Not at Duke, which is flying high again behind Chris Carrawell
Shane Battier Still chuckles at the memory. It was the fall of 1997, and Battier, then a Duke freshman, was hanging out for the first time with Chris Carrawell, who was beginning his sophomore season. "Here's this guy, his pants were sagging off his butt, didn't look like he had a care in the world," Battier says. "I didn't know if he had any plans for himself 10 minutes from that time, much less three or four years down the road."
The idea that Carrawell would someday be a star for the Blue Devils was laughable back then. He would average 8.6 points and 3.9 rebounds during his first three seasons and seemed destined to be the proverbial guy-who-does-a-little-of-everything. Then after last season sophomores William Avery and Elton Brand and freshman Corey Maggette lit out for the pros, and sophomore Chris Burgess transferred to Utah. That exodus should have crippled Duke, but the Blue Devils are again back in the national championship hunt, mostly because Carrawell has been doing a lot of everything. In wins last week over North Carolina and Virginia that extended third-ranked Duke's ACC-record unbeaten streak to 31 games, the 6'6" Carrawell had a total of 48 points (on 19-for-31 shooting), 12 rebounds, five assists and five steals. Cavaliers coach Pete Gillen calls him "by far the best player ill the conference." Carrawell says, "I wasn't given stardom. I had to work for it and wait my turn. It didn't hurt when Corey and those other guys left, either. I'm not going to lie."
After losing their first two games of the season—in part because freshman center Carlos Boozer was recovering from a broken left foot suffered in a preseason pickup game—the Blue Devils had won 18 straight through Sunday to open up a four-game lead on the rest of the league. This isn't, however, the same Duke juggernaut that last year rolled to a 37-2 record with an average margin of victory of 24.7 points. The Blue Devils have already played five overtime games, a single-season school record, and won four of them, including last Thursday's 90-86 epic against the Tar Heels.
Coach Mike Krzyzewski understood early that these Duke players would need to rely on one another more than last year's did, which is why he directed his assistants during the preseason to run the players through trust-building exercises at a ropes course on campus. Still, even Coach K couldn't have foreseen how quickly his freshmen would learn the ropes. Through Sunday point guard Jason Williams had started every game and was fourth in the ACC in assists (5.8 per game). Boozer had progressed quickly and was averaging 13.4 points and 6.3 rebounds, and 6'7" forward Mike Dunleavy Jr. was scoring 10.0 points a game as Duke's sixth man.
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of Carrawell's star turn has been the way he has shed his happy-go-lucky demeanor to provide leadership to a team that has no other seniors. Battier says he could see this coming last fall, when he and Carrawell drove two hours each way to attend ACC media day in Charlotte. "We talked about everything—life, growing up, the NBA I really learned a lot about him," Battier says. "I could tell he was passionate about the things he wanted to achieve."
As laughable as it may have once seemed, the guy with the pants sagging off his butt turned out to be a classic overachiever. Now he and Battier and their young teammates may be in for another great ride.
Gonzaga's Mr. Superstitious
All Signs Are Pointing Up
Gonzaga's 6'5" senior guard Richie Frahm isn't the best player in college basketball, but he might be the most superstitious. At the first sign of a chill in his shooting touch, he will fling off his sweatband or pull up his socks or, if he's really desperate for a change in karma, alter the color of his hair. After Frahm, whose 171 scoring average was second in the West Coast Conference through Sunday, had zero points during the first half of last Thursday's league showdown with Pepperdine, he walked into the locker room and took off the white tank top he'd been wearing under his jersey. "I'm in there trying to figure out Pepperdine's defense, and I look up and see Richie stripping," Bulldogs coach Mark Few said after the game. "I don't know if there's a rhyme or reason to all of it, but he seems to think it makes a difference."
It certainly did on Thursday, when Frahm scored 13 points in the second half—including the go-ahead basket on a driving layup with 2:57 to play—to help Gonzaga to a 62-57 win and sole possession of first place in the WCC, a game ahead of the Waves. The victory ran the Bulldogs' conference record to 8-0 and their overall mark to 18-5; they'd reeled off 10 straight victories after starting the season 8-5.