There's no established go-to guy, but there is a freshman forward who's happy to fill the role
Last March 10, when Kyle Singler led South Medford High past Lake Oswego (and top prospect Kevin Love) for the Oregon Class 6A championship, Singler started alongside his younger brother, E.J., while two of his cousins, Mitch Singler and Griffin Boyd, began the game on the bench. The gene pool that produced Kyle, a 6' 8" forward and rivals.com's No. 5 prospect in the class of 2007, is particularly rich. His dad, Ed, was a quarterback at Oregon State; his mother, Kris, played basketball for the Beavers; and four of his uncles and one cousin played Division I football or basketball. In the bustling city of Medford, Singler is a member of the first family of sports.
Kyle left the flock in July to join the Blue Devils' clan in Durham, where he's the most anticipated member of a blue-chip recruiting class. Following an unremarkable 22-10 season and a first-round loss to VCU in the NCAA tournament, no one at Duke is interested in Singler's being deferential to his elders. Sophomore guard Jon Scheyer, with whom Singler has already bonded over a shared affinity for Prison Break and The Office, told his new teammate, "Don't act like a freshman, because you don't play like one."
Indeed, on a small-ball squad with no go-to guy, Singler is both the tallest starter (tied with Lance Thomas) and the one with the most versatile skill set, a blend of interior grit and perimeter grace. "Our best teams have always had a 6' 8" or 6' 9" guy like him, who can create matchup problems," says assistant coach Chris Collins, citing a list of former Duke stars who fit the bill: Grant Hill, Roshown McLeod, Shane Battier, Mike Dunleavy, Luol Deng. What Singler definitely is not is the next Christian Laettner; he exudes no arrogance, and as assistant coach Steve Wojciechowski says, "Nothing he does is for show."
The challenge of making an immediate impact doesn't faze Singler. "There really isn't a superstar [on the team], so no one has egos, and you can let your game speak for itself," he says. "There's no pressure on me not to shoot, so why not do it?" -- Luke Winn
Issue date: November 19, 2007