DURHAM, N.C. -- Remember Grayson Allen? He garnered a few headlines in the past, became something of a household name. Then, after three years in the spotlight ... poof! He slid into the shadows of four talented freshmen, including big man Marvin Bagley III. Three weeks ago, Allen's senior campaign at Duke was shaping up as a sideshow.
Then Bagley went down, and Allen came roaring back.
The senior guard scorched Louisville's defense Wednesday, putting up 28 points on 10-of-20 shooting, including six 3-pointers, while the Blue Devils romped to an easy 82-56 win, their fourth straight victory without Bagley in the lineup. And all four of those wins have been keyed, in no small part, by a guy who admitted that he was struggling with his confidence a few weeks ago.
"It wasn't there all the time," Allen said of his confidence at midseason. "We have an extremely talented offensive group. For me, it was to keep hunting my shot, keep being aggressive. That aggressive mindset -- coaches have talked to me about that."
Allen hasn't been shy about putting up his shots with Bagley sidelined. In the four games without Bagley, Allen has tallied 95 points. He managed just 98 in the previous 10 games alongside the talented freshman.
It was a balancing act, Allen said. With so much talent around him, why shoot when the shots aren't falling? Bagley's injury -- an ongoing mystery coach Mike Krzyzewski did little to unravel Wednesday -- simply opened the door for a more aggressive approach.
"There's a lot of different looks I'm coming up with," Allen said. "Getting stuff off the ball, ball screens, getting some stuff in transition where I can attack."
Everyone has been forced into a slightly different role with Bagley sidelined, and Krzyzewski thinks it's been a good lesson for his team. It's not all Allen's influence, but he's certainly been the point man on both ends of the court.
"You've seen him the last four games, sort of orchestrating things," Krzyzewski said. "Grayson's our leader, and by having him up on top [of the zone] and offense, we have his leadership have a positive influence on us."
Allen makes a point that these same improvements -- the aggressiveness, the confidence -- could happen with Bagley full go, and no one on the Duke roster is eager to see their star freshman miss more time.
But the reality of the situation remains, at best, murky.
"I don't know when it'll happen," Krzyzewski said of Bagley's return. "I'm not going to push him."
The injury, which Krzyzewski described Wednesday as "not structural," has been shrouded in vagaries. Bagley warmed up before Wednesday's game in a hoodie and basketball shorts and showed no obvious signs of pain. But Krzyzewski certainly illustrated little confidence Bagley would be ready for Saturday's game against Syracuse, and suggested there remained reasons for concern.
"Marvin has a problem or else he would play," Krzyzewski said. "If we weren't concerned about him having more injury, he'd play. He's not ready."
That means Allen remains at the forefront, with a cast quickly finding its role around him in Bagley's absence. Things have been so good without Bagley, in fact, that the inevitable question was posed to Krzyzewski after Wednesday's game: Wouldn't Bagley's return risk upsetting a unit playing with precision?
Krzyzewski shrugged off the concept.
"Just like I wouldn't if Elton Brand or J.J. Redick came back," he said. "We'll try to figure it out. But thank goodness our team is playing so well.”