June 14, 2004
I can hear all of those Duke critics screaming now. No more Luol Deng at Cameron Indoor Stadium (Deng declared for the NBA draft after one year at Duke). Senior Chris Duhon is done wearing that Blue Devils uniform. Recruit Shaun Livingston won't show up in Durham (he announced Saturday that he's staying in the draft).
Let me remind those naysayers that I heard those same comments when Elton Brand, Corey Maggette and William Avery said bye-bye to Duke in 1999. Check out what happened next! That successful 1999-2000 Duke team laid the foundation for the 2001 national-championship squad.
Coach Mike Krzyzewski is a master motivator who gets his players to commit to a winning goal. He understands what inspiration is all about and does it with the best of them. He'll have the Dukies right back in the hunt for ACC honors.
Plenty of college teams in America would love to line up with a backcourt of Daniel Ewing and J.J. Redick. Are you kidding me? They're both experienced winners who compete on a big-time level. Sean Dockery, the third guard, gives the Blue Devils defensive intensity. Yes, Duke's backcourt is as solid as can be.
Up front, you can rest assured that Shavlik Randolph will be much improved after a solid sophomore campaign. He had some good moments during the NCAA Tournament. He can contribute more in 2004-05 and be the kind of player many are projecting him to be.
Center Shelden Williams, also coming off a good sophomore season, has developed into a force on both ends of the court. If he can stay out of foul trouble, he'll be one of the premier players in the ACC. He blocks shots and rebounds with the best of them.
With two super incoming diaper dandies, guard DeMarcus Nelson and forward David McClure (who has great shooting range), the cupboard is not totally empty in Durham.
For those jumping for joy, predicting gloom and doom for the Blue Devils -- like those who are anti-Yankees or anti-Notre Dame football -- think again. There is something about teams and programs that win on a consistent basis ... some fans want to see those champions fail.
Plenty of college teams in America would love to line up with a backcourt of Daniel Ewing and J.J. Redick.
But Coach K and his outstanding staff of Johnny Dawkins, Steve Wojciechowski and Chris Collins won't allow it to happen.
Duke will be physically, mentally and emotionally prepared for battle. This program will play at an incredible level night in and night out to prove those critics wrong. That's Coach K at his best.
Dick Vitale coached the Detroit Pistons and the University of Detroit in the 1970s before broadcasting ESPN's first college basketball game in 1979 (he has been an ESPN analyst ever since). Send a question for Vitale for possible use on ESPNEWS.