially if Jefferson is unable to play -- next week when the Blue Devils travel for road games at Florida State on Tuesday and Louisville next Saturday. Both the Seminoles and Cardinals have deeper and bigger frontcourts than what he has faced so far.

Fortunately for Duke, Giles doesn't back down from a challenge.

"He could have easily not played this year, but he's always wanted to come to Duke," Capel said. "He's always wanted to be a part, so in his mind it was never a question of if he was going to play. ... He's a guy who throws himself into what we're doing."