Thirty-one and thirty-one. That's Duke's record over the last two seasons. Worse than Liberty's. Worse than Dartmouth's. Whatever happened to the program that sent teams to seven Final Fours and won two national titles between 1986 and '94? "It's not like Sir Lancelot lives in Camelot forever," says coach Mike Krzyzewski. "Eras pass. New Hurleys, Hills and Laettners have to be created."
Heads up, folks, Dr. Krzyzewski has been working in his laboratory. Forget about last season, when the Duke coach peered down his bench and saw a guy who played on a club team in Bolivia and two soccer players. The '96-97 Blue Devils are loaded.
They're so deep in talent that about the only lock in the starting lineup is 6'10" senior center Greg Newton, who was kicked out of school for a semester two years ago after he was caught cheating on a computer-science exam. Newton defied the gravity of his situation, averaging 12.2 points and 8.2 rebounds per game last season while shooting 56.8% from the field. Newton is a little different from your typical Dukie: There's a picture of Dennis Rodman in his locker, and he plays while wearing a ring in his belly button and a small barbell pierced through his tongue. "I just wish he would rebound like Rodman," says junior swing-man Ricky Price, another likely starter, though he was slowed by a broken finger in the preseason.
Krzyzewski is also counting on sophomore guard Trajan Langdon, who averaged 11.3 points per game as a freshman but missed all of last season with a stress reaction in his left leg that required surgery. Rounding out the deep Blue Devil squad are Roshown McLeod, a bruising 6'8" transfer from St. John's who can score inside and out; 6'10" sophomore Taymon Domzalski, a force in the paint who must overcome his tendency to gel into foul trouble; and senior guard Jell Capel, who led Duke with 16.6 points a game last season but shot less than 38% from the floor. They'll be pushed for playing time by sophomore guard Steve Wojciechowski and by three athletic freshman forwards: Nate James, Mike Chappell and Chris Carrawell, any one of whom could eventually start.
Yet as Krzyzewski seeks to restore Duke's trademark transition game and suffocating defense, the linchpin will probably be Price. He has struggled through two inconsistent seasons, mixing poster-quality dunks with sloppy turnovers. "I was a little immature when I got here," Price says, laughing at the memory. "Sometimes when I made a play, I would get in my man's face and say. "The man-child just wasted you!' I'm more grown up now, and I still believe I can be a star. I know this is my time to prove it."