This was the summer when Duke lost both its innocence and its experience. After his highly favored Blue Devils were upset by Connecticut in the national title game last March, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski endured painful hip replacement surgery, followed by four debilitating player extractions. The Blue Devils' program, which had never had a player leave early for the NBA, shuddered as sophomores William Avery and Elton Brand and freshman Corey Maggette departed to become first-round picks. Meanwhile, disgruntled sophomore center Chris Burgess transferred to Utah and guard Trajan Langdon graduated. "Sometimes friends move out of the neighborhood," Krzyzewski says. "If all that happens at most other schools, it's a disaster, but nobody here is moping around saying, 'Where's Elton?"
Duke lost 74% of its scoring and 64% of its rebounding, and with all the hammering going on this fall at Cameron Indoor Stadium—a $17 million athletic complex is being built next door—it seems one can hear Krzyzewski's furious rebuilding job. The Devils will replace five departed former McDonald's All-Americas with four new ones. The best newcomers are Carlos Boozer, a 6'9", 260-pound Brand knockoff who will play center once he's fully recovered from his broken left foot (he's practicing already); Mike Dunleavy Jr., the 6'7" pure-shooting son of the Portland Trailblazers' coach; and fleet 6'2" Jason Williams, the first true freshman to start for Duke at point guard since Bobby Hurley in '89. "I have to admit I was kind of mad when all those veteran stars left," Williams says. "It means that all the freshmen have to grow up much quicker."
The rookies will be mentored by Duke's junior defensive ace Shane Battier and lone senior Chris Carrawell. "With so many great players on our team last year, people kept saying Shane and I were underrated," Carrawell says. "Now we'll get a chance to see if they were right."
Acknowledging his team's inexperience, Krzyzewski staged just the second Midnight Madness practice of his 20 seasons at Duke to expose his freshmen to the glare of college ball as quickly as possible. He was too late. Ten hours earlier and more than three weeks before his first game, Williams was asked by a reporter: "Jason, when do you think you'll go pro?"
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