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College Basketball
Seth Davis
May 17, 1999
BedeviledA string of defections has the once rock-solid Duke program suddenly looking a little shaky
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May 17, 1999

College Basketball

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Carlos Boozer, 6'9"; Michael Dunleavy Jr., 6'7"; Casey Sanders, 6'11"; Jason Williams, 6' 2"
The Skinny: Blue Devils would have been No. 1 even if Boozer, a strong, athletic power forward, hadn't signed this spring, but Williams, the nation's top point guard, is the most important catch of all.



Matt Bonner, 6'9"; Donnell Harvey, 6'8"; Brett Nelson, 6'3"
The Skinny: Billy Donovan has put together his second straight elite class. Bonner and Nelson will add scoring punch to a team already loaded with firepower, while Harvey is the inside presence the Gators needed.



Stephane DonDon, 6'8"; Majestic Mapp, 6'2"; Travis Watson, 6'7"
The Skinny: Mapp is a true point guard who can run Pete Gillen's up-tempo system; Watson is a natural scorer: and DonDon, who played last year at Collin County ( Texas) Community College, won't be pushed around.



DerMarr Johnson, 6'9"; Kenny Satterfield, 6'2"
The Skinny: Satterfield, who is more of a scorer than a pure point, may be the best combo guard Bob Huggins has signed since Nick Van Exel. Johnson is a gifted swingman who almost went straight to the NBA.



Schea Cotton, 6'6"; Rod Grizzard, 6'8"; Kenny Walker, 6'9"
The Skinny: The Crimson Tide has traditionally done well only in the South, which is why signing Cotton, a California, confers instant national credibility on coach Mike Gottfried's program. Grizzard and Walker are both versatile big men who can create matchup problems on the perimeter.

A string of defections has the once rock-solid Duke program suddenly looking a little shaky

It has been barely a month since Mike Krzyzewski had his arthritic left hip surgically replaced, and the Duke coach is already saying his rehabilitation is "way ahead of schedule." Before surgery his left leg was an inch and a half shorter than his right, but the artificial hip corrected that. He has graduated from crutches to a cane, and his mobility is steadily improving thanks to physical therapy in a swimming pool. "I still have to take it one step at a time," he says, "but it feels good to stand straight."

Given the way his program's foundation has been shaken the past few weeks, this is a propitious time for Krzyzewski to be regaining his sense of balance. Before this spring Duke had never lost a nonsenior to the NBA draft, but last month two sophomores, center Elton Brand and guard William Avery, announced they were leaving school to turn pro. In addition sophomore center Chris Burgess decided to transfer—he'll probably end up at Utah, which he plans to visit on May 14—and sources close to the Duke program say that 6'7" freshman swingman Corey Maggette will soon announce that he, too, will enter the NBA draft. For his part Krzyzewski seems to be negotiating the shifting terrain with his usual equanimity. When asked last Thursday if he was surprised by a broadcast report about Maggette's apparent defection, Coach K replied, "If you're surprised by life, that means you thought you knew it all. I've lived too long to be surprised."

Of the four departures Brand's was the least surprising. He is considered by most NBA executives to be a certain top five pick, which is why Krzyzewski gave Brand his full blessing. Avery, however, made his decision without the coach's approval. Having twice told Coach K face-to-face that he was going to come back for his junior season, Avery returned with his mother, Terry Simonton, to Krzyzewski's house on the night of April 15 and informed the coach that he had changed his mind. To Simonton's dismay Krzyzewski told them he would not support the decision because he didn't feel Avery's draft position was strong enough. The school announced Avery's decision the following day in a press release.

"I understood where Coach was coming from, but I don't think he really understood how tough it is for me financially at home," says Avery, who has since dropped out of school. "This is what's best for my family."

Burgess was considered by some recruiting experts to be the best player in his class when he came out of Woodbridge High in Irvine, Calif., but he averaged just 14.1 minutes a game during his two seasons in Durham. "I just felt I was being buried there. I need a new start," he says. The 6'10" Burgess also believes the Duke coaches hampered his abilities by insisting he bulk up to 250 pounds. "I think they wanted me to be this big thug down low." Rick Majerus has told Burgess that if he comes to Utah, the first thing he'll need to do is drop down to his old playing weight of 235 to 240.

Though most of the will-they-stay-or-go speculation centered on Brand and Avery late in the season, some draft mavens believe that Maggette may be selected ahead of even Brand. The freshman wasn't even thinking of coming out until, during the first week of the NCAA tournament, he read an article in the Chicago Tribune that said he might go as high as No. 1 in the draft if he came out. That got him thinking seriously about his prospects. He even sought counsel from fellow Chicagoan Michael Jordan. (MJ's advice: Stay in school.)

If Krzyzewski was rankled by Avery's departure, he must really be angry with Maggette, whom he advised to return for at least another season. Still, Coach K has plenty of reason to look forward to next season. Duke's incoming six-man freshman class is the best in the nation (box, above), and the worst of his physical ailments finally appeal's to be behind him. "How you react to things is what matters, and I intend to react positively," says Krzyzewski.

Rhode Island's Ambitions
The Cost of Going Big Time

Rhode Island sophomore forward Lamar Odom abruptly left school for nearly two weeks last month. After he returned, the Queens, N.Y., native offered no specifics for the impromptu hiatus, telling the Providence Journal-Bulletin on April 22, "I had family things I had to take care of, and I could only do that in New York" A sudden disappearing act just before final exams would in many cases jeopardize the eligibility of a student, but that was not the case with Odom. "We want to make sure Lamar has every opportunity to return academically," Rams athletic director Ron Petro said last week. "We have to wait until the end of the semester to evaluate him, but he's here now, and he's attending classes. There's a lot of pressure on that kid."

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